The Guardian, Dominic Fifield: “Any sense of choking anti-climax which might normally have strangled Chelsea appeared to have eased by the time this squad strolled through their post-match lap of honour in the sunshine. The likelihood of their pursuit of Manchester United yielding the Premier League title had always been slim. In the end those efforts did indeed prove futile, though there were still smiles from the players and appreciation from the fans in the aftermath.”
Daily Telegraph, Clive Tyldesley: “The three point gap that separated United and Chelsea at the end of Avram Grant’s first game in charge last September, had been reduced to two at the end of the final fraught afternoon of the season. Beaten by a short head. Grant had the satisfaction of seeing another substitution pay dividends when Andriy Shevchenko put his team in front against an obdurate Bolton. But United were always in control of both theirs and Chelsea’s destiny at Wigan, and Grant’s day fell flat when Matthew Taylor scored a late equaliser for the visitors.”
The Times, Matt Dickinson: “See you in Moscow, Avram Grant said to those fans who remained for the post-match lap of honour. They will see a Chelsea team for the Champions League final in Russia, but probably not the rather listless lot who played out a draw in the final domestic game of the season. The chance to make history should see to that. It should force Didier Drogba to concentrate on his game rather than picking a pathetic squabble with the inoffensive Gavin McCann. It should make Alex focus instead of ceding an equaliser with a sloppy clearance. It should get Joe Cole crossing to the near post rather than five yards over the bar.”
The Independent, Jason Burt: “In the end it did not go down to goal difference. Chelsea conceded with almost the last kick thanks to a piece of appalling defending by Alex – a stand-in for the injured Ricardo Carvalho – which gave the indefatigable Matt Taylor the opportunity to drive a sweet, left-foot shot through Cech’s legs. By then, though, the game was up.”
Official Chelsea FC Website, Christian Collison: “Chelsea finished yet another season unbeaten at Stamford Bridge but we were held by Bolton to a 1-1 draw.”
The opening credits
I left the American Café having consumed my usual pre-match meal thus completing all rituals as usual. I felt like an airline pilot ticking all the pre-flight check boxes. The nerves were jangling as the great moment approached, the moment that had been anticipated all season. My god, this was worse than my first date, or meeting my first girlfriend’s dad. I lost my virginity feeling cooler and less nervous than this! I mean, come on, I’m 46 for fuck’s sake, and just how bad could it be? (to be continued…)
The good bits you see in the trailers
- Joe Cole. Like a pesky swarm of annoyed wasps he buzzed the Bolton defence endlessly. A man playing for a Champions League place perhaps? Annoyingly, and true to form for the whole team, the final ball was often not as good as one might hope. But he was trying, and bursting blood vessels for the team today, and for me that’s all I ask… that the players put the same effort into playing that I do watching. Remember lads, if you read this, I kick every ball, I make every tackle, head every ball and score or concede every goal you do. So do 36,000 others. You lot have it easy, you just play the game.
- The atmosphere. I mean this was Bolton for fuck’s sake! The weather played a huge part and the atmosphere was right in the ‘party zone’, with stirring renditions of the (for me, newly learned) ‘Ohhhhhh, Arne Riise’ song and the ‘We’re going to Moscow’ song. I like footie during the cold, wet, dark winter months, despite being a child of the Sun and actually detesting winter, but it has to be said when it’s 29°C and sunny, then there are precious better places to be than Stamford Bridge.
- Michael Ballack. Yet another assured performance. Frank Lampard had a good game as well, but when John Terry went off let’s be honest, the captain’s armband should be passed to Ze German. He’s captain of Germany after all!
- Michael ‘The Bison’ Essien. Rampaging in midfield of late, today he started in his newly found right-back role and then moved to centre-back replacing Terry. However, he’s not quite as good there as he is at right-back, but at this point the defence was looking pretty makeshift, with Juliano Belletti coming on and no Terry or Ricardo Carvalho in the middle. It was quite likely we’d concede a goal really.
