Chelsea FC, the reality

May 7, 2008

A positive take from The Guardian on the love of my life for a change:


Ghost of Mourinho is happy haunting for spirited Chelsea

The Blues’ current success has its foundations in the work of their last four managers

It is uncomfortable to listen to a man whose happiness is all a complete misunderstanding. On a May afternoon at Old Trafford in 2004 Claudio Ranieri was convinced he would be staying on as the Chelsea manager. No one else shared the delusion, but the Italian’s confidence had its apparent foundation. Following a 1-1 draw with Manchester United, Chelsea had just clinched second place, their highest finish since they were champions in 1955.

In nearly half a century there had been four plunges into the old Second Division and a narrow escape from relegation to the Third Division. You could see why Ranieri had a mistaken belief in his job security. His efforts were significant if unspectacular, so the rate at which Chelsea’s improvement then accelerated has been astonishing.

When the team won 2-0 at St James’ Park on Monday to ensure that their shadow still falls over United in the Premier League it was the act of a squad that expects to be in contention for the great prizes. This sense of their own position in football society is as important as the ability of the players. As any major club will confirm, confidence wins matches by deterring the opposition.

The very name Manchester United looms over their matches. Elsewhere in the top four that Kevin Keegan fears is a permanent elite, Arsenal have a hallowed eminence and from time to time Liverpool fans may just remember to throw in a reference to their five European Cups. Chelsea are the odd ones out. Arsène Wenger, with three titles, has won the league as often as the Stamford Bridge club ever has. Nine of United’s 16 were landed by Sir Alex Ferguson.

If Chelsea are utterly free of doubt over their status that is liable to be taken as the legacy of a character who was always entirely clear about his own special qualities. Despite impressions to the contrary, though, life at the club is more than an echo of Jose Mourinho’s resonant presence.

A project was under way before the advent of the Portuguese or, for that matter, the acquisition of Chelsea by Roman Abramovich in 2003. There was a conscious endeavour to accentuate a cosmopolitan glamour in the latter part of Ken Bates’ time. Ruud Gullitt and Gianluca Vialli would both play for and manage the club while the crowd also doted on Gianfranco Zola. There were trophies as well, such as the 1998 Cup Winners’ Cup and the 2000 FA Cup.

That period must have had its impact. How, for instance, could a 17-year-old John Terry not have had his horizons expanded when a lionised centre-half like Marcel Desailly signed for Chelsea in 1998? After the 2001 transfer from West Ham, it could only have been educational, too, for Frank Lampard to be in the company of the World Cup-winner Emmanuel Petit, fading as he was, and Zola.

Many clubs have spent heavily, if not quite to Abramovich’s extent, and wound up with a ragbag of a squad. Chelsea have evaded that trap and there is a well-integrated quality to the team that reflects well on the management of Mourinho and now Avram Grant. No one doubted these footballers had come to fight for one another at St James’ Park as, in the second half, they carried the battle to Newcastle.

The blend in the team is interesting. Some, such as Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and Michael Ballack, were stars before they got to Chelsea. Others, like Michael Essien and Petr Cech, had not fully matured when Mourinho bought them. A few, including Mikel John Obi and Salomon Kalou, are just beginning to develop. The mixture, too, has those such as Terry, Lampard, Wayne Bridge, Ashley Cole and Joe Cole who are steeped in English football.

As the beguiling second goal showed at Newcastle, Chelsea can play with slick style. In the same game there was proof, as if any were still required, of the tenacity. What fails to be appreciated is the rarity of this confluence of toughness and cosmopolitan talent. The reliability, too, is taken for granted. Winning the Carling Cup and downing Ferguson’s team in the FA Cup final while also reaching the last four of the Champions League was seen preposterously as underachievement by Mourinho in 2007.

United, with the title still to be decided and the Moscow final to come, will be part the minority with an acute awareness of just how remarkable Chelsea truly are.

Kevin McCarra


The Champions League Final

May 1, 2008

Last night was probably the most exciting of my life I have had watching football.

Chelsea reached the Champions League Final after beating Liverpool 3-2 on the night, and 4-3 on aggregate, to face Manchester United in the first ever all English affair.

This time round there was no ‘phantom goal’, no pot luck of penalties.  We beat Liverpool by doing something Liverpool couldn’t do in both of the other semi-finals we have faced them in.  We beat them by out playing them.  Liverpool have another trophy less season and we are level with Manchester United on points in the Premier League.

No one can now say that we aren’t up there with the best.  Other teams try to live on the acheivments  of the past, but Chelsea are the club of now and the future.

The match itself had everything with Chelsea coming out 3-2 winners, 4-3 on aggregate.

Match Report

And in the Premier League, with two games to go, we are level on points with Manchester United and have everything to play for.  With Chelsea are there is no team that runs away with the title anymore, unless it is us doing it as we have did in 04/05 and 05/06 when the title was ours pretty much after Christmas.  When United regained the title last season from us, we took them to the wire, and it’s the same this season.  We have done something no other team has in recent years, made the title race something exciting that you can’t take your eyes off for a minute.  Chelsea FC isn’t a permanently 4th placed Liverpool who are out of the real challenge of winning a title over the 38 games of a season before Christmas, or an Arsenal who play pretty football that doesn’t win silverware.  We are a team that can outscore when we need to, and grind out results when we need to.  Results speak for themselves.

We taught Liverpool a lesson last night, United were thumped by us at the weekend showing that we are the team to beat.

Whatever happens by the end season, even if we come away with nothing, we have proven our quality and fighting spirit, along with making Chelsea history by reaching the Champions League Final.

Hopefully we really are going to make this a Blue Season, especially for Frank Lampard and his family after they tragically lost Frank’s mum this week.  On that note, how brave was Frank, what a man, what a player.  Legend.