Monday 19 November
Mark Clattenburg will not officiate next weekend as the FA appointed QC seems to be taking his time to establish the ref’s innocence. Appointed with the brief to find Chelsea guilty, perhaps the silk in question has come up against something as dastardly as evidence.
The first team are in Turin – it is all right for some – training ahead of Tuesday’s game.
Tuesday 20 November
Juventus 3:0 Chelsea
This was truly pathetic. So shaming that Roy Keane was making excuses for Chelsea after the match. The truth was that, yes, Juventus are a good side but by the end they were toying with a thoroughly inept Chelsea.
Roberto took a huge gamble at the start of playing without a striker. Given that the squad we assembled over the summer only included two recognised strikers and one of them, Daniel Sturridge, has a hamstring problem this was always going to have to happen sooner or later – choosing to start the experiment in Turin was daring.
We didn’t start too badly by which we mean they walked through our ‘defence’ at will but we managed to hit them on the break. Oscar drove through the middle of their panicking backline to feed Hazard but the Belgian took a touch too many and his chance was smothered.
It was to be Chelsea’s sole chance to score.
Juventus kept plugging forwards and with two holding midfielders absent elsewhere Pirlo had a fine shot deflected past Cech on the stretch. 1-0.
They hadn’t done much to test the Chelsea ’keeper up to that point but we never looked capable of getting back into the match.
Their second also came from a deflection this time the unmarked man was Vidal and the deflection came off Ramires who should have been on the edge of the box closing down the shooter. 2-0.
Their third was in injury time but came as a rush of blood to the head from Petr Cech. Giovinco broke but Ashley Cole was racing back to try to tackle. Suddenly Cech appears in no man’s land and the ball is under him and into the net. 3-0.
By this time we’d thrown on Torres and Victor Moses but there was no more penetration.
This result mean that Juve and Shakhtar need only a draw to both go through while the only way we can qualify is a Shakhtar win. Given Juventus’ previous in match fixing and the Ukrainians are already through anything other than a draw would be a truly astonishing result.
Wednesday 21 November
Chelsea sacked Roberto Di Matteo. Rumours and whispers began to fly last night after the game but it also seems that the board were asking questions of possible replacements as early as last week.
We have to say that even to us this seems a little harsh and a little ungrateful [remember this column called for the sacking of Clodio Ranieri, Avram Grant, Big Phil Scolari, Carlo Ancelotti and AVB months before they were actually sacked in the case of Ranieri and Grant before a ball had been kicked]. Everybody and his dog knew that Robbie was just filling in until Pep Guardiola was ready to say yes. Everybody also knew that this is a team being rebuilt; Robbie won the European Cup and the FA Cup with the old squad and was four points clear before Mark Clattenburg cheated us out of a result. The mini-slump that followed is disappointing but just the kind of sequence you’d expect of a team that is being remodelled.
There was no ground swell of opinion on the forums, no banners calling for him to go. We are still third in the table and just about still in Europe.
Roberto bowed out with dignity when he said: “I am extremely proud of the successes and trophies that we were able to bring to the club … I have a deep and unreserved passion for Chelsea Football Club.”
We wish him all the best wherever he turns up next and he will always be welcome back.
Late news confirmed the ugly rumours doing the rounds in the afternoon: Rafael Benitez will be Chelsea’s interim manager until the end of the season.
This smacks of wrong man, in the wrong job, at the wrong time. The trouble is, while Liverpool fans crop up blubbering about what a top manager he is, Benitez oversaw a massive slump at Liverpool instead of rebuilding the squad he oversaw the collection of about thirty expensive spare parts none of which fitted.
Obviously he is here to ‘get the best’ from Fernando Torres but given Torres’ form at Liverpool in the season before Benitez left you have to doubt if he can even do that. Liverpool had one, very lucky, European Cup under Benitez and one good season when they might have won the league. His last job was an utter disaster at Internazionale.
It is tempting to call for his dismissal before a ball has even been kicked but he is only here as a caretaker.
Meanwhile in news from the Spanish Main: Ken Bates sold Leeds United to a bunch of pirates operating out of the middle east called GBH Capit… sorry, a respected investment firm called GFH Capital. The group was recently forced to sell assets to cover cash flow shortages but then Ken could always pick a winner.
Thursday 22 November
Mark Clattenburg has been completely cleared by the FA – some surprise there – he was found to be so clean he might have been freshly coated in a low cost mixture of lime and chalk.
