I didn’t think that football life could get any bleaker than Middlesborough away. I forgot about Burnley. For those who were lucky enough to occupy an armchair for this one, it looks like someone rounded up every dump that’s ever been squatted in or shat on by a tramp or a junkie and plonked it on the side of a grim hill at the a*se end of the world. Sprinkle with slush, populate with largely inbreeds, turn the wind up, add a dash of damp and blast-chill for 200 years, then ignore conclusions and basic human rights learned of Industrial Revolution (such as electric lighting in public toilets) and, ta-da! Burnley. If a serial killer was looking for an anonymous, godforsaken hole in which to lurk, where nobody would want to go looking for him, even if they knew he was there, because they just couldn’t face venturing inside, this would be it.
I was so sh*tfaced last Saturday night after L’Arse that I can barely remember how I got home. I got a match report up, somehow, but completely forgot to say anything about Frank Lampard. In fact at the time I don’t think I knew who Frank Lampard was. This by way of an offering to eulogise a phenomenal career and a smashing pair of thighs…
People are saying plenty about the obvious moments, so I thought I’d mention a few of my random favourites. His 400th appearance is one of my “off the beaten track” favourite Frank moments. At home to Stoke City in January 2009. We had been dogsh*t. Delap had chipped Cech and things were looking pretty ragged under Scolari (again) with less than five minutes to go. Never again (probably) will an equaliser (Beletti) against Stoke mean so much. But deep into injury time Frank lashed it in from the edge of the area and we actually took the three points. The roof was almost lifted off Stamford Bridge. It was a glowing example of everything he could make happen. Something out of nothing. Of course there was the Tambling record at Villa Park, but less than two months after that Stoke game, Scolari was on his way to managing a team of goat-herders in Uzbekistan and Guus Hiddink was watching on at Villa having stepped in. It was not sexy football. Anelka put us ahead after twenty odd minutes and we spent the rest of the match praying we didn’t eff it up and let the lead slip. It felt never-ending. We’d just about hit injury time and in truth, all we wanted someone to do was stand in the corner till the whistle went. Frank did better. In the dying seconds of the game he flung himself on the floor in front of the away fans. Probably not a foul, but it was given. What makes it one of my favourite Frank moments is that he got up about two foot away from us and was fist-pumping along with the fans at having got away with it. Those three poxy points in Birmingham meant as much to him as it did to any of us. “We can’t say we’re back,” he said after the game. “But this was a little bit of the old Chelsea, the old spirit and the way we used to play. You could see the commitment of the lads, the never-say-die attitude. We need to keep that going.” As a model professional we were privileged to witness a decade of that commitment and spirit from Frank Lampard. The last of my random Frank moments, also from 2009, but December in our double-winning season, was the penalty incident at Upton Park. Three times they made him take it. Three times he stuck it to the pikeys. Mentally a beast when it came to moments like that.
I’m sad he pulled on a City shirt for a bit, but only because I think events conspired to mean he didn’t get the send-off he deserved from us. It doesn’t take one thing away from what he was to Chelsea in my opinion, as he’d earned the right to go wherever he pleased, but it would certainly be apt now for him to get the recognition he deserves, to his face, at Stamford Bridge. Then he can get on TV and do something about elbowing the red mafia off our TV screens.
Looking at just some of the things Frank was good at: I mentioned last week that Alonso’s awareness in following balls into the box has already netted him a couple of goals, and that, allowing for the fact that he’s coming from a more defensive position, this is the first time we’ve had someone nail this consistently since Frank left. Willian and Hazard have shown a great ability to hit the top corner from long range. Every now and again Moses or Fabregas will track back and put a blinding tackle in. Frank did it nigh on every week. And as for leadership – we’d be lucky to have a Captain in the next ten years who had as much impact as Frank did as JT’s second. When you have to pick attributes from half a dozen players in our current side, who are rampant at the top of the league right now, to make one Lampard, it tells you what a one-off he was. The word “legend” is banded about far too frequently these days, but Frank Lampard is the footballing equivalent of a David Bowie and you’re not going to see another one of him in a Chelsea shirt in your lifetime.
