You may like to know that the most read piece on the Guardian’s website today was an article with the headline “Why women have sex”. I wonder why (not why women has sex but why so many people read it). I read it mainly because there hasn’t been too much good CFC news to read in the papers since Saturday night so I went for it. While we’re on the subject I’ll also have you know that according to the research quoted in said article there are 237 reasons why women have sex. So if you’re not getting any you’d better see a doctor, a psychologist or a sex therapist. Even better why not see all three.
I come across plenty of this sort of stuff in my quest to keep myself au courant with the goings on in English and European football for the benefit of those ten hardy souls who read my columns regularly. The downside of it though is that I end up forgetting what I read or heard where.
So without coming up with any specific quotes I can safely say that many of the professional hacks and a couple of Sky pundits are of the opinion Carlo Ancelotti was appointed mainly to win the Champions League and anything less will be considered a failure. A bit like if you don’t manage to hit on one of the 237 reasons we were talking about before.
If football were an exact science or the Harry Potter books were a biography of a real boy wizard, there would be no problem. But appointing a football manager to win you the Champions League is on par with thinking that by employing a good weather girl a TV station can manipulate the weather rather than predict it.
We do have the manager who has got to 3 finals in the past 7 editions of the tournament, winning it twice in the process. So one can argue that out of the current crop of managers taking part in the Champions League, Carlo is the most successful of the lot. But that is no guarantee for success.
Whereas in a 38 game league programme there are enough games to make up for the imponderables thrown up by the game, in a knock out competition one mistake by the ref, one shot that hits the bar and bounces out rather than in, one penalty miss and you’re out.
This current campaign is our sixth consecutive one in the Champions League. Except for our 2004 elimination by Monaco in the semi final which by Claudio Ranieri’s own admission (see his book Proud Man Walking) the coach himself bungled, in the five campaigns that followed we were victims of circumstances rather than errors of the coaches in charge. Painful as it may be, let me remind you.
2005 – Eidur Gudjohnsen misses a chance in injury time at Anfield which you would bet your house on him scoring normally. Was that Jose’s fault?
2006 – Del Horno sent off after half an hour of our home leg against Barcelona. Jose’s fault?
2007 – Missed penalties in the shootout at Anfield. Jose’s fault?
2008 – JT’s slip in the penalty shootout in Moscow plus twice hitting the woodwork late in the game. Avram Grant’s fault?
2009 – At least three clear cut penalties not given by the worst referee ever to take charge of a Champions League semi final. Hiddink’s fault?
Whereas in a league campaign one can look back at at least ten games where the coach could have done something to influence the game which would have won you an extra three points to win the league, in the Champions League it’s one mistake, often out of the coach’s control, and you’re out. Even after Ranieri threw away the first leg in Monaco it was really a single incident in the first half of injury time in the second leg that sent us out of the competition when the Monaco geezer scored with his hand on the stroke of half time.
So as you sit in front of the telly tomorrow night (I am writing this on Tuesday night with the Bindippers 2 – 0 down at halftime against Fiorentina) don’t look at the Chelsea bench and look at Ancelotti as the Champions League messiah. We will know whether he is worth the reputed 6 million quid a year or not if we win the Premiership. The Champions League requires a healthy dose of good luck along the way, as we know too well.