Saturday, 26 December 2015

Chelsea 2 Watford 2

It felt the same as the last time Mourinho was jettisoned from my beloved club. Personal anger in the immediate aftermath turned to a laissez-faire attitude towards matters on the pitch - especially with Avram Grant appointed as his successor. This time, I questioned my way of thinking - was my loyalty to Jose blurring my allegiances towards my club? This time we faced a fight to stave off relegation rather than a place in Europe. It certainly felt blurred against Inter when he was boss. When the Milan side knocked us out I was neither disappointed nor saddened – the final whistle was greeted with a shrugging of my shoulders and a wry smile in the knowledge that he would at some stage have come back to haunt us.

The booing that greeted some of our players last week was absent. It may have been down to conspiracy theories of who was to blame for Jose's sacking - but really it was more letting certain players know how disgusting their performances have been perceived this season.

The match began well. Yet again, for the first fifteen minutes we created numerous chances to score which we again did not take advantage of. As our momentum waned, Watford (who were excellent) grew in confidence and exposed our shaky back four which again failed to work in unison to work the offside trap (no names Ivanovic). Before Costa's brilliant instinctive whack into the roof of the net from a set-piece, Watford's Ighalo should have helped his side take the lead when he snatched at a shot - not realising how much time he had on his hands when we had played him onside.

What should not have been forgotten was that the lead up to the equaliser came from a needless foul outside the box. This turned into a corner being conceded from the resulting free-kick. The stupid handball from Matic complemented the whole episode and Guus needs to stamp out some of the idiotic decision-making from our players that results in unnecessary risks being taken in dangerous places on the pitch.

The second half brought an important change. Mikel's introduction to support the shaky back four made a world of difference and allowed Matic to probe further forward. But just as we were on the up, Watford took advantage of silly play from Pedro who decided to cross the ball from the left-back position straight out of play onto the right side of the pitch (is it not basic training to avoid doing this?) Our defenders were annoyingly asleep and although Ighalo's goal was assisted by a lucky deflection, they had no right to be even close to our penalty area as we had needlessly lost possession in the build-up.

We only kick-started into life after going behind to this goal. The sense of urgency and importance of this game was made clear by the fans who generously got behind the team while I crossed my arms in frustration at the stupidity of the goals we had conceded. But we started to play brilliantly. It even naturally stirred me into life. When the equaliser came, there is no shame in admitting that tears welled up in my eyes. This goal brought out the same emotion in me as an equaliser against the Manchester United of old did when I was a child. The manner of the build-up play and finally seeing a sense of urgency from my team touched me. It proved to me that the side does have what it takes to climb back up the table.

We could not end the game perfectly. The emergence of such nonchalance from Oscar who suddenly believes he is Messi since his nemesis Mourinho's departure annoys immensely. This was typified last week with the rabona he carried out that went to noone. This week he was nearly caught in possession when Watford had five in attack against three and he was fortunate to win a free-kick. He is someone who hopefully will lose his place until he realises that guitar solos are so passé. That penalty would have kept us out of reach of the bottom three for at least a week. He should have passed the responsibility to Costa who at least could have faced his boo-boys with a hat-trick.

This has been the strangest of seasons. It is difficult to know if the large points tally of weaker teams is them catching up with their peers or whether the more successful sides are ailing. The maths, though does not lie. We are still two points off a relegation place. A loss today would have been too much to bear. We can look forward to Manchester United and Crystal Palace knowing we have the capacity to earn points as long as we can iron out stupid mistakes. Please rise back up, Chelsea.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Chelsea 3 Sunderland 1

Clever timing. Wait to sack Jose until either Chelsea is knocked out of the European Cup to his former club Porto or we lose to ex-manager Claudio Ranieri's Leicester City side. Then 'easy' home games against Sunderland and Watford follow which should provide a buffer to let the booboys’ feelings cool off. Technical Director Emenalo (whose CV includes Enugu Rangers and Lleida – no, me neither) then exonerates players from any blame for bad displays in the knowledge that it is unheard of to sack those who underperform on the pitch. If Chelsea lose their next game then you can blame it on Mourinho’s legacy.

Walking from West Brompton before the game to suck in the atmosphere was a choice well-made. Chants of “Jose Mourinho” were already emanating from the direction of the ground at 2pm. Before kick-off as the players warmed up there was no hint of what was to come. It was only as players’ names were read out that fans let rip. You could not disagree with which players they voiced their displeasure with the most. Ivanovic – a normally solid stalwart who has had his worst season to date; Oscar – a lightweight midfielder who rarely makes any impact and is deservedly a squad player; Fabregas – whose clumsiness on the field is almost comical this year; and finally Costa – who returned from holiday overweight and whose attitude has stunk. Hazard was lucky to have been injured.

Some of the grievances have been based on hearsay and in the modern litigious environment it is unlikely that we will ever find out what really happened – whether it relates to which players leaked information to the press or bedroom antics between staff. Players know that telling the truth will not serve them well.

One of those who was targeted from the terraces – Oscar – had the game of his life. This annoyed. Was it because Hazard was missing that he chose his time to shine? His cockiness on the field was in marked contrast to his last home performance where he slipped every time he changed direction. Costa did not have any fights for once either. Fabregas only made one error. Ivanovic actually crossed the ball to create a goal. Is the message from the terraces working? Sunderland were woeful in contrast and parked the bus in the first half. In the second half, however they exposed our leaky defence and should have easily scored at least another goal.

The split between the most vociferous, well-known, individual fans who speak to the media seems clear. Those who back the board and players against those who believe footballing matters should be left to the direction of coaches such as Jose. The former group argues that we should move on and that no manager is bigger than the club. They seem to forget that no Chelsea player or member of the administrative hierarchy is either.

Manchester United v Chelsea is coming up. LVG is on the brink of losing his job. One dreads to think what happens if Jose joins the Old Trafford club before that game and Chelsea loses. Guardiola seems the most obvious choice for next full-time manager. Someone who is media-friendly and described as a genius despite only working at football clubs that already have a world-class first XI who even Scolari could win trophies with.

There was no other alternative than for Jose to leave. Not because it was the best option. But because it was the easiest. The majority of fans are more vexed with the players than Mourinho. His CV says it all. Especially when compared to those who direct the footballing side of our club.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Jose’s Exit - A Season Ticket Holder's View

To see Mourinho understandably leave for a second time and know that realistically he will never return is a hard moment to endure – arguably the hardest since attending my first Chelsea match in the late 1980s – especially with Chelsea having hit the peak of its success. I respect his determination and ambition. When watching Chelsea abroad, whether by accident or design I have made pilgrimages to clubs where he plied his trade. Belenenses is one - a club whose stadium has an unroofed stand which allows spectators a beautiful view over Lisbon harbour. There he failed to make it as a professional as his father did but had the drive and ambition to become a coach instead. Porto – where he has a statue commemorating how this historic club somehow won the European Cup under his tenure and is now hidden in relative obscurity. Inter Milan, where he outfoxed the big guns and won a treble. A club that ever since has crept back into its shell. This, before taking the reins at Real Madrid where player power killed him.

