West Ham United 3-1 Chelsea – Dear Roman …

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Dear Roman (I assume you are OK with the informal approach),

As a long-standing devotee of Chelsea Football Club for some 42 years now I feel that it is time that we had a feedback session with regard your tenure of our club.

When you first rolled into town in 2003 you were welcomed with open arms. As a club and a set of fans we had endured years of being under the occasionally friendly, but often rather embarrassing Ken Bates. Now Ken did have some rough edges but he was also fiercely loyal to the club and despite being a PR disaster as fans we were never left in doubt as to what Ken thought. Being a kindly soul he would tell us at every home game with his own section in the programme – whether we wanted him to or not. Having said that most of us fans would take any form of communication no matter how poor over none at all. Which is sadly where we find ourselves today.

Let’s talk about yesterday first though, Roman. Now of course we know that you have kindly spent a lot of money on the club, trying to placate us bipolar fans whilst concurrently keeping us excited and inspired, but I fear you have just made a few too many errors now and that it may be time to step back, or aside. The new interim coach was a highly unpopular decision given his rather fractured relationship with our fans. But it is now obvious why you fired an ostensibly nice and potentially bright young coach in Robbie Di Matteo as he dared to override your edict that Fernando Torres will play every game and must be fixed no matter what. There was nothing wrong with the team fielded yesterday, crammed as it is with exciting players, but for the sullen, forlorn figure of £50m ‘striker’ Fernando Torres.

Yes, we started the game brightly and for much of the first half we dominated both possession and chances. Blimey, I thought at one point that Mr Benitez might be finally starting to show his worth and that far from just shoring up the defence, we might just be getting back to the team that sat top of the Premier League for 12 weeks. But no, because as usual we are simply not ruthless enough with our chances. And especially those created for your investment Mr Torres. We have a truly sparkling squad of exciting players and for the first half there was some champagne stuff being played. But time after time the bubbly would go flat as the halitosis affect of the non functioning investment wafted over it. The problem is that this is now affecting a lot of other investments as well. At half time every fan must have feared a one goal lead would not be enough. And once again our fears were proved correct.

Now unlike many I am not a person who dislikes Mr Benitez and was willing to give him a fair go at things despite knowing he has a penchant for negative football. I was mildly encouraged by a 0-0 draw against Manchester City, the reigning champions. But our display versus Fulham was dismal. And that’s me being polite. And Mr Benitez didn’t seem to have a clue how to change that game. Leaving the Hollywood investment on the pitch was not the answer and 42,000 others knew that.

And the same yesterday. West Ham came out having had a very visible rocket placed somewhere quite sensitive by Sam Allardyce. He’d taken the bull by the horns and made changes. A gamble that worked. But as we’ve become accustomed to our fragility it was obvious that we had no plan B to counter the Hammers and unlike us they didn’t turn their noses up when presented with chances. I had hoped your own gamble with Mr Benitez might pay off but it seems your new man is just that. Just another man taking the Chelsea dollar and carrying out your orders to the word. And that order is ‘play Fernando Torres’ no matter what. During a game where, let’s be frank, he stunk the house out, much like every other game in the past few weeks, he was left on the pitch basically not bothering anyone or even interfering with play. Replacing arguably our two most creative and dangerous players (Moses and Hazard) with almost identical like for likes in Oscar and Marin was not the answer we were seeking. As we now know it was all too little too late. The European Champions humbled by newly promoted West Ham. Hardly the stuff to get chests puffing with pride about. And that’s all that’s worth saying about yesterday. Despite our array of talent we look gutless, dispirited, rudderless, leaderless and most of all insipid. I will steal a catchphrase from an ex-employee and favourite son of Chelsea…

Something is broken with our club.

My dear Roman, it is my firm belief that you are the architect of everything at the club. Good stuff has happened because of you. League titles, FA Cups, the Champions League etc. But all the bad stuff is also down to you. The instability created by you in the running of the team has made us into a laughing stock the equal of anything that Uncle Ken managed. Your irrational inability to see that Mr Torres is a broken gadget that cannot be repaired is not even worthy of parody here. If Mr Torres is the question then hand on heart I’m not sure Mr Benitez is the long term answer. Your despotic nature is eating at the very soul of the club. Our PR is possibly the worst in the league despite you never speaking publicly. Which means your board are not doing their job properly. Or you’re not. It’s not just money that sits at the centre of football. It’s about so much more. Our situation is currently so embarrassing that even the latest target of your desire seems unwilling to sacrifice his sanity on the cross of your financial generosity. And even if Mr Guardiola did change tack then how long would he last? Six months, a whole year? Basically any figure would be speculative and probably meaningless.

