SMALL CLUB IN FULHAM?

By Mark Worrall
Sep 9th, 2008

Football, isn’t it just the greatest soap opera on the planet? Glorious unpredictability is one thing us Blues fans are born into. Whether you are a seasoned old-school stager from back-in-the-day when we really were sh*t, or a new disciple of Abramovich era Chelsea, CFC still has the capacity pluck on our heart strings and play with our minds any which way she chooses, stirring our souls and firing our imaginations one week and kicking us squarely in the bollocks the next. Nothing else compares.

Admittedly after last seasons giant rollercoaster ride came to an abrupt and  lachrymose halt in Moscow with Avram Grant subsequently being pushed out of the head coaches carriage to be replaced by the affable and highly decorated Luis Scolari, I believed that the Brazilian’s subtle reengineering would ensure a far smoother journey to glory.

Boswinga was already on his way. Deco’s arrival before the start of the season was a statement of intent, his first couple of performances for the Blues were sublime enough to have supporters drawing parallels with the legendary Gianfranco Zola. With the signing of Robinho a perceived formality and Chelsea top of the league without a goal conceded, some bookmakers were considering paying out before the end of August. Happy days! There we were, basking in the warm Autumn sunshine in Wigan, shading our eyes with rose-tinted spectacles. What could go wrong?

Nothing like a turgid home draw against Rottenham Dropspur and a monumentally embarrassing transfer deadline day fiasco to take the jam out of our collective donuts.

Against Sp*rs, Chelsea had deservedly led through Juliano Belletti but they were unable to capitalise their advantage. Mr Scolari already having to shuffle his playing pack because of injury’s played Belletti in the holding midfield role. It took a while for the Lilywhites to realise they were not going to be taken apart as had been expected, and once they did they simply smothered Chelsea, stifling their creativity and making Deco look quite pedestrian.

‘Robinho will make a difference,’ opined the Blue majority. By the time Sp*rs had equalised I felt certain that Big Phil already had a mental picture of his starting line-up and formation for the next Premier League game, and you can be sure one Robson de Souza soon to be latterly of Real Madrid was figuring prominently in his plans.

Step forward Chelsea’s Mephistophelian chief executive Peter Kenyon, a man whose rhetoric is so theatrically trussed in cliché, spin and pass-the-buck anecdotes he should seriously consider a career in politics. Kenyon’s intense, lengthy and ultimately fruitless negotiations with Real Madrid for Robinho turned the spotlight once more on Chelsea’s commercial Achilles heel. Kenyon allegedly went as high as €37 million, an offer which was knocked back by the Madrid hierarchy. Manchester City, backed by their new Abu Dhabi-based investors/owners, eventually swooped in out of nowhere for the 24 year old by offering €40 million upfront plus another €2 million based on the player’s performances.

Real Madrid president Ramón Calderón had at one stage insisted Robinho was free to leave the Santiago Bernabéu, provided any potential buyers could meet his asking price of €40 million … so what was Kenyon playing at? In the world of Roman Abramovich what exactly does €3 million represent? Exactly!

Mr Scolari had a summer wish list that comprised of just two players. Deco and Robinho. Come the start of the season it was one down and one and an extra €3 million to go. Please Mr Abramovich, please Mr Kenyon you saw the deficiencies for yourselves against Sp*rs. Stump up the asking price. But it wasn’t to be.

Why?

According to Spanish sports journal Marca, it has been revealed that Robinho was never going to head to Stamford Bridge, because of the merry-go-round talks between the two clubs, and to add insult to injury, Peter Kenyon, the man entrusted by Roman to orchestrate the move, reportedly admitted that “Robinho is not worth €40 million” and that “we were never going to arrive at that number”.  

Fine Mr Kenyon, I happen to agree with that. In fact I think Robinho will struggle in the Premier League and I shall look forward to seeing how he copes with the heavy pitches, inclement weather and tough tackling defenders he can expect this coming winter. The point is though, if the price was €40 million and Chelsea “were never going to arrive at that number”, what was the point in continuing with the negotiation? Did Kenyon believe that Calderón was going to drop his price? More fool him if that is the case.

One piece of transfer business concluded by Chelsea before the transfer window closed was the sale of SWP back to Manchester City and, with a true sense of predestination, almost as if we’d been handed a script, the likeable little fella found the back of the onion bag not once but twice in a man-of-the-match debut performance for the Citizens whom a couple of days later dramatically found themselves in the hands of new owners so rich they make our own Mr Abramovich seem like a pauper by comparison.

Out comes the cheque-book, and Robinho moves to Eastlands and not Stamford Bridge.

Next league fixture? Manchester City v Chelsea! No! Honestly, you couldn’t make it up.

I recall the afternoon we played City at the Bridge five years ago when Roman was just getting his feet under the table. ‘Loads and loads of money’ we’d chanted gleefully. When the two teams meet at Eastlands this coming weekend there will be few survivors from that game taking part. For City, Wright-Philips oddly enough is the only player who will feature in their starting line-up, although a certain Nicolas Anelka was huffing and puffing ineffectually up front … no change there then … well apart from the colour of the shirt Le Sulk will be wearing! For Chelsea there will be JT, Lamps and Joey Cole maybe. Hasselbaink obliged for the Blues that afternoon and City’s fans would have returned home bemoaning their luck and wishing manager Kevin Keegan had the funds his opposing number Claudio Ranieri had at his disposal.

So what rousing renditions of traditional City chants can we expect to hear at Eastlands on Saturday? The anthemic ‘Blue Moon’ will no doubt get a good rinsing. But I think they may struggle to create a lyrical re-working of any popular song in which Dr Sulhaiman Al-Fahim can be incorporated. No, my moneys on some other new tunes … ‘We’ve got Robinho, we’ve got Robinho.’  A faintly ironic ‘loads and loads of money’ (though I suspect it will be those toy banknotes they will be waving and not real ones) and of course ‘You’re just a small club in Fulham’.

Small club in Fulham? Yeah why not? And like many small clubs who are priced out of the quality end of the transfer market the emphasis will shift to the development of fresh young talent through a successful youth policy. Mr Scolari may well be forced into giving a couple of Chelsea’s promising youngsters a run in the first team before the transfer window opens again in January, I’m sure they’ll be a roaring success and when they are guess who’ll be on hand with a trite press statement explaining that the Blues policy has always been to cultivate its youth academy so that the club is less reliant on signing established players … got it in one … Peter Kenyon!

See you at the game!

Mark Worrall is the author of cult terrace classics ‘Over Land and Sea’ and ‘Blue Murder … Chelsea till I die’, his new book ‘One Man Went to Mow’ is out now. Copies are available to buy with a discount of up to 30% and free postage within the UK at http://www.overlandandsea.net/

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