Whereas others build on their success by bolstering their squad, we appear to pray that our first team remains injury-free. Flashbacks to 2007 when we had to play Joe Cole up front during our Community Shield match as our main strikers were injured and our manager’s “class one, two or class three eggs” diatribe that most probably irked the owner. Then the match against Rosenborg in a barely half-full stadium with Drogba and Lampard missing, injured with only the hapless (if likeable) Shevchenko to rely upon up front.

Today, we are missing leaders in key areas of the pitch. Whereas we had a decent spine before – Drogba, Lampard, JT and Cech who you felt would fight when the going got tough – you now only have JT to rely upon who is not even guaranteed a start as he ages. Costa and Ivanovic are fighters but only in the most immature of senses. When we have to buy squad players from Barcelona you wonder why they let them leave without a fight? Players who we have let go have rarely prospered.

The most irksome aspect is seeing the majority of those players who walked the league last season and should have proceeded to the next round of the Champions League against PSG performing so badly this season. The mistakes they have made on the pitch – from Fabregas not being able to pass the ball to a fellow player to Costa missing easy chances in front of goal – are not down to tactics but individual reliability. Chelsea has somewhat naively not tried to lay the blame on the 1st XI. But the club knows it is easier to rid the club of its manager than players who cannot be sacked because financially it makes no sense when you can lose a potential transfer fee. The sooner we have performance related pay making up at least half of an individual’s wages the better.

I have to trust the manager to run the squad. It would annoy me to hear outsiders tell me how to do a job that I started nearly forty years ago. Compare Jose’s CV to Emenalo’s who somehow is our technical director. Can you really trust those in the higher echelons of power at the club we love?

Jose Mourinho was the person who I could trust and always assumed a method to his madness as it brought results. Psychologists admire him. When the team failed, he managed to divert the attention elsewhere. The physio incident was one that admittedly backfired. He was correct, however to note how many decisions have been ruled against Chelsea Football Club compared to our peers. How could Mourinho be fined for criticising referees while his peers be left unpunished for similar remarks for instance? Against Bournemouth, however one had to properly question his judgement for the first time when players who had underperformed more often than not were still selected in the side. Then you looked at the bench and wondered who he could play instead – there was a complete lack of quality.

There have been theories that players have deliberately underperformed to aid a speedier exit of the manager. If this is the case then their careers will be forever tainted. Can there also really be players in the squad who leak what is going on in our club from personality clashes down to formations externally? There has been a minority of fans who have been vexed at his diatribes against our support… and yet during our worst run in modern memory Stamford Bridge has never been more vociferous in its support for Mourinho when eight years ago it booed the team off when we drew against Rosenborg. Fans can see that the circumstances surrounding the manager are not normal.

The timing of our club’s demise could not have been in more typical Chelsea style. A season where we formally announced our plans for a new stadium which we are unlikely to fill at the current rate. Was this why we spent so little in the transfer market or was it a spiteful way of testing our cocksure manager’s ability?

It has also been a season where the hardcore fans who follow Chelsea in Europe have had to pick up their tickets from random venues in the country we visit adding stress to what is already an unhappy experience because of the way we are treated. One where players fail to acknowledge blind and faithful support after ninety minutes. A time when relations with those on the terraces are at the lowest they have been for a while as we seek the tourist Dollar. A season when FIFA has formally been found out and a club ambassador who we were so proud to be associated with in Sebastian Coe embarrassed.

We are most likely to look for such an ambassador to take charge of the club. Guardiola would seem to be the most obvious choice when his contract ends at Bayern this season so that we have an acceptable face for the media. But which manager would have the strength to take over a side that is more likely to be relegated than finish in a European place? We will still be here but at times such as this the relationship between the club and its real fans are the most stretched they have been in modern memory.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Chelsea 2 Porto 0

The Bournemouth match nearly broke me. The side needed to return to the pitch as soon as possible after the disgraceful home performance on Saturday. There is only so much goodwill one can have for a squad no matter how much you love your club. For the first time I was prepared to sit with my arms crossed and wait for the team to trigger my enthusiasm rather than oblige them with my blind allegiance.

Dropping Fabregas was long overdue. Leaving out Dave over the weekend seemed a harsh decision – but one would expect Baba Rahman to have filled the void. He did not. Dropping him was no shock. The squad needed respected leadership in the side that JT brought too. The team appeared more balanced.

Porto began well. It is an obviously skilful side. But being able to do keepy-uppies and clever flicks does not a team make. Hazard and Willian gave the best example of how possessing magical talent leads to concrete results and they were on fire yesterday. When Willian scored it brought tears to my eyes – these are the kind of goals that make our team special. Matic was imperious and easily man-of-the-match. He intercepted ball after ball which seemed to stick to his boots time after time - he was in the right place at the right time and was the conductor of most of our attacks. Having Ramires accepting his more defensive role helped Matic too and he did not shirk his duties. Oscar again annoyed as he was brushed off the ball and fell over as if he was not wearing studs far too often.

For his lack of subtlety, Zouma was imperious in defence alongside warhorse JT. Yes, it is obvious that our captain has lost some pace. But yesterday’s brave decision to have him on from the start gave the side a credible leader during a period of duress. Ivanovic finally had a good game.

Finally, we turn to Chelsea’s nemesis – Diego. The pattern is pretty clear. We can forgive him his trespasses when we are playing well, but not when we fail. He was his usual stupid self yesterday. Falling over when barely touched in promising positions; stupidly fouling Casillas which could have led to a red; straying needlessly offside on many occasions; and finally the gravest off sins for a striker – not scoring. But would you have confidence in any other striker in our squad up front? Unfortunately the answer is “no”.

Porto fans seemed to turn on their manager during the second half – pathetically waving their white hankies in ire at some substitutions made. Watching their behaviour reminded me how futile it is to publicly turn against your club. There is no upside.

The weight of some of our passing really impressed… in particular when attacking. We did not always go for the obvious through-ball and played our best football this season. The question is… why did this only happen now? Where has this been this calendar year? Were we playing deliberately badly to fool our opponents into a false sense of security?

Well done the lads for not only getting through to the next round but also finishing top of the group. That performance has restored my faith in the side just as my support had almost turned to apathy.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Chelsea 0 Bournemouth 1

The top story in tomorrow's 'papers should have been Man City dropping three points so embarrassingly to a Stoke side Chelsea had been so chastised for losing to earlier on this season. Man Utd's boring 0-0 draw should have earnt the second highest scathing reviews, just as Chelsea did when we were rebuked for being boring. Instead, my beloved club will be top of the pile again for deservedly failing to even gain a point against a side which has fewer home fans than we used to take to aways.

Jose continues to pick players who play consistently poorly. The last few kicks of both the first and second halves exemplified two of our worst performers in Fabregas (who bizarrely chose a through ball that went straight out for a goal kick when he was in the six yard box) and Ivanovic (an attempt at a shot from 40 yards out towards the end of the match which nearly hit the corner flag). We understand that players have to be given a chance - we are not thick - and sometimes a player has the odd bad match but come on Jose... you have nothing to lose now so drop these guys.

