And so it is time once more for the Worthless Cup. In its many guises over the years, from Milk to Coca Cola to Littlewoods to trifle (made that last one up by the way), it has gradually become a competition of little value to many Premiership clubs. Although Ranieri’s team selection tonight did not suggest that he was disinterested in this particular cup, it did highlight that it was not a priority for the club.
Meeting Gillingham in cup competitions has almost become a regular feature of late. The last time at home — the 5-0 thrashing in 2000 — shows how the changes have been rung since then. Not just at the top level; of the team starting that game, only five are still with the club.
Why do I provide you with all of this useful information? I hear you ask. The answer is simple. This was a bloody pig-awful game to have to endure. Luckily for us, we came up against a team that clearly does not know the meaning of the word average. Had it not been for the return of Carlton Cole, anything might have happened in this match. I suppose, in truth, that the victory has always got to be more important in a cup competition than the performance. That is probably the only thing that made me last all the way through this without falling into a very deep coma.
So to the game. We did not have lots of what you could call chances. As was the case against Rottenham, we tried to hard at times to walk the ball into the net rather than just blast the it at what looked like quite an iffy keeper. The times we did get around the back, the final ball was either poor or just non-existent. Cole though, making his first start of the season, was different.
He was clearly intent on making up for all those weeks spent on the treatment table. He looked strong, committed, skilful, and full of intent. His first goal was superbly created by William Gallas, who ran the ball out from defence before knocking a ball in behind the opposition defenders for Cole to run on to. Cole still had plenty to do, facing the out-rushing goalkeeper. However, he coolly dummied the goalie into going one way before taking the ball the other and poking it into the empty net.
Any chance that this would open the floodgates was to be blown out of the water. We did have lots of efforts — Zola with a stinging shot that the keeper failed to hold, Soxy with a couple of shots that went well wide and a Zola free-kick that was almost touched in by Lampard, who, incidentally, had about as poor a game as you could get away with without being dismissed for gross misconduct after the game.
The second half was little better, with their ’keeper hardly being called upon to make a save. The game was wrapped up seven minutes after the break when a delicious cross by Jody was powerfully headed in by Cole. He had the chance to complete his hat-trick when he jumped to head a cross from the other side of the pitch, but sadly this time the ball finished well wide. Gillingham knocked a goal in at the death from what was almost their only chance of the night.
Was that it? No. Winston Bogarde came on in the seventieth minute for his first game in nearly two years and received a chorus of boos. Why? It has been said before and I will repeat it again — what sort of moron boos their own player? Okay, the facts are that this guy is on £40,000 a week. Okay, he never gets to play. Okay, he has said he will stay and see his contract out. So bloody what?
The club are the ones who gave him the contract and the club are the ones refusing to play him. He may be the crappiest footballer ever to pull on a blue shirt — although I doubt it — but why boo him? What exactly does it achieve? I bet he will be crying into his beer — or vintage champagne — tonight, not.
This should not be too much to ask, but it is clearly difficult for some people to comprehend. If you truly support Chelsea Football Club, then show it by supporting the players who are lucky enough to wear the shirt. If that simple task is beyond you, then why not just stay at home and stick your head in the bucket of sand that you must always be carrying around with you.
Chelsea line-up: Cudicini — Babayaro, Gallas, Terry, Ferrer — Le Saux (Oliveira, 62), Morris, Lampard, de Lucas (Bogarde, 70) — Zola, Cole (Gronkjaer, 64)
Unused subs: Pidgeley, Petit