Once again, Chelsea Football Club finds itself embroiled in an avoidable spot of bother, with the club cast once more as public enemy number one by many within the sleazy world of broadcast and written journalism. There can be no denying that Chelsea in the Roman era (and to a slightly lesser extent throughout Ken Bates’ tenure at the helm) have often played into the hands of these organisations, who make a living out of creating stories and controversies from small acorns. They ruin lives in the process, but hey, they’ve got to make a living.
Eden Hazard was wrong to get involved with chubby Charlie Morgan – let’s get that straight from the start. This isn’t to criticise Hazard, his only ‘crime’ was one of stupidity, borne of a desire to get on with the game and try to retrieve what was, let’s face it, a lost cause. The incident where a wealthy footballer tangled with a wealthy chav should not be allowed to detract from the facts of a two-legged football match during which Chelsea failed to score a single goal, and from which the better side prevailed. However, ‘Ballboygate’ remains the main talking point, and the repercussions of this will reverberate for some time yet. Hazard will receive the usual un-natural justice from English football’s self-regulating body, and I suspect the instigator of the entire incident will find that his actions will have repercussions on himself and his family that could have been avoided had he only been taught some good manners, integrity and humility as a part of his ‘considerably richer than you’ upbringing. But more of that later.
What happened twelve minutes from the end at the Liberty Stadium showed very few people in a good light. Hazard should clearly have avoided the confrontation and left the time-wasting issue to be dealt with by the referee. Had the whistler been somebody like Howard Webb or Mike Dean, it is likely that they would have stuck their chests out for the TV cameras and walked slowly towards the chubby cherub before issuing him with a swift ticking off. Hazard, of course, couldn’t leave it to the referee on this occasion, as the referee was Chris Foy. Foy, as we all know, has a long and ever-increasing history with Chelsea Football Club which has left many – it’s possibly fair to say the majority – amongst the Blues’ supporters believing him to have a clear and undeniable anti-Chelsea agenda. Certainly, if he had a history of such behaviour towards Manchester United, he would never be selected on such a regular basis to officiate their games. That, my friends, is a fact. Such a fact, Benitez, that you can have that one on me. At the Liberty Stadium, Chris Foy turned a blind eye to the time-wasting. He left it to a frustrated player to deal with, and then arrogantly waved a red card in his face when he did so. He also stared Hazard down as he sent him off, which is perhaps not what you expect of a referee, but maybe it is admirable when a man makes no effort to conceal his contempt like that. Bravo, Mr Foy.
Of course, Foy is an employee of the FA. He did his part of the job on the night, and before even organising a hearing for the player, the self-regulating (that means they can change and make up their own rules to suit. It’s what FIFA are guilty of and we all cry foul) organisation decided that the punishment he received on the night was ‘clearly insufficient’. Hazard, remember, received a red card for kicking the ball out from under big Charlie. He didn’t, as so many lowlives in the press and on TV have scandalously stated, kick the 17-year-old. He kicked the ball from under him. Given the provocation, even the red card and three-game ban seems harsh, but can be swallowed on the strength of the fact that Hazard shouldn’t have allowed himself to be drawn into the trap. However, anything over and above that punishment will again have supporters of Chelsea and many other clubs questioning once again the integrity of an organisation which has Manchester United’s Chief Executive sitting at its top table. Should the FA revert to type and issue a punishment to a Chelsea player which is without precedent and appears callous and questionable to most observers, surely it is time for the club’s hierarchy to finally stop sitting on their hands and tackle these pompous fools head on? After all, Buck, Gourlay et al are never slow in coming forward when they are making scandalous decisions involving decent (and in the case of our interim manager, not so decent) men, why not now do something that will finally make the FA sit up and take notice?. Ballot the fans on a withdrawal from next season’s FA Cup; consider pulling out of FA initiatives which, let’s face it, are designed purely to show the members of their committee(s) in as good a light as possible, as they go in search of personal honours and gratification. Whatever it takes, Chelsea must do something. Bates would have, now over to you Roman. And if the press feign horror whilst wetting themselves at the prospect of writing up their latest ‘Chelsea Scandal’ story, so what? It’s time to raise a single digit to anyone who doesn’t like us. Chelsea fans showed last season with the Say No CPO campaign, and again this season with our reaction to the new manager, that we don’t and won’t rollover. It’s time the Board learnt from the fans.
For me, one of the saddest aspects of the whole issue has been Swansea City’s refusal to accept responsibility for their part in the time-wasting issue. In fact, one of the saddest aspects is that they have allowed themselves to get drawn into this at all.
I clearly remember the Swansea City side of the early 80s that roared from nowhere into the top flight, and then had the temerity to lead the table briefly. They were a breath of fresh air, but sadly went into freefall very quickly. By 1983, the Swans were on the brink of going bust, and during the 1983/84 season were reduced to asking opposing sides if they would bring forward fixtures at the Vetch Field in order to get cash into their coffers as soon as possible. Chelsea obliged, and the biggest away following in Division Two descended on Swansea to help them survive.
In recent years, Swansea have reignited memories of the golden days under John Toshack, rising through the divisions again to become a viable opponent for any team in the land. Better still, they have done it through a process of very canny, astute recruitment of players and management staff, and by playing a brand of football which might just have earned them the cliched nickname of ‘everybody’s favourite second team’. Sadly, and we as Chelsea supporters are only too aware of this, sudden success can breed arrogance. Michael Laudrup and the Swansea hierarchy lied when they said the time-wasting was not pre-meditated by the club. Of course, they had no idea that big-time Charlie had already announced it to the world, but if they had just said it was normal practice and that on this occasion the miscreant had gone a bit too far, that would surely have been enough. Now, however, they are a little tainted. The same goes for their captain, Ashley Williams, who lied live on TV that he had seen Hazard kick Morgan in the ribs. Williams should have known better, having recently been on the receiving end of Alex Ferguson’s embarrassing ‘he could have killed him’ tirade. Likewise, the Swansea substitute who tried to get himself on TV by making a feeble attempt to get at Hazard as he left the pitch. You were on the bench for a reason, son. Your manager didn’t want you out there, so sit down and shut up.
So where will this go from here. Well, I hope I am wrong but I suspect there will be serious repercussions for the main instigators. The FA will surely have a bit of fun at Eden Hazard and Chelsea’s expense, we know that and so do they. They’ve already declared it. Chris Foy will continue to referee Chelsea games and will not, I suspect, be challenged over his conduct other than by the chants of ‘We’ve seen it before’ from the Blues Massive. But we’ll get over that. What worries me more is the effect it will have on Charlie Morgan and his family. With one moment of pre-conceived stupidity and cockiness, Charlie has probably caused his family more grief than he could ever have imagined. You can bet the insurance premiums on their hotel will be shooting through the roof. Let’s hope that’s punishment enough.