FEBRUARY 2008 REVISITED

By James Edwards
Mar 2nd, 2008

In the Diary this month: exciting metrics, anthrax, one win, three draws and a not so exciting cup final.

Thursday 31 January
Chelsea youth 3:1 Leicester City youth
Chelsea’s youth cup campaign progresses under the floodlights at Stamford Bridge. This was an impressive win from an unpredictable and entertaining game, with goals from the usual suspects, Nielsen, Stoch and Kakuta.

Saturday 2 February
Portsmouth 1:1 Chelsea
You have to say that Lassana Diarra is a great player but his time just did not come when he was a Chelsea. While it was the other debutant Defoe who scored, Diarra was the difference between three points and one.
We seem to draw the interesting games and win the boring ones. This was a bit of a cracker, with end-to-end action from Ballack’s shot after five minutes to Alex’s header right at the death.
We had chance after chance but were lucky as well, Belletti got away with a handball on the edge of the box. Defoe spurned three good chances and Baros looked half-asleep.
Having won every Premiership game in this stadium 0-2, the smart money was on a repeat; with Arsenal winning comfortably and Manchester United trailing 1-0 at Spurs we really needed one.
Anelka gave us the lead with a thrashed volley, Joe Cole cut back Malouda’s cross on the break. It was just the kind of thrilling football we have been promised.
Defoe’s equaliser looked offside but Belletti, on close inspection might have played him on, you have to give the benefit of the doubt to the attackers these days.
The second-half throbbed with good play and chances, Portsmouth looked sharp and competitive, in short everything they didn’t show at Old Trafford. Belletti had a close range shot smothered by James late on and Shaun nearly stole the show with a chip that drifted just wide.
Overall it was a shame to drop points on the day Manchester United did, but this isn’t over yet.
Chelsea youth 0:1 Portsmouth youth
A knackered and depleted squad struggled against a well-organised Portsmouth, sounds familiar but the youth team were missing too many regulars and too many chances.

Sunday 3 February
Ghana beat Nigeria by two goals to one, with Essien scoring their equaliser with a glancing header just before the break. Michael’s header bounced off the post and all the way along the line before going in. This result, from a purely selfish club point of view, means the John Obi Mikel will be on a plane home soon.
Didier and Salomon will be staying as the Elephants edged past Guinea 5-0. Didier scored their second on 70-minutes and Kalou scored the next two, taking them to three goals in the competition each and nine Chelsea goals in total so far, who says we don’t contribute to the game as a whole.

Monday 4 February
Avram is going back to school to take the contentious Uefa badges. The fast-track course started with 22 Israeli coaches talking about how to handle the media, and watching clips of Arsenal’s goals.
Ian Holloway, now at Leicester City, has asked about taking Scott Sinclair on loan. Scott might want to press for his place but experience of playing would still be a better option than watching from the bench.
Didier Drogba will not be African player of the year because he refused to attend the ceremony in Togo two days before his quarter-final match. Frederic Kanoute will pick up the award by default.
Shaun didn’t train with England this evening because of a minor worry, about what they didn’t say.

Wednesday 6 February
England 2:1 Switzerland
Disjoined and incompetent are our favourite words for England performances and those two words shone this evening. Joe Cole was the centre of most that was creative, but the side picked by Capello was disjoined and scrappy.
From back to front, he preferred Ashley Cole and Wes Brown, to Bridge and Richards; played Joe Cole wide instead of Ashley Young and Jenas in the middle instead of Joe.
The Swiss, with several of their first-team out, made us look second-rate. Perhaps it will take a few matches for the squad to settle down to playing without nerves.
The goals were simple. Joe burst along the touchline to square for Jenas to tap in and Wright-Phillips benefited from Gerrard’s good work to score only minutes after coming on.
Away from all the international excitement, rumour has Didier pledging his allegiance to the blue flag at the same moment that Frank Lampard is supposedly house hunting in Catalonia.

