If a week is a long time in politics then the equivalent period in football could be measured in dog years. Just a week ago Alan Shearer was “justifiably aggrieved” at his legitimate goal being ruled out against Wigan; today Jose is “sore” and “moaning” that Drogba’s strike against Everton went the same way along with two points and European football’s only one hundred percent record. If nothing else the media have something to be happy about for a change, yesterday’s result proving that we are apparently human after the cold and ruthless manner in which Liverpool, Bolton and Real Betis were dispatched.
Anyhow, a dose of reality might do us all good and despite the relative disappointment there were bright spots amongst the Goodison gloom. Huth marshalled Duncan Ferguson superbly and should keep his place for the start of our Carling Cup defence against Charlton; the “slow-starting” Lampard heads the leading scorers table with eight goals (three more than Liverpool have managed between themselves this season in the Premiership).
The opposition remains uncharacteristically quiet. Sir Alex has yet to point to yesterday’s result as a sign of the infamous ‘blip’ or evidence that Chelsea can’t hack it in the North West and Arsene Wenger’s campaign for stylish and high-scoring football to be rewarded with additional points is now as forgotten as Ken Clarke’s Tory leadership bid. The optically challenged Frenchman has now switched his energies to tasks as diverse as answering questions about Les Keystone Cops and their comedy penalty routine, begging Thierry not to go all Catalan on him next summer and most bizarrely helping to sell the luxury apartments that will replace Highbury next year. Such are the pressures of managing a mid-table team.
But in certain quarters questions are still asked about the authenticity and long-term potential of Roman’s Chelsea. Granted, football can turn even the sanest of us into irrational maniacs at times especially when things aren’t going our way. We all have pre-conceived ideas and biased viewpoints on the game but if you want lapses of reason worthy of treatment by straightjacket and a dose of ECT, talk to a few fans of the traditional ‘big clubs’ now. You’ll hear conspiracy theories that make David Icke’s “Politicians — they’re all big lizards you know” rantings sound almost plausible alongside loaded questions that conveniently ignore decades of evidence to the contrary. The standard “brown envelope in the ref’s back pocket” type excuses are ever-present along with those tailored to more recent events; the bleating over the (perfectly correct) decision by the FA not to upgrade Essien’s yellow card against Bolton to a red for example. But easily the most ridiculous question is one that has been asked constantly since the Russian sailed his yacht up the Thames in July 2003:
“Yeah, but what happens when Roman gets bored though?”
It is difficult to fathom how those who have reveled in their clubs’ successes and habitual hoarding of silverware amongst themselves for years can entertain the idea that a man who has spent just a few months basking in a similar warm glow could suddenly succumb to a nasty bout of narcolepsy. Maybe they have a point though — can you really get bored with winning? Did the Moores family tire of watching the Liverpool team of the 1970s and 80s collect multiple league titles and European Cups and make a conscious decision to appoint crap managers for fifteen years? Did Fergie decide that regularly lifting the Premiership trophy was a bit dull so he thought he’d let someone else have a go for a few years? Could it be more than just an English trait — maybe you can’t move in Turin for Juventus fans mumbling in bored despair about the mind-numbing tedium of yet another Serie A title? The conspiracy theorists and the terminally desperate probably had their fingers in their ears, but last week Roman confirmed what most Blues have believed since his arrival; he is loving every minute of it and is here to stay.
As trailed by our esteemed Webmaster below, Abramovich has announced that he quite enjoys football and winning trophies and fancies more of the same. One hundred years more to be precise.
To those of us paying attention, the signs have been there for some time now. We have the best manager in the game and arguably the best squad in world football. We have a new training ground. We have Frank Arnesen, whose scouting network is purportedly second to none looking for the next generation of superstars before they turn up at Barcelona or AC Milan with £100m buy-out clauses in their contracts. There are whispers about extending the capacity of the Bridge or moving to another site within the near area if this cannot be achieved. All fairly obvious clues that suggest that Roman doesn’t really do short term.
Of course we can never be sure what tomorrow will bring; he could sell up and head back to Siberia and invest his billions in industrial ice fishing, swine could take flight and Jordan could tire of appearing in the tabloids. But for now, Chelsea fans have a very bright future to look forward to. Whether those that follow the afore-mentioned giants can say the same is another matter entirely.
I’ll end with a plea. Generations of fans have watched football for well over a century and although the experience has become rather more sterile in recent years there are some things that have remained sacred; how we celebrate a goal being one of them. The location may be rather different which restricts things a little — seats costing you £50 having replaced the terraces — but thankfully we still have those few glorious seconds after the net has bulged to show our delight as we see fit; jumping around like mad buggers with a healthy disregard for our own personal safety, hugging strangers, cheering politely whilst screwing up the betting slip that had a tenner on Drogba as first scorer instead of Lampard or just generally losing the plot for a moment or two.
But recently dull uniformity has started to creep into goal celebrations across the country; the dreadful Sky-sponsored “Easy, easy, easy” chant. Put simply this is Gladiators style big foam hand waving nonsense; a small step away from the US baseball stadium with some God-awful FM radio hit being piped through the PA every time the team hits a home run. And I know I’m not alone in hating it with a passion.
This may well mark me down as a grumpy old git, but isn’t clapping like a performing seal and trotting out the same chant that is now heard at virtually every other ground in the country the antithesis of decades of your club’s own fan culture which has seen rituals from the riotous to the down-right bizarre develop naturally as a spontaneous reaction to events on the pitch? OK, while a chorus of “Super Frankie Lampard” may not be bursting with originality at least you can tell it is Chelsea singing it and no-one else.
This current fad is the 21st century equivalent of the Mexican Wave and is unfortunately showing signs of becoming a fixture in our football grounds; there is even an ‘official’ T-shirt which surely proves beyond doubt that it really has gone far enough. The availability of beer in the comfort of your own seat during the game is one piece of Americanisation we might benefit from; the one-size-fits-all choreographed goal celebration with its own TV promotion campaign and merchandise line is not. Should you see any misguided individual taking part in this farcical ritual please point out to them that we are Chelsea, not the Boston Red Sox.