There is one possible way out of this although I’m not sure it’s going to be very palatable but it would almost certainly bring stability to the team and success in the league. It would mean rehiring Mr Jose Mourinho. This would be unpalatable because my guess and that of so many others is that you know sacking him was a huge mistake. One you can’t blame on anyone else. One you can’t hide from.

But is that as bad as the other solution? Which would be to sell the club on to someone else. For some of the bipolar masses this suggestion is heresy, but for me I think it’s worth looking into. A global brand, sheltered in a well-to-do area of South West London will always be an attractive proposition. I’m not demanding you jump. I’m merely asking you to consider passing your toy onto someone else willing to drive and lead the club onto greater success. Someone to guarantee our future who preserves the soul of our great club.

I hope this letter finds you well, and that the comments here are taken in the constructive manner they are meant. We’re all very grateful for all you have given us but now is the time for you to step back and employ a CEO who knows football (that nice Mr Kenyon is free I believe), allow him or her to run the club independently, and then offer that nice Mr Hiddink to oversee the club’s footballing strategy. I’m sure Mr Emenalo would accept reporting to Mr Hiddink. Then when Mr Mourinho is back on a five-year contract we can all concentrate on rubbing the other teams’ noses into the ground.

Kind regards,

Tony Glover, aka GrocerJackUK

Press Reports

The Observer, Dominic Fifield: “Chelsea’s retreat into the chasing pack continues apace. Rafael Benítez’s side surrendered a grip on this derby and contrived to end up overwhelmed, overrun and utterly embarrassed, with all the disillusion that has festered over recent weeks erupting again in a show of open revolt in the stands. All four sides of the arena united in a chorus of “You’re getting sacked in the morning” spat at the Spaniard, though that represented one of the kinder chants aimed his way by the disgruntled visiting support. At present, it is hard to see this marriage of convenience working out and Benítez admitted as much.”

The Sunday Telegraph, Jason Burt: “For all of his tactical acumen, his impressive CV, the wholly understandable reasons why he took the post, albeit on a temporary basis following the irrational sacking of Roberto Di Matteo, Benítez is in danger of drowning here in a sea of bile and invective.”

The Independent on Sunday, Steve Tongue: “It gets worse. After successive goalless draws, Rafa Benitez concluded his third game at Chelsea with the club’s first defeat in London’s East End since 2002. Not only that but the new manager was outwitted by his old adversary Sam Allardyce, whose two substitutions at the interval changed the game after West Ham had gone in one-nil down.”

The Official Chelsea FC Website: “The Blues slipped to defeat at Upton Park, throwing away a 1-0 half-time lead with a poor second-half display.”

Goals

13′ Mata 0-1
63′ Cole 1-1
86′ Diame 2-1
90+1′ Maiga 3-1




There are 93 comments

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  1. mjgray92

    Agree with every beautiful word, Tony. At this point, I worry deeply about the retention and development of our younger players. I can only imagine how disruptive the constant chopping and changing is for youngsters like Oscar and Hazard. Beyond your point on Guardiola, what about future player recruits? I’m truly worried about how much worse things can get…

  2. Blue_MikeL

    Hi Tony, 
    I am ready to sign under almost every word you are stating here. There are couple of things with which I disagree, but that is fine. In general you right, big time right . It is getting ridiculous; first he (Roman) buys Shevchenko and Jose pays for it. Now he brings Nando and one manager after another are fallen, because this toy simply doesn’t work. It is ridiculous, simply ridiculous. Or in you words: 
    “But time after time the bubbly would go flat as the halitosis affect of the non functioning investment wafted over it.” It’s freaking stinks.  
       

  3. justin

    you Chelsea fans are a joke with out roman you would not even be at this level. small perfetic club you are.
     

      • justin

        i think you must be the idiot if you think your club is something your not. your just a small championship club in disguise if the truth be told. perhaps you should go back to school and get the drawing board for raffa. your time with playing with the big boys is running out small time club with big time charlies that support it you will never be seen as a big club your a shit club with shit support and that will never change.

