Despite our return to winning ways with a 2-0 victory over Portsmouth, it saddens me to report that yet again this week the fans have let Chelsea down. Yes, we created a terrific atmosphere at the Bridge for the visit of Barcelona and supported the team with a sense of passion and no small degree of righteous anger that is all too frequently absent these days. But whilst the team do their absolute best to make us unpopular by ruthlessly winning (well, most of the time) and Kenyon’s slick marketing machine attempts to turn the world Chelsea Blue by peddling merchandise to the unsuspecting masses, the fans have disappointed once more, making precious little effort to help further blacken the bad name of the club. I refer to the feeble ‘death threats’ issued to Norwegian referee Terje Hauge by the sinister band of ‘Chelsea netcases’. It must be true – it said so in the Sun. Our ‘previous’ in the form of the Anders Frisk incident led the ever-helpful press to warn Mr. Hauge that he would soon receive word from the Blue army that his end was indeed nigh after his dismissal of Asier Del Horno in our Champions League tie last week.
It could be the diet of American movies and TV dramas we’ve grown up with, but I’m probably not alone in thinking that the business of issuing meaningful death threats is usually that of sinister, merciless hitmen rather than a few disgruntled Chelsea fans with broadband connections and the raving hump. Hitmen are generally nameless social outsiders who move through the shadows, specialising in threatening letters cobbled together from old newspaper cuttings, sinister ‘phone calls, leather gloves, balaclavas and telescopic sights on their sniper rifles.
But despite the tabloid view that the average Chelsea fan and the ruthless hired gun from the underworld are one and the same, I am sorry, indeed embarassed to say that the mighty Blues are a long way behind the experts when it comes to brutal, shameless intimidation of those who stand in our way on the road to the sort of global domination that Bond villains can only dream about. Yes, to our eternal shame our ‘netcases’ are amateurs. Kids in the playground. Mere students of the art of striking terror and fear into the hearts of those who cross them. Admittedly, seeing headlines about ‘Chelsea net threats’ initially made me think that there was some sort of Blues-related computer virus doing the rounds – JodyMorris.worm or something – a nasty little specimen that downloads itself, threatens to smash your PC up before getting pissed and failing to fulfil its promise. But the truth was even less impressive and seriously disappointing to say the least.
I mean, how childish can you get? If the afore-mentioned hitmen with their telescopic sights are the stuff of Hollywood, then our cyber-terrorists probably fall somewhere short of Cricklewood. In short, this is simply not good enough for a club of our size and standing in world football. So, in order to ensure that we fans really do our bit to make us the most hated football club on earth (there’s some pretty stiff competition out there – don’t expect this to be an easy ride), I’ve done a bit of research and I think I can offer some advice on the business of intimidation and hatred.
Firstly, the basics. If you’re looking to scare the living daylights out of a referee, the odd message on an internet chat room is a complete waste of time. You need a proper campaign. You need to encourage thousands of people to mercilessly hound the match official in question from his home, make him dread every footstep he hears behind him, every door slam – the pages of a national newspaper would be the ideal vehicle for this. Publish his address. Tell your readers to let him know exactly what they think of him and his red card. Drape huge flags around the area surrounding his house. Let him know you really mean business. Ensure that his every waking hour is plagued by an endless torrent of hatred and vitriol. Should you need any hints and tips on how to really make your campaign effective, call the newsdesk at the super soaraway Sun. Experts in the field, I’m sure that they will have something in reserve ready for when Barca hero Lionel Messi brings some of his theatrical training to bear on a hapless referee / England full back in Germany this summer.
But if there is a more immediate candidate for some treatment, then you could do far worse than examine the fine example set by Liverpool fans at their FA Cup tie with United last weekend. Simple, but highly effective guerrilla techniques such as dropping excrement onto the opposition fans sitting below them, or attempting to wreck the ambulance containing the stricken Alan Smith showed the mark of true professionals. Of course, they weren’t real Liverpool fans so there was very little press coverage of the events, but their methods are surely the benchmark for any club looking to become truly despised. You Chelsea netcases, please take note and buck your ideas up – such shoddy handling of a perfect opportunity to make the tabloids, TalkSport and Football 365 blow themselves into a crescendo of rage at our arrogance and the appalling behaviour of our fans will not be tolerated again.
If we have failed to display a ruthless streak off the pitch, at Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon Eidur Gudjohnsen gave a perfect demonstration of the art of cold-blooded killing. After the highs and lows of the Barcelona game, facing ‘Arry’s ramshackle Portsmouth army was never going to be the most attractive of propositions and the early exchanges proved more than a little uninspiring. Pompey’s approach lacked ambition and through some fairly dogged defending, backed by the presence of the impressive Dean Kiely, it looked as though it might be a frustrating afternoon for Mourinho’s men.
Whether it was Redknapp’s tactics or Mourinho’s frustration that led to the early substitution of Asier Del Horno is open to question, but it has raised questions about the Spaniard’s ability to cope with English football and prompted speculation that Wayne Bridge could be making the trip back across South West London from Fulham sooner than was originally anticipated. Del Horno, fast becoming a stranger to the sound of the half-time whistle was dropped from the Spanish national squad this weekend and needs to prove himself quickly if his stay in English football is to extend beyond the World Cup this summer.
The formation adopted with Del Horno’s departure for Damien Duff still lacked cohesion as an attacking force in the face of Pompey’s determined backline and even the ever-newsworthy pitch couldn’t be blamed for some of Chelsea’s wayward shooting. If Mourinho was trying different formations with a view to surprising Barcelona at the Nou Camp in ten days time, then playing all four wingers is unlikely to provide the shock result required if we are to realise our Champions League dreams. Duff looked uncomfortable at the arrival of Wayne Routledge, who twice went past the Irishman as if he was stuck in the Stamford Bridge quagmire; in the unlikely event of him facing the ‘artistic’ and increasingly vocal Messi, it would surely be the stuff of Ranieri-esque nightmares.
But as is usually the case, Jose found the correct combination eventually and unsurprisingly it involved Eidur Gudjohnsen. His arrival, along with the return of Makelele gave the midfield a more familiar look and within ten minutes Pompey’s resistance had crumbled. Drogba pushed a cross towards the Icelandic international who dummied superbly for an otherwise workmanlike Lampard to drive home his 14th league goal of the season. Gudjohnsen followed this with a carefully placed lob for Robben in the 78th minute which gave the Dutchman a deserved goal, having previously been denied a penalty seemingly on reputation rather than evidence following a lead-footed challenge by Andy O’Brien. As cameo performances go the ‘Blond Maradona’ proved that he is one of the most important players in the squad in terms of ability to change a game; if the press are intent on finding ruthless Chelsea assassins, Eidur took less time than it takes the average neanderthal to type a death threat (or a Sun article for that matter) to demonstrate why cyberspace is clearly not the place to look.
Fifteen points clear, with theoretically seven games to win before we can celebrate back-to-back titles. The disappointment of the Barcelona result was magnified because it was yet another defeat against them which came with just ten Blues left on the pitch at the final whistle; three in total of the five games played in recent years have ended this way with the other two being Chelsea wins. Should we not manage the seemingly impossible in the return leg at the Nou Camp, the prospect of being less than a dozen games from a potential League / FA Cup double will hopefully keep the ‘netcase’ inside all of us at bay for the time being.