The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: "If hardship was good for the soul then Chelsea will be revived by a victory they would once have viewed as a chore. Having conceded an opener fecklessly, they were not at peace until their two late goals, taken by Nicolas Anelka and Frank Lampard from Salomon Kalou’s service. Kalou had given Chelsea a 2-1 lead after Southend had been ahead. The bad news was limited to a knee injury for Joe Cole, who had been most effective. This was the second win for his side in seven games."
Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: "Fog briefly put this tie in doubt, just as clouds of uncertainty had hung to Scolari’s reign. When Adam Barrett gave Steve Tilson’s gutsy side the lead, the pressure mounted on Scolari but goals from Michael Ballack, Salomon Kalou, Nicolas Anelka and Frank Lampard showed Chelsea’s character and set up a fourth-round date with Ipswich Town."
The Times, Oliver Kay: "For half an hour in the inelegant surroundings of Roots Hall last night, it was as much as Luiz Felipe Scolari could do to look skywards, seemingly in the hope of being engulfed by fog. His team were facing the humiliating prospect of an FA Cup third-round defeat by Southend United and, given that the fog had caused this match to be postponed briefly, before lifting in time for a rethink, it seemed like it might just be his best bet."
The Independent, Sam Wallace: "The Chelsea players tossed their shirts triumphantly into the crowd at the end, strutting off the pitch as if he they had just slayed a major Champions League opponent, rather than won an FA Cup replay against League One strugglers. Chelsea proved themselves still to be a complete shambles when it comes to defending set-pieces but fortunately for them they were up against the Shrimpers last night rather than one of the bigger fish."
Official Chelsea FC Website: "Although the score in the end was comfortable and Chelsea were always the team on top, this match will do nothing to quieten down concerns over set-piece defending after near-shambolic scenes allowed the seaside League One outfit to head in a corner after just 15 minutes."
I’ve been to
Sarfend Southend twice in my entire life, the first time aged eight, the second time aged 19. The first time it was shut. The second time it was shut. One of the verbs in the two previous sentences may have a misprinted vowel.
Through fatherly and husbandly duties I had to play taxi-Dad tonight to pick up Daughter 1 from work because Mrs Chelsea Tony, being a girly swot school governor and the like has spent two days bowing and scraping to an OFSTED inspector at the local primary school, and consequently was too knackered to pick her up. She most definitely was not socially relaxed or tired and emotional.
The downside was I had to skulk around the gym to pass the time in a manner reminiscent of a classic famous old Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads episode (Series 1, Episode 7, No Hiding Place) where Bob and Terry famously spent the entire episode avoiding the result of an England game and win a £10 bet with Flint (played by the always excellent Brian Glover – no relation). Not easy when in a gym working out wearing a Chelsea shirt.
The bonus side of this was I got to watch the game from the time shifted recording on my lovely Virgin V+ box (like Sky+ but better) which means the review is based on facts and stats and instant replays and the kind of incisive logical detective work one might expect from a red Jaguar MK II driving, crossword addicted, beer swilling ex-don inspector residing in the Oxford region. That’s as opposed to the plethora of knee jerk “in match” comments seen on Blue Bayou’s fine trip to Nostalgia Halls. And so let’s move forth with the scribbling and observation…
Morse, Frost, Dalziel and Pascoe – The Good Cops
- Joe Cole. One of my stock favourite phrases is "one swallow does not a summer make". It does of course depend on the type of swallow (that’s enough smut… Ed). However tonight, presumably freed from having to show off and play one-upmanship against Deco and with some undoubted criticism ringing in his ears he played a good game and his killer pass for goal number two was utterly sublime. Then he got injured (see the Bad Cops section).
- Michael Ballack. Also seemingly unimpeded by the mannequin Deco, he strutted around the park winning balls, controlling the midfield and providing a stunning finish to get a much deserved equaliser, and although still not quite back to the purring Mercedes, he has lifted himself from being the Trabant of the team. Probably a Volkswagen.
- Salomon Kalou. Has removed himself from my naughty step and got himself a Silver Star for his recent homework. The best player on the pitch and for once as someone said, seemingly willing to take his chance. Yep, humble pie time for this writer, but I never doubted the innate ability, just the intelligence. Has the Scarecrow started to grow a brain?
- The midfield. Go on accuse me of being anti-Deco. Well, I’m guilty M’Lud, guilty as hell, but there ain’t no jury gonna send me down coz they know I’m damn right. Deco can rehabilitate himself but he’ll have to work hard. Tonight the midfield looked more mobile, the passing was better but still overcooked a bit. However it was medium to well done rather than ‘bien cuit’. Without Deco clogging it up with unnecessary blocks and crappy little two metre non-passes the regulars plus the vastly improved Kalou brimmed with confidence. Yes it was only Southend to be contained but games like these are potential banana skins (has anyone actually ever slipped on one?) and with ITV poised like a vulture ready to gorge on the carrion of another dead Chelsea campaign it was important to control this vital area and then grind their little Shrimpy noses into the mud.
