It still hurts.
Wembley, two weeks ago, and we were twenty minutes from the first piece of silverware of the season. A harsh penalty decision and a freak goal off Woodgate’s face and the game had turned.
It wasn’t any wonder that goal didn’t injure him. Sadly Spurs were well worth the win on the day, they showed more desire and ultimately kept the ball better than we did. It wasn’t a good day at the office but it happens. As if we weren’t bruised and battered enough after a cup final defeat to our rivals the press also gave the club a kicking in the days that followed.
It’s been speculated that Fleet Street has been after Grant from day one and were just waiting for an opportunity to stick the boot in. The Wembley performance wasn’t our best but if didn’t deserve the backlash that came Chelsea and Grant’s way. The press opinion is nothing new to us; we’ve come to expect it now with a shrug. They don’t like us, we don’t care. The talk of bust ups between Terry and Ten Cate, exodus of star players, criticism of the manager …the week was a turbulent one to say the least. Not for the first time this season we’ve taken a blow and looked to be on the ropes. Cue the Rocky theme.
Seven goals in two games, no goals conceded, some fantastic, crisp passing and excellent finishing and suddenly the team looks to be flying again. The players seemed to have ducked and weaved out of the criticism and have came out boxing clever. The fight back has begun. If we can build on the last two performances then we can make a real challenge for every trophy there is left to win.
There are some tough away games coming up, starting first with Barnsley in the cup, but if we win them then the home date with Arsenal is looming large on Easter Sunday. With the Gunners getting a great win in the San Siro it promises to be a humdinger and if we get the three points it might prove to be the knock-out blow. The desire from Chelsea is there for all to see.
Let’s take some of the players that were unfortunate to be left out of the starting eleven against Spurs. They haven’t skulked or asked their agent about a transfer. They took the decision on the chin and worked hard in training to force themselves back into the team.
The energetic Ashley Cole scored his first goal for the club, Joe has been back to his industrious best, Ballack has been majestic, Kalou dangerous and exciting, and Maka nearly topped his impressive displays with a silky goal of his own. Not only have these players been model professionals they’ve made a huge contribution in the last two games. It’s shown a togetherness and fighting spirit in the squad that could result in something special happening this season.
It’s a great motivation to the likes of Malouda, Phillips and Essien to make an impression of their own when the chance comes their way. This is what we’ve been hoping for all year, a fit squad, and it’s arrived at exactly at the right point in the season. We have options available now and players on the bench to change the game in an instant. As the games come thick and fast this might just give us the edge.
None of the other teams at the top of the league has taken the injury blows that we have this season and yet the team has still, relentlessly, kept going. A game in hand can see us close the gap at the top and, with United and Arsenal still to come to the Bridge, we can win the title. As fate would have it that game in reserve is Spurs. This year, perhaps more than any other, it would mean a lot for the fans if we could get the three points.
A win would certainly heal the wounds and the fight back would be complete.