All of his assistants agreed that he had not called Mikel a monkey. As we all know referees and policemen are the only members of society that never collude to tell the same story.
The FA has been run as an old boys’ club for such a long time it is difficult to take anything they say as seriously. John Terry was guilty of racism because they wanted him to be, so Clattenburg is innocent because they don’t want him to be. The level of proof is strikingly similar.
Clattenburg’s colleagues called for Chelsea to pay compensation and be forced to apologise; again demonstrating their complete impartiality towards our club. Expect our next penalty to come some time next millennium.
Mike Riley, head of PGMOL, the referee’s body, conformed that Clattenburg will be considered to referee Chelsea games again this season. Good luck with that.
Given how really innocent Mr Clattenburg clearly is we will have to refrain from any chants of: “the referee’s a racist” or indeed “Who’s the bastard who hates blacks”.
With impeccable timing Chelsea unveiled Rafael Benitez as caretaker boss and allowed him enough rope – he was reminded that he had once accused us of lacking passion and needing plastic flags to wave and that he had said he would never take the Chelsea job out of respect for Liverpool fans it was not clear if he was attacking us or labelling himself a hypocrite. Perhaps he was just showing his disrespect for fans of Liverpool?
The sooner he goes the better. Whatever he manages to achieve here the credit will go to Roberto Di Matteo any failings will be his own.
He has brought a few new coaches: Boudewijn Zenden returns alongside Paco De Miguel and Xavi Valero as adjuncts to the existing staff. Eddy Newton stays for now as does Steve Holland but rumour has them stepping down to the U21 squad.
In more positive news – Connor Clifford, Patrick Bamford and Todd Kane have all secured loan moves that should see them playing first-team football until the new year: Connor with Crawley Town, Todd at Preston North End and Patrick at Milton Keynes. We expect great things from all three as among our brightest and best and will watch out for their results.
Friday 23 November
With impeccable timing QPR decided to sack Mark Hughes last night: just as you feared that a heady mix of Clattenburg and Benitez would dominate the papers we suddenly have Harry Redknapp and his hoop dreams.
But Benitez’s stumbling goes on he dropped a heavy hint that he thinks Lampard and Ashley Cole will move on at the end of the season and that his thinking is so short term he cannot help them negotiate extensions from their current deals.
Meanwhile, at Old Trafford Manchester United unveiled a statue of some bloke outside the ground. The nine-foot bronze statue is of a generic man. The sculptor apparently told them it was supposed to be Alex Ferguson but he appears to have passed them off with a statue of Action Man in a coat.
Saturday 24 November
Middlesbrough U18 0:1 Chelsea U18
Another win, of course, with John Swift scoring with a header but four players out through injury is a worry with the FA Youth Cup starting next week.
Dion Conroy had to be taken to hospital after being knocked out cold at a corner. He’ll live. Jeremie Boga and Ambrose Gnahore had hamstring problems and Alex Kiwomya limped away with an ankle knock. Crappy weather as well.
Conor Clifford made his debut for Crawley as they slumped to defeat at Crewe Alexandria and Todd Kane’s Preston North End lost away at Orient – welcome, to the glamorous world of football. Patrick Bamford had more fun setting up a couple as Milton Keynes thrashed hapless Colchester to go second.
Sunday 25 November
Chelsea 0:0 Manchester City
Dave Sexton passed away over night. Dave was manager of Chelsea when we won the FA Cup in 1970 and the Cup Winners’ Cup in ’71. There were few people so widely respected in the game and among fans, the minute’s applause before this match was warm and sincere.
Which makes the greeting afforded Rafael Benitez all the more cutting. Benitez was roundly booed and told were to go by the majority in blue.
The first-half gave ample proof that the Spaniard is not up to the job, as the whole forward line looked to their defensive duties and there wasn’t anyone in attack.
Manchester City should have beaten us easily as even with an emphasis on defence we allowed a string of free headers and could have been sunk by half-time.
The minute’s applause for Roberto Di Matteo in the 16th minute was also warmly taken up as the fans showed their thanks and appreciation for everything the Italian achieved.
The match was forgettable. Torres was awful – static and wasteful – depressing really when you consider that Benitez’s tactical ability begins and ends with lumping the ball to Torres as quickly as possible.
Benitez said afterward that he had not heard the booing. We’ll have to be louder next time until he gets the message.