- The overall performance. Good and obvious anger bubbling underneath. Great possession. Utter dominance with stats showing huge disparities in possession, shots and corners, as one would expect. All of the players looked like they were in a team tonight, close knit and fighting for each other. A coincidence that Deco and Didier Drogba weren’t about? I’ll leave you to decide that. Oh, and to those who were saying Nicolas Anelka hadn’t had a kick until he scored. Utter bollocks. Go and watch it again, his contribution was superb and although not a battering ram like Drogs, he’s far more in the Sparky mode with added skill. Not everyone is like Wayne Rooney, running around like Dill the Dog. Yes, he’s laid back, but I love that type of sublime attitude in a player.
- Anthony Grant. Ex-Chelsea lad with nothing but good to say about the club even though he didn’t quite make the grade. It’s often the case that ex-players want to prove something but tonight he really wanted to prove something. A superb performance and Sarfend’s best player by a mile. Well done young man.
Regan, Carter, Harry Callaghan – The Bad Cops
- ITV. This really needs a separate blog post on the complete and unswerving shiteness of their coverage. Mandy (sic) Townshend… pah! Steve “where’s Tiger?” Rider, God help us. Clive Tildesley – a man who’s wit and wisdom makes John Barnes look like Peter Ustinov. Ad break, two minutes of inane bollocks from Steve and Mandy (sic), ad break, more inane bollocks, ad break (ad infinitum until match interrupts revenue stream). Utter cuntery (copyright J. Dyer Esq.).
- Joe Cole’s injury. I don’t think he’s been as bad as some esteemed critics here think he has but hey, opinions are like arseholes and they do add to life’s rich tapestry. He played bloody well tonight and the injury looked serious simply based on the fact that knees never repair quickly. Which means Deco comes back. Prove me wrong you waster…
- The Sarfend goal. Zonal marking. Sounds like a parking bay policy. Whatever, it didn’t work and if we’re honest looked suspect all night. When they scored our defence bore a striking resemblance to Antony Gormley’s fine outdoor piece Another Place with Southend attackers rather resembling the tide. Some heavy duty use of Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats should be applied to this problem immediately.
- John Terry’s blue boots. Some might call them Man City blue. Whatever, I think Scolari should abandon the much discussed Hat Fining Policy and replace it with a daft boots policy. Come on lads, liberate yourselves from the Fancy Dan, Big-time Billy boots and get yourself some strong, secure, long lasting boots that really grip and would put the fear of God into opposing players. The sort you use Dubbin on.
The Keystone Cops
- ITV again. It might be an eagerness to impress but on several occasions the pitch-side camera and microphones got close enough to hear some hearty Chelsea singing. The full uncut version of Carefree was fully audible. As was Your Support is Flipping Shut (oops there goes the official naughty word changer again). All topped with a rousing “1-0 and you made a mess of it” or something to that effect. A rare smile fell upon my wearied features. Little things like that make life just a little easier.
Player ratings (from the voices in my head)
- My next review will rate players according to various golf clubs and their usefulness as I play them. For today all I can say is… it was Southend – get a grip. All get 7.5/10 except Salomon Kalou who gets 9.
- Overall team performance – 8/10 – Green shoots anyone? Arising phoenix? The spirit of Lazarus. Are we the next Take That?
PC George Dixon of Dock Green, the Daddy of all Cops (or Man of The Match)
To our younger contingent who may not get the reference. PC George Dixon was murdered in the 1949 film The Blue Lamp. He then came back from the dead to give the good (and bad) people of Dock Green 21 years of impeccable service. This award goes to Salomon Kalou. Evening all.
Summing up the case
The Dark Lord, Hideous Embarrassment seemed to hover over Roots Hall tonight like a rat waiting to gorge on the rotten leftovers from a dustbin. But the Dark Lord Hideous Embarrassment was sent scurrying back into the dark and gloomy sea mist of Sarfend by the professional and ultimately ruthless display of a team desperate to show some unity, spirit and ability, as much for themselves, as well as the fans, press and no doubt for Scolari (not ready to return to pet names just yet). It’s way too early to say the rot has stopped but some harsh words from Scolari to the watching world and no doubt within the Chelsea camp did seem to have an effect. The absence of Drogba and Deco and the apparent gelling may not be totally and inconclusively linked, but one can’t help but feel the thorns may have been removed from the wound. I hate to say this, but when Drogba was out and Anelka was the primary striker we were flying. His return has upset something. Deco may well turn out to be our very own Faustino Asprilla.
Southend battled bravely but fitness and experience and the difference in levels told in the end. Their fans booed all night long, giving Ashley Cole a really rough time, but the best way to silence them is by shoving it back down their throats. If you want to stop being booed as a team at Stamford Bridge, then tonight you’ve seen how to do it.
It’s hard to see how we could have been worse than on Sunday and maybe that result will be a turning point in the season and an epiphany for Scolari as pennies finally drop. A stiffer test, especially on set pieces occurs on Saturday when the rough and tumble style of Stoke comes to town, with Rory Delap’s rocket launching throw-ins being just about the stiffest set piece challenge around at the moment. But good football, hard work, confidence and genuine team spirit should overcome any long throw/set piece blitz. Tonight was a good start.
As we like to say around these parts, it’s not quite dick sucking time yet. But hey, zips can now start to twitch in anticipation again.
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!