In the box we are utterly clueless. Rahman. What the f**k are you doing in my Chelsea squad? That thing on the end of your leg is a foot. That thing on the end of your teammates' necks is called a head. Programme your brain so that your foot understands that the ball has to lift more than one centimetre off the ground in order to connect with a player's forehead - even if you have the misfortune to only have players who are 5 foot 8 to aim for. Or even worse, diddymen like Oscar who appear to have never gone down the gym apart from using the sauna. What have our scouts been paid to get such utter drivel into our squad? This isn’t strengthening it – we have become weaker!

Jose. When it comes to your training sessions please could you include the following drills:

1. The person who tries to stop a goal is called a "goalkeeper". He is allowed to catch the ball with his hands. I know this rule is unfair. But in order to stop this from happening instruct your players to try and stand in front of the aforementioned player (he usually wears number 1 and has a different coloured shirt which should make him easy to spot) when taking set pieces. This will make it more difficult for him to catch the ball and more likely for us to score a goal.

2. When spending all that energy trying to score, please instruct your attackers to understand that sometimes the ball may go to what we in England call the “near post". Please tell one of your attackers to take a gamble and towards this "near post" area and try to score.

3. If the ball is actually crossed more than 1cm above the ground it has a better chance of reaching an area in England we call the “far post". Please tell another attacker to run towards this area - and preferably one who has some height in order to do what we in England call "scoring a goal".

4. We have a rule in England (used by many nations) called "offside". If many players are in an offside position and the ball is kicked in their direction, the referee will stop the game and award a free-kick to the opposition. Please could they practice running back from these "offside" positions as quickly as their petite arses can go so that we can try to "score a goal".

This was supposed to be our easy run. Our players appear to be treating it as their easy run too. It felt such a drab performance that for the first time this season I could have snoozed the first half away. It was more exciting watching the stewards in the Shed Upper trying to stop a supporter from creating some atmosphere by blowing his trumpet (glad to see they have their priorities) than the actual match.

Leicester away is coming up and looks a daunting prospect. This season's league performances could not have come at a worse time... just when our peers are performing woefully too. We have the talent in the squad. Many who have this talent have not shown it this season. It is time to give others a chance. If we go out of the European Cup this season, it is unfortunate that for the first time ever I will call for our manager to go... having been in tears when he was fired the first time. Because if he cannot see the obvious problems in our play and players who should be left in the stands (and not even deserve a place on the bench) then he should not be our manager.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

RIP Bobby Campbell

Bobby Campbell sadly passed away yesterday at the age of 78. When in charge of Chelsea during the late 80s and early 90s he helped us bounce back from relegation and even finish an amazing 5th the following season in the top division. That season was where I had my first away game outside of London and we went top of the league after beating Everton 1-0 and did not win again for an absolute age.
He was constantly seen at the Bridge in recent years occupying a prime seat in the ground. I had an occasional chat with him from the West Upper and he described our defending as "shocking" after the deserved loss to Bradford last year in the FA Cup.
He always found time to sign autographs for fans when we were in the East Lower back then and that is why I have fond memories of him. 

My condolences to his family.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Chelsea 1 Liverpool 3

Facing a mediocre Liverpool side brought no fear out in me. The bigger worry was what kind of performance Chelsea would put in today individually and collectively - something that has been as consistently inconsistent as the treatment of our football club by the authorities and match officials for years. What would Mark "Boyband" Clattenburg do to us today? The usual game where he is too afraid to make big decisions, but be good at awarding throw-ins correctly (and that sort of thing) so that he can earn praise for "letting the game flow"?

Chelsea began the game at full speed and deservedly took the lead with a fantastic cross from Azpilicueta headed in by the impressive Ramires. Our passing in tight spaces was intricate and there was a good feeling on the pitch and in the stands.

Then the horror show began. Mikel lost the ball in front of his penalty area. And again. Heads dipped. Chelsea toned down their ambition in attack. Clattenburg did not yellow card Lucas for a series of fouls. Can was not booked either for a foul similar to one last week which led to Matic being sent off. Both these players were booked in the second half and the visitors should have been down to ten - if not nine men. Noone really wants to beat a team purely because they have had players sent off - you wish to annihilate them at full strength. But last Saturday we had Matic sent off for a tackle that this week went unpunished for a far worse offence. Matic's dismissal had a significant impact on the result of that game. These decisions worked against our confidence. I crossed my arms in resignation and did not unfold them until the final whistle when collecting my "With You Jose" banner.

To cap the first half off, the visitors equalised in the third minute of stoppage time when only two had been allocated. The goal initially came about as a result of a reckless clearance by Zouma who looked out of his depth at right-back and lacked the finesse required in that position. The amount of space granted to Coutinho for both of his goals was simply embarrassing as was the amount of space Liverpool were given on the wings.

The second half started as the first - Chelsea playing brightly. But again, mistake after mistake was made. And apart from Oscar's ambitious chip over the 'keeper, it was difficult to remember any clearcut chances for us. Passes went astray, poor choices were made with runs. Recycling of the ball has been too slow. It is more obvious than ever that the strength in depth is not there. It is making me so angry to see players who should be giving it their all not doing so. Hazard again gave the impression of a player who has been told by his agent to play poorly so that he can have a cut-price move from the Bridge this summer. He was deservedly subbed. Mikel too. Kenedy initially looked impressive with his pace but added little else - although I would like to see him take Hazard's place.

Jose Mourinho cannot squeeze anything more out of this poorly-performing team. We are breaking the point of elasticity that was holding this side together. Ironically, the only part of the jigsaw that does not make sense is the fact that Chelsea fans are still taking these continual losses in good heart. Renditions of "Jose Mourinho" and "Mourinho's right, the refs are shite" reverberated around the Bridge today and at the final whistle there was no booing. Simply an acceptance that this is how things are. Although I still believe in Jose - he is the only one who really fights for this club at senior level - I do not believe that he can change anything by this late a stage. If a large minority of players are not giving it their all because they have their own vested interests in mind then it will impact not just our football club but also their careers. Not only that, but without enough "class one" eggs in our squad one feels that some players are not being challenged enough.