In the News: Ian Wright is burning his bridges with Arsenal napalm style by speculating about Whinger being off soon. Firstly, I’d question any kind of intelligence coming out of him as suspect based on the fact that “Ian Wright” and “intelligence” is about the biggest oxymoron going. Secondly, I find his attention seeking a bit sad. Apparently, Cuadrado‘s Mum was “praying every day” that Juventus would buy him off us. As Granville (sitcom alias) pointed out, not as hard as we were. Must have been a slow week, as the Daily Fail were running an article imploring you to pin the sh*t tattoo on the footballer. And @ArsenalGuvnor (give him some sh*t, you know you want to) would like us all to know that if you redid the league table based on points per pound spent on players in your squad, Wenger’s copouts would be top. Unfortunately, Mr. Guvnor, that’s not how it works. Where does that leave you? Fourth probably. And tighter than a camel’s a*se in a sand storm.
The Others: I didn’t hear Wenger moaning about decisions in the box this week. Surprise. The Alonso/assault whining was almost as pathetic as the Gooners flaccid non-boycott boycott where everyone actually turned up in the end. Even their own were rolling their eyes when one faction started bleating about that one in the week. The whole of Chelseadom collectively went NOOOOOO! In slow motion when Jake Humphrey started conceding the title to us on BT Sport on Saturday evening. Hush your mouth man. Wreck the finally balanced chi and we will come looking for you! Speaking of BT. A famed player does not a pundit make. In fact, in Slippy G‘s case it makes a bland, horribly biased and slightly whiny/inarticulate person without anything of value to add to the debate who scowls a lot. Please make him go away.
Our Game: Even fervent, fanatical Antonio looked miserable as he set foot on the pitch at Turf Moor to make his way to the dugout. It was horrific up there today. Swirling snow, biting wind, cue predictable punditry about this kind of game being the measure of true champions, blah f*cking blah. Having got over the bewilderment of passing a Turkish pizza restaurant on the way in, I took up my position in the David Fishwick Stand (I know, right?) and promptly got a crash course in how Leonardo di Caprio felt bobbing round in the water at the end of Titanic when Kate Winslet wouldn’t move over and share the driftwood. This was after I spent five minutes helping Mrs Brown (sitcom alias) conceal a banner up his jacket and moulding it so it would pass as a massive beer belly. I think the staff suspicions were probably raised after the stewards passed banner and fake fat man through gate and he then turned around and shouted: “It’s because I’ve got an honest face!” More stealth required next time. And no you haven’t!
Burnley came out of the blocks quicker, but five minutes in we manned up and settled down and we looked quite accomplished for a while. Joy was forthcoming down the right hand side through Victor Moses. Three passes and a run the length of the pitch from him was all it took. Both Costa and Pesto (yes, auto spell, you win *sigh) made the run, but it was the latter who got on the end of the final ball and slotted it home. I spent a whole minute debating with Lew Zealand (muppet alias) about what we could call Joey Barton that would be an adequate reflection of his c**tishness. Then I realised that I haven’t yet this season used the phrase: “Donkey R*ping Sh*t Eater.” When even France mocks you, you deserve little better. And if his rat face and his awful Patrick Berger c.1990-whatever hair weren’t reason enough to want to poke him in the eye with a football shank fashioned out of a rolled up crisp bag and pie foil, he spent the whole afternoon alternately kicking and fouling people, especially Hazard, off the ball to mask the fact that his footballing ability is about level with Fat Ronaldo, (at his fattest) if one of his legs had been severed with a chainsaw five minutes before kick off and replaced with a couple of plastic pint glasses pinned on with a rusty knitting needle.
For any dominance in pinging the ball about in the first part of the game, after the goal we barely created anything. At first, Burnley had no answer as to how to take the ball of us, unless it involved a foul. I counted three players on “very last warnings” complete with firm pointing from the referee within the first half an hour. No cards though. Surprise. Never fear though, northern peasants, because if you can’t win the ball, Chelsea have decided that all afternoon long they will benevolently hand the bloody thing over at every opportunity. This culminated in a gift wrapped free kick given away by Matic in a dangerous position. Which was most unfortunate. Not as unfortunate as the fact that despite having achieved nothing of note in our half, Burnley now had an equaliser. B*llcks. A couple of counter attacks as the home side grew in confidence, but nothing resembling a goal before half time and this was turning out to be a difficult afternoon.
