I can’t help but laugh at some of the comments on football websites and in the media in general that after Sunday’s draw with Charlton — and Manure beating Liverpoo in the battle for… well… the consolation prize — chinks are appearing in our armour. Apparently 62 points from a possible 69 is akin to the wheels coming off a high speed freight train whose driver is also asleep. It’s the start of the slippery slope for a team that has played 23 games, drawn 2 and lost 1, but won 20. Apparently, now Manure have cut our lead to 14 points, it’s game on again. Liverpoo on the other hand could have got to within 11 points with their games in hand, but due to their crushing 1-0 last minute defeat at Old Trafford they can now only cut our lead to 12 points.
Well, I’d be the first to agree that Sunday was an opportunity lost rather than a major upset as was being portrayed in the media, especially the broadcast media, earlier this week. To listen to 5-Live you would think that all across the land people were decking the streets with bunting and pasting tables for the inevitable street parties in celebration of the downfall of the mighty Roman (Abramovich) Empire. Newspapers trumpet the downfall from the highest points and the collective inbred, red-team-loving staff on that vile anti-Chelsea site Football365 cross their fingers and toes in hope that it’s true (difficult when your hands and feet are webbed). Sure, Charlton came and got a worthy draw, and no doubt we were bedevilled with a lack of passion and intensity which counted towards the result, but the fact is on Sunday both these sterling attributes were replaced by the disease of the successful — complacency.
Many great teams have fallen by the wayside on this one — Manure and Airline FC have both been overhauled by each other because they assumed their leads were so unassailable that they could take their foot off the pedal. Who can forget Newcastle’s squandering of a 12 point lead in the heyday of Keggy Keegle, or even Airline FC’s Anfield victory on the day Liverpool literally needed to lose 1-0 to win the old 1st Division Championship, but somehow conspired to allow Arsenal a last minute winner to make it 2-0 and see their whole season gurgle away down the drain hole of footballing complacency. One could argue that Airline FC had a serious repeated outbreak of it last year when they choked on large quantities to lose their unbeaten run on the stroke of 50, followed by a season of indifferent displays of acute complacency in the guise of “pretty-pretty passing but going nowhere”? football that has worsened this season. Wenger looks like the physician who had the cure but can’t deal with a new more powerful strain.
But in our case I believe the Charlton draw was just a blip. One of those games. The type of game that happens to all teams no matter how good they are. The sign of the true professional is how they despatch this bad game and carry on as before. It’s not always possible of course; team morale and spirit can visibly degrade in a very short period of time and sometimes the decline is unstoppable until the team or performer hits very rock bottom. This is seen in every sport to almost ridiculous degrees. Andre Agassi slumped to 97th in the world at one point after having been at the apex of men’s tennis, but came back after adopting a new lifestyle and coach who gave him belief again. Nowadays the minute Roger Federer loses a game, let alone a set, the press and broadcast media are asking if it’s the end. Examples of such knee jerk speculation in sport is rife: Tiger Woods… surely a has been, despite finishing top of the US Order of Merit and winning The Open at St. Andrews last year; Phil “The Power”? Taylor… well over the hill despite winning his umpteenth World Darts Title… the list goes on and on.
Of course in the case of individuals the only person who can truly motivate them out of complacency is themselves. They have to want the win, they have to be hungry. In the case of football teams the collective motivation is far harder to achieve. Petty jealousies over selection, salaries and other things play a part. Player seniority can become an issue, especially where England are concerned. All of these and more can add up to demotivation and demoralization by the spadeful. In football it is true that one bad apple or demotivated player can ruin the whole barrel. The choice becomes stark for the coach. Either he goes and allows a new face in to rejuvenate the team, or he replaces the team bit by bit in the hope that they can recreate the successful formula of before. Both Lord Fergie of Salford Quays, and Count Arsehole of Highbury are desperately trying to do this now. The Count still has a large dose of complacency running through the camp as they persevere with their pretty football whilst forgetting the other key factors of practicality and pragmatism, married to guts, spirit, passion and determination. Ergo… the Wigan game on Tuesday night. Lord Fergie on the other hand has all the elements just mentioned but with a lesser degree of complacency, but is missing the crucial ingredient of ability.
And that’s where we’re different. For years we tried to marry genius and guile with journeymen, and finished respectably third under Luca and even a fourth and second under Clownio. But it doesn’t work, and Manure can look forward to years of “respectability”? just as we did. What follows that is a lowering of expectation and then like Villa the decline into mid table obscurity. Liverpoo are a case in point. Only the apparent new ideas and thoughts of the increasingly deranged lunatic Prince Rafa of The Wirral has revived this club’s fortunes. And they are learning (much as it begrudges me to say it) that the pretty stuff only goes so far. Sometimes you need to win and win ugly. We have become masters of blending both. Victory at the Highbury Library was a marvel to watch, a spectacular display of passion and power beating daintiness and deft touches. Like Ali beating the crap out of Nureyev. Manchester City away was a display of ugliness and strangulation, proving that for the precious 3 points, the ends really does justify the means.
What we have become is a team that is One. A team that could truly suffix its name with United. A team where the hideous disease of complacency is kept at bay by the Physician-in-Chief, the Special One.
Be assured my fellow Blues fans that the Physician-in-Chief will have weeded out those suffering from complacency and will prevent this from becoming an epidemic within the camp. It may happen one day, it may not. All empires fall eventually, but some rise again. Our future under Emperor Roman is assured and better things will come our way. Complacency will not creep in on any large scale. What happened on Sunday is the equivalent to Roger Federer losing 1 game over 5 sets, to Tiger Woods hitting a bogey on one hole, to Phil Taylor dropping a game over 20 sets. It’s like Ali losing one round over 15. It will spur us on and make us come out with a vengeance next time. I just wish we were playing Liverpoo this week instead of next.