Writing this only a few hours after the game, my instinct is to say that the best thing our manager can do is resign and seek challenges elsewhere. We do not deserve him. Neither does this league if it (even subconsciously) wishes to drive him out. Some of our players will face the backlash that they warrant and English football will lose its most exciting asset.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Dynamo Kyiv 0 Chelsea 0

Don't go to the Ukraine was the warning. With two countries in the news for the wrong reasons in our Champions League group there was some apprehension before flying. Travel websites advised caution about scams carried out on tourists. Friends worried that Putin might shoot my plane down. But Kyiv is like any Eastern European city - one of the most beautiful I have ever visited.
The city is quaint and has more cathedrals than McDonald's restaurants. Having spent the bulk of it rambling about to get to know the city better including a visit to the Chernobyl Museum I turned back to football. The U19s played in Dynamo's normal home "Lobanovsky" stadium used for lesser matches rather than the National Olympic Stadium. And what a throwback to the traditional Eastern European stadia of old it was. No roof on any part of the ground despite the weather being damp and drizzly. The work rate and discipline of our youngsters impressed, but with the dreary weather I left at half-time knowing one more stadium was knocked off the list.
The organisation for the main event was woeful with stewards having no idea where fans should go. Chelsea were let in with home fans which did not seem a wise idea following news that some of our followers had been ambushed on Monday evening. The atmosphere was a strange one. Dynamo's ultras took one small corner of the ground. The majority of fans in our end were from the local Ukraine/Chelsea supporters club. Singing, "Blue Is The Colour" incessantly is cringeworthingly naive but quite sweet. Estimates were that of the 1,100 away tickets sold, less than half were those who had the guts to fly over from the UK.
We dominated the first 20 minutes and on another day would have scored at least three. Hazard looked on fire with his boots on turbo boost. Fabregas was having his best game of the season. I questioned my own sanity when he was brought down in the box and not awarded a penalty. Surely one of the most obvious fouls ever? How many more decisions that go against us do we have to swallow? Well done Jose for your "naive" comment which raised a smile amongst our fans. Matic made a brilliant run too that could have resulted in one of our best goals this season. 
Then attention turned to shenanigans in the home end. During his legendary commentaries on Capital Gold, Jonathan Pearce used to have a policy of not mentioning issues on the terraces as he felt that giving publicity to fighting morons  would exacerbate issues. But I cannot as this was uncomfortable to witness as home fans fought amongst themselves in violence I had not seen for years. Even worse was realising that there was nothing being done to stop them. Two stewards in a group of a few hundred is a waste of time. One fan was getting beaten with a crutch. The police stood at the back of the Chelsea end and did nothing. I left at half-time not wanting to take any risks. Others left way before full time. What a sour way of ending an otherwise fantastic trip. Yet again, attending the actual match when journeying abroad is the worst aspect of European aways.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Chelsea 2 Aston Villa 0

Well thank the lord the District Line was working so badly so that I missed the opening few minutes of this match. The three points were welcome but boy - were we lucky. As against West Brom, we were blessed more by the visitors' ineptitude than our prowess. Up until we scored we looked vulnerable in defence even without Ivanovic spoiling things. At one stage during the first half with Villa on the attack, we had no midfield between the back four of our defence on the edge of our area and the half way line (having decided to play with no defensive midfielders).

Then came the half-time announcements. Our peers who bought during the summer (and I was one who derided them for overspending) were thrashing opponents that they should be thrashing. Even Sterling had scored a hat-trick. In contrast, our new signing, Baba Rahman looked like he had never played left-back before in his life. Yes, yes... let's give players a chance *yawn*, but there have been plenty of his predecessors who have impressed off the bat. This £15-£20 mio bracket of signings is nothing more than squad players. This lack of competition and ambition is taking its toll. Yes Jose, the reason you won't get fired is because the cost of sacking you is more than we can afford to spend on transfers.

An article in the newspaper that day noted Joe Cole was on a 35-day loan deal at Coventry City. Is Hazard going down the same route? Dropped to the bench and with his first touch when coming on as sub mis-cued the ball. The last twenty minutes were a pain to witness with the only entertainment being the banter between the home and away fans.

Kiev next. Tickets under £4. We have a string of games coming up which we need to win by hook or by crook to get the confidence back which we lack so much at the moment. Thanks for the three points, but how drab this was.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Chelsea 1 So'ton 3

We played brightly for the first half hour. It looked effortless. Willian scored a brilliant free kick despite Falcao deciding he would try his best to have it overruled by being 5 yards offside. Then the warning signs began. Ivanovic exploited at the back again. So'ton began to win free kicks and corners. They suddenly realised, "hang on - there are only 3 players in this side above 5 foot 2" and killed us on dead balls. We looked vulnerable from every attack. 

The last time Jose lost his job at Chelsea he had complained of the lack of quality eggs his squad contained. It was notable that he kept schtum about no decent signings this season. We are now struggling badly when missing any 1st XI first choice footballer and the initial guffawing we made of the Manchesters overpaying for certain players shows in fact that it is ultimately worth investing. We have begun plans for a new ground at too late a stage - when our side is in obvious decline. Falcao makes Robert Fleck look a bargain. And Falcao was a freebie. There is no motivation for the team to perform. 

The biggest disappointment is regarding our manager. He really needs to drop players who are letting the side down. The tactics are becoming stranger by the hour. Ramires, Oscar and Fabregas intertwining is fine in attack. But they are useless at defending. Mikel or Matic should have started or at least been put on as subs after we went 1-0 up just to lock-in a victory. Then starting JT. Why? How will that help? What is Pedro adding to the party/funeral? What the hell is Hazard doing? What did Willian do to deserve being subbed? 

As for our fans... Well, thank the Lord so many can take this spell - the worst in years - in relatively good spirit. When the visitors sang "you're effing sh*t", the MHL joined in! Sure, about 20% of the stadium left after the third goal was conceded (down to Hazard's error btw) but how long can this goodwill last? Chelsea's relationship with its real fans has never been fantastic as they try to purify our crowd. 

Jose is right about one thing. Decisions have not gone our way for a very, very long time. But his expertise at deflecting the real issues are now far too well known... Even more than opposing sides knowing how weak we are at right-back. We were already struggling by the time Falcao fell in the penalty area and received some very generous decisions from the referee up until that point. It is the first time I am looking over my shoulder at the sides below us rather than having any realistic expectations of even qualifying for Europe.

As a fan, our eggs too are often reliant on the chicken being of good quality. In this case we are a cock in a pen with no hens. And now our egg chasers are out of the World Cup. What a terrible sporting day.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Porto 2 Chelsea 1

In Polish, Bolhao would mean "it hurt". This is the part of Porto where Chelsea fans had to pick up their match tickets from. A place nowhere near where the game was taking place. Another away match where despite new collection measures in place to combat the minority of idiots who taint our club's image - we were still treated like utter shit. A net obscuring the pitch (here's an idea... get fans to sit in their proper seats and then you can identify coin throwers!) Having spoken to local police though, it is Manchester Utd fans who they have the biggest gripe with.
Even more frustrating is to lose a match against such mediocre opposition. Mourinho did the right thing to drop Hazard and Matic - but why not Ivanovic too who was at fault for both the goals conceded? I would rather risk Kenedy in that position. 
We controlled the game completely and their goal was against the run of play. Fans were in good voice for all of the first half and Willian's brilliant goal was perfectly timed. But as a result of our errors, Jose was forced to make changes that he probably didn't want to after their second goal thus leaving our defence vulnerable in search of an equaliser.
For the second week in a row, Pedro squandered a one on one opportunity for us to take the lead. On the positive side, Costa looked back to his best and even a late spat that could have escalated was dealt with in a mature manner. Mikel again had a good game. It is Begovic I feel most sorry for who has done nothing wrong. Most frustrating was to have a blatant penalty turned down; Hazard deciding to shoot from an acute angle rather than win a penalty and then another one on one squandered with the last kick of the game.
After being kept in for the usual half an hour following the final whistle, fans had to leave the stadium by a certain exit towards the Metro. This did not suit as my hotel was a stone's throw away from the ground in a completely different direction. When I asked if they could let me through, the police said only Portuguese people could leave via a shortcut. That did it for me and I snapped. "Have you asked these fans if they are Portuguese?" He replied in the negative. But fans who were English and had been in corporate hospitality had no issues getting through. My argument won, they were forced to let me through. That small victory resulted in the biggest applause of the day... Even more than hearing Arsenal had lost against a tier IV side (which I am sure Wenger will successfully overturn when appealing to UEFA).

