I feel the need for a bit of a rant. It’s that conspiracy theory thing again, or it’s my age. Given the title of this piece you’d be right for assuming it’s most likely the latter.
Out and about yesterday my only access to the game was catching snippets on the radio and the usual SMS alerts, of which there were alarmingly few. So late last night I sat down to watch a recording of the Premiership and I was even more alarmed. What I saw during the highlights of the game seemed to bear very little resemblance to what I’d heard on the radio. I didn’t sound to me like Spurs were all over us, but it looked like it in the appallingly edited ITV highlights. There were a few high points of course, naturally we won and best of all for me, from what I saw (and have heard since) Scott Parker looked awesome. But when we came to the punditry after the highlights, the comments made bore little resemblance to what I’d seen. We were fine, we deserved the three points. Ergo, the video editor is a Spurs fan; that can be the only explanation. Spurs, the other North London rivals: rest assured, that will be the last time I use ‘rivals’ and ‘Spurs’ in the same sentence because they’re not.
So, Sunday, my favourite day of the week, a day on which my usual ambitions reach no further than getting through the sports pages and looking at the garden to see what needs doing, then reading the rest of the papers. Today was the same, I sat down to watch Millwall beat Sunderland in the FA Cup semi-final with the papers strewn about the place. I read the report in the News of the World about the Chelsea match, and then read it again. I was amazed, there was not a single reference to the filth that is Mauricio Tarrico, other than apparently he limped off at some point in the game. No mention of the fact that he was the protagonist on no less than three occasions when a straight red card could have been justified. One, classic hand-off on Damien Duff, off the ball though. Two, clothes-lined Scott Parker then stamped him, off the ball again. Three, tripped Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink when he looked clear through on goal. Okay, maybe a red would have been harsh for the last one, but the man shouldn’t even have been on the pitch, period. As if that weren’t enough, in classic ‘we was robbed’ fashion David Pleat claimed the ref got it wrong by not awarding Spurs two penalties. When interviewed last night Pleat claimed Tarrico had a short fuse. Forgive me, but what the hell does that have to do with anything? It’s not like Tarrico was retaliating. He was cheating, plain and simple. Pathetic.
Twenty minutes into the FA Cup semi and the Millwall fans start their usual ‘No-one like us, we don’t care’ chant as Sunderland seemed determined not to play football but foul and kick Millwall off the park on their way to the FA Cup final. So this is where the paranoia kicks in. I see dodgy editing, crap reporting in the newspapers – and yes I know I was reading a tabloid at the time – and a team realising they can’t outplay their opponents resorting to the easy option. No-one likes us, do they? We have been demonised in the press, our manager has been likened to a wandering traveller by another manager when others have nothing but praise for the man, and all the stories about Chelsea Football Club, because they are no longer derogatory, have been removed from the back pages.
Millwall won, deservedly, and Dennis makes another FA Cup Final. Good for you, Dennis. We also deserved to win yesterday against a team who obviously have ideas above their station and Chelsea have now closed the gap at the top to just four points. We are guaranteed a place in the Champions League next season. We have the best away record in the Premiership and the most clean sheets. We have more points with seven games to go than we had at the close of last season. We have a manager who has built a team a little slower than some would like but is improving visibly week on week. What more can we ask right now? Seriously, could it be much better at this stage of the season? I am so proud of the way Claudio Ranieri has led a huge squad of players, proud of the way he has dealt with everything thrown at him from every possible direction, and proud of the way players have risen to the occasion time after time.
On Tuesday justice will be complete: we will beat an Arsenal team who have not won in the last three matches and against us recently tired visibly, against United in the league spent too long bitching with each other, and in an FA Cup semi-final looked largely clueless and, more to the point, beaten.
I find it inconceivable that Ranieri will not be given another season, because if ever there was a team poised on the edge of success, it is Chelsea Football Club. Next season will be our Centenary and fifty years since we last won the league. I would love us to win everything next season and celebrate in real style, but there’s a better chance now than at any other time this season that silverware will come to the Bridge before then.