Last year around this time (well the 10th of March to be precise) I wrote my first article for this most esteemed of footie blogs. The article was called The Calm after The Storm and basically was the deranged witterings of an average but intensely loyal and passionate Chelsea fan in light of our marvellous second leg destruction of the footballing landed gentry that is FC Barcelona. At that time the world was only beginning to hate us, we were still a novelty and Jose Mourinho was still revered by the press as a refreshing breath of new air, breaking up the tedious dull media hogging duopoly of Lord Fergie of Salford Keys and Count Arsehole of Highbury, in their yawn inducing battle of psychological warfare between two increasingly toothless old tigers fighting over the mouldering corpse of their Premiership supremacy. Of course those two have now been joined by Prince Rafa of The Wirral in the campaign for the Return Of Triumphant Teams Emblazoned in Red (ROTTER), a triumvirate of teams who play in red and have “history”? ingrained into the very culture and values of their clubs by some sort of magical spell. But enough has been said about them for the time being.
No, almost a year on and the whole world it seems is in an alliance of hatred against the “Nouveau Riche”? of West London that is our beloved Chelsea. A team that has never been much more than “occasional achievers”? but for whom a stroke of luck and wise counsel saw them bought by a multi-billionaire who sorted all their financial issues out and allowed the huge throng of loyal fans to live the dream. And it was no more typified than through the media view of last night. I appreciate some fans of other clubs wanted Chelsea to win, but in essence the message was “we hope Barca thrash you”?. This also occurred within both the press and broadcast media, both of whom have turned on the club like a King Cobra whose tail has been stood on. In recent times we have been pilloried for having dangerous players, diving players, an arrogant manager, an even more arrogant Chief Executive, playing boring football, dominating the Premiership (what, after one season?) and turning our pitch into a paddy field to solve some sort of West London bistro rice shortage crisis.
But never in my wildest dreams did I ever think a footballing authority would try and sanction a covert campaign to remove us from their primary flagship competition. But it seems that UEFA feel that is exactly what is required. And the scariest thing for all you non-Blues is I think this may even extend to the members of ROTTER. How else do you explain the rash of sendings off that seem to accompany every game we play against the alleged footballing aristocracy of Europe? Every game we have played against Barca has seen a player from our side sent off, maybe not in both legs but in at least one. To my memory Babayaro saw red a few years ago when we went out to them over two legs, then last year Drogba went off for a challenge that might have damaged someone with sugar glass for bones but no-one else, and then last night Del Horno goes off for being a clumsy bastard. Now I don’t think too much of Del Horno. I think he is well short of being a world class left back, at least when he plays for us. Wayne Bridge, currently enjoying a rich run of form for Fulham should have been given the chance to restore his place as first choice. Billy Gallas also plays in that position as if he was born there. Glen Johnson did a passable job there against Colchester and Ferreira can fill the spot for a short while. However, irrespective of my personal feelings about Del Horno that challenge was no more than a yellow card offence. But prior to this the writing was on the wall as the referee gave decision after decision to Barcelona culminating in the red card for Del Horno. It was a bloody disgrace and in any other league or competition that would have been worthy of a rebuke from his employers. But not if they are UEFA. UEFA are omnipotent (or is that just impotent) when it comes to ruling European football with a power that FIFA doesn’t even enjoy worldwide.
Look at the decision, both players went down, both making a right paella (as in latin meal) of the alleged challenge. Messi then went through his version of the Green Cross Code as he looked left, looked right and looked left again before realising he’d been been hit by a depleted uranium tipped bullet fresh from the barrels of the gun on Roman Abramovich’s circling Apache-AH64 Gunship. I’ve asked Tufty to renew his club membership for him and a letter of commendation from the Green Cross Code Man is on its way. Del Horno hit the deck screaming as if someone had just let off a capsule of sarin nerve gas under his nose. Both, it’s safe to say, overreacted. Both should have got a yellow card. But wait… can you hear the bugle call in the distance… yes here comes the cavalry in the form of a gang of upright walking humanoid lemons… oh sorry it’s their “away”? shirts… I meant Barcelona players outraged by this assassination attempt. They heckled the ref, they pleaded for justice, they acted like it was market day in Old Jerusalem during a sale, but it made no odds because at the back of the ref’s mind the mantra of the UEFA “Chelsea”? decree was strongly to the fore… the mantra that states,
“It shall be the responsibility of any paid UEFA official to bias any appropriate decision as may favour any team in the G14 that play Chelsea in any UEFA sponsored competition, in order to benefit said G14 member and put these chavvy upstarts in their place until they learn some bloody manners.”?
Of course that’s not written anywhere, but how can I not be convinced this is not the case? Somewhere, sometime the cabal of “big clubs”? got together and rejected our bid to join them. Why? Because we hadn’t done our time. We hadn’t followed their traditional route to historical glory by winning things with players sired only from the local communities. We had soiled their honourable competitions and leagues with filthy lucre. We are the Richard De Vere against their Audrey Fforbes Hamilton, the Richard Branson to their Duke of Westminster and the Bill Gates to their Sultan of Dubai. And at this meeting they decided to pressurise the government in the form of UEFA into supporting their interests to prevent the oiks from upsetting the natural order of football hierarchy. And lo, UEFA listened because they knew the power of the money these clubs had, and they feared upsetting them. For UEFA it was easy to put measures in place to teach us a lesson. We are like the working class family that wins the lottery and moves into the mock Tudor gated estate of ten bedroomed detached houses with in and out gravel drives and a swimming pool in the garden. We’re not wanted and for some never will be. I hope we shove it up their arses at some point and crush everyone before us. I really do. I hope we are the catalyst for the reform or abolition of UEFA in favour of something more… democratic… and less corrupt. Television companies anyone? Put them together with some business brains and some old footballers (Sir Trev for example) and do something new, something that favours the players and the fans, as well as their own business interests. Something that destroys petty bureaucracy and officialdom.
Well it couldn’t be worse than now could it?
Lastly the game itself. Barcelona are a great team with great players which shames their diving and histrionics even more. They are more than capable of beating virtually any team on talent alone so why habitually cheat? Our boys were heroic with the exception of Del Horno who had been run ragged prior to the sending off and must surely now be looked at in terms of bench warmer rather than regular starter. John Terry was utterly magnificent last night and if Sven was watching then he should be asking himself what else could he ever ask for in an England captain? The man is a born leader the likes of Gerrard, Beckham and Owen can only dream of being. Joe Cole was substituted but looked to be the player who could cause them problems; Deco doesn’t even come close to Joe. Another concern is again over Cech who had he been on his line for goal number one could have made a clean catch, and for goal number two got caught in two minds and picked neither instead of challenging Eto’o for the ball. Maybe Carlo should be given a little run? Other than that I think we played out of our skins with ten men and but for two basic defending and goalkeeping errors could have kept the one goal lead or at least held them to a draw. As it is we have a mountain to climb to score at least two in the Camp Nou or win 3-2. I know we did it last year but that was at home and maybe this year we should just look to a League and Cup double to at least prove the English supremacy crap we take all the time.