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Newcastle Utd 2 Chelsea 2

The most important aspect of this match was the way Chelsea battled back to rescue a point. Ramires' goal following a well chosen substitution by Jose of Oscar and Remy gave me flashbacks of last year's 2-1 loss. This time, with confidence resumed we finished fantastically despite some truly inexcusable ineptness in defence on a day when we should have cut the lead of 'Manchester' to six points instead of eight. Although we shall have to wait and see if Arsene "Tartuffe" Wenger can try to persuade the FA not to count the last 20 minutes of the match towards the final result.

You cannot blame the absence of Diego Costa for the two goals conceded today. Such abysmal marking is the stuff of relegation candidates rather than a team looking to fight back to win the league. Quite why Remy is seen as an adequate replacement for our angry Spaniard either is beyond me too. He plays like a winger who has been reluctantly thrust up front and when in promising positions to score makes terrible choices. The constant jeers towards him at St James's where there were sadly many empty seats seemed to affect him. Why not risk Falcao instead?

The marking for our first goal showed a clear lack of communication between Zouma and Ivanovic. The words they were looking for should have been either "I've lost it, you take control" or "let me take the ball". Then to have Fabregas so lazily not mark his man from a set piece must drive the manager and Begovic - who otherwise had an excellent game again - livid.

Porto is our next stop and after Barcelona is the away ground I have visited the most in Europe. Realistically, I do not believe that this season may be our last run in the European Cup for a while. Zouma is still learning so I can forgive the odd mistake. It is more the decision making of our more experienced players when defending that gives me the shivers which is why I am attempting to treat every away trip as a gift from heaven. And for once there is a story that will overshadow this embarrassing result and for this we must thank Sepp Blatter.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Chelsea 2 Arsenal 0

The humorous way with which Chelsea fans have dealt with our recent poor run would have certainly ended if we had lost at home on Saturday. Luckily, we beat the club of chai tea latte sippers and deservedly so. A game where Chelsea was back to its normal self was overshadowed by Arsenal moaning that yet again, things did not go their way. Of course, there was no close analysis of the Hazard foul that should have resulted in a penalty. Can someone please clear up the difference between a shoulder barge and obstruction? Why are so many fouls that would result in free-kicks anywhere else on the pitch not treated as such when committed in the penalty area?

There was no sense of hypocrisy from a club that has never had its share of saints either. You only have to Google "Keown Van Nistelrooy" and see how Wenger celebrates the in-yer-face jumping of his defender by citing it as his most memorable moment of the rivalry between the two red sides. That, along with Cantona's kung-fu kick, Vieira and Keane's consistent red cards seem to be glorified in the media. No anti-heroes are allowed for any team that plays in blue and yet when Costa succeeds in winding up the opposition (having been yet again consistently fouled throughout the first half as defenders cannot cope with his speed or skill) it is easier to cite him as a villain.

This is the first time this season Chelsea has played anywhere close to how they were last year. Having not been Oscar's greatest fan in the past due to his minute frame, I have now realised how important he is not only with regards to deft touches helping our link up play - but also the amount of effort he puts in to track back and pressure attackers. This allows Fabregas to exploit more space. Hazard and Costa looked their most dangerous in months, and Zouma was simply magnificent. Conversely to Oscar, Zouma in the past struck me as a big lump - but how he shone in this game. One perfectly timed tackle in the first half has increased my confidence in him. Begovic looks an extremely good value second keeper. Even Ivanovic had a tremendous game.

The second half was a drab affair after Zouma's goal (thanks for playing him onside Arsenal). It was obvious that three points was all we wanted. Even Fabregas motioned to the ball boy not to be too hasty retrieving the ball. I understand the rationale behind this - so why did Costa then risk a second booking for a silly challenge on Oxlade-Chamberlain? This is inexcusable and he needs to know the time and place when to show his aggression. I cannot have a go at Arsenal's sordid past if I excuse Diego of every indiscretion without appearing hypocritical.

Wenger must be seething - but more strangely are the tactics he used. Walcott on his own up front? Thank you! Quite why he does not wish to risk Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right and have Giroud up front is beyond me. Thankfully their frugality worked in our favour and they never looked anywhere as dangerous as they did at Wembley. I did not even notice Sanchez was playing.

So back to playground spats between the two sides. Martinez found it amusing that Mourinho swore for not being allowed to talk to the press first so that the team could hurry back to Cobham - now, Jose passed the buck back to the media - he could not understand why Arsene was only a nice man when his team managed to actually win against Chelsea. The newswires will be happy though - something to write about apart from Liverpool's demise. Finally a win for Chelsea, and these last few days feel like a turning point in our season. And for all the decisions that have gone Arsenal's way in the past, it is time to end this piece in a very mature manner: Arsenal...

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Everton 3 Chelsea 1

Not often has one wished to have been put out of one's misery at a football match when only a goal behind and with still a quarter of the game to go. This Chelsea side is in free fall and has more correlation with the Shanghai stock market than rational footballing thought.

We began well and my initial fears subsided. That was until Everton scored with their first chance of the game. Chelsea's confidence and concentration immediately dropped. As against Manchester City, we could have conceded another three goals during the next ten minutes and were lucky to only be two-down before Matic's stunner. Gaps opened up all over the pitch. Players were caught out of position. We tried to walk the ball into the net. No pace. No power. No ambition.

Goodison Park means a lot to me. It was the first away ground I had visited as a child outside of London back in 1989 when Steve Clarke sent us top of the league for the first time in my lifetime before in typical Chelsea style, we went on a 6 league game winless streak. This included a string of defeats where we conceded 14 goals in 3 games and even lost 5-2 at home to Wimbledon. Chelsea finished 5th that season and even this seems an unlikely ambition this year.

The positive psychology that Mourinho normally instils is one that fans cherish: even when playing badly, we could somehow grind out a result. Even when the refereeing gods would ignore obvious decisions that would benefit our side, this would motivate the players to fight and win. Chelsea fans cannot see this fight this season. The blind confidence I have in our manager has waned to the lowest ebb ever. Players who have been so reliable in the past and carried the team are all underperforming. Ivanovic, Azpi, Fabs, Diego, Hazard are the main offenders. Costa continues to look a shadow of the player he was since he was injured last season. At least Pedro shows promise.

