I don’t know about you, but a little part of me died when Sheva missed that sitter between the posts against Blackburn. Like a father watching his son playing in a school game, there was a realisation that said in no uncertain terms, ‘well, I don’t think we can rely on him to provide our retirement.’ Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble here, and I still believe he’s a great player with a wealth of experience that would benefit any club. But I think it’s time we faced the cold hard truth of it: Sheva’s not the player he was, and much as I love his style, his uncomplaining air, and his reluctance to use the gamesmanship so common in the game, I fear the truth is he’s on the decline.
A friend once told me that the moment a player hits thirty you can take a third off his value. Bam! Just like that. I thought that was a little harsh, particularly if your birthday is during the season and you score a hat-trick on that day, but he was adamant. And the reason is simple: once you’ve left that bracket of the twenties, managers don’t believe you’ll give 100% any more: subconsciously you’ve got more on your mind than just football.
Injuries take longer to shake off, fitness levels take longer to reach, and let’s not forget players aren’t trying to forge their careers anymore. At 30 the career is achieved and it’s time to enjoy the ride.
Okay, there are many counter-examples and if you’re anything like my brother, I’m sure you’ll say “what about Scholes?” But Scholes has played at the same team for some time now and has familiar territory to bolster him. Also he doesn’t play internationals, thereby easing some of the burden on his body. Sheringham? Well, he pops up to score the occasional goal, but really he’s long gone. And besides, I’m talking in generalisations here, so counter-examples are redundant.
Like I say, I don’t want to burst bubbles, but likewise I don’t like pandering to naivety. Let’s be honest with ourselves. There’s a line in lake placid where Oliver Platt says to the local sheriff: “Sometimes when friends of the family say things, they tend not to sink in. So maybe it would help to hear it from a complete stranger. You’re fat.”
Now I like Sheva, I know we can afford him, and I’m not losing any sleep over this. So let’s just consider that paragraph a temptation of fate, so that he can go out, score a hat trick and make me eat my words. Raw. (or rare, at least, after that Blackburn miss)
Last weekend saw two identical headlines on two different days. On the Sunday the words were ‘Blown it?’ over a picture of Carrick. The following day, the headline read ‘Blown it?’ over a photo of Drogalog. If this tells us anything it’s that there’s an awful lot of football left in this season and that predictions over who’s won and who’s “blown it” are still futile. It’ll go to the wire.
More importantly (and I think we should put an order of importance on the different trophies, namely: CL, P, FAC) we’ve a Champions League tie to worry about. There was a time when the fans of other teams, and even the independents, were saying that the Chelsea take-over spelt doom for football. “DOOM! (they said) it’s buying the league! It’s cheapening the game! It’s unsportsmanlike!”
Words of piety that betrayed a jealous undertone. Words claiming to reflect a yearning for the good old days of sports where a man would perform a job for the love of the game. (the same words that condemned the professionalisation of rugby only to cheer on the subsequent, well-paid, world champions.) Words from people who deigned to offer an opinion on how much others should earn, while doubtless pushing for a bigger salary themselves. Words bemoaning the betrayal of the clubs’ histories.
To look at the Premiership, and rival leagues the world over, Chelsea had the good fortune to be one of the first of a new breed, and consequently received the jeers (swiftly followed by the mimicry) that pioneers so often get. Yet, somehow, in amongst all this upheaval, history is being carved: Chelsea vs. Liverpool is becoming something of a clash of the Titans.
And I don’t mean Chelsea vs. Liverpool over the ages. I mean, Jose’s Chelsea vs. Rafa’s Liverpool. I mean Lampard vs. Gerrard; Terry vs. Alonso; Crouch vs. Gravity.
My girlfriend supports Liverpool. This isn’t about titles; this isn’t about money; this is about writing history.
What we do in life, echoes in eternity.
Or better still…
Pain heals; chicks dig scars; and glory lasts forever.