Uh-oh. 3-0. That’s not good. That’s not good for three reasons, and not necessarily the three reasons you might assume. Firstly that’s not good because it was the first night I wore my new ‘lucky’ Chelsea away shirt. It was a Christmas present, butter yellow, and I’d every intention for it to become required 2009 matchday attire. In the past I’ve had lucky jeans, which had to be discarded after a season eating chicken pies, and lucky red pants, which time turned to a cloud of pink pollen beneath a fraying elastic waistband. 3-0 is an inauspicious start for a lucky, margarine Chelsea shirt.
Secondly, 3-0 gives much needed impetus to Man U’s previously flagging Premiership campaign. It means they can get all cocky-bollocks and start winding up referees, managers and newspapers all over again. Which is annoying. Increasingly I’m of the opinion that Alex Ferguson is like a spoilt child who in spite of everything only craves attention. You can get cross with the child, but whose fault is it really? If we keep giving him Premiership titles, Champions League titles and World Club Foot then we’re only encouraging him. The only way you can honestly resolve this issue is by ignoring the tantrums and making sure he gets to bed early. Most of the time he’s just overtired.
Thirdly, and probably most distressingly, 3-0 is not good because frankly it was a fair reflection of the match. At a time when all the pressure should have been on the opposition, where they had to catch up the top teams, where they had the excuses of excessive schedules already primed, Chelsea singularly failed to grasp the significance of the match and put in a lacklustre performance. Three reasons why 3-0 is not good. But let’s look at the positives:
And I think that goes to show what the problem is. Chelsea lost not because of some poor refereeing, some offside goal or some injury list. We lost because we didn’t create any chances, because we can’t defend set pieces and because we stop playing about a minute before the whistle goes. In a word, diabolical. In a Scottish accent, dyerboarlickle.
So what to do? Well I could throw out my lucky, I can’t believe it’s not butter Chelsea shirt and look for a complete wardrobe reshuffle, it is January after all, and the sales window is open. New striker? sturdier defence? Where to look? But no, this would be a counterproductive overreaction. To look for players now is to admit defeat at the first hurdle, and all that sends out is an inviting message of frailty.
If Hollywood sports movies have taught us nothing else, and they haven’t, it’s that you can only win after having stared despair dead in the face. Was Daniel Larusso’s crane kick so awesome because it won the tournament, or because it overcame overwhelming Cobra Kai adversity? was Happy Gilmour’s miracle putt inspirational because it won the match, or because got his granny out of the sweatshop?
Once upon a time I put this theory into practice. I happened to be paying some basketball, shooting hoops with my brethren, in the parlance of our times, and had it in my mind that I was destined to nail a three pointer at some stage in the match. At this point it’s worth mentioning that the closest I’ve ever actually come to playing basketball was Double Dribble on the NES, so my ability to ‘nail’ three pointers was, and I expect still is, non-existent. This didn’t stop me trying at every opportunity though, and at every opportunity I missed. And I missed badly. On one occasion I think I landed a shot in a different time zone, no joke. So anyway, the final seconds tick away and my team is two points behind. I collect a long pass, dummy my marker, and realise, just as the shot is leaving my grip that, with the claxon sounding, I’d conjured up my very own Disney finish. Without all the practice shots I’d never have a hope of sinking a three pointer, but now, well… it was destiny. I missed, obviously. I hadn’t got anywhere near the basket all game, so clearly, I was going to miss. But that’s not the point. I forget what is.
Anyway, here we are. Me with my lucky, utterly butterly Chelsea shirt, Chelsea stuck in a rut, lacking in confidence and all of us looking for answers. Well I’ll tell you what, we’re all Chelsea fans and that means we all remember what it’s like to get schooled on the football pitch. But we also know that this is a league we’re dealing with, and in a league a single result is a drop in the ocean. It’s time we, fans, players, management, everyone pulled up our collective socks and got on with the job of lifting confidence, notching up hard graft 1-0 wins and getting this season back on track. Let’s not forget, there’s a lot of football yet to come.