The Filth and Fury – There was a time when I was more proud to be Chelsea because of the fans than the team. On the pitch we were perennial underachievers, often fielding players who had little or no interest in anything other than themselves. Off it, we followed those players to the ends of the earth, cheered them until their ears rang and generally threw ourselves body and soul behind the cause that was Chelsea Football Club. And, time after time, those same players let us down when it really mattered.
I’ve seen Chelsea relegated three times, and players from those teams have come onto the pitch in recent times and been cheered to the rafters as Neil Barnett has walked them around the pitch. I’ve seen Chelsea come within touching distance of dropping into the old Division Three and stood squarely alongside 17,000 others after the final match of the season, waiting for the players to re-emerge so that we could applaud their efforts in avoiding relegation. I saw Micky Fillery take the applause of all four corners of the stadium a couple of years ago, and commented that it was the most ground I had ever seen him cover in an afternoon. A few weeks back I saw John Hollins receive a standing ovation from all and sundry inside Stamford Bridge. No problem, they are probably better and more forgiving people than I am, but this was the same John Hollins who, as the Blues’ manager, arrogantly tore apart a side on the verge of success, and also told the Daily Mail last year of his preference for Arsenal over Chelsea. Nothing personal, I think he’s a nice man who was a good player, and I’ve met and been interviewed by his son and found him to be a particularly nice guy too, but is he really Chelsea?
On Saturday at Stamford Bridge I saw the return of a guy who won two Premier League titles and an FA Cup with Chelsea. A bloke who suffered a nasty ankle break wearing the famous blue shirt and fought back gamely to overcome mental problems associated with returning to football after such an horrendous injury. I saw the return of the guy who scored one of the most famous goals in the history of our football club, and if you don’t know the goal I’m referring to I’m not going to explain it, because I can only assume you were one of the numpties who chose to boo him.
For what it’s worth, I don’t agree with Wayne Bridge’s reaction to the news that John Terry had a fling with his ex-girlfriend. Firstly, I have an ex-wife and I really don’t care who or what she’s doing these days – it’s none of my business. As a professional footballer, I certainly wouldn’t be giving up the chance to represent my country on the biggest stage of all just because another member of the squad had nailed my ex-girlfriend. A current girlfriend would be a different matter, but not a girl I had split with six months previously. However, there is a reason I started this paragraph with the words ‘For what it’s worth’, because the fact is, my opinion of what has gone on between Terry, Bridge and Vanessa Perroncel is irrelevant. It’s a private matter between the three of them and Terry’s wife, the only real victim in this whole saga.
What happened at the Bridge on Saturday left me disappointed and angry. Not just because I saw an old school Chelsea implosion on the pitch, one that took me back to the Eighties and early Nineties; not just because we naively allowed two such odious human beings as Bellamy and Tevez run riot on our patch; not just because Carlo lost the plot in Ranieriesque fashion with his bizarre substitutions and tactical faux pas (is faux pas the plural of faux pas? I don’t know but I’m going with it). No, the reason I’m so angry is because Chelsea Football Club, its captain, its players, its management and its supporters allowed themselves to be beaten by the grubby, filthy, hypocritical media of this country. We let them get exactly what they wanted.
There are no exceptions in this. It’s a complete fallacy that the sports writers do not involve themselves in the tawdry side of journalism. They’ve all chipped in with their bile over the past month, just as they always do. Who remembers the way they treated a decent man like Graham Taylor when he failed as England manager? It’s was spiteful and relentless. Before him, it was the great and dignified Bobby Robson who, when he was struggling to get results as England boss, suddenly found himself at the centre of ridiculous, salacious stories about multiple affairs and having sex with women on the Portman Road pitch during his time at Ipswich. Nasty, spiteful lies that could cause a man to lose everything – all to sell a few more copies of their rags. When Robson took England to one of the World Cups (1986 or 1990, I can’t remember which), journalist Nigel Clarke was interviewed at the airport on his way to the tournament and openly admitted that he and his fellow scribes were going out there with the intention of slaughtering the manager. That’s the way the English press get behind the national team. In true journalist style, in the last few years of his life Robson became the darling of the media, elevated to the status of ‘Football’s Last Great Gentleman’ by the same filth who went out of their way to break him.
Of course, plenty of people have had their say on John Terry over the past month. I’m told that just yesterday, Stan Collymore was berating JT on Talksport for his failure to be a good role model. Stan, a woman-beating dogger should not involve himself in conversations about role models, footballers or otherwise. Fact. Likewise, the insufferably smug Gary Lineker should rein it in a bit on Match of the Day, unless the stories I’ve heard about him from what I consider to be extremely good sources are entirely wrong.
