Jingle bells jingle bells jingle all the way … oh what fun it is to sing when Chelsea win away hey.
If only eh?
Tis the season to be jolly tra la la la la la la la la. Yeah! Fair enough … after all we are top of the league and, as we like to remind ourselves having a laugh. Mind you what are we laughing at? The misfortunes of others of course, and let’s face it we have to because if we didn’t we would surely cry tears as big as December cabbages at our own.
Let’s take a light-hearted look at the others first …
Starting with Liverpool.
For many years now the supporters of Liverpool Football Club have taken delight in pouring scorn on our beloved Chelsea. ‘F*ck off Chelsea FC you aint got no history’, is the opening line of their grammatically incorrect ditty. Yeah, but ‘we’re making history not reliving it’, we tell them … diplomatically of course. ‘We’ve won it five times’, they counter, and with rapier-like wit we ask them the simple question, ‘Have you ever seen Gerrard win the league?’ In the vernacular, this form of rhetorical question is most often seen as rhetorical affirmation, where the certainty or obviousness of the answer to a question is expressed by asking another, often humorous, question for which the answer is equally obvious; popular examples include Is the sky blue? Is the Pope Catholic? and Does a bear shit in the woods? In the case of the question ‘Have you ever seen Gerrard win the league?’ the answer is an emphatic, No! Though the Matthew Harding massive word it slightly differently. We are now a tenth of the way into the 21st Century and Liverpool’s history is in danger of becoming ancient history. No doubt in years to come it will form part of the school curriculum. ‘Today children we will be learning about how the Egyptians built the pyramids, about the first moon landing and, for those of you interested in association football, how Liverpool FC won it five times.’ In Rafa we trust … ho ho ho.
Next up Manchester United.
Whilst Liverpool are hamstrung by a woefully inept manager in Rafael Benitez, United have Sir Alex Ferguson, arguably the greatest manager that ever lived. Fabulous Fergie has won it all and in some style … but boy is he a bad loser. Without the talismanic Cristiano Ronaldo, sold to Real Madrid for a kings ransom, United are like Samson shorn of his locks. When Rooney misfires, they stutter like Gareth Gates on amphetamines, too reliant on the geriatric wing-wizardry of Ryan Giggs and of course Fergie-time … ‘The fourth official has indicated he will add as much time as is necessary for United to score a winner.’
Walking out of Stamford Bridge, disconsolate and frustrated after the 3-3 draw with Everton I, like many others, fully expected United to have reeled Chelsea in by evensong that day … who would’ve thought Villa could win at Old Trafford? What we didn’t know then was that an increasingly ‘injury ravaged’ Red Devils defence was about to develop more holes in it than a large slice of Swiss cheese. Fulham 3 – Manchester United 0 was the pick of last weekends ‘shock results’ topping Avram Grant and Pompey beating Liverpool. I don’t know what made me laugh louder, the result or affable Fools manager Roy Hodgson suggesting that the Cottagers born-again striker Bobby Zamora could soon be knocking on the door of and England place. Imagine waking up to the headline, ‘Zamora hat-trick wins World Cup for England’ … glorious unpredictability on a hallucinogenic scale. With Lenny Peters and Stevie Wonder rumoured to be lining up in United’s back four over the festive period, I’m sure we’ll be having a few more giggles at Fergies expense whilst the snow lays round about, deep and crisp and even.
Then of course there’s Arsenal.
Another team whose followers mask current on-field inadequacies by referring anyone who cares to listen, or indeed has no choice in the matter, to their own esteemed heritage. Those of us fortunate enough to be within the unhallowed confines of the Emirates at Ashburton Grove, or Cashburning Grave as I prefer to call it, on November 29th were treated to the usual pre-match ditty of ‘sh*t club no history’. As the rain poured down and the goals went in, I looked around the rapidly emptying stadium, at the hoardings that circumvent the ground … you know the ones I mean right? Depicted on them are all ‘the’ Arsenal’s trophies with the years they were won writ large underneath. The last of these was the FA Cup in 2005 … since then nothing. ‘Five years (well almost) and you’ve won f*ck all’. Back in the day when I was serving my True Blue apprenticeship on the Shed Terrace a victory away at Arsenal was as rare as an Essex virgin … how times have changed. Like many football supporters up and down the land I have long since stopped quaking in my boots, fearful of what might lie ahead when Wenger’s kids fulfil their true potential … we’re still waiting … and waiting … and waiting.