- Bolton. Fans and team (Gavin McCann apart). Blimey they packed the away end with some of the noisiest buggers I’ve heard for a while. I mean this is a set of fans that have the same feeling of ‘meh’ toward their manager as many of us do, but still they sang and chanted. At the final whistle you’d have thought they’d just won the Premiership, not barely survived relegation. As for the team, a committed display of dogged defending, riding your luck and playing to the end. The football may not be great, but when we have resorted to hoofing the long ball for many games this season, maybe we should give them some credit for being a pain in our arse yet again.
The crap bits with all the lovey dovey bollocks
- The injury to John Terry. How unlucky is this bloke? At a time when he’s been keeping his little tantrums against the officials under control, got his former imperious form back, and seemed to have recovered from all the knocks and has been generally looking like the Captain Marvel we all know and love he then collides with the hapless Petr Cech and looks like he’s taken a serious knock again. I heard after the game that it was a dislocated elbow (ouch!) but that Ironman has had it popped back into place and he reckons he’ll play in Moscow. Ironman, yep, I like that.
- The subbing of Joe Cole. I’ve stood up for Avram Grant recently as he has deserved credit. However, his consistent subbing of Cole is really grating now. Joe can be a liability but today he was the best man holding the ball up for us, he had Bolton defenders crying for nappies with his dribbles and jinks. We were a goal up and despite having our usual 10 minute post-goal attack of narcolepsy seemed to be getting back on top of the game. Then he subs Cole. And brings on John Mikel Obi. He might as well have put a message on the video screens saying “We’re gonna try and hold this lead”. It was a cobblers decision and after that the equaliser seemed inevitable. How many times has Cole been subbed and then we’ve conceded? I can count two occasions, notably Spurs away and again today. That’s not tactical genius is it?
- Our commitment. It was obvious with 10 minutes or less left that the boys knew the Wigan score, so then we started thinking it was a training game and that we could play silly buggers across the pitch, making unforced errors. Again, the inevitable seemed to be about to strike.
- The ‘last few seconds’ equaliser. This is desperate now. This is more than bad luck, it’s lack of focus, lack of concentration, lack of passion, lack of commitment, lack of care and a dereliction of duty that in the forces would lead to a court martial. That’s seven home draws (Blackburn, Fulham, Liverpool, Aston Villa, Everton, Wigan and Bolton) with four games being drawn in the last few seconds (Aston Villa, Everton, Wigan and Bolton). Add the Spurs away game into the equation, having led four times that game and it’s not hard to see a key reason why we’re not toasting ourselves as champions again tonight.
- Neil Barnett. Comes onto the pitch after the game to regale us with the achievement that “we’ve finished with highest ever points total for second place”. Well, whoopy-fucking-do. Let’s all have a street party for finishing second again. This arrogant smarmy smart arse comes on every week and tempts fate by telling us how great our home record is (as if we don’t know). Neil, stop patronizing us, and stop telling us how good we are after shite results like this.
The bits that should have been left behind in the edit suite
- Petr Cech. Is he living with Dale Winton? Is he studying goalkeeping at the Larry Grayson Goalkeeping Academy? What the fuck has happened to the man this season? Until now I’ve been willing to forgive the odd blunder, after all every keeper has a nightmare from time to time. But this season has been littered… no soiled… no tainted by his cock ups. There are too many to mention here, but since Christophe Lollichon has come in his punching is about as robust as five day old celery, he punts the ball aimlessly up the field and he flaps at crosses like Stevie Wonder wearing lead lined boots. A rubbish performance today, topped only by…
- Petr Cech. His outfit this time. You’re kidding me right? This is supposed to make him look ‘big’ to oncoming attackers? I think he dazzled himself with it today. That sort of thing is okay if you work on a railway line, but for the football pitch… well surely the acid casualty that came up with that scheme needs severe treatment in a rehab clinic.
Discussed at length with Chelsea Bob, Big Dave and Mrs Chelsea Bob.
- Petr Cech: Arse gravy. Very smelly performance today – 4/10.
- Michael Essien: Bisto gravy. Immense again – 8/10.
- John Terry: Ironman. Maybe even tougher – 8/10.
- Ashley Cole: The Wicker Man. Got burnt a bit by the Bolton Giants – 7/10.
- Alex: The Jolly Green Giant. Looks like the bloke who says ‘Yarp’ in Hot Fuzz! The goal was his fault because he failed to clear properly, but to be fair, he’s been a good stand-in this season – 7.5/10.