Thursday 7 February
Sad day for all our boys in Ghana where both the hosts and the Elephants lost in the semi-finals. The boys will be back but too groggy we’d think for Sunday, especially if they all play in the 3rd/4th place play-off. Didier Drogba was particularly unlucky to meet Egypt’s goalkeeper in astonishing form. But he is looking fitter and the tournament means he will return to Chelsea ready for the rest of the campaign.
The Premier League have succumbed to the Americans already and are proposing and extra, 39th game, to be played in select cities around the globe just after the FA Cup 3rd round. These pointless games are unfortunately not point-less, a draw will take place to see who plays whom and where, so the title may yet be decided by whether you get Everton in China or Derby in New York. It has been a while since anything this absurd spewed forth from the idiots; still the game is safe in their hands. Oh and it wasn’t just supporters who were not consulted, the FA weren’t told in advance either.
Lamps has been training and might be in contention for Sunday, might. But the tubes will not be on best form so walk if you can.

Friday 8 February
Liam Bridcutt (which we often spell Birdcutt for some reason) will be in the West Country until the summer with Yeovil Town.

Saturday 9 February
Ghana beat Ivory Coast in the third/fourth exercise, a thumping 4-2 as well, which makes Michael the most successful Chelsea player at the Cup pf Nations having beaten all the rest. He was one of the players and spectators choked by a swarm of insects, which you don’t get at every match.

Sunday 10 February
Chelsea 0:0 Liverpool
With City getting a win at Old Trafford (a reward for their observation of the minute silence for Munich?), we really needed to press on; Avram however, didn’t cover himself in glory.
Lampard returned but was clearly not fit; yet he lasted until the 71st minute, when John Obi Mikel belatedly replaced him.
Yes we should have had a penalty but that and Ballack volley and late flying back header were as close as we came in an appalling display.
Malouda warmed the bench and Cole struggled on the left, as Avram decided today was a good opportunity to fit Ballack and the unfit Lampard into the same line up. The result was shambles, as an already congested midfield muddied up with Lamps trying hard and Ballack seemingly uncertain of his role.
Anelka dropped ever deeper looking to be involved but that left no threat up front. We simply didn’t compete.
Everything would have been very different if we had been awarded and taken the clear penalty, when Joe Cole had his legs taken by Mascherano on 24-minutes but a frankly awful ref saw no foul.
If Arsenal win tomorrow we’ll have to start giving up on the title. We still have them at home, but in two games that United have dropped five points we have only picked up two.
The four years undefeated at home, deserved a better game but you have to admit it is quite an achievement.

Monday 12 February
Chelsea reserves 2:2 Fulham reserves
It is amazing who you can find yourself sitting next to at reserve fixtures.
This was a sluggish game, as we tried to fit two strikers into the line up. Avram, Henk and Roman watched on as the stiffs tried to play with new boy Franco Di Santo and Ben Sahar up front. Franco didn’t really touch the ball and Ben put too much extra welly into everything he tried.
Fulham took the lead through a corner and doubled it with a well taken free-kick just after half-time. Jimmy Smith pulled one back within a few minutes. Stoch came on to change the midfield and add dynamism; linking well with Sinclair he was fouled for the only card of the match.
Di Santo’s name will go on the last minute equaliser but he’ll hope to finish with more authority in future, his tame effort took a deflection and rolled in with Gael Kakuta distracting the defenders.
We were on our way to the pub to check on Blackburn’s emphatic away win by the time the goal went in. Only to get there to find Arsenal ahead, they eventually sealed the win to take an eight-point lead on us.

Thursday 14 February
Happy Valentine’s day to you all, those of you planning hideous revenge on your ex have our special blessing.
The rich list is out again and we are flying high. Fourth place, one ahead of Arsenal, on £190.5m turnover.  It is not a conclusive exercise. QPR are by far the wealthiest club in the world in theory but they will not be figuring in this top ten for a few years to come.

Friday 15 February
Charlton youth 3:1 Chelsea youth
Well, we battled but gave up too many chances when playing up hill in the first-half. Charlton’s pitch slopes somewhat. To be fair, two of their goals were belters from 20-yards. Positives for us could be Fabio Borini springing to life late on.
Scott Sinclair will not be going to Leicester because, er, they’re not good enough. Chelsea have said that if Scott goes on loan it should be to a team challenging for the play-offs because they want him to experience high pressure matches.

