I think I pretty much speak for all of us when I say yesterday was spent predominantly hung over, poring over endless newspaper articles and rewatching the highlights online. Then some of us were lucky enough to pop down to the Kings Road, realise that bringing a baby to a parade was a bad idea, and pop home to watch it on telly.
I believe it’s what is known as wallowing in glory, and I think, in spite of everything, it’s merited. And I mean that on a personal level – this victory was not just one by the players, the management and the backroom staff. This was your victory, and my victory. Yup, I wore my lucky blue pants. My bro didn’t wear his lucky Chelsea shirt, because he wore that when we played United and its luck was clearly spent. A little 9 year old I know supported Bayern, not because he wanted to, but as a favour to me, because we knew that every team he’d supported so far had been beaten by Chelsea. These are the personal efforts across the globe that go to making victory possible. And if you believe in such claptrap as destiny, then you have to lend as much credence to superstition.
I can only assume this was the logic applied by the small group of drunks at the end of the bar who got themselves trapped in an overly loud Chelsea Chelsea CHELSEA chant loop for about two hours. It appeared that in spite of their advancing years, they believed with complete sincerity that Chelsea would lose if they for one moment stopped. Of course it didn’t help that our players did extremely little to distract them, but, that’s not the point. The point is, they didn’t stop, and Chelsea didn’t lose. So they were right. In that respect, it’s their victory too. It’s all our victory. We put in the time. We put in the karma, back in Moscow, against Barcelona at the Bridge. We may not be the prettiest team in Europe, we may just about be the sixth best team in England, and we certainly weren’t the better team in Munich over 90 minutes. But for once on a European night, we got the rub of the green, and as the engraving testifies, sometimes that’s all you need.
It could all have been so different: The script could have read Bayern win their group, crush Basel 7-0, cruise past Marseille, then, incentivised by the prospect of a home final, they defeat Jose’s Real Madrid on penalties. Eventually, a well-established squad, featuring eight German players, dominates possession in the final, creates solid chances, keeps the opposition subdued and scores in the 83 minute to win a thoroughly deserved title.
It could have read that way, but for one tiny detail: a behemoth header in the 88th minute, off the first, and only, corner conceded by the home side.
So instead the script reads like an American soap opera. Chelsea are 3-1 down on aggregate to Napoli, have their manager sacked and look spent. They come back with a right old ding dong performance to win 4-1 after extra time at the Bridge. But who cares? We won’t beat Barcelona. We dispatch Benfica with the efficiency of players who are becoming increasingly aware that this is almost certainly their last shot at the big title. Still, who cares? We won’t beat Barcelona. Then we beat Barcelona. Who cares? We won’t keep the lead at the Nou Camp, Messi’s just scored 5 in a game. And the naysayers are proved right. Terry is sent off, we’re 2-0 down. We won’t beat Barcelona. Except nobody told Ramires, and Ramires suddenly pulls out the best goal of the campaign, taken with an exquisite coolness and touch and putting Chelsea ahead on away goals. Now they have to score. They have to score. And in spite of a penalty, a post, a crossbar and a numerical advantage, they don’t score; they concede. So Barcelona are overcome, but at what cost? No defence, no Ramires, we’d have to rely on Luiz and Bosingwa in the final, a final to be played in Munich against Munich. It had been a valiant effort, but it was destined to remain just that: an effort. And so it seemed in the 83rd minute, when finally the onslaught of mishit Bayern shots contained one mishit header that was so mishit it baffled Cech into letting it bounce over his head. 7 minutes to go, in Munich, 1-0 down. Game over. But soap operas wouldn’t be soap operas without twists in the tail. And the introduction of Torres’s pace brought a corner that Didi met with 34 years of precision, patience and power. Boom! Did somebody say Game Over? Game On Baby!
Of course, all bumper final episodes of soap operas need more than one twist, so we obviously saw a needless penalty given seconds after a similar shout was turned away against Torres, followed by the necessary cliché of going behind in a shoot out only to turn it around at the last chance.
The final touch, the real coup de gras, was that it was Didi who stepped up for the decisive kick. Only a man with an ego honed by a decade of national idolatry, only a man who has felt the weight of a continent on his shoulders can step up to that one chance with nerves unfrayed. We’d seen Messi miss, we’d seen Ronaldo miss, we’d seen Robben miss and Schweinsteiger miss. They’d all missed. Drogba, well, we know what Drogba did.
A couple of asides: the debate over giving Dimat the job. Why the fuss? His reward isn’t a contract, it’s knowing he’s won the Champions League. That’s better than any contract. Similarly Drogba doesn’t need a contract extension, he needs a statue erected to him at the Bridge. Or at the Power Station, as it may be. Personally I think the answer lies in becoming pioneers in a new form of team rotation, wherein we have two managers: Give Dimat and the old boys the knock-out tournaments and hire someone else to set up a next generation Chelsea in the Premiership. Think about it, the old boys would be happy, and fit, and the youngsters would get a decent shot at establishing themselves without creating friction. Win win. Right? Exactly, so we can all shut up about that now.
Lastly, can I just say that Richard Hammond has no business presenting wildlife programmes? David Attenborough studied natural sciences at Cambridge, pioneered the development of natural history broadcasting and researched and wrote all his own series. Richard Hammond couldn’t write ‘Bum’ on a wall, let alone read it off an autocue.