The drop in form is hard to explain. Are players not being challenged? Is there something going on behind the scenes that we do not know about? Is the fact that "Manchester" has spent so much on quality players compared to us make some wonder if they are at a club that lacks ambition? The timing of this set of results is ironically poor: we announce plans to build a new stadium and our manager has just signed a new contract.

There is a bittersweet upside though. The real fans have been through this before and can laugh it off. The JCLs can go back to supporting a team in red. Kids will find it more difficult as we have been trophy-laden since 1997. Games are less predictable as the erratic nature of our play also means I have no idea whether we will score or concede three. Just like 1989 then. Millwall fans jumped on the same train as us as we stopped at Crewe. Windows intact and with decent banter I arrived back at Euston exhausted but having perversely enjoyed the day out after a long week in the office. Please beat Arsenal. Please, Chelsea.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Chelsea 1 Crystal Palace 2

Worrying times. Crystal Palace were fastest to the ball, more dangerous in attack and even cocky when in possession. We are a shadow of the side that began last season so brilliantly. The poor second half of last season was psychologically understandable. We did not need to push ourselves and take risks with the title already in the bag. The problem is that this mentality appears to have carried on into the new season.

Many players have come in for stick. I put this down to a minority of Chelsea fans who believe they should be allowed to be judgemental if they are charged ticket prices that would equate to those at a successful West End play. Now I have become one of those angry fans for the first time under Jose's tenure.

What exactly has happened to Hazard? He looked disinterested and is making no impact. Willian might as well be playing in defensive midfield with shots that we would normally attribute to Mikel. Ivanovic is no longer making those attacking runs and brilliantly pairing up with Costa when we try to score. Instead, he looked afraid to venture forward, almost worried that he would not be getting the cover he needed from his teammates. Matic is certainly making more mistakes than usual and as a team the amount of unforced errors is becoming embarrassing. A year ago I thought this was a team which would finally provide us with total football. Now I worry if we should even bother trying to challenge Man City for the title.

Our central defence has rarely been as exposed as it is now. We are the side that normally has a a gluttony of one-on-one chances - yesterday it was our opposition who looked far more dangerous in attack. When we approached their penalty area, they knew how to compress their midfield and limit our creativity to the outside of the box. And as for Fabregas... what is going on there? What exactly is his role in the side? The only positive note is Pedro who has worked his socks off - but is our solution to any crisis buying a £20 million right winger? There are bigger issues here that we do not seem to know about. City are spending left, right and centre having been only a year ago found of breaching FFP. Everyone finds a loophole - surely we can find one too?

Our win against West Brom was against a side who were extremely poor. They did not try to exploit us when we were down to ten men and we looked more dangerous in their end than they were in ours. I can only echo our manager's comments that this is a difficult league. Swansea have beaten Man Utd today (who appear to have been shopping during a Harrods sale when they could buy the same items half price online) and Arsenal have been extremely lucky to have grabbed all three points at Newcastle yesterday. It is a long season, yes... but for now at least the gap between us and Manchester City is already looking monumental. It makes away trips more fascinating as every game means something now.

For the first time I welcome the international break. At this stage I would take finishing in the top three of the league.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

New season predictions 2015/2016!

Man U will win most of their opening games. The media will gush at how fantastic they are and point two fingers at us for not signing so many "big names". They will then fail in Europe again and fade away towards the end of the season finishing 3rd/4th. Replica "jersey sales" will do well.

Man City will be solid and then lose a few games against small fry as they always assume they are superior to everyone else. These losses will cost them a chance of winning the league.

Arsenal will play against us. Despite one of their players carrying a shotgun and shooting Hazard in the kneecaps in their penalty area, the referee will not award a spot kick. Wenger will gush at how great their side are and moan at us parking the bus. They will beat a side like Bournemouth 4-0 and the media will declare that this is the way football should be played. They will then lose to a minnow in the Champions League and (yet again) a large minority fans will chant, "Wenger Out". They will then win the League Cup and those same fans will be conspicuous by their absence.

Liverpool will have "magnificent nights and atmospheres" in the Europa League as armchair fans watch them sing "You'll Never Walk..." before changing channels to watch Grand Designs. They will draw some team like Genk that they once played in the 1960s in a pre-season friendly and we shall have 23-hour documentaries commemorating this event. There will be no mention of this club causing English sides to be banned from Europe for five years during the 1980s.

Chelsea will begin the season playing brilliant football. We will defeat most sides by two goals or more. The media will call us boring as we like to win games and not concede goals - not realising the hypocrisy of doing so having praised teams like Liverpool and Arsenal for winning games 1-0 and always passing the ball to the goalie for 89 minutes during the 1980s and 1990s. This successful run will occur until we endure some major injuries caused by persistent fouling that referees will (again) ignore. These same fouls would lead to red cards for the opposition on the continent but we will continue to be classed as divers.

We shall win the league, have an excellent run in Europe and fight in every competition. Our closest rivals will be Man City with Arsenal or Man Ure behind.

As for our JCL fans who troll chatsites such as Chelsea Chat...

They will recycle exactly what the media says under the pretence that it is their own original thought. Every Chelsea loss (which will happen one match in twenty) will lead to ritual suicide on the site. Despite (as you can see from the reaction to an overnight loss in a pre-season friendly where we made eight changes for the second half) not attending a match in person. Instead, they will rely on TV, radio and press commentators' thoughts so that they cannot form their own unbiased opinion.

This attitude will legitimise those who criticise our team and shore up the absurd idea that teams playing in red are still a dominant force in the British game. Ruud Gullit > Jamie Redknapp.

Good luck Chelsea!

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Go Soccer, Go USA!

As a kid the 1980s were great, weren't they? Kerry Dixon was the real-life Roy of the Rovers, in my mind the A-Team actually existed and the greatest album of all time, Appetite for Destruction was released by Guns n' Roses. There was no political correctness about Hannibal smoking a cigar while smashing a building down with a crane built by Mr T. Letting off steam at football matches was the norm.

Fast forward thirty years. Individual ivory doors kicked in of rooms in a previously impenetrable Swiss Hotel that corrupt FIFA officials were staying in. I imagine the officers had hand guns raised before taking off a trademark pair of sunglasses, holding their badges in the air and screaming, "FBIIIII!!!" The permatanned, poorly coiffured individuals with overly hairy chests and huge moustaches did not have a moment to rise from their beds before a young lady of the night, probably thirty years their junior had to jump out of bed with only a silk duvet to cover her private parts before wailing, "NOOOO! HOW CAN WE PUT THIS ON EXPENSES THIS TIME?"

Quite why it is down to the US of A to have had the balls to crack their whips is quite embarrassing. We have had official after official decry how awful FIFA is without taking any measured steps to physically do anything. England has a new stadium that it needs to fill to balance its budget - there goes boycotting World Cup qualifiers. Sponsors are 'monitoring the situation closely' so they state. Punchy call. I have no intention of attending either World Cup. Not only was the bidding process a disgrace (and Moscow accidentally set fire to computers with evidence as the aforementioned items were past their sell-by date) but also following political issues in Russia and the deplorable treatment of workers in Qatar I wonder why anyone should feel they want to either.

