As the final whistle sounded at Old Trafford on Tuesday night, I was left conflicted. Torn between immense pride at the sight of 3,000 + loyal Chelsea supporters standing and singing in unison behind their fallen side and seething rage at the few in the stands who had decided it appropriate to leave the game before the 90 minutes was up.
The vitriol took over naturally and by the time my coach rolled into Victoria in the early hours of Wednesday morning I was consumed by anger at the actions of the few. The Blues fans I had made the journey with, including several that had traveled from Sweden to show their loyalty at the game were equally as disgusted.
Yet I awoke the next morning numbed by the sting of another ignominious elimination from the Champions League and the realisation that I had witnessed this current Chelsea side’s death rattle, their final bow, going through the motions like jaded actors as the final curtain comes down.
So perhaps I was deflecting? Perhaps the malice directed at the supporters jumping ship in the final moments should have been better attributed to the benign performances of the supporting cast in the Chelsea team?
Florent Malouda’s regression has been a slow and painful experience, watching each week as his effectiveness diminishes, the exhaustion and frustration etched upon his face as much of a give away as the body language detailing a man who already looks resigned to leaving come May. A return of one goal in thirteen matches tells its own sorry tale.
The cruelest twist has come in the disintegration of former leading man Michael Essien. Since his return from serious injury and suspension, the Ghanaian has lost his physical edge, no longer dictating the pace of the game with arrogance and surety, his labored approach has seen Chelsea’s own stature in games falter and confidence drop. The Bison has become a passenger in a side where worthy replacements are lining up to step into the limelight.
Jose Bosingwa shares a similar fate, no direction, tactical discipline or physical presence, he bares the look of a broken man and his time at Stamford Bridge is surely up.
In contrast, there was one man who stood up in the face of all the mediocrity on display and put in a performance of merit, desire and class: Didier Drogba. Despite the contempt directed at him by the departing few and the way he has been mistreated and disrespected by the management, Drogba was his usual bullish, determined, dramatic, unstoppable self. A well taken goal fully deserved, only for it to be painfully made redundant almost immediately due to the lack of fortitude from the cast around him.
What a shame he was only given 45 minutes in which to drag the game in Chelsea’s direction. There are few like him in the modern game and we will not see his like again. I for one hope that he is rewarded for his endeavor and remains in SW6 beyond the re-casting, though it is still to be seen who will return for Chelsea next season after the final credits have rolled.
We can only watch and wait, a loyal and captive audience, well, for the most part.