Damn you, Chelsea. Damn you to hell. Why couldn’t you just have the good grace to do what everyone was expecting you to do – collapse – and save me any more emotional investment in this season?It was all going to be so sweet. I had my faintly superior, dismissive persona all buffed and ready for the pub (“Well, if you want a return to a two-club hegemony in the Premiership, congratulations… you’ve got it back. Does it make you feel all warm and comfortable inside?”). I was looking forward to months of sneering at Arsene Wenger’s studied disinterest, which disintegrates so swiftly into excitable gesturing and fourth official-haranguing. I had all the usual Ferguson jibes – the Rudolph hooter; the simian leap from the bench as Rooney shoots wide – honed and polished.
And now Avram Grant has won 7 in a row and we’re only 3 points off the pace. We’ve scored 21 in those 7. Frank Lampard’s form is making a mockery of Steve McLaren’s decision to go with Gareth Barry for Russia. Shaun Wright-Phillips is fizzing and firing and occasionally even in the squad. Andriy Shevchenko scored as fine a strike against Leicester – alright, alright, we’re aware that it was Leicester – as I’ve seen since Spurs in the Cup. I’ve been forced to re-engage. I’m back on message.
Why have we responded with such vigour? I thought Asterix’s Gauls had the patent on indomitable… er… ness, but such has been Chelsea’s fighting spirit that it’s almost inspired me to casual racism. I came within a whisker of describing a squad propelled by a Ghanaian, an Ivorian, a Portuguese and a couple of English lads as “bulldog”. I won’t bore everyone to tears with another paean of praise for wantaway Drogba and his self-disgust – after all, against Wigan he was powerful but not quite as effective as you’d expect – but he has shown a sense of responsibility and leadership in recent weeks… something we never thought to see in those early weeks of the 2004 season, as he meandered offside and fell over. Week in, week out.
So thanks, Chelsea. Thanks a lot. I could have had another 7 months of carelessly crafted disdain for football and all its works. I could have got really, really worked up about the pointlessness of those self-trumpeting articles that players see fit to subject us to in the national press (are you listening, Steven Gerrard? Does the world REALLY need another “Gerrard tips Kuyt to be a star” or “Gerrard tips Carragher to be a centre-back” or “Gerrard tips himself to be a top tipper of tap artists”? And on, and on, and bloody on until my ears are bleeding and everyone not from Merseyside or the fourth estate has actually made plans to storm Anfield and the Sky TV office in the vain hope that together, somehow, we can make this tremendously boring man, and all those who sail in him, shut the Jesus Mary Donkey Hell up).
Yeah. I coulda been angry. I coulda been a contender. Instead of a fan. Which, it seems, is what I am.