Monday 7 February
Ashley Cole is the England Supporters’ player of the year. We really never thought Ashley would ever win a popularity contest, perhaps England fans appreciate the game more than you would expect.
Tuesday 8 February
Eric Parsons, the club’s right-winger in 1955, died at the age of 87 on Monday night. He is the second of our champions to die in a week after Les Stubbs passed away last week. Eric scored 11 goals in that championship-winning season including two in the match at home to Sheffield Wednesday that confirmed the title.
Italy U21 1:0 England U21
Scrappy game for the most part, refreed by a 70s throwback who allowed virtually every trip and barge until the death when Italy won a penalty and Manchester City’s Ben Mee was sent off.
Jack Cork played a magnificent game in central defence and Josh McEachran showed he is capable at this level. But frequent fluent attacks failed to find a killer touch. Old boy Scott Sinclair missed the best two chances.
Stuart Pearce said afterwards that McEachran had a big future: “All of our cutting passes probably came from him. He’s got a really outstanding talent, similar to [Jack] Wilshere, and it bodes well for us. He’s come in and played outstandingly well so if he is going to start for me then he will be in the Under-21 squad from now on.”
Frank Lampard will captain England tomorrow night. With Ferdinand injured and Gerrard pretending to have a groin problem and Terry still exiled, Frank seems the obvious choice. Ashley Cole, who is set to break Kenny Sansom’s caps record at full-back and was voted player of the year yesterday, might have expected the nod.
Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou both played for Ivory Coast in a friendly with Mali that was held in France. While Milan Lalkovic played his first U21 game for Slovakia in the 3-1 defeat to France.
Wednesday 9 February
Denmark 1:2 England
A scrappy match that managed to confirm Capello’s ability to play the wrong shape with players out of position. Frank Lampard will not care as the pride beamed from his face as he led out the team. It looked like he would actually burst during the national anthem.
Sadly, his half of the match saw him and new wonder kid Jack Wilshere frequently isolated and out manoevered by Denmark. Capello seems intent on hammering square pegs into round holes: Jack Wilshire is a very exciting attacking midfielder, Capello wanted him to play the Makalele role. It is almost as if the Italian is looking for excuses – so if in the future he fails as badly as he did in the summer he can say “I tried Wilshire but it didn’t work”.
England struggled with the midfield under-manned against the Dane’s simple 4-3-3 while Rooney again struggled for relevance and a defined role in Capello’s 4-4-1-1. The imbalance meant Denmark’s were able to attack almost at will and they duly opened the scoring when Daniel Agger headed in unmarked. The night’s other wunderkind Christian Eriksen’s fizzing cross set up the chance.
Darren Bent equalised a few minutes later as Theo Walcott crossed but England looked fragile until the half-time introduction of two holding midfielders in Parker and Barry. Scott Parker certainly took his chance to show he should have the holding role more permanently. His tackling and distribution and, crucially, positional sense were a different class to the deck Gareth Barry has presented since before the summer. This was an object lesson on why we failed in the South Africa: Capello named Scott Parker in the provisional squad but then didn’t give him a game in the friendlies and failed to take him: while Barry played every game, looked knackered and was on the plane.
Ashley Cole was captain in the second-half on the occasion of his 87th cap but he had few opportunities to get forward.
Ashley Young fired the winner after determine work by James Milner and Capello can go home and polish his 4-4-2. People complain that international friendlies are meaningless and a waste of time. They are if, like Capello, you refuse to learn anything from them. Expect Wilshire to continue in the holding role against Wales.
Thursday 10 February
Branislav Ivanovic has a new five-and-a-half-year contract that will keep him at the club until he is 32. The Serb has been a pivotal player in the last two season’s winning a place in the premiership team of the year at right-back in our double winning season and covering in the centre this while Alex has been out.
Friday 11 February
Chelsea youth 2:1 Barnsley youth
Having shipped a goal inside a minute against Arsenal in the last round we went one better tonight and let them score inside 15-seconds. They pulled themselves together and dominated the rest of the night. Josh McEachran levelled just after the break and the promising Nathan Chalobah scored at the death to secure progress. The next round brings Watford to the Bridge on Wednesday 2 March.
David Luiz had his moment in the spotlight as he was officially unveiled. He had plenty of nice things to say about his new colleagues, especially John: “Football in general admires John Terry it is not just me. He is a great player that has won a lot and I hope I can learn a lot and have the same success he has had over a number of years”.
Carlo revealed a little of the thinking in signing the Brazilian, noting that Chelsea have been stifled when opponents close down the midfield he said: “He has very good technique and can help us build our play from the back. Sometimes the opposition give more space to our backs while they maintain good control of our midfielders, so now we can have space to build the play from the back.”
At the same press conference Ancelotti effectively gave up the title defence: “For us it is difficult to think that we can come back and fight for the title, we have to be honest about that. But we absolutely have to reach fourth place at a minimum.”
Jeffrey Bruma joins Patrick Van Aanholt at Leicester until the end of the season. It is Bruma’s first loan since he signed youth terms for Chelsea in 2008. He has been champing at the bit while the club suffered defensive withdrawls over November and December. Bruma has made six appearances this season but only one league start.
Connor Clifford joins Notts County for a month on his latest loan. Connor spent a productive spell at Plymouth earlier this season but the Devon club has suffered a transfer ban that meant he could not renew the deal in January.
Saturday 12 February
David Luiz says he wants to learn English as quickly as possible. Speaking about the speed and physicality of the Premier League he said: “The Premier League I know from watching on TV and I understand it is faster and more physical than the leagues I played in before, but if I didn’t like the physical side of the game I would be playing tennis.” We could have bought ourselves a character.
Jacob Mellis is enjoying his time at Barnsley where he added to his tally with a late equaliser against Ipswich.
Jeffrey Bruma made a late debut for Leicester having only signed yesterday but his compatriot Patrick Van Aanholt took the game against Derby by the scruff of the neck and was involved in everything Leicester did going forward.
Ben Gordon at Scunthorpe finally made a start after injury and coped well against promotion chasing Cardiff. He almost scored after a length of the field run but dragged the finish.
Sunday 13 February
Daniel Sturridge makes it three from three for Bolton Wanderers, the latest a cracking volley against Everton but it was his all round performance that stood out. There were loud complaints of diving from Evertonians but contact was made on each of the free-kicks he was awarded. Owen Coyle’s Bolton are getting a reputation as a finishing school and a few months for Josh McEachran and possibly Gael Kakuta next season might be just the thing.