  4. Cunningplan

    While Leveson is attempting to recommend legislation for our press.
    I’m now beginning to think that if your IQ is in single digits, then people shouldn’t be allowed access, and post on the internet. 😉

    In Rafa we trust…….. don’t you just love that immortal line from our Scouse brethren?
    Answers on a postcard please to Chelsea football club

  5. Guest

    I feel sorry for Benitez it is not his fault that the squad is lacking. We need more powerful/combative midfielders that can come on and influence the game.

    I am a fan of Mikel but the problem is he lacks pace to really get around the pitch and dominate the other side. What ever we say about him, if he was offered to Man Utd or Man City tomorrow they would say no.

    Think about the midfield we had in 2007, Makelele, Essien, Lamps, J Cole, Mikel, Ballack, Geremi, Robben, Diara, SWP – 10

    Compared to today Romeu, Ramires, Lamps, Mata, Hazard, Oscar, Moses – 7

    3 extra is madness.

    You cannot blame FSW, RDM or AVB until we sign another world class defensive midfielder.

    Though saying that I do feel that the defence was beginning to fall apart under RDM at the end, the way we were conceding goals to Juventus, Shaktar, and Man Utd was a little worrying.

  6. Ramone

    Our footballing steam roller has run out of puff.   Gutless and spineless. Without a spearhead or a strategy.  So.  Where to from here ?  Pray for a miracle on Wednesday,  farm out Fernando in January,  flash the cash in January and bring back Dave Sext…………. . 

    Bugger.

  7. Chelsea Checkmate - Allardyce Tips His Hat - Unofficial Network

    […] Cole deserves that one…Allardyce’s decision to change the tactics isn’t his only value: he’s a man-manager who has this team playing for each other.  “West Ham came out [for the second half] having had a very visible rocket placed somewhere quite sensitive by Sam Allardyce. He’d taken the bull by the horns and made changes. A gamble that worked.” Tony Glover, Chelsea FC Blog […]

  8. mark_25

    Nice letter Tony.  Were you not able to arrange a face to face like the other fans?  You state that our PR is possibly the worst in the league and your solution is to re-hire Jose Mourinho.  Wouldn’t this be the equivalent of putting Rebekah Brooks in charge of press regulation, if improving PR is the name of the game.  Jose seems to fall out with and offend everyone around him.

    The truth is that life under Roman has taken us to a new level that 42 years ago none of us could have dreamed of.  Okay so we’re going through a bumpy patch but just because I’ve found a few lumps in my smoked salmon pate doesn’t mean I want to return to salmon paste.

    We’ve got some great players in the squad like Oscar and Mata and they’re young with their best years ahead of them.  Add to them the next generation JT and Lampard plus any striker and we’ll be fine.

    Meanwhile prior to the window re-opening we should drop Torres and play anyone up front who is athletic and enthusiastic.  Louis Smith would be okay but he’s currently tied up with Strictly come Dancing so I’d settle for Russell Grant who is out of contract.  He’d fail as miserably as Torres but would do it with style and pizzazz keeping us entertained during the pantomime season.

    • GrocerJack

      As I said Marfk, I’ve enjoyed the great times as well, but really I’m posing te question of just how much fans can take of this. Are we really that addicted to success we’re prepared to be a bigger laughing stock than Newcastle? I realise Jose is a fractious character but right now the club needs healing because you can be sure if the fans are falling into divisions then the players will be. Judging by the display on Sunday, and the acknowledged angry changing room words (yes, again) the rifts are in place. I just happen to think our ‘enfant terrible’ would be a huge lift around the place so I’d fully support it.

      Like LTB I worry about the impacts on the squad with what can only be seen as total disarray around the club. If this carries on you’d hardly be surprised to see Hazard, Mata, Oscar etc not being tempted by the Citeh or United Dollar. They must be wondering just what sort of basket case club they’ve joined.

  9. Sarahhowardhome

    Hi, Liverpool fan here…
    Firstly, Justin you are an idiot.
    Secondly, I am glad to see your displeasure is finally being directed towards RA.
    Thirdly, I wholeheartedly agree that your club, especially with its location, would be highly desiarable to any potential buyer. I’ve read countless posts claiming Chelsea would become a championship team should RA take his money away. Absolute balderdash. He’s hardly going to sell to the first bloke he meets down the pub for a fiver.
    Lastly, I love your blog. Please don’t tell anyone!

