MAY 2008 REVISITED
Thursday 1 May
West Ham’s manager, Alan Curbishley, has said it would be a ‘injustice’ if United don’t win the title. The Hammers will be trying their hardest on Saturday lunchtime then. Avram is not amused, nor should he be. West Ham have been keen to state that they will be trying to win, but with United facing Wigan managed by one of Ferguson’s former captains the conspiracy theories are already doing the rounds.
After all of last night’s drinking there are rumours from the Russian parliament that visa requirements maybe waived for fans with valid tickets, puts you in two minds about applying for one at £65 they’re pretty steep.
Can’t bloody believe it, European Cup final…
Friday 2 May
They have only just started laying the turf for the final at the Luzhniki stadium.
Saturday 3 May
Manchester United met a determined and resourceful West Ham side and dropped two points after struggling for a draw, oh, actually that was the dream version. West Ham actually struggled to put out a recognised defence and played so poorly that United still won 4-1 despite having a man sent off. We can still catch them.
Sunday 4 May
Joining us in the Premiership next season will be an enterprising Baggies side and a more direct Stoke City. Stoke were so much part of the 1st Division throughout our childhood it is hard to think they have been out of the top flight for 23 years.
Leicester City tumbled out of the league and had to watch, Harry Worley among them, while the Stoke massive enjoyed their moment.
Ben Sahar scored as Wednesday stayed up and Scott Sinclair scored and booked himself a play-off place as Crystal palace won.
Jack Cork has won the Scunthorpe player of the season award during his loan spell.
Monday 5 May
Newcastle United 0:2 Chelsea
Another disjointed selection with Anelka wide right wasn’t enough to stop us winning to draw level at the top once more. This was the toughest test of our run in and a few poorly executed attempts from Michael Owen aside one we handled with superb ease. It is just a shame that the season isn’t a few games longer. Manchester United will probably still win but strange things happen.
We began the game in second gear and struggled to get momentum. Anelka kept wandering inside looking for the ball, while all our attacking took us straight down the middle.
The Magpie threat was intermittent but when it came it needed JT to clear off the line as Owen shot after a pile up of ball, strikers, defenders and goalkeeper left him free.
John was then mysteriously booked for obstructing Michael Owen, the dumpy former Liverpool striker ran straight into John from about five-yards looking for a free-kick, JT was probably booked for reminding the ref that he has no obligation to get out of his opponent path, as long as he doesn’t move toward him. It seems refs don’t understand the obstruction laws anymore.
The only clear chance of the first period saw Ballack clean through scoop over the bar after a heavy first touch. The inciden bought out the jeers from the London reds in the Pineapple, all delighted that a Chelsea player and a German to boot, could fluff a chance.
We only had to wait until the hour mark to remind them that some Germans can keep their heads, Drogba dummied a free-kick, won by Malouda, before delivering for Ballack to tuck home off his bonce.
Malouda was the booked for his Mwepu Llunga impression at a Newcastle free-kick running out as Gérémi shaped to shoot (Mwepu Llunga, Zaire, 1974 World Cup… oh, ask your dad).
For a while in the second period our domination was complete, Newcastle couldn’t get the ball and had to work hard to stop us simply overwhelming them.
Our second involved close control and passing before the substitute Lampard played Malouda in for an emphatic finish below Steve Harper.
Odd to think that this was our first win in Toonville since 2001, but then we usually play them after the fat lady sang, not while she is still warming up.
Oh, and a bloke in the pub won £84 on Ballack first to score and 2-0, couldn’t be sweeter.
Visa requirements have been shelved, presumably everyone who has already applied will get their money back. You’ll have three days in Moscow with a valid ticket and will only have to pay if you stay longer. With all the rumours of riot police and other criminal gangs however, you might not want to.
There are worries over Ricardo Carvalho who had to limp out after landing on his coccyx two or three times.
Footnote: this result means we are finally safe in second spot come what may, so we have qualified automatically for the Champions’ League next season.
Thursday 8 May
Joe Cole is our official player of the year for the first time. The youth award went to the entire U19 FA Youth Cup squad, and Frank Lampard was given the achievement award for his 100 goals.
With nothing but gossip and speculation to keep people warm in the media, we learn that united and Chelsea have submitted their versions of the battle of the bridge. Chelsea allege more incidents than the two well publicised.
Meanwhile Harry Worley has signed for Leicester City for full-time third division action. We wish him well.
Friday 9 May
Disaster, Avram has won the manager of the month award and we all know what that means – disaster. There is something of a tradition of teams fecking up immediately after this award, we’ll have to hope Chelsea don’t follow the pattern.