Going back to the subject of Talksport contributors, and opening up a new thread about third-rate footballers who still seem to be eeking some kind of meagre existence out of spouting rubbish about the game, I was interested to read former Colchester United striker Perry Groves’ comments about going over the top on JT if he came face-to-face with him on the pitch. What a prat. One can only hope they do meet one day, because I know who my money’s on and it isn’t the perennial Arsenal squad player who made so few starts for the Gooners that he was known as the lesser spotted chav while he was bench-warming there. Or at least should have been. During his time at Highbury, Groves was to Arsenal what David May was to Manchester United and Harry Kewell to Liverpool: a bit-part player who contributed little or nothing to their successes, but celebrated trophy wins as if they’d won them single-handedly.
With regard to the team that beat us on Saturday, well, the truth is I have nothing against Manchester City as a club. The game was built up into something more significant than it should have been by the low-lives of the media, and a lot of people bought into it. City were atrocious for much of the game – they are not a good team – but cottoned on to a very basic formula for beating us. Good luck to them, they’ve exposed a weakness that Chelsea need to address urgently. Where City did let themselves down, though, is in the vile conduct of a minority of their players.
I personally have always despised Carlos Tevez for his antics in the 2008 Champions League Final, when he tried to profit from Chelsea kicking the ball out of play so that a United player could get treatment. It isn’t cheating by the letter of the law but it is morally wrong, and it tells you everything you need to know about the character of the person behind it. Tevez is an Argentinian footballer, say no more. Other people I have seen display these charming attributes are Teddy Sheringham at Spurs and Leeds United’s Alan Smith; so you can see the sort of people we are talking about. Tevez was clearly looking to inflame the situation yesterday, and I sincerely hope Terry had the opportunity to say hello to the horrible little creep in the tunnel at the end of the game.
Even more appalling than pretty-boy Tevez was Craig Bellamy, who appeared to call Terry a twat as the pair shook hands before the game, and then gave a disgraceful interview to Sky Sports (who also should be embarrassed by their coverage of the game. The magnificent Martin Tyler commentating on a non-handshake: how the mighty have fallen) in which he criticised the Chelsea man for his off-field behaviour. Erm, excuse me, but is this not the same Craig Bellamy who in the past has:
- Been charged for attacking two women in a nightclub.
- Attacked Liverpool team-mate John Arne Riise with a golf club.
- Been booted out of Newcastle for sending what were described by assistant manager Terry McDermott as ‘vile’ text messages to his captain, Alan Shearer.
- Run thirty yards to assault a Manchester United supporter who had run onto the Old Trafford pitch earlier this season.
I’m sorry, but it seems to me that a lecture from Craig Bellamy to John Terry is akin to a shoplifter receiving a finger-wagging from Fred West.
Finally we have a character by the name of Nigel De Jong, a City midfielder from Holland who has done little to justify his healthy price tag since moving to Eastlands, and who apparently gave an interview to a Dutch reporter after the game in which he stated that everybody at City was behind Bridge because Terry broke a footballer’s code that you don’t have an affair with a team-mate’s wife. All very noble up until that point, but when you read the remainder of his comments, that this only applies to team-mates and that shagging the wife of an opponent is a different matter, you probably get a better idea of the tawdry life and upbringing of this moron. I wonder if the words ‘slimy little scumbag’ are running through your head like they are mine at this very moment.
So as you can see, there are a lot of hypocrites, hand-wringers and half-wits who have had their say on John Terry and Chelsea in the last few days, but one notable exception is Wayne Bridge. Apart from a few tabloid quotes from ‘friends’ and ‘sources close to the City man’ (in other words, fabrications) Bridgey has conducted himself in a dignified and credit worthy manner. So why did I see on Match of the Day, a Chelsea ‘supporter’ sitting in the front row of the West Stand, shouting “f****** prick” at Wayne? Oh, the irony. And, I ask again, why were there boos ringing round the ground whenever he touched the ball.
With the immaculate timing he used to display as a Chelsea player, as I am writing this a good friend of mine, Mickey Thomas, has just called me from Wembley, where he will be commentating on the League Cup Final, to tell me that he has just had an argument with BBC Radio 5 numpty Alan Green for calling the Chelsea supporters on Saturday a disgrace. Mickey told Green that it wasn’t all of us, which is true enough, but it was far too many. And those that did it played right into the hands of the nation’s scumbag press and media.
So please, Chelsea, when City come to the Bridge next season, make Tevez’s ears bleed, make De Jong’s ears bleed, make Bellamy bleed – but when Wayne Bridge sets foot on the pitch, remember this: ‘Follow follow follow, there were only three minutes to go… ‘.