  10. limetreebower

    Fair enough Mark, but I still feel we’re at a potential tipping point, where the atmosphere of aimless desperation so obvious in the club administration may begin to affect the long-term development of the team. As long as Roman keeps chucking money at the problem we’ll never sink that far, but equally we’ll find it hard to hang on to good young players if the club becomes a risible circus.

  11. Day Tripper

    I would like to say a couple of things on the Mourinho front. Firstly I do not think he would come. He knows full well when to join a team and this is not the moment to join, or re-join Chelsea. There is too much work to be done for the results to come in the short term. I don’t think he would want to put his wins to games ratio at risk. Secondly he does not seem to be a manager to build for the long term. He always seemed to be reluctant to give the young players an outing even in the Carling Cup. I had tired of his brand of football by his 3rd season. It was just one ground out result after another towards the end of that season, and even then we were some way off M Utd. Grant, who no one thinks was a good a manager, got closer the next season. I think there might have been a burn out effect with the Mourinho way of training/playing. That is just a theory

    • GrocerJack

      I think he might. Based on the increasingly fractious relationship he has at Real Madrid. He’d see it as unfinished business and Roman knows letting TSO go was his error. I look around and just can’t see where else to go. Pep Guardiola is a sane man as far as I know, and frankly I don’t think he’d give us a second glance knowing the trigger happy and interfering nature of the owner. Whether or not TSO could work with that is also questionable.  Which doesn’t leave much. If I mention Moyes then I’m jumpred on, but the trurh is if it’s neikther of them, nor Rafa longer term then the options are very very limited indeed.

      At least the Avram Grant returning rumours look like bollocks because that would be utterly laughable. The lunatics would really have taken over the asylum, if they haven’t already.

        • Blueboydave

          Well, it still seems like a madhouse to me even if Uncle Avram is to be denied his Second Coming.

          Interesting that “A Spokesman” provided a denial quote – I thought we didn’t comment on press speculation?

          Have to say I agree with pretty much all of TG’s sentiments above.

          It seems entirely appropriate that, if not before we depart for this irrelevant tournament in Japan, almost certainly by the time we get back we will be looking up the EPL table at 2 clubs [WBA and Spuds] managed by the ever-growing band of those we have discarded as not good enough for us.

  12. Der_Kaiser

    All fairly grim.  Two (apparently) beatable teams up this week; need wins in both games before we head off to Japan to boost morale if nothing else.  Crunch game for Rafa is Leeds on the 19th; screw that up and he’s in deep trouble.

  13. Guest

    Mourinho is a god of a football manager, but rehiring him would be going backwards, and I don’t like the Idea. I might give him a chance to build the team/legacy as the director of football though.  I think Roman is starting to realize that while he might be able to win trophies by changing managers, he won’t be able to recreate Barcelona’s dominance that way. A long term solution is needed and the desired type of football needs to be played throughout the whole club in all levels year in year out. 

    As for the current season, I’m not bothered come what may, I wrote the season off as soon as RDM was selected as I didn’t think he was the correct choice. I’d let Rafa tinker with the team for the rest of the season just out of curiosity, also his teams are generally well organized and I can see that helping us in the long term. What has been evident in the three games he’s been in charge, is that our pressing is better, there’s been less horizontal passing and the team is playing faster in attack and defence. 

    I agree that the club’s pr department is amateurish at best and I would change the lot, but being a club that is laughed at isn’t really a big deal in my opinion. Haters gonna hate, anyway.

  14. Der_Kaiser

    I’ve never really been keen on the idea of Jose returning, but as a club in terms of the squad we’re sort of heading back to where we were when he first arrived, albeit with more ‘winning’ experience this time round.

    Just think his brand of relatively short-term 2-3 year ‘shock and awe’ tactics are what we could do with right now.

  15. bluebayou

    In reply to the following question from Beermoth70 on the other thread:

    “So did Robbie make it as far as West Brompton? ”

    The answer is no.

  16. bluebayou

    Well done TG. Whether I agree with you or not, the fact that you could be arsed to write anything is admirable in itself.

    As a youngster I read “Ring of Bright Water” and the only fragment of the book to stay with me is that where the author tells how in certain situations animals respond to fear and distress by curling up and going to sleep, going on to describe the otter doing just that in the back of his car.

    With respect to my beloved team and the surrounding whirlwind of anguish and despair, leavened with elements of farce almost unequalled in footballing history, I have just metaphorically eased said otter off the back seat and placed myself there. I do not know when I will reawaken.