He has even suggested that the title should go to a play-off decider, only half tongue in cheek, surely.
Sunday 11 May
Chelsea 1:1 Bolton Wanderers
So, it wasn’t to be. Wigan couldn’t get a result against United and we couldn’t against Bolton.
It was always a long shot but hope and expectation can play tricks on your mind. This result summed up why we finished second, a late equaliser at home has been the story of the season and while our away record has been the best in the league, seven home draws cost us the title.
Most worrying was John Terry’s dislocated elbow. The Chelsea captain collided with Petr Cech after only ten-minutes and had to be stretchered away. It is difficult to say how long he will be out but the man is made of iron so he should be fit for Moscow.
Before the collision Drogba had missed at the far post but for all our possession that was as close as we came. Shevchenko came on at the beginning of the second-half as we switched to 4-4-2. He made his impact as well, scoring on the hour after the ball was scrambled across the box. At that point we all knew that Wigan needed to score if things were going to go our way and the news that they’d increased their lead was the killer. The fun went out of the afternoon as it appeared Wigan had no chance so nobody seemed to mind that Bolton equalised in stoppage time.
News from Wigan can be difficult to interpret as some decided that Wigan had scored just before United netted a second. Watch their game on MOTD you have to say they should have conceded a penalty for handball and been down to ten-men, even without what looked a soft penalty for them to open the scoring.
Avram was dignified in defeat praising Manchester United for their football over the course of the season (while biting back the phrase, ‘spineless referee scum’). We should add another word of praise for Avram, he has taken a lot this season and generally with dignity, he has had the good sense not to try to fix what wasn’t broken and he deserves the chance to sign some payers and mould the tactics in his own way. We are all a bit deflated this afternoon but should remember that we still have one game to go.
The only truly positive things to come out of today was a smart new kit, that looks the business and our win in the killer pool tournament which won us back all the money we’d spent on beer.
Elsewhere, Fulham managed to save their bacon, go on admit it you’re glad they’ll be around for another year, bless ‘em. Manchester City’s players finally held their threatened strike by not bothering to stop Middlesbrough racing to an 8-1 home win.
Monday 12 May
We have a new Jose, and he is one of Jose’s old boys, if that makes any sense. Jose Bosingwa signed this afternoon from Porto where Jose Mourinho converted him from a defensive midfielder into a right-back. At £16.4m he should be the answer to our prayers, he has won plaudits for a few years now and Manchester United have spent the morning telling everyone that they never really wanted him, except Ferguson said earlier in the season that Bosingwa could walk into the United first-team.
Jose Bosingwa is Portugal’s first choice in the position; he apparently decided on the Bridge because he is mates with Carvalho and Ferrier (although that friendship may wane with competition for places in the team).
Chelsea have said they want to get all their summer signings together quickly, which means we’ve been thinking about it for a while. Wonder who we’ll get?
Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), we recently applied for a job there but have heard nothing, nominated the Cobham training facility for a regional architectural award. We go on to a grand final if we win.
Spare a thought for Ken Bates tonight, his beloved Leeds crashed at home to Carlisle and face the prospect of another season where they belong… in the third division.
Tuesday 13 May
Jody Morris’ name cropped up again, this time he is making a stab at Scottish football with a two-year deal at Perth club St. Johnstone.
Drogba has said he will be fit for Moscow, the icepack on the knee routine was, well just that, routine. He has had recurrent trouble with his knee at the surgery in December doesn’t seem to have cured it. Perhaps he is on the wane and we should cash in? That is just a potential thread for discussion, not a serious suggestion.
It is transfer rumour madness season, get used to it we have another three months of this crap; Petr announced to the watching world that he would not be leaving, even for £32m as this weeks whispers suggested.
Wednesday 14 May
Some English referee’s can be influenced according to Grant. Still angry about Obi John’s dismissal at Old Trafford in his first game, aren’t we all, Avram questioned Steve Bennett’s decision making at Wigan on Sunday. Bennett denied Wigan a penalty at 0-0 and failed to send Paul Scholes off for two yellows. The FA will take a dim view.
Rangers failed to win friends and influence people by battering the police after their Uefa Cup defeat to Zenit St Petersburg.
Thursday 15 May
There are problems with council about a parade, the club have asked for Thursday evening but our councillors are concerned about thousands turning up during the rush hour. Someone should remind them that the rush hour happens everyday but a European Cup win would be once in a life time.
Saturday 17 May
Portsmouth give Harry Redknapp his first prize in the game by beating Cardiff City in the FA Cup final. It is worth remembering how few prizes there are to go around when you think it has taken Harry forty years to get his hands on one.
