Well, it’s been nearly fifty days since Avram settled into the manager’s overcoat at the Bridge and for the best part of that time I’ve been mostly holding my tongue. Partly because I’d been abroad, partly because (even though she’s no bigger than a large bag of sand) I caught a hideous cold off my niece and began producing phlegm that looked worryingly like processed cheese, and partly because I hadn’t made up my mind as to what I thought of the whole thing. Of course I had my opinions and naturally I trotted them out in the pub to generally wind people up, but on the whole it seemed to be a waste of time to make a judgement so early on. Now however fifty days are up, and although fifty days is not really a recognised passage of time for judgement in any field, it’s what I’m going to do anyway.
Upon his arrival, opinion on Grant was divided into two camps: Camp A believed he was a nobody who’d never done anything of note, whereas Camp B pointed out that he was quietly praised by some managers and considered a dark horse. Both camps (A and B) agreed however that he was only a stop-gap and would be out in the cold come January.
There was a good school of thought that suggested it was all part of an ingeniously complex scheme to get Gus Hiddink the job at the Bridge. And a great theory it was too: combining Machiavellian plots, the Jewish mafia, sinister government organisations and a gang of street rappers in Bratislava, and I was all for it. But nobody told Steve McClaren what was going on and he ruined it. And he ruined our summer too. But he’ll get paid a few million so that’s ok. However, Gus is still in Russia, so you know, where does that leave us? Apparently we’ve got a stop-gap manager who may or may not be any good holding the fort for we don’t know how long…
As soon as Jose got the boot I popped down the bookies and put a bet on us winning the Premiership, I still had faith in the team and the odds were as good as they’d been in years. Of course that weekend we lost to Man U and the odds lengthened, so it wasn’t the soothsaying moment of clarity it might have been, but that’s not important. Since then Chelsea have ignored the press and moved solidly upwards. Regardless of manager, Chelsea is still an established squad accustomed to victory, a team perfectly capable of winning the Champions League and one that’s fighting for pride. Also, there’s the consideration that Avram is pals with Roman, which might just mean that the manager can communicate with the owner and buy players that are needed at appropriate times. Or perhaps not, who can say? Not me.
Meanwhile, opposition fans have been giggling like women (unless they are women, in which case they’ve been cackling like geese). A snapshot of a bar in North London tells its own story: “Chelsea are history” “Two more babyshams, ta.” “Avram who?” Ho, ho, ho, but it’s dangerous to rest on your laurels in modern football.
I wonder if Rafa Benitez will be at Liverpool next season. Personally I hope he will be, I like his pioneering facial hair, and his pioneering rotation policies, and his pioneering approach to subbing off impassioned captains, but it doesn’t guarantee he’ll keep his job.
Managers who are purple-faced and chew gum without closing their mouths are a different consideration; nevertheless I’m pleased that Fergie is sticking around. Every season he stays adds to his mythical status and on the day that he finally does go, cryogenically frozen to be brought back as one of those Futurama jar-heads, whoever follows is destined to crash heavily, hopefully taking the club into a downwards spin hat will last a decade, maybe two, which would be lovely.
Then there’s Arsene Wenger who in spite of it all you have to respect. He has developed some of the best players in the world, won trophies without any sizeable cash influx and ensured his team played watchable football on the way. More than this though, he’s taken an obnoxious London club and turned it into a grazing ground for his fellow countrymen and now has a fan-base who don’t know who to support in the World Cup. I gather that in schools in north London teachers are finding it difficult to re-educate children as to the pronunciation of the name Henry. Apparently they pronounce it Onree, as in Onree the eighth and Onree’s Cat. It turns out Wenger was against the move to the Emirates Stadium not because he didn’t want to leave Highbury, but because he wanted to relocate to Bordeaux and call it ‘le’ arsenal. He even managed to change the strip to Bordeaux, if only for a season. So you have to respect him, really.
But in Chelsea we’ve got no such problems. In our banana neon strip we’re playing with the passion of traffic wardens on the King’s Road at lunchtime. As it stands we’ve scored 12 goals in our last three games, won five in a row and are enjoying classy football. Meanwhile Man U have plopped out the Carling Cup and Liverpool look like plopping out of Europe. – To plop out of a tournament is a technical term by the way; it means to drop out early, like a poo in a nappy. (My niece is quite adept at it, I can assure you.)
I’ll save official predictions for Christmas, which is when tradition dictates I get things woefully off target, but until then I’m going to sit back and enjoy the show. If we look at the evidence, it’s clear that right now nobody could be doing a better job than Avram.