THE PLIGHT OF THE TRAVELLING CHELSEA FAN

By Jez Walters
Nov 16th, 2000

Jeremy Walters bemoans the lot of the stalwart Chelsea fans who took advantage of the away season ticket and lived to regret it.

Will the real Chelsea please stand up. Are we the no-hopers who capitulated so disgracefully against Charlton or are we the swash-buckling heroes who have trounced any team (Leicester and Leeds apart) that has dared set foot on the hallowed Stamford Bridge turf?

Ask any person who has bought an away season ticket and the answer is fairly clear. We have witnessed some real shockers. The Charlton game was perhaps the worst display for years and if the storm clouds were on the horizon before that game, they rolled in and dumped on us, quite literally, during those 90 painful minutes. Seeing the Valley’s Lego stands rock and sway to the beat of thousands of Addicks fans jumping up and down is not a memory I wish to dwell on but suffice to say that before the end of the game the Chelsea end was empty. Enough said.

That game spurned acres of column inches with even the Indie getting in on the act and demanding Ranieri’s resignation.

That was a bit premature – after all, the club invited him to manage the team and sacking him after ten games is taking the piss a bit.

Still, there were many people who left the Valley that day who felt that Claudio was on borrowed time. I certainly could not imagine Bates sitting down and watching any more of that rubbish – it was enough to put him off his prawn sandwiches for years.

After that display, the thought of travelling to Merseyside and losing not only the game but also the car stereo was too much to contemplate and a fair few Blues opted for Christmas shopping instead – a wise choice in hindsight.

The following away game at Middlesbrough has only compounded the gloom for the travelling support, especially when you think that in the previous three months ‘Boro had taken just one point. We gave them three in 90 minutes and their first home win of the season. What a disgrace. We have become softer than a runny dog turd deposited on a hot pavement at the height of summer. Still, perhaps we have turned the corner. A few weeks ago a Boxing Day trip to Ipswich seemed as inviting as a Fishnets starter but our 2-2 draw could well be the platform that propels us into Europe.

The away form has been in direct contrast to our home form, which although not convincing has seen us average nearly three goals a game. That is good by anyone’s standards and if the league was based on goal difference we would be pushing for a top three spot. Unfortunately it is not and we are not. Our problem is clearly in midfield where the trio of Wise, Dalla Bona and Morris simply does not work as a unit. Coupled with Ranieri’s tactical brilliance, which has seen Wise play as a right wing back, and you can kiss goodbye to any thoughts of a Chelsea revival.

Since the Charlton game tissues have been handed out to the many members of the CISA who also belong to the Tore André Flo fan club. I cannot see what the fuss is about. Selling Tore for that fee makes sense. Let’s look at the facts: Flo failed to establish himself as our first choice striker under three consecutive managers. Okay, so he scored 50 goals in 168 odd appearances, which is a decent strike rate, but that has to be tempered against only 24 goals in 100 Premiership games. That is not so good. Flo was a lightweight player and although he possessed sublime technical skill, he could not lead the line. And do not tell me that he never got the chance, he was given plenty of first team starts but put him against a physical defence and he faded badly.

If Flo was that good why the need to buy Sutton? Why the need to buy Hasselbaink?

You have got to hand it to Jimmy but he is the Premiership’s top-scorer in a team placed ninth. Flo had the benefit of playing for a team on fire yet he still failed to crack in the goals. That is the difference between Jimmy and Flo – Jimmy is consistent. Don’t get me wrong, I love Flo. He gave us some great memories and his two-goal display away at Betis is one of my favourite Chelsea memories.

That brace established him as one of Europe’s top strikers and it was on the European stage where he really shined. In the rough and tumble of the Premiership though he was just too easily edged out of the game. At the end of the day, Flo could not stand being a supersub anymore. I do not blame him and I wish him all the best. I will certainly be keeping an eye out for Rangers’ results over the next few months.

Which brings us to the subject of Fowler. Why do we need him unless we intend to sell Jimmy? There can be no other reason because if Fowler is unhappy warming the bench at Liverpool he is certainly not going to come to Stamford Bridge to warm ours instead. Gudjohnson has laid claim to the role of second-string striker with some dynamic displays. Perhaps Ranieri intends to play three up front?

As Claudio himself, he said in the Bradford programme that he would prefer us to win 4-3 than 1-0. Perhaps he has not been travelling away because I would sell my mother-in-law for a draw.

Whatever the case, our problems lie in midfield and I cannot see us achieving anything significant this season unless a top international midfielder is brought into the club – a player like Viera, Davids or Roy Keane. Coupled with the return of Stanic, Le Saux and the addition of Gronkjær, we might then fly up the table and I think we would have a good chance of retaining the FA Cup.

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