So I wonder exactly what Chelsea fans across this small globe are thinking today? No doubt some will have a skip in their step in anticipation of our inevitable Premiership and FA Cup double, whilst others will be rubbing their hands in glee at the thought of Mourinho being forcibly ejected from the club on the basis of failing to beat another team scrapping for survival. Others may be rejoicing in the return to the Bad Old Days and Chelsea’s unswerving ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory because suddenly we’re interesting again. But I would hazard a guess that the majority of us are now in a state of constant turmoil, a mirror image of the Jennifer Saunders character currently featuring in the unbelievably irritating Barclaycard adverts.
For those fortunate enough to live in a region where this dire ad campaign isn’t being shown, in essence it features Our Jen as a rather attractive, mature women (maybe that’s just me?) in her 40’s undergoing something of a schizophrenic/bi-polar syndrome crisis whenever she shops using her Barclaycard. One minute she’s in a blind panic over the potential catastrophes of her card details being stolen, some calamity occurring to the goods she’s purchased or discussing with herself what type of coffee she might indulge in post-shopping spree. The cure for this is her Barclaycard, allegedly under whose terms and conditions she needn’t worry about anything she purchases as they will take care of everything in the event of one or more of these shopping related maladies coming to the fore. The rather crap strap line is a play on Barclaycard, but instead it’s Barclaycalm, insinuating that if we all have one then we have no worries in this increasingly precarious society that we inhabit.
So what’s this got to do with Chelsea? Well, for me, and as I stated many others, it is likely that quite a few of us are veering wildly between states of reassured, and reassuring calm one moment and outright hysterical panic the next. The thought of feeling the hot, stale breath of Manure on our necks during this run-in is more than enough to have me wondering whether or not to invest in some adult-size Pampers. Even before the game on Saturday the old feelings of despair were starting to surface within me as even Airline have started turning in quality displays home and abroad, capable of scaring the living daylights from even the most anti-Airline football fans, not to mention Manure continuing to relentlessly and ruthlessly knock over each team they meet. One thing’s for sure, the Holy Grail of Self Belief is no longer the exclusive preserve of our beloved Chelsea. It has spilled its contents onto Airline, Manure and WhiningScouse FC. To cap it all we then get an FA Cup semi final against WhiningScouse FC, almost as if the Gods of football were going out of their way to make life as tough as possible to repay us for having the nerve to win one Premiership title in 50 years. To coin a phrase, this is “squeaky bottom time”. It’s a time when our players and fans have to tough it out and keep the faith in our ability to retain the Title and win the FA Cup to show that we have improved from last season. I stood in the pub on Friday evening, calmly telling some friends that we were coasting to the title and playing within ourselves, whilst simultaneously warning them that we could still blow it if we didn’t start knocking lesser teams over. No mean feat I can tell you. Try it yourself… go from being calm and confident to panic stricken and calm again, and then contemplate doing this with a constant stream of Guinness ploughing through your system exaggerating each pole of emotion. That’s right, by the end of the evening I resembled a complete basket case of hypocrisy and blind faith.
I watched the Birmingham game in a post-Guinness hangover fog of disbelief, dismay and incredulity at our transformation from ineptitude and apathy to total domination but complete inability to apply a killer instinct in front of goal. The first half was as dire a performance as I’ve seen all season. It easily matched the torpor of West Brom and Fulham. It even peaked at times to plumb the depths of our game at Middlesbrough. The only performances of note were the, as usual, excellent John Terry and Petr Cech (who really had nothing much to do due to Birmingham’s profligacy in their finishing). Asier Del Horno, a much criticised player from me even put in an honourable and hard working display. Eidur is rapidly turning out to be another Tore Andre Flo, a player who can change things coming from the bench, but rarely makes the full 90 minute contribution worthwhile. On Saturday he was impotent in every sense of the word. Damien Duff, a lone shining star against Fulham, ran down blind alley after blind alley, and Arjen Robben played as if he had brand new boots on and didn’t want them to get dirty. Frank Lampard increasingly looks a shadow of the player who threatened the Terry Henry/RVN duopoly at the top of the scoring charts. Drogba has his purpose but breaking down a dogged defence, or running into space behind them doesn’t appear to be it. Crespo came on and no-one passed to him for 10 minutes. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Crespo playing from the start would have wrapped up at least one chance because he would have been in the game rather than trying to get up to speed in what little time he had. Makelele was bullied off the ball and harassed into making silly errors which cost possession. Joe Cole at least started to make things happen when he came on, but his relegation to the bench again seemed to underline the occasionally mystifying Ranieri like tendencies shown by Mourinho recently
As first half performances go, it was frankly rubbish. Anyone who even dares to disagree with that succinct but wholly accurate synopsis of the game is probably a master of Stevie Wonder impersonations. The second half saw some improvement as we managed to hold the ball and pass it to each other. Chances were still thin on the ground though, and in such a target-poor environment it becomes even more important to take the opportunities you create. The last 10 minutes saw several absolute gift-wrapped chances spurned by Crespo, Carvalho and Drogba amongst others. This simply isn’t good enough and Mourinho should be berating the players for loss of concentration at the very least.
At the back of this schizophrenic persona that I have these days there is the thought that maybe the players are just intending to do enough to get past the post, to just scrape home. But that isn’t good enough. The long suffering fans deserve to see our team go out and do what WhiningScouse FC, Manure and Arsenal have all done recently and that’s put some of these teams to the sword. As Nick stated previously, it has been said that Mourinho adopts the mantra of “why win 5-0 when 2-0 will do?”. Well here’s why… we are the champions. We are the best team in the Premiership. Teams should be quaking in their boots at the thought of playing us. What’s more Mourinho, the fans deserve to be treated to a few of these compelling victories. Instead they might see a perceived weakness, a blinking of the eye or the small betraying bead of sweat running down the face of Chelsea that exposes the doubts running through the collective minds of the players, management and fans.
And so we must move on with strong hearts and minds. We must suppress the panicky side of our nature and display the cool and calm visage that our manager shows. If we believe, or show we believe and hide the doubts then the players can feed off this and take us onto more glory this season. There’s a great quote from Henry Ford which I often use before each shot I play at golf, and it sums up just how important the power of the mind is when faced with challenging situations: “Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t, you’re probably right”.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by the late, great Douglas Adams also springs to mind; the original best selling galactic book was immensely popular because it had the words “DON’T PANIC” emblazoned across its front cover in big friendly letters. I think we could do the same to Stamford Bridge, to the Chelsea FC website, across the match day programmes and Chelsea TV. It would certainly work for me.