- Michael Ballack: The Red Baron. Peerless but couldn’t make the breakthrough – 8.5/10.
- Claude Makelele: Yoda. Old and wise, but you wouldn’t want him running to get your dinner – 7/10.
- Frank Lampard: Lean, mean fighting machine – 8/10.
- Joe Cole: Remember The Herbs? I’m Dill the Dog, I’m a dog named Dill? That’s Joe Cole, running around like a loony, but his best game for a few weeks – 8.5/10.
- Florent Malouda: I thought it was Salomon Kalou? Did good stuff but then failed to engage brain. He’s improved, but he’s no Arjen Robben though – 7/10.
- Didier Drogba: Frustrating and brilliant in equal measures. Unlucky not to score but gave the ball away loads as well. May not make the Champions League final because of a knee injury – 7.5/10.
- Andriy Shevchenko (sub): Held the ball well, didn’t moan, lacks pace, still class and to be honest I’d keep him and let him drop into the Sparky Hughes role – 8/10.
- John Mikel Obi (sub): Should have started in place of Makelele – 7/10.
- Juliano Belletti (sub): Did OK, and can undoubtedly cross a ball – 7.5/10.
- Overall team performance: Back to the drawing board – 7/10.
Man of the Match
Joe Cole. A bright incandescent light in a sea of low energy bulbs.
The end credits
… what was the worst that could happen? Get a grip I thought. But it was a big moment. I was going to meet the one and only Jonathan Dyer!
It was fine of course. We spent 25 minutes queuing at the bar which prompted the brainwave of a double round from me. Well it was bloody hot outside and pint number one would always be knocked over pretty quickly! Anyway, we had a great chat, discovered a bit about each other, not least that we’re not a million miles from each other next season in the Matthew Harding Upper. It was great to meet Peter as well. I feel more beers being consumed as we right the wrongs of Chelsea FC.
A rather flat end to the day as Bolton’s last ditch goal was like a bucket of water on an already spent firework. I think a victory would have seen more fans stay to appreciate the lap of honour after the game. In the end, we played fantastic at times and like pit ponies at others. And Manchester United were worthy Champions. They scored more, conceded less and didn’t draw seven games at home, nor did they concede many late goals. They annihilated Newcastle United twice, and ripped a fair few other teams to bits, and despite how much you hate him they have a major star in Cristiano Ronaldo. Congratulations to them.
But I hate losing. I hate finishing second. I hate having nothing to show. I am a very bad loser! As I said to Jonathan, if losing doesn’t ruin your day then you’re not a real footie fan. We didn’t lose the game but we lost the Premiership, and we have nobody to blame but ourselves. We built a core of the team on African players with little or no comparable back up. We suffered injuries and rushed players back too soon (in my view), and despite a great away record we drew too many games that we should have won. Is this down to Grant? Well. I’ll leave that thought to form part of my post-season review, along with my ins and outs.
My thanks to Nick, Jonathan, Mark and everyone who contributes to the blog. You’ve all helped make this, for me, a real passion. That’s my last review this season as I’m in France next week for the Champions League final and the likelihood is I’ll have ‘read only’ access at best to the blog.
On a final note, thanks to everyone at Chelsea Football Club, but especially to the players. We praise and criticise you in almost equal measure, but you are part of our life. You drive us mad with frustration one minute and wild with ecstasy the next. We love you, we hate you, we’re demanding, you’re demanding, we want you, then we don’t want you. We’re irrational and fickle. One minute you’re our hero, the next you’re our pantomime villain. It’s like being lovers without the sex. But through everything you know one thing. We’re all behind you, living and breathing every kick, every ball, every goal and everything Chelsea. We ask just one more thing…
Bring home the Champions League and give us something memorable to smile about this season that might even top beating Liverpool in the semi-finals.
As Mrs Balboa famously once said after coming out of a coma having had the hairiest baby ever seen on screen… she looked to the distraught out of shape Rocky, smiled and whispered…
“Do me one favour…”
“Anything,” came the reply.
*Cue the Rocky ‘Getting Stronger’ anthem and Tony Glover runs off down the road hurdling hedgerows, punching the air… and fade*