We need to join forces with major footballing nations and create a new FIFA that is not based in a secretive tax haven such as Switzerland. You have the feeling, though that there are too many fingers in too many pies at this late a stage to boycott tournaments. Football Associations of countries that provide the biggest draws are cash strapped - that is why Brazil plays so many matches abroad. At the very least you would hope that as a gesture of goodwill, Russia and/or Qatar are stripped of hosting the World Cup and the USA is given the chance to (even though they did host it in 1994). Those in the FA should grow a set. Boycott FIFA. And if UEFA does not put up a strong stance, boycott the Champions League. Realistically, we are more likely to see heads roll as TJ Hooker throws a baton at the villains but without any major consequences.

Please reallocate where the World Cups are taking place. We would love it if such a plan came together. Then we could press Turbo Boost before Knight Rider brings football towards a fairer playing field.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Lisbon (a) Part 3

Spare time for me these days is used in a more constructive manner. Family, work and Chelsea leaves me with only a few free hours to relax. The days of scanning badges until the early morn much to the annoyance of my spouse are over. Sleep is needed. Middle-age is causing changes - for example, when buying a weekend newspaper I don't just read the sports section and chuck everything else in the recycling bin anymore. Even the literature pullout is being analysed. Plus, reading these parts of a newspaper help me catch my forty winks. It is for these reasons (and due to my Chelsea friend, Numero Uno encouraging me) that it has taken eight months to come round to summarise the third and final part of visiting football stadia of Lisbon during my whistlestop 36-hour tour when we played Sporting last September.
Stadium number six of seven was that of Casa Pia Atlético Clube. It certainly had a feel of, "we don't like strangers around 'ere" and club workers seemed bemused that someone was walking around taking photographs of a ground that only contains one stand. I had to ask permission from the club secretary to walk within their confines which is located in the middle of nowhere, and not an easy one to find had it not been for google maps.
An athletic club that again boasts a multitude of sports within its framework, it was formed a hundred years ago. From what I understand the club came about due to the splitting from another club in Lisbon. Unfortunately, there is little else I can add of interest as notes that I made were on my mobile phone. And this phone was flushed down the toilet by my youngest. All I remember was that slap-bang next to the stadium was a house belonging to a pigeon fancier. And there were dozens of the little pests also wondering what a Chelsea fan was doing on their territory.
The club secretary showed me photographs of the club's side from 19th century.
I bid a swift farewell but was grateful that they spent some time explaining the history of the club which ended up being wiped from my iPhone's memory.
Last but not least is Clube Futebol Benfica. Founded in 1895, the club plays at the Estadio Francisco Lazaro on Rua Olivério Serpa. With a capacity of 1,500 fans, the stadium sits on top of a row of shops. Yes. The area has a lovely feel of community. A stone's throw away lies a food market. Locals sat outside in a square playing cards and dominoes. You felt safe and calm.
As per usual I blagged it. Having asked for entry inside the ground, not only was I given a friendly tour by the club's President Domingos Estanislau but he also proceeded to print out a history of the club for my perusal. This was very kind on his part... the only problem being that I only had a couple of hours left until my airport check-in and his colour printer was working at a page a minute!
The ground was a beautiful site considering it is built on top of other buildings. The ticket office for sweet. Purists would be scornful that the pitch was astro, but who really cares?
It is yet another club on the continent that is generically sporting in nature - football is not its only pastime - it also boasts a successful field hockey and roller hockey side. And no, please do not ask what the difference is. One team plays with roller skates and the other uses shoes?
The enthusiasm and passion shown for his club and the boasts about former players (Paulo Bento began his senior career there in the late 80s) who were part of Clube Futebol Benfica made me want to be involved in his club too! This is how important a sport which is about 11 people trying to kick a ball into a net can be. Not only is it a healthy pastime, but also one that fuses a community together in a small neighbourhood of a large city. Having played rugby at small clubs in the past, the social importance of having such a hub cannot be underestimated.
What is important in life? Money? Badges? Ask yourself this question - if you could live life in the moment and are a true fan of football, surely being a president of a football club (even one as small as this that plays just in regional leagues) must be one of the most enjoyable jobs in the world.
Many thanks to all those who made me feel so welcome at their football clubs. The groundsman with an axe. The physio who offered me a free ticket to watch her side play. The ladies hanging players' kits to dry on the pitch they played on. The ticket booths at the stadia.
Priceless memories from kind people who seemed simply happy with life on another enjoyable away trip to watch Chelsea play in Europe.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Chelsea 1 Palace 0

Were you like me twenty or thirty years ago? That hopeful Chelsea fan who thought that even if you were 30 points behind the league leaders with 30 points to play for - that your team could in theory still mathematically win the league on goal difference? Now, with our fourth league title in a decade imminent the thought process was different. Actually wanting a draw up at the New Library so that it meant I would not miss us winning the league at home. Being delighted that Liverpool will have to form a guard of honour for our side (will their fans again claim a boycott of high ticket prices now that the rest of the season means nothing to them?) Knowing that we can relax and enjoy our football for the rest of the season despite the poor refereeing decisions and injury blows to key players that we have suffered.

This has been a fantastic season on many fronts. The main importance for me is that the club finally seems to be a going concern. We are actually in profit. Our youth teams are winning trophies and providing real, credible talent for the future. Our ladies' side is top of the league. You remember when we were taunted that we would fade away should Roman leave? Well now it actually doesn't materially matter if he does or not - that is how strong a position we are in.

One can compare us to many other clubs who promised so much but are now in the doldrums. Blackburn, Bolton (£173 mio in debt!) or even Blackpool to name a few. No, the moral of the story is not to avoid investing in a football team that starts with the letter "B", but to put our achievements in perspective. Newcastle and Sunderland are sides that regularly pull in 40-50k fans through their gates and look at where they are. This could have been us.

Our path to where we are today could be a Hollywood film with slo-mo tv replays of important goals a la NFL that try to glamourise key match moments. I remember seeing the NY Yankees play in Tokyo for a pre-season friendly and simply could not fathom how they could sell out a whole stadium. And the foreign fans stayed until the final inning when even in a league game most tend to leave by the 7th of 9 once an outcome seems certain. Now we are the team going on tours to large arenas abroad. We need - but most importantly earn - the tourist money.

For me the two most memorable moments of the season? John Obi Mikel scoring and Wilfred Zouma hitting the ball so hard and high that it managed to hit the underside of the roof of the East Stand Upper. Matches? Lisbon, doing a whirlwind tour of many stadia in 36 hours. A visit to Maribor chatting to a young girl in a wheelchair. Her government would not stump up $100 for an upgrade to an electric one (and she refused my cash offer to help) - nor supply her apartment block with a disabled entrance.