Monday 19 May
Both teams flew to Russia this morning and will train at the Luzhniki tomorrow. Nerves already make watching anything to do with the game a nail biting experience, even the teams getting of their coaches at city centre hotels.
News about the ref is a little unsettling; someone at Uefa with a sense of humour appointed Lubos Michel to gift the match to United. Lubos you’ll remember can see goals where none exist. We are not sure if he is paid by results but they cannot expect him to neutral. The conspiracy theorists will have justifiable cause if he awards a Ronaldo penalty to win the match.
The pitch is going to be a problem too, not only did Uefa award this year’s final to the farthest flung most expensive place on earth but now it seems they can’t grow grass. The pitch has been described as Championship quality – Coca-Cola not European championship.
Tuesday 20 May
Today is nothing but a wait, Lampard has denied any interest from Inter, and Makelele hacked down Ashley Cole in training for what looked just a minor twist. Ash pulled himself up and finished the training session with heavy strapping.
Wednesday 21 May
Manchester United 1:1 Chelsea
A desperate shame, we came so far and so close that to leave without the trophy is… it hardly seems necessary to go back over all that happened, to remember that John Terry had a penalty to win, that Drogba was sent off, that we hit post and bar and played by far the better football throughout the second-half an injury time.
Let’s go back to the beginning: the day dawned sunny in London overcast in Moscow, and then there was the wait, good luck to all those in the Shed bar at lunch time booking their seats early and tucking into too many pints, too early.
We started caught in the headlights; United played 4-4-2 and everything Avram confidently said about their being no tactical surprises was out the window.
They cut through us with relative ease and the stupidity of playing a midfielder at right-back was quickly evident as Ronaldo skipped passed Essien and lost him to put United ahead from a simple cross. We made it too easy and as the first-half moved into its second hour, or so it seemed, Cech made two outstanding saves to keep us in it before Lampard tapped in after a series of ricochets, to give us fortunate parity at the break.
Something harsh must have been said at half-time because we were a different team. Powerful, controlled and confident we poured forward seeking a winner that would not come.
Drogba hit the post with a ferocious shot on the turn, Ballack Lampard Essien and three more Drogba efforts couldn’t yield a goal. All the while they tried to break but couldn’t make headway against our organisation and determination.
The first-half of extra-time saw Lampard hit the bar and that set the tone, again all the attacking came from Chelsea but there was no reward. Kalou was on in place of Malouda and caused United plenty of problems, Ballack was running the midfield, JT and Carvalho snuffing out any threat, we simply had to win. But then Didier was sent of for the mildest slap anyone’s face ever got, but Vidic simply smiled at having drawn the reaction he wanted and Drogba was a mug to fall for it.
So to the curse of penalties.
We had been practicing all week but there is still work to be done. Cech has to work on his technique, every United kick he went quickly to the line and stood motionless. Van der Sar, kept each kicker waiting as he retreated only when told by the ref, it might have made a difference.
Ronaldo stepped up to miss, with all the other kicks successful it was down to John Terry to win it for us; he slipped and put the ball wide. The result was sealed from there on, Anelka had his tame shot saved and we slumped to the turf. John was clearly distraught as the team climbed up for their runners-up medals.
The pub we were in was full of joyous London reds, those we knew we congratulated but life takes twists and one of the local Chelsea boys fainted and looked dead as a post. The drama of that collapse brought us back to earth and thankfully he looked okay by the time the ambulance arrived. So we had things to be thankful for, it was good game of football with all the drama the watching world could want. We don’t come home with the trophy, we might lose Drogba but we have a future and a feeling that we will be here again. The final is in Rome next season.
Thursday 22 May
The dawn bring no relief, United are still champions of Europe and JT’s penalty still doesn’t go in however much you dwell on it. The papers are covered in photos of celebrating reds so it is best to ignore the paper shop. There was some minor trouble outside Fulham Broadway (Not to the Evening Substandard that does not constitute a riot) but thankfully Moscow was quiet.
It was probably best to spend the day in bed and start the summer tomorrow.
Lampard will start contract negotiations after England’s trip to the sunny Caribbean at the start of next month.
Friday 23 May
Nicolas Anelka refused to take one of the original five penalties and blamed his miss on being insufficiently warmed-up. While it is fair to say that you’d expect to be able to warm-up before being introduced he did sign for a manager who doesn’t give the impression he knows what he is doing. It might be unkind to point out that even if he had no warm-up before coming on he played the whole of the second period of extra-time, isn’t fifteen minutes enough?