Saturday 16 February
Chelsea 3:1 Huddersfield Town
Close for the Terriers but the cigars are being handed out at Anfield where Barnsley won 1-2.
Hello Frank. Frank Sinclair was back as captain of the visitors but we don’t think the chants of ‘super, super Frank’ will have fooled him. Welcome back too to John Terry a few weeks early as always.
This was a better game than many anticipated, everything ticked along nicely, Frank scored his 100th goal for Chelsea (and is now only six behind George ‘Gatling Gun’ Hilsdon, Scott Sinclair had an effort cleared off the line but wobbles started to appear, as Huddersfield equalised with a smart take and shot from Michael Collins on the stroke of half-time. Cudicini could have done better with a shot at his near post.
They played well at the beginning of the second period but we didn’t buckle and the second-half performance was assured. Frank extended our lead before Kalou finally netted one that wasn’t off-side; he helped a John Terry shot into the net from off-side earlier.
Scott Sinclair also had one disallowed when he tapped home a rebound only to see the flag. That chance was a result of an incredible mazy dribble by Pizarro round half the Huddersfield defence and then back round them.

Monday 18 February
Bloody reserves are off, apparently the ref decided at 5.30 in the afternoon that the pitch would be frozen by half-time. Not according to the met office or the experience walking home on a nice mild night; we’d like to prise the £4.40 train fare from the ref’s cold dead hand.
Barnsley away in the Cup. Given the Chelsea website was congratulating itself on thirteen years and twenty-four potential banana skins avoided, we’ll not join in  potentially hexing the tie.
Happy Birthday Claude Makelele, 35 today and looking to have a few years at the top left in him. Shocking to think how much older than him we are. Bobby Robson’s birthday as well, he is 75. The Chelsea team touched down in snow-bound Athens last night and their coach crept through drifts to the hotel. Fifty years on from Munich but thankfully aircraft safety has moved on. JT wore short sleeves because he is made of iron.
Paulo Ferreira signed a new five-year contract, perhaps we are missing something but we thought right-back was a problem position and Paulo, for all his willing, not the answer. Five years.
Ben Sahar might be loaned to Sheffield Weds.

Tuesday 19 February
Olympiakos 0:0 Chelsea
Well, at least it didn’t snow in the Georgios Karaiskakis tonight. With half the pub clamouring to watch Liverpool and Inter we found ourselves perched on a high bar stool trying to persuade the staff that they can in fact change the picture ratio to fit the screen. They refused so last night’s game was contested by giants on an incredibly narrow pitch.
A poor overall performance reflected the desire to get back to the Bridge without conceding and as such you could say this was a success. As a form of entertainment it had its limitations. We were so defensively solid they barely got a decent shot away and when they finally did Cech was equal to it. We didn’t create anything much at the other end. Drogba was poorly supported and limped around with one of his knee/hamstring things looking very cross.
In the closing stages Anelka and Kalou came on to add a bit of spice and did enough to suggest we could of won this with a more adventurous spirit from the start.
The atmosphere inside the ground must have been incredible, the longer we had possession, and we had a lot of possession, the louder the whistling got.
Cech appeared angry after the match, he’ll have to tell you why, we haven’t conceded a goal in Europe for five-hundred and something minutes.
The other side of the Pineapple (er, the name of the pub) had more fun. Inter had a player dismissed for nothing, or for playing Liverpool at home and at least they had some goals to celebrate.
Our match at Oakwell next month is going to be the BBC’s main evening match on the Saturday. At least they televise some of our games. ITV seem to perpetually favour Liverpool and we get stuck on ITV4.
Meanwhile the death threat shit heads are at it again. This time a letter containing a harmless white powder (real anthrax being harder to get  in north London than you might think) was sent along with some poisonous anti-Semitic remarks. Who says those chants about Tottenham are just a bit of fun, some nut obviously believes that shit.

Wednesday 20 February
Trouble brewing; Uefa have received a complaint from Reggina that we ‘tapped up’ 15-year-old Vincenzo Camilleri. He apparently refused to play a match for the Italian side; instead he travelled to London with his mum and an agent.

Thursday 21 February
“The numbers speak for themselves. All of our metrics are very positive,” said Peter Kenyon meaning what, we don’t know, but he was announcing turnover of £223.3m with losses of £74.8m. The losses are down 7% but are still substantial, considering all of the contractual problems around sponsors and kit suppliers have been resolved and we haven’t really spent on players. Peter, sorry Mr Kenyon still believes we can breakeven with two years, and who knows he might be right but he has handed our critics a stick and, by stipulating 2010, a date when they can start using it.
The results also estimate the Chelsea family at 90 million fans. It is a far cry from 16,000 shivering souls at the Bridge back in the 80s.
Kenyon and Bruce Buck have both been backing the FA’s 39th game proposal. It could be a bad move diplomatically, as
the rest of the world regard the idea and its architect, Richard Scudamore, as bollo… bats. Buck also revealed that the Premier League’s audit committee were told of the proposals two weeks before the official announcement.
Meanwhile Ben Sahar is going to Sheffield Wednesday for a month.

