It’s been a roller-coaster season for Chelsea, as much in the news for off-the-field events as on it. We play them on Saturday of course and the game looks to be crucial for both sides. Going into this fixture, what’s the view from West London? I took some celery into the Shed, cornered an occupant and posed him a few questions.
Who are you and why on earth are you a Chelsea fan?
I wasn’t dragged kicking and screaming as a 2 year old. Went to The Bridge as a reasonably sane teenager one Easter Monday in 1983. We played Leeds, won 5-0, Leeds wrecked the scoreboard (how many of you remember the old ticker tape thing we had behind the away end in what is now the Mathew Harding part of the ground?). After witnessing that – goals, violence and winding up Northerners – my fate was decided. Since then, many years of happy times following the blues over land and sea and Leicester. Lots of good memories, great friends, lots of mediocre football interspersed with some special stuff. And some Silverware.
It’s not exactly been low key at Stamford Bridge with the likes of Terry, AVB and Torres rarely out of the news. What’s your take on your season so far?
Funny times indeed. Part of me thinks its very sad that we’ve disposed on another manager, nothing changes etc. Yet part of me now realises it was a brave attempt at something new that just didn’t work. Think AVB went about it all wrong and will obviously be a success elsewhere sometime soon (No one mention the England job!) – but I think he rapidly burnt his bridges with us. And yet out of those ashes, we still have an amazing opportunity – 3rd or 4th is still not out of the question, and we’re still in two cups. For a crap season, it’s not too bad! Above all though, football in the media is a pantomime. We are officially the club the media love to hate, and they derive great glee in telling us of player power, internal strife, exorbitant transfer gossip (lies). Very few other clubs come under the same scrutiny. How many other club chairman get that grainy long range camera shot of him watching the game – Sky have a camera on Roman for 90 mins every week!
Was it fair for Abramovich to pull the plug on AVB before he’d had time to complete what he’d been asked to do?
As I said earlier, I think it was always going to be a tough job – and with hindsight he started it badly. Dropping players only to then reinstate them the next game – Fergie wouldn’t do it that way. Either play ’em or sell ’em. But ultimately, of course its fair. Roman is the boss. He pays the bills, the wages, the compensation. Its not a democracy!
How much do you believe all the player power rumours?
I think all workers have power – its no different. If your boss pisses you off, you’re going to be professional and do your 9-5 – but you aren’t going to run through walls. If the players are handled badly, then we might bemoan their lack of professionalism, but AVB carries a share of that responsibility too. And as for the vocal old guard – Drogba, Lamps, JT etc – how many of us have laughed over the years that Arsenal don’t have that, and don’t have people who will stand up and be counted. You can’t have it both ways.
Two goals for Fernando Torres against Leicester last week I see. Is he back or has he found his level?
Football is a game played in the head. Torres clearly has some demons, and his confidence has been shocking. Will he ever again be top striker in the best side in the world – he has the talent but its all about what he thinks. The fans and players are still behind him – talk about trying to buy him a goal are as wide of the mark as some of his shots – but everyone at the club wishes for him to be a success. †It will be interesting to see how he responds to having finally scored. Its a funny old game, as one of our mutual old players used to say, and I wouldn’t be that surprised if he got another pair at the weekend.
Do you think Chelsea fans were disappointed not sign Luka Modric in the summer?
Not overly. Good player that he clearly is, if he had joined us would AVB still be in a job? Would we be in the top 3? I’d be disappointed if we are in for him again. But it was fun for a while to be winding you guys up and unsettling your team plans.
Our record at Stamford Bridge is pretty shocking, you must be confident going into Saturday’s game?
I’m old enough to remember when the record was even more shocking. Home and away, 26 games undefeated I think it was. I would have been there for over 20 of them. I remember going into those games with total confidence and gutted if we only got a draw, even at your place. Playing and beating you lot have contributed to a significant number of my footballing memories, to a degree because I used to live in Tottenham for some of that time, so took great delight in local banter. In the end it was seemingly more important to keep the record going – i.e. not losing – than getting the 3 points needed. In a way, it’s good that the record came to an end (although it didn’t feel like that at the time!). Now I’m much more realistic. We are a team going through much uncertainty, and I can’t say hand on heart I’m confident for any game – but momentum is with us and against you – at least this week.
Have you seen much of Spurs this season and if so, any thoughts?
Not a huge amount. Seen some of the highs and some of the lows (like MOTD fans do). †When you are on form, you are a very strong, fast team. When you are off the boil, the defence looks short of something. What though is more important, isn’t the high & low moments – but the other 80%. That’s what you guys see – work rate, commitment, passion, team shape, working for each other, the future players – those are the things I look for in my team and don’t notice too often in the opposition. Key thing though is Harry. I think he’ll stay once he’s haggled a pay rise, and he’s a good manager for you. Think that will give you a chance of holding onto your better players – Bale, Modric – and to build around your future players like Livermore & Walker. Do think you need an even bigger clear out that us – possibly 5 new first-teamers will be a big challenge.
Are there any Chelsea players we should particularly looking out for? Ramires has had a good season apparently?
Not too many have had strong performances throughout the season. Many, including Ramires are tending to have good then not-so-good games. Like the team. Still not sure we’re seeing Ramires in his best formation or best role. Cahill & Terry are the interesting thing to look out for – already looking a solid pairing that will also score goals.
We were very close to signing Mata before he went to you. Did we miss out?
A big miss. The guy is fantastic. Could be as good as Zola in his prime – but he needs to learn to deliver a corner. The ball the other day to Drogba for his goal at Stoke – real class.
And finally a few quick ones –
Paul Whitehouse or Omid Djalili?
PW does better TV ads. I never knew he was such a good dancer. Stoating!
Danny Kelly or David Mellor?
Mellor – a man of the people. And a sex god.
Lord Coe or Lord Sugar?
Sir Seb has brought us Olympics glory. Sid James brought us crap PCs.
Top four or FA Cup glory?
And finally a prediction for Saturday?
Abuse for JT & a 2-0 win.
Many thanks BP.
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