UNDISPUTED KINGS

By Mark Daniell
Sep 3rd, 2006

You see, the trouble with football is that should you turn your back on it for just two weeks, the known universe becomes unequivocally altered.

A fortnight ago I was resting quietly in West London, happily putting the Community Shield defeat behind me with the pleasing thought that it wasn’t a league match. In the league, you see, Chelsea are undisputed kings. Last season after all, we won nine straight games and by just the opening stages had battered all opposition into meek bystanders. As far as I was concerned there was no indication that this season was to be any different. A fortnight ago I was also being playfully derogatory about the Drog’s striking style, underlining his confused, fluky approach when compared with the precision of newcomer Shevchenko. A fortnight ago there were nine planets in our solar system.

And then someone decides to shake up the status quo: Man U take maximum points from their first three games (that’s our job), Chelsea lose to Middlesbrough (that’s their job), Arsenal are eight points behind the leaders (that’s just funny), and the Drog is back scoring wonder goals (like we ever doubted him.)

In fact the only constant that we’ve been handed by fate is the now traditional clash with Barça in the Champions League, which although ordinarily is a tradition I wouldn’t have minded leaving behind, in the current scheme of things, the status quo breaking-scheme where a full strength Barcelona lose 3-0 to Seville in the UEFA Super Cup, is not such a threat. You see how things have been shaken up? And did I mention that Pluto has been reclassified as a dwarf planet, or pluton, and that there are now twelve planets in our solar system, or eight and four plutons… What’s going on? This isn’t how it was meant to be. This isn’t in the script, not in my script at any rate.

Once upon a time, in days long gone by, I had a running bet with a friend who supported Wimbledon. For every league place that separated his team from mine at the end of the season the loser would pay the winner one pound. In 1993 Chelsea finished eleventh and Wimbledon twelfth. I cherished that quid. But it was short lived, Wimbledon upped their game and finished sixth to Chelsea’s fourteenth the following year, and then again ninth to our eleventh after that. Ten pounds in two years! It may have been a good honest wager, but it was one that could make or break my finances at that time. And all the while, as we two were busy scrapping it out in mid-table anonymity, the likes of Man U would take all the accolades and titles.

But those days are behind us, I’ve paid my dues and Chelsea have been given their time in the sun. This decade is our decade, and I don’t mind if it comes from Russian cash, international teams or boring, boring one-nil victories, I have every desire to sit back and watch my team win. And yet the way things are shaping up this season (and I do recognise that it’s early days and that predictions at this stage are nothing more than the playthings of people who write articles about football at the beginning of the season) Chelsea seem to have decided that this year they want to make a game of things. “I tell you what, why don’t you take a thirty-love handicap?” “Or better still, I’ll play left handed, how about that?”

Well, perhaps the impartial bystander will appreciate the gesture, and maybe it’ll make for a more exciting finale to the season, but to this I say “What are you talking about? I don’t care if it isn’t exciting, can we just win and go home please?” Perhaps it’s not very sporting, but I’ve served my sporting time, and now is the time for winning, particularly if you’re one nil up with ten minutes on the clock.

It was interesting also to hear Andy Gray’s verdict on why Didier is keeping the Drog addicts so well supplied. As he was bearing down on Blackburn’s goal and being wrestled by Ooijer in the penalty area Andy suggested that “He’s not going down because he doesn’t take penalties” before the Drog slammed home the second of the day. If this opinion does paint a rather mercenary picture then at least it explains the continued scoring.

As an interesting aside, my wealthy Wimbledon supporter carried on his allegiance to AFC Wimbledon after the disgraceful decision by the FA to allow the move to Milton Keynes. Considering that we won the Premiership last season, whereas AFC Wimbledon came fourth in the Ryman League Premier Division, which is behind the Football Conference South Division, itself behind the National Division, which comes after The Football League Two… well by my calculations for last year alone he owes me one hundred and forty one pounds. That sort of makes up for the eight pound humiliation of the 1994 season.

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