  17. mark_25

    Cheer up chaps.

    Yes we’re open to ridicule from opposing fans and the biased West Ham/Liverpool supporting press.

    Yet whilst everyone is laughing and poking fun I take succour and comfort from my trips to the Millennium Stadium, Wembley (our second home), Moscow and Munich. I mean aside from Manchester and us has anyone else in England got anything footie wise to be cheerful about?

    • Blueboydave

      Admittedly there was a fair smidgeon of Schadenfreude later on Saturday watching Man U’s defence do its impression of a collander against an even more mediocre promoted side than we’d played.

      Ditto, Man City’s toothless attack v Everton with their 4 rotating strikers all struggling [though they’ll all probably end up with more goals than Torres, each on a lot less game time this season].

      And The Gooners can always be relied upon to turn out a good comedy performance once in a while too.

      Still, I think BB is right and hibernation till next May is the answer – or possibly a switch of focus to the NFL season which is heading to its usual enjoyable climactic two months.

  18. Vik Sohonie

    This post deserves a Pulitzer, a Webby, something.  Agree with every word, particularly the bit about entertaining the thought of a new club owner.  He’s filled the club with groupies from the top down.  Eugene Tenebaum, Michael Emenalo right down to Rafa Benitez, and somewhere inbetween Avram looks set to re join the mix.  

    When there’s no voice of reason, one man’s little mind is the devil’s playground.  George Bush surrounded himself with yes man and look where that led to.  Abraham Lincoln was known to appoint those of opposing viewpoints around the table where the decisions are made. 

    Jose’s a possibility, but then, we’ve been here before haven’t we.  

  19. PeteW

    I’ve made my dislike of Rafa plain but think we need to all calm down a bit. He’s not a bad manager and will get results if we give him a bit of space and time. He’s not a great manager – and his skills are not exactly what we require right now – but he’s good enough. To sack two managers before Christmas really would be insane, the sort of thing QPR might do.

    We were very very good in the first half on Saturday – best we’ve played for a long while – and have to hope we can build on that. The fact RB couldn’t deal with West Ham’s half-time changes is worrying – the man is supposed to be a tactical genius – but to be fair to West Ham they played really well and Allardyce is a hugely under-rated manager, even if our weakness in central midfield is fairly clear.The squad’s lack of balance is going to be tested, but we have plenty of very good players and just need a semi decent transfer window. We didn’t solve all our problems in the summer but it’s crazy to think the squad could be overhauled in one sitting. The weak spots are fairly obvious, hopefully we’ll deal with them. A don’t give a fig for all the ‘laughing stock’ bollocks, we got the same this time last season and ended up European Champions while United, Arsenal and Spurs won jack shit. Their fans know that, and it will hurt. They’ve written us off at least twice a season since Mourinho left, and here we are still, fucking them up the arse with hilarious regularity.As for Mourinho. I’d take him back in a shot in May. He’s better than any alternative. 

    • GrocerJack

      Being kind to Rafa, I’ll assume he’s been out for a while and therefore isn’t ‘match fit’ in reading games that have changed. I will say that changing manager again would be utter madness unless it is a spectacular appointment, by which I really just mean Mourinho. I’m very unconvinced Guardiola would succeed outside of the Barca system.

      But of course, the elephant in the room as we all know and are talking about, including those like me who gave him time and wanted him to succeed, is Fernando Torres. An utter waste of fucking space now possibly since the Arsenal game. It’s all very well talking about fixing him, but to use some terminology from my work environment, I want a full root cause analysis of what went wrong, why it went wrong and then an action plan detailing first a list of corrective tactical actions and then strategic preventative actions. If we can’t do this then we have a simple solution covering all the previous actions.

      Write him off. Swallow our pride. Let him go for free. Get rid. Eject the main body. Remove the infection etc etc etc

      • PeteW

        It’s quite odd, we moved on from Shevchenko very quickly. We need Torres to pick up an injury – wasn’t the useless fucker meant to be injury prone? 

        • Cunningplan

          Perhaps that’s the fault of our very good medical dept at the club, they seem to be be keeping him and a few others fairly fit.

        • Blue_MikeL

          The only way to pick an injury is to start to do something on the pitch, then he might get a knock from an opposition defence. Right now he flies like butterfly and nobody gives a flying fuck about it. 