Friday 22 February
Fulham youth 2:1 Chelsea youth
We took the lead in this ten-minutes before the end and then it all went wrong, we can only hope it isn’t a foretaste of Sunday. In windy conditions Nikki Ahamed nodded in a cross only for Fulham to go straight down the other end and clatter the keeper as the ball bounced in and no free-kick was given the goal stood; effing refs.

Sunday 24 February
Tottenham Hotspur 2:1 Chelsea
Keen to prove he is different form Mourinho, Avram Grant chose to lose the Carling Cup final rather than follow in Jose’s footsteps. By selecting Wright-Phillips and Anelka in wide positions and refusing to bring on Joe Cole, even when everything was falling around his ears he set out his marker as a new man. After all Jose achieved many things at Chelsea but he didn’t lose in a final. There is something of a pattern emerging as Avram seeks to distance himself from the enigmatic Portuguese, first he lost a game to Arsenal, failed to beat Liverpool at home and now he surrendered a trophy.
That said he almost failed by succeeding. The first twenty-minutes, as with all Chelsea games this season, we looked half asleep, Belletti presenting them an opening after thirty seconds. As we started to dominate and win free-kicks around the Spurs’ box, the pattern of our final appearances seemed to be reasserting itself. Didier Drogba’s free-kick was sumptuous but could have been stopped by a ‘keeper not standing behind his own wall.
From that point on we looked in control. Spurs pressed but only created half chances.
Then came the calamity of a penalty, awarded by the linesman for handball against Wayne Bridge. The ball did touch his arm but you have to say he looked to be trying to get his mitt out of the way rather than into it.
After that it was really a matter of time, Zokora raced through only to hit Cech in the head and slice his second shot. We appeared to be settling for extra-time and the possibility of penalties. But extra-time had barely begun before Spurs were ahead. An imaginary offence produced a free-kick that was lumped into the box only for Cech to punch the ball off Jonathan Woodgate’s head and into an empty net.
We huffed and puffed, pressing forward in search of an equaliser but the more pessimistic realised that even a second goal would only bring penalties and we don’t have a great record at those of late.
It was noticeable that John Terry gave the rousing team talk – Avram seemed just a little bewildered.
We created a few half-chances toward the death but Spurs players wasting time all over the place the stress didn’t boil over until the very last incident. The ref stopped the game to book Jermain Jenas for wasting time and then promptly blew up immediately even though Kalou was free on goal. His resulting shot hit the post, but the logic of booking a player for time-wasting mere seconds before you blow the whistle is absurd. He has either robbed us of a chance to equalise or mistakenly booked a Spurs player. You could ask the FA what they think but answer would come there not.
A chance to win a trophy has gone but the manner of the display and questions as to the competence of the manager are more serious outcomes of this game than having to put up with a few smug Spurs fans.

Monday 25 February
Rumours of a row between Henk and John Terry have been circulating, they will probably be buried in a day or two, but more rumours have been creeping out about discontent recently. Ballack and the Coles are said to be livid about the team selection for Sunday, you can add this columnist to those three, as well as 90m other Chelsea fans.

Tuesday 26 February
Port Vale youth 2:5 Chelsea youth
Gaël Kakuta cut this lot to ribbons, this was the youth team backed by regular reserves like Kakuta and Stoch and Morten Nielsen. Too quick and powerful for Port Vale and into the Cup semi-finals for the first time since Roman was in short pants. Three and a half thousand watched which will have been a bit of a shock to those used to playing behind closed doors. The semi is against Villa with one game at Stamford Bridge

Thursday 28 February
Scott Sinclair joined Charlton for their, ahem, promotion push. It will be good experience for Scott, but having said Leicester weren’t good enough Charlton is a bit of come down.
FA youth Cup date is Friday 7 March at the Bridge, which is a bugger if you happen to be busy.

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