With no Chelsea games to look ahead to for a while, former Blues star and columnist Pat Nevin glances back, considers changes and gets ready to put his boots on again…
Another season ends and as ever there is always the temptation to have an overview. I think it is pretty simple and short, Champions League qualification via a third-place finish in the Premier League and getting to the semi-finals of the big one, only to fail in the last quarter of the tie against Atletico Madrid, isn’t too bad. Of course we want trophies and we have got used to winning them, but it is certainly not the disastrous season some have portrayed it as.
Lots of folk have been guessing about next season already; who will leave and who will come in being the two most regularly asked questions. Like everyone else I have my ideas regarding what I would like to see happening, but experience has told me I am rarely if ever right unless I have an inside track, and very few have that at the moment, including yours truly.
It is pretty certain that there will be changes which of course you could say for every single top club, but it also looks pretty clear that some areas will not need as much surgery as others. The Chelsea defence must be the envy of every other club in England; in fact it is the envy of the English national side too. Wholesale changes may not occur there, while elsewhere it is completely open to conjecture.
Certainly Jose and the club will have had the feelers well and truly out over the past few months and wouldn’t it be nice if some of the incomers were sorted out early. That may prove difficult this time, because plenty of players going to the World Cup will want to keep their options open. The truth is however that few players can become overnight successes at World Cups these days, the scouts have generally had them well looked at for years before they get near to that level.
Maybe someone can perform unexpectedly, but most agree it is pretty dangerous to judge any player on such a small number of games. Urging his club to pay huge sums on somebody who has a little golden spell could easily be a scout’s biggest and last mistake.
At the weekend we fielded what was a slightly unusual looking side and I found it difficult to read too much into it. It produced the win of course, but giving Tomas Kalas game time and experience was more salient than any comment about who will or will not start next season at centre-back. Lots of folk did consider Fernando Torres’s muted celebration as significant, but it was impossible to tell what the real meaning was. It could be as simple as realising that the goal had no real bearing on league position. Look at Arsenal’s second goal at the weekend and basically only one player celebrated, the scorer, it doesn’t mean the rest of the team are leaving does it?
Speculation will be rife, but as I say, I would be a liar to suggest I know more than anyone else. It is probably just best to sit and wait; even if there is fun to be had reading the papers and going online for informed and not so informed speculation. Guessing is such a messy business anyway as far as football is concerned.
I was delighted to hear Frank Lampard deservedly getting the call for Brazil but equally saddened for Ashley Cole missing out after his extraordinary service for his country. Having just missed out on three World Cup squads myself during my career, I know it can feel like there is a big party going on and you are the only one not invited. Not the most pleasant feeling, especially if you had expected to be going.
In case you were thinking of getting the violins out for me, hold on just a moment. I am lucky enough to be jaunting around the world over the next few weeks and months. First of all I am looking forward to meeting some Blues fans in Hong Kong at the Soccer 7s over there in a couple of weeks’ time, before heading out to Brazil for the World Cup. I will of course be sending back reports for this page on my travels around the likes of Rio, Manaus, Porto Alegre etc, it should be lively to say the least. It is not the same as playing but it is a very good ‘job’ nonetheless.
I will however squeeze in another tournament this week along with some Chelsea legends. So if you really need a little Chelsea fun to tide you over and you are in London, there isthe Elite Legends Cup down at Brisbane Road, the home of Leyton Orient on Sunday.
It will be featuring an ex-Chelsea players’ team v Arsenal, Spurs and West Ham oldies. The likes of Tore Andre Flo, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Gianfranco Zola, Ken Monkou, Jody Morris, Glenn Hoddle, Michael Duberry, Dave Beasant, Paul Canoville and of course the odd Scottish winger are due to be on show. We won this tournament last time it was held at Craven Cottage a couple of years back, so we would be grateful of all the support we can get to retain the title. At least it will be fun and stress-free, unlike watching the Premier League and Champions League travails each week. Sometimes you just need a little rest and that goes for the fans as well as the players.
Last week I asked which Chelsea player had played the most minutes for the club this season. A close call but Gary Cahill, John Terry and Petr Cech were squeezed out by Mr Dependable, Branislav Ivanovic. Only one winner is allowed and this week it is Jon Simmonds from Andover in Hants. There will be a break from the quiz for a little while over the summer, but I will keep posting as I said, from the World Cup in particular.
So have a great summer and let’s hope our lads in Brazil come back safe and sound with no injuries.