I could go on.
Tottenham Hotspur under the guidance of Harry Redknapp have delusional aspirations of breaking into the top four. Having beaten Wigan Athletic 9-1 at the Lane you can imagine the mood their supporters would have been in for the next home game against relegation haunted Wolves. A Lilywhite pal of mine told me the most popular bet being placed with bookies at the ground that day was Defoe to score first. There’s no such thing as a poor bookmaker … well not in N17. Final score. Tottenham Hotspur 0 – Wolves 1. No, honestly, you couldn’t make it up.
And so the famous CFC.
‘Carefree wherever we maybe’ … too carefree if you ask me. Since that sensational 3-0 victory at the Emirates, Chelsea’s form has dipped alarmingly. Thus far in December, the Blues playing record in all competitions reads played 6, won 1, drawn 3 and lost 2. We may ridicule Manchester United’s defensive frailties … ho ho ho … go on treat yourself it is funny after-all … but if you analyse Chelsea’s results across the season to date you will note that the Blues have conceded more goals in December than in all the preceding months put together!
There are lies, dammed lies and statistics, but as any keen student of the Blues will tell you the portents don’t look good. Fergie has a tailor made excuse for United’s shabby defensive performances … injuries … whilst in SW6 there are doom-mongers who will tell you they’ve seen it all before … last year in fact. I was truly appalled by the booing from sections of our home support following the 3-3 draw with Everton, it reminded me of the season of goodwill last year when things started to go slightly pear-shaped for former World Cup Winning manager Big Phil Scolari … remember him?
There’s nothing like a spot of déjà vu to focus the mind and brittle the bones, especially where Chelsea are concerned. After the Everton match Cech and manager Carlo Ancelotti gave the same explantion for the set-piece goals. We defended too deep. Cech wasn’t allowed space. It was a collective mistake. From where we were sat, high up on the Gate 17 gantry, it appeared to be more a case of the defenders having lost faith in the keeper’s ability to come and to dominate. They retreated and made mistakes. It’s a recurring problem caused by a recurring problem, Chelsea fail to cope with corners, free-kicks and long throws. ‘We thought the problem with the set-plays was resolved after Aston Villa,’ Ancelotti said in reference to the defeat at Villa Park in October when both goals came from corners. ‘We have to return to work. Sometimes when you have confidence you lose some attention and opponents take advantage’.
‘Top of the league we’re having a laugh.’
‘Petr Cech reminds me more and more of Dracula these days,’ quipped Uncle Tom Broderick as the ref blew for time to conclude the Everton debacle. ‘He was afraid of crosses as well wasn’t he.’ John Terry’s ruddy face looked like a smacked arse as he stormed off the pitch. His programme notes stated: ‘Requirement today: a win. The result is paramount’. With the exception of the scrappy 2-1 win over bottom of the league Pompey, it would appear that JT’s words are falling on deaf ears on the training ground, in the changing room and on the pitch. One win in six in December, there’s nothing unusual in that in recent times for Chelsea Football Club who clearly dislike like this time of year. This time last season Big Phil guided the Blues to the following sequence of results DDWDDL and we all know what happened to him.
I remember walking out of the Emirates after that emphatic 3-0 win over the Gunners saying to Uncle Tom that ‘the title was ours to lose’. Those words have yet to come back to haunt me … but God only knows how. It’s been another eventful year in the colourful history of Chelsea Football Club and, despite the recent malaise, we remain top of the league and having a laugh. I’m sure Carlo will have the lads out on the practice pitches at Cobham on Christmas Day morning practicing how to defend set-pieces … so there will be absolutely nothing to worry about when we play Birmingham City on Boxing Day.
In Carlo we trust (and, failing that, there’s always Ray Wilkins).
You know that!
Merry Christmas and a Happy Blue Year.
Mark Worrall is the author of cult terrace classics ‘Over Land and Sea’, ‘Blue Murder … Chelsea till I die’ and ‘One Man Went to Mow’ and the co-author of ‘Chelsea Here Chelsea There’. Copies are available to buy with a discount of up to 60% and free postage within the UK at www.overlandandsea.net