Having been at Wembley this weekend to witness the cup exit, columnist and former Chelsea star Pat Nevin expects the players thoughts to rapidly move on to the next challenge…
Sunday was a painful experience in the end for all Chelsea fans, and of course the players and all staff.
The biggest disappointment is that it felt like an opportunity missed because of how strongly we finished the game. With that sort of belief and will from the start the result would have been a foregone conclusion. As it was, the start was so one-sided in favour of Manchester City that there were times that you feared a rout.
Before the game I was open in saying that I thought our opponents were certainly favourites. They are a side that has been together for a long time in comparison to the chosen Chelsea 11, but more than that it was something simple and basic, they didn’t half look like an incredibly physical group.
City used that physicality to their advantage, not always fairly as David Luiz, Ramires and Fernando Torres would attest. The referee seemed to be playing to ‘old school’ rules allowing a more robust style than we are used to in European competition and indeed even in the Premier League. It did however have the effect of making it a fast-flowing and entertaining spectacle, impossible to take your eyes off of until the final whistle. I thought we certainly deserved the opportunity of extra time at least, but maybe we just didn’t create enough clear cut chances, even when we were dominating possession.
Part of the reason for that was the defending by City. Kompany is a fantastic defender even if he should’ve been penalised for his attempting to swap shirts with Fernando in the penalty area long before that final whistle when it is traditional to do so. Nastasic is pretty special too and he was ably helped by Yaya Toure who used his considerable frame to continually help his two centre backs for the first 75 minutes. Mancini moved very quickly when Chelsea scored and very quickly strikers Nasri and Tevez were replaced by even more hulking defensive players in Javi Garcia and Joleon Lescott.
What that said to me was the Italian knew just how much trouble his team were in at the time. After the game someone said to me that the lads will not be too devastated that they lost to such a strong, talented team who cost a fortune, are current Premier League champions and anyway we had to get by the champions elect just to reach the semi.
Sadly that is nonsense; the players will be absolutely gutted. I well remember a similar sentiment being aimed at me at Wembley in 1989 after Everton, who I was playing for, got beat 3-2 after extra time by Liverpool. They were generally held to be one of the best, if not the best team in Europe at the time and it was a phenomenal game, but that made no difference, we were sick.So much so that within 10 minutes of receiving my runners-up medal, I had given it away to an Everton fan in the stands.
Rather kindly he actually gave it to another player to give me it back a few minutes later, but to this day I couldn’t tell you where that medal is, it somewhere in my house but I have no idea where. In short there is no upside to losing in an important game if you are a professional footballer who is programmed to win; nothing else is acceptable wherever you play, against whoever and under whatever circumstances.
So the lads will be bitterly down, but they have one advantage over me on my visit to the grand stadium. It is not the last game of the season and there are other things to play for and concentrate on.
Actually I didn’t brood that entire summer although I was tormented by it most days until the campaign started again. Football was sadly in some perspective at the time, it was after all the year of Hillsborough in that tragic semi-final when Liverpool lost so many fans in the disaster. Going into a full-scale self-indulgent depression over losing a game of footie was unacceptable and patently ridiculous.
What I did do however, along with all my team mates I suspect, was to consider continually what I might have done differently that could have changed the outcome of the final. Should I have tracked back less covering John Barnes? Should I have double-covered my full back when they scored the winner through Ian Rush? Should I have gone on some more mazy dribbles? The questions returned time and