I asked Victor Meldrew to draw me like one of his French girls at half time. He told me to f*ck off. I was quite consumed with trying not to die of hypothermia and find myself passed off with some weepy Irish music whilst Lew Zealand made off with my expensive necklace and left me to freeze after the break. However, I did notice that for the first five minutes we were shocking, and that we gradually regained a measure of control but remained below par. They had six at the back at times, but what Burnley set out to do, they did well today. Matic went off, as did Moses and Pesto and Cesc, Willian and Michy came on. I was pleased with the last of those subs because it signalled an attempt to win it as opposed to clinging on to the point if it had been Chalobah or Zouma shoring up the back. Subs were made early enough to have an effect too, which didn’t happen when we were failing at Sp*rs. Having let all manner of bookable offences go by, Kevin Friend shows Luiz a yellow for dissent when he and his officials failed to spot or punish the 100th Burnley foul of game. I swore. Probably not as much as Luiz preening and doing his homage to a 90s pop star. (He just needed a saxophone to go with the yuppie ponytail – I love his hair. It’s my new life ambition to touch it) Which brings me to Refwatch: the only one I dislike more than Friend is Marriner. Despite his name, he is about as friendly as your resident neighbourhood neo nazi. He has a Wengeresque capacity to see bugger all, and somehow manages to come out of every game I’ve ever seen him take charge of with both sets of fans hating him. In turn, one of his lino jobbers was also about as observant as a lookout on the Titanic today. Yet frustratingly eager to wave his flag around like a monumental bellend regardless. The home side gradually wound it down and were warned for time wasting as injury time approached. They set out to stop us picking them off, and they did that well, but ultimately it took an outstanding free kick to get a point out of us. We were probably on top when the final whistle went, but no first class smoking room cigar. And they could have just as easily caught us on the counter and nicked it. A draw was fair in the end.
So: Frustrating. On a better day we could have had this lot. But today was not a better day. Matic had the touch of the guy steering Titanic when she face-planted the iceberg. Everything he went near turned to a steaming pile of turd. He was far from the only one having an off game though. Cahill struggled, though made up for it with decisive action at other times. Diego was not at his best, neither was Kante, though he got better as the day went on and you couldn’t say he was terrible, he just failed to live up to his own impeccably high standards on this occasion. Hazard was fairly kicked about but he let it get to him from where I was standing, and Pedro gave the ball away countless times. Not criticising the effort, but the execution was lacking today and bearing this in mind, we came up against a disciplined Burnley side who are well-drilled in ensuring that they don’t lose at home. They were rock solid at the back after conceding the goal and largely thanks to Michael Keane, we could get no joy in the box despite throwing the kitchen sink at it in the closing stages and the home side had reduced us to taking wasteful potshots from the edge of the area. I wouldn’t begrudge them their point in the slightest if C**tchops Barton with all of his pathetically inept, pseudo-intellectual waffle were not among their number. Not since Craig Bellamy has someone so chavvy in football had such a tragic, painfully high opinion of what comes out of their own mouth. In the end it was every bit as difficult as some of us feared and it was a hard won point. There is nobody to blame for the lack of a winner but ourselves, because our performance was rife with sloppy errors, squandered chances and a general lack of precision all afternoon. That and we can blame all the numpties who started singing “and now you better believe us” and therefore jinxed everything after the goal. At ease people.
I mentioned on the Fancast that I feared this fixture more than Arsenal. Burnley are going to stay up on the back of their impressive home form. When we return to league action against Swansea on our own turf I’ll be far more optimistic about a win than I was today. But cheer up. We could be Sp*rs. (Snigger) In the meantime, Wolves in the cup next week. I’m off to apply for a job with the Burnley tourist board.
Contribution from Alex Churchill. Follow Alex on Twitter.