Both winning the League Cup and the League once again brought a tear to my eye. Chelsea is important to me. I plan my holidays around fixtures. I know which carriages are the closest to entrances and exits to Stamford Bridge en route to and from the ground so that I can be efficient with my time. I know the ins and outs of away travel at every ground we regularly visit. I know how to get my daughter to meet and have pictures taken with Chelsea players. Whilst I am the one who is secretly trying to keep my cool while inside feeling like a pre-teen at a One Direction concert. She could not care less and at the age of six has not once since mentioned having photos taken with JT, Peter Cech and Diego Costa.

Jose said once we won the league, we should move on. He is right. Already I look forward to next season and one new away that I cannot miss - Bournemouth. Fingers crossed for Brentford too - there are far too many Northern teams in our division which one would not mind were kick-offs not changed to ridiculous times making journeys more arduous than they should be.

Well done and thanks Jose. It is so good to have you back.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Chelsea 1 Burnley 1

These days it is often an extremist view that is noticed. It is then regurgitated until it seems to become part of the norm. You do not wish for this to happen as it then legitimises views that, if part of the normal distribution would be otherwise seen as a black swan event. The problem lies where it stirs so much of an issue that it creates lasting damage taking too much time to repair.

In Chelsea's case we seem years, if not decades away from benefiting when it comes to decisions on the pitch going our way. Repeating our grievances would almost make my argument hypocritical. But there is one thing that will never seem to die - Chelsea does not get the rub of the green for important decisions during many games. Our side was disappointing in attack - especially during the first half - but should have still been awarded a penalty. 2-0 would have materially changed the complexion of the game. Instead, frustration grew to such an extent that the normally placid Matic was deservedly sent off for retaliating to a challenge that should have initially caused the tackling player (whoever he was) to receive a red card.

Issues with racism are paramount. You hear the odd fan here and there chant or converse about stupid things (especially en route to away games). Things they would be embarrassed to be seen doing in front of their families. So how to deal with it? By going to the root of the problem. Being proactive instead of reactive. Refereeing seems to have been at its worst this season with decisions best described as inconsistent. But hey, at least it makes the game exciting by providing some headlines, eh? An odd argument that is often thoughtlessly recycled. When a team attempting to 'play football' is fouled when trying to attack skilfully with no appropriate legal retribution incurred it disheartens players. Imagine being in a job where no matter how much effort you put in to doing things right, a pigeon defecates on your final piece as the regulator of your business refuses to build a roof above your place of work.

The FA needs to take a strong look at itself. If Costa was not fouled in the box, should he not have received a yellow card (even a retrospective one) considering he was in such an advantageous position? If it was not a foul, then should Chelsea Football Club ask Costa why he did not have the strength to stay on his feet? These days at home games I sometimes give up shouting my displeasure at the referee as it will never make a difference - but also because I have such confidence in our squad that I believe we shall easily beat our opposition no matter what goes against us at the Bridge - especially against such teams as Burnley where we are guessing how many goals we will score rather than whether or not we shall bag three points.

Chelsea's play in the first half was pretty average. Burnley played very well - pressing our players at the back and leaving little room to counter. The all guns blazing approach that we began the season with was not there against a side that may not have held any world class players - but still played as a team. The second half was much better but you have to question some of our tactics. Are we trying to score too perfect a goal? There were several times where we broke into their penalty area and yet had noone even close to the edge of the six-yard box. During an attack led by Cuadrado from the left hand side, he seemed to almost sarcastically play the ball beautifully into a danger area where we had no players. During another attack where we had three players zooming in on goal we had not one single other player join them. There was a huge gap between the centre circle to their eighteen-yard box where you would expect more blue-shirted teammates to appear.

It does feel demoralising when you have results like this. Even our manager is not the same guy he was and is afraid to speak his mind for fear of punishment. He is no longer just a tactician or psychologist - he now has to understand legal jargon. He seems to be the only one of us with fight left in him for there is noone left to back our cause. 69 might have related to 30, and the way Chelsea is treated in the media today may relate to the way our fans behaved in the 1980s and/or the way our chairman at the time fought for our club to the pro-red rags rage. Certainly you feel that our manager is on his own with few to back his cause apart from genuine Chelsea fans.

Let's learn from our peers - the next time Hazard is fouled? Roll around in agony like Ronaldo to earn the opposition player a yellow card but then magically recover and earn the world player of the year award. The next time there is no atmosphere at the Bridge? Let off some flares whilst being allowed to stand as away supporters do at our ground. Shove your selfie-sticks up your arses. Get behind our manager and side when noone else favours us. And breathe.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Chelsea 2 Bradford 4

So that is how fans react when their side comes back from behind, against the odds to defeat a team that only a few weeks ago was being seen as one that may remain unbeaten for the rest of the season. This is how we used to react to great victories against the traditional big sides. We stayed until well after full-time at grounds such as Old Trafford - later learning our lesson that the roads back down South would be clogged up more by their fans than our own - and delay our journey by at least an extra two hours. Oh the irony - this season, it was Manchester United that celebrated their last gasp equaliser against us as if they had won the league. And a side that apparently does not blame referees... unless they draw against Cambridge United (a).

That delirium I feel as a fan occurs when my team battles back from behind. When Chelsea manage to cling onto a victory against the odds. When we are losing but are close to snatching a draw or win. So far this season, this has happened twice - against Tottenham and Newcastle. Even when we were 5-3 down at the 'Lane you felt that we could still snatch a draw. Pulling a goal back against the Geordies brought such adrenalin to the veins that I needed a snooze on the train back to London to recover! Celebrating the goal against Liverpool last week was because we answered the usual bile from the home crowd in the best possible style - by scoring - and somehow held on to an admittedly undeserved draw. We are used to seeing our team win. We also need to face the music when we deservedly lose.

Bradford City earned their victory. The signals were there. Roughly at the time we scored our second goal, the tv display at Stamford Bridge eerily turned from blue into the away colours of the visiting team - a tangerine/orange hue. They scored at the perfect time - just before the break - and could have easily taken the lead earlier had Petr Cech not made a spectacular save. Their opener was a simply brilliant strike from just inside the edge of our penalty area.

Chelsea lacked adventure in the second half and were unwilling to take unnecessary risks. What is unacceptable was the defending that led to their goals. Mikel went off, and without either him or Matic to cover our back four we looked like a pub side. I asked Bobby Campbell what he thought (having had the chance to peer down to him from the West Upper) having been one of the few who stayed behind to suffer in the joyous atmosphere of the visiting supporters. "They battered us," he replied. He was not wrong.

Drogba was utterly woeful with 5 or 6 dreadful choices of pass in the first half. Did we take the game too lightly? Salah was one of the few bright sparks and was strangely substituted. You have to ask why Drogs was in the side at all - will Remy ever be given a chance up front on his own? How will his confidence ever build?

There is still magic in the FA Cup and the draw shall be eagerly awaited tonight. I hope that a few top-tier teams are drawn against each other to give lower-ranked sides a chance to progress. Well done Bradford City, and may you have a good run.

Jose - why is our "B-team" not good enough? I dread to think what happens should three of our normal first team regulars get injured. Or was this reverse psychology into the Liverpool game? More disappointed than annoyed.