    • PeteW

      Think we should get ready to embrace the Europa. Final in Amsterdam and a trophy we’ve never won before… Not all that bad, really. 

    • Cunningplan

      It’s not beyond the realms of possibility, I know people saying our home game against Juventus might well have been our downfall. On saying that Juventus draw with Nordsjaelland could also be theirs, we just need to win tonight, mainly to get some confidence back into the team.

      Providing there’s been no meetings in dark alleys in the Ukraine with suitcases loaded with cash, then we could well sneak in through the back door.

  20. Ramone

    It’s quiet out there.  Too quiet.  

    I sense a feeling of impeding doom.  

    Whilst contemplating doom,  and in particular gloom, I remembered the Norwich v Chelsea League Cup semi final 2nd leg in 1972/3 season. Match abandoned after 85 mins due to an East Anglian pea-souper.   We were losing 3-2 on the night and 5-2 on aggregate.  Salvation from the weather gods ?  Not a chance. We lost the re-arranged game 1-0 and went out.    

    Can anybody name the team ?  It’s hard to find on the internet.

    • bluebayou

      Oh yes I enjoyed that piece back then.

      The beauty of winning this year is that it kills the “You wouldn’t slag it off if you thought you could win it” style of argument. It’s like going for cocktails at Claridges, downing a couple, chucking a bundle of notes at the waiter and saying ” Sod this I’m off down the boozer for a proper pint”.

      It’s a crock of shit before we won it and it’s a crock of shit after we won it.

      And in all the breast beating forget ye not that the great Suralex and his boys had to scuff around the Europa League last year having failed to get out of a group with Benfica, Basel and a pub side from Turkey as their main contenders. And they didn’t do much in the Europa either, culminating in humiliation at the hands of Athletic Bilbao. Don’t remember it being seen as an apocalyptic event.

      If we don’t go through well it was Shaktar and Juventus two good teams who’ve been building over a season or two. If we finish on 10 points well that would have been enough in some other groups.

      C’est la vie.

      • PeteW

        I think I hate it more now we’ve won it because a) all the residual irritation at not winning it has gone away; b) the fact we won it with such an average team confirms that actually, winning it isn’t really all that impressive a feat at the end of the day.

        • Dylbo Baggins

          I would have thought that Liverpool winning it when 374 points behind us in the league would have confirmed your belief.

        • bluebayou

          ’97 is the point when it really went down hill as it was no longer just the Champions and the point at which they completely sold out to the idea of making it as difficult as possible for the “major” traditional European powers not to win it. The allotting of places by TV market size really took hold and everything was tipped towards giving the “traditional” European giants the maximum number of opportunities not to fuck up.

          And hey look since 1997 only Porto have broken the grip of Italy, Spain, England and Germany. Indeed only that final where they played Monaco has provided finalists outside the Big 4 TV markets.

          Chelsea are the only team outside of the traditional European powers (the G-14 teams etc ) to have lifted the trophy, Porto who while not having the financial muscle of some have always been part of the formal and informal top table as it were.

          And look at the sort of money Bates and Roman shelled out to break into that.

          The 30 places in the 15 finals since 97-98, have been filled by 14 teams. 9 of those teams have contested more than 1 final.

          5 teams, Real Madrid (3), Bayern (4), Milan (3), Barca (3) and Man Utd (4) have all contested at least 3 finals each and occupied over half the available 30 places in the 15 finals.

          Which unless I’m wrong, is what the whole shebang was designed to do. Give a handful of clubs a much better than evens chance.

          • Blueboydave

            I agree entirely that the CL has become a bloated monster which rewards the same teams each year  to enable them to keep acquiring the best players and squad sizes that can cope with the demands the competition puts on them.

            Looking back at the records, however, the 1970s was not exactly a halcyon period of competition between the best of Europe either, when Ajax (3), Bayern, Liverpool and Forest (all 2) won the trophy in consecutive seasons. 

            This was presumably not unconnected to the fact they only had to play 2 knock out rounds before Xmas usually against mediocre opposition [ Crusaders and Trabzonspor  for Liverpool in 76-7 for example] before the quarter finals in March when there could still be a fair amount of dross left in the competition.

            Remember it’s a good stick to beat Scousers with when they bang on about their 5 European Cups to remind them how few games they had to play to win them and how crap most of their opposition was.

