Following the icy draw at Swansea and another action-packed encounter with Man United, Chelsea legend Pat Nevin discusses recent events in his latest column…
Oh for a quiet life. Actually forget that, all the excitement is pretty enjoyable for the most part with Chelsea. The League Cup tie against Manchester United was yet another breathless classic that should live long in the memory. Of course these were two composite teams unlike last Sunday, but there was enough quality on show in both red and blue to make it something much more than just a glorified reserve match. Specifically there was also the chance of a trophy at stake, which isn’t to be taken lightly.
With score lines like 7-5 for Arsenal at Reading and 5-4 at the Bridge it would be easy to be a little sniffy, but look at the work, skill and intensity in both ties and you will realise these were not friendly kickabouts. I really enjoyed Chelsea’s last goal against Man United in particular when Hazard mesmerised the defence before slipping another heavenly little pass to Ramires before the Brazilian effortlessly rounded Lindegaard.
I suppose it was almost predictable after two extraordinary games against Sir Alex’s men that the Swansea match turned out to be a little more mundane. Tiredness both mentally and physically must have taken its toll. There wasn’t much between the sides and it could be argued that a draw was a fair result, but as ever losing a late equaliser always makes it feel like two points lost rather than an away point gained.
The manager and the players were keen to underline that the most recent media rumpus, this time regarding the referee Mark Clattenburg, had no effect and up to a point I would agree with that. Players know how to blank out most things in order to concentrate on the game in hand, whether it be problems at the club, in the wider world or even in their home lives. If you go out on the field of play and these problems are clouding your mind and your judgement, then basically you shouldn’t be on the pitch, you are a danger to yourself and your team.
John Terry has a remarkable ability to cope with just about anything life throws at him and it has been a lot over the past few years, yet he turns up and plays with exceptional control and concentration time after time. Not everyone can do this and I think John Mikel Obi felt the pressure a bit in the second game against United even if he thought he was up to it before the game. You really only find out when you are out there, but give him his due he was brave enough to give it a go to help the team.
The whole Mark Clattenburg story is one which I am not about to pontificate on here, certainly not before all the reports and facts have been made public. I would however make one point rather strongly, I comprehensively disagree with those in the game and the media who have suggested the story should have somehow been covered up or dealt with quietly. Are they being naïve, lacking in judgement or being willfully ignorant?
Imagine if Chelsea had not come forward with Mikel’s complaints publicly but it then leaked out later, how would the club have been regarded then? There would have been howls of derision that Chelsea were not taking racist complaints seriously, that they tried to sweep the problem under the carpet. At a time when an organisation the size of the BBC, with its huge well of respect to draw on, has been widely castigated over dragging its feet regarding the Jimmy Savile affair, have these people demanding a softly, softly approach learned nothing about how not dealing with things up front and promptly looks through the prism of the media?
In some of my previous jobs I have come across similar situations and it is infuriating to hear some of the nonsense talked of late. As chief executive at Motherwell it wasn’t racism but its equally ugly sister sectarianism I had to deal with on a few occasions and believe me there is no way of covering these things up. The press are not mugs, they will find out, it is after all their job, and indeed bringing these debates into the light shows that we take them seriously anyway.
As PFA chairman in England a few years before that, I would have been horrified if a club was not seen to be taking alleged racial comments towards one of my members totally seriously. It is nothing to do with football, in this circumstance it is a work place and an employ has a serious complaint. It must be dealt with through the correct channels however painful that may be to all concerned. I underline that I have no position on what happened between Mikel, any other player and Mark Clattenburg, I wasn’t there and I do not know any more than anyone else who has read the news reports, but I do know that the club was put in an invidious position, a position that I am sure they wish they weren’t in at this particular time, but handing it to an external investigating team underlines that there is no bias from the club, only a wish to get to the truth.
I fear I am getting a little bit ‘soap boxy’ in this column at the moment so I will move on swiftly, only stopping to suggest you have a look at the penalty Juan Mata didn’t get when Michael Keane handled the ball in the midweek cup tie, then comparing it to the one Manchester United did get against Arsenal at the weekend…beyond comprehension in my book how these two differ, but there you go.
Oh yes and there is a vital, bordering on pivotal, game against Shakhtar tomorrow night in the Champions League. I might have got sidetracked for a little while on other issues but I hope and suspect the players will not. Time to kill the November myth I think and get back on the winning track.
Last week’s quiz question was about who are the three most capped players ever to play for Chelsea. As far as I can make out it is Geremi 118 for Cameroon, Desailly 116 France and Schevchenko 111 for Ukraine. The winner chosen at random is Ben Sullivan from London who will receive the prize very soon.
This week to have a chance of winning a copy of the Kings of Europe book, signed by one of the players, could you tell me which current Chelsea star was ‘schooled’ by Blues legend and former captain Colin Pates?Answers as ever to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Good luck to you and to the lads tomorrow.