Saturday 24 May
Avram Grant has been sacked. A terse note on the website announced that the Israeli was leaving. Having laid into him for being an uninspiring hindrance to the team you’d expect us to be delighted, instead we’re still shell shocked from last Wednesday and had not expected the club to act so quickly. Roman is still in Russia and, while the wonders of modern technology make communication near instant around the globe, you’d expect him to hold face to face talks with a friend he was putting to the sword.
Bruce Buck said earlier in the day that winning nothing wasn’t good enough, but many other sides would consider second in the league and runners-up in the European Cup not a bad stab considering the circumstances. He also talked of trimming the squad from 28 to 22, plus three keepers. Not wholesale changes.
Peter Kenyon has been in meetings with Avram over the last two days and the decision was taken as a result of those meetings.
Attention switches to who takes the task on, although we’d like to say that Avram achieved a good deal although ultimately the suspicion that he wasn’t in full control and that the players were motivating themselves never quite went away. What happens to Henk and Steve Clarke is up in the air. Presumably the new coach will decide.
The club added that no further comment would be made until a new manager was appointed. Odds on Jose returning have been slashed to 8/1.
John Terry published an open letter of apology today, and it really isn’t necessary. CFCnet should publish and open letter to JT telling him how proud we are of him and the team for their performance and the style with which they played and the dignity they showed on defeat.
Before we forget, congratulations go to Hull City for finally lifting the tag of largest city in Europe never to have had a top flight team. We have absolutely no idea who was second I that race until today.
Sunday 25 May
Avram feels betrayed by Chelsea and it is hardly surprising, considering we just sacked him. Apparently he was offered the chance to move back to his old director of football post but declined which forced the club’s hand.
Manchester City have been mentioned as a possible new home for Grant, a few crazy days of summer and the press get carried away.
Various papers have put forward a host of names as possible new managers, the list is familiar because everyone always assumed Avram was a stop gap. Hiddink would be the only guarantee of quick success, everyone else would take some bedding in. Mark Hughes with a Zola assistant is gaining in popularity Rijkaard is more probable.
Monday 26 May
A group of Chelsea staff and youth team players are in Jordan to spread the word and help kids with coaching sessions.
Tuesday 27 May 2008 John Terry is England captain again. Capello announced that he needed a leader and pretended that he’s made the decision before the European Cup final. Bless him.
Meanwhile Gavin Peacock is off to Canada to study divinity. We can save him some time; Gavin, there isn’t a god, its just fairy tales like Santa or the tooth fairy. You have to face and take responsibility for your life as a human being without the help of a supreme one, even if you insist on hoping for a god and an afterlife read Kirkegaard on your responsibilities and it all dissolves.
Wednesday 28 May
England 2:0 USA
John Terry does what he does best and bounced back as captain to score the opener from a header.
The short list for the new manager appears to be: Deschamps, Scolari, Hughes and Mancini. If you believe what you read Hiddink and Rijkaard are unlikely. News should come through in the next couple of days, if Sky are to be believed; all comes down to belief at the moment.
Henk ten Cate looks to be staying which will fuel Rijkaard speculation further, we told you the new manager would be Dutch when the new keeper’s jerseys came out…
One thing the sacking and subsequent rumours have done is blunt the pain of losing last week. Remember we only have to wait 51 weeks for the chance to redeem ourselves.
Meanwhile Spurs seem to be hoovering up all the best talent, Modric cost them £16.5m and John Bostock will sign from Palace, they are at the top of the queue for Giovani dos Santos from Barça. We have been slow in the transfer market so getting a new manager in soon has to be a priority.
Thursday 29 May
Partly because we said he looked like he was staying Henk ten Cate is sacked after a meeting with Peter Kenyon. Rune readers might think this means a new boss wants to bring in his own backroom staff, or that Rijkaard is now out of the running. Who knows. Mancini left Inter yesterday with Mourinho expected in the role any day now the bubbles in the appointment process look to be rolling for a while yet.
Henk was his own man and caused ructions from his first refusal to sing for the squad when he joined. Fighting with JT before the Carling Cup final hardly endeared him. Steve Clarke’s position is now under treat, although it has been mooted that he wants a club of his own to manage. The board could do worse than appoint him to the Chelsea job.
Saturday 31 May
Carlo Ancelotti is not going to be our next manager. AC Milan stamped on a reported approach right at the start, Hiddink has pledged himself to develop Russia, which means signing a contract through ntil the end of the next World Cup.
Mark Hughes has featured prominaently this weekend but the club seem riven with conflicting stories and advice, ultimately Roman will make his mind up and whatever it costs will get the man he wants.