            I’m not sure what format between these 2 versions would produce an interesting competition while making domination by a small group difficult? 

          • bluebayou

             You may have a point. A quick look shows that the numbers don’t change much over time. I’m going to investigate further and report back.

      • mark_25

        The problem with going for cocktails at Claridges is there’s nobody at home to receive the Ocado delivery.

        • bluebayou

          As any devotee of the home delivery market will know, within the M25 Waitrose now run their own delivery service and do not contract it out to Ocado any more.

          I find their flexibility and prompt delivery service helps avoid situations involving an unseemly conflict between home delivery and non-domestic alcohol consumption.

          I think you will find that with their tendency to concentrate a greater part of their effort on excellent customer service allied to an inclination to treat their employees as vaguely human, when the current trend amongst others is to finding evermore arcane ways to remove as much money as possible from the economy while paying no tax and treating requests from employees for an annual paid 5 minute toilet break as something akin to socialism, there is much to recommend them.

          This often comforts me during those long insufferable hours sipping cocktails in Claridges while dreaming of the pub.

          • Blueboydave

            On the other hand, since its refurbishment in the summer, the Putney branch of Waitrose has become a disastrous home for rows of deserted self-service check-outs and unused barcode handsets.

            Do you suppose they employed Ron Gourlay as a consultant to advise them on how to “build the brand”?

          • limetreebower

            Ooo, them’s fightin’ words. I’m addicted to the zap-it-yourself barcode pistol and the more or less instant checkout. Try it, it’s awesome.

            Sorry, everyone. The blog is justly famed for its, er, Catholic tastes but I do see that arguments about how best to shovel one’s income into the profit margin of the Putney branch of Waitrose should perhaps be conducted elsewhere. Perhaps BBD and I can arrange to slug it out in the ballroom at Claridge’s over a couple of martinis.

      • Blueboydave

        Excellent stuff, Nick.

        Shame the rant was interrupted by a sponsor’s advert spoken by an irritating woman who sounded eerily like the computer voice in John Carpenter’s “Dark Star”.

        I trust the Podding Shed will remain free of such crass commercialism and simply develop the product placement attempts the Shedders have been working on incorporating into their recent efforts.

        I believe last night’s results mean we now have a potentially even more overstuffed fixture schedule with 2 rounds of Europa League to be fitted into the equivalent space of the last-16 round of CL. 

        Oh joy!

        • GrocerJack

          We believe our commercial interests should be as non-intrusive as possible, hence our focus on subtle yet clever product placement deals. We have really gone for the current teenage/youth market by signing deals with Spangles, Texan Bar, The Topper (a contemporary magazine for the younger person I believe) and Double Diamond (please drink responsibly kids)

          My only further comment on Europa league football is it buggers a few games up for me because I like Sundays for golf as Saturdays are generally …..ahem…….recovery days.

  21. Der_Kaiser

    We were of course the architects of our downfall, but the head-to-head results thing is a little galling; we had a better goal difference than Shaktar. But to see AC Milan scrape through with 8 points, 2 wins and just 7 goals is a bit daft.

    Still, two decent teams who ultimately had the better of us over four games go through, so no real complaints. On to ITV4 then…

  22. Agh57

    Agreed. I think the head to head results thing was something else to give a little advantage to the bigger clubs.

    Although we went out, the points and goal difference tally was not the disaster  it’s being painted as.

  23. Vik Sohonie

    Biggest highlight of last night was watching Hazard truly strut his stuff.  If he can produce that sort of magic and trickery weekly, we’ll be in much better shape.  

  24. mark_25

    Hopefully you are all committed to watching the Europa league tonight to break us in for what’s ahead?

    I’ll be asking questions in the morning to test your attention.

    • Cunningplan

      If you’re forcing us to watch I would prefer we now refer to Thursday as Spursday football, because that’s when they tend to play in Europe.

  25. Cunningplan

    Are the banks lending money for new business ventures at the moment?

    Come the end of the season and hopefully if things continue, I might try and see if I can sell large amounts of humble pie online.  😉

  26. Cunningplan

    Interesting article on the Beeb website  http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/20655099

    If Benitez is changing things slightly which suits him, then kudos to the man, I’m starting to think that he deserves some credit as the lads certainly seem to be up for playing for him. 
    As far as Torres goes I always said I would judge him at the end of this season, and if he continues in this type of form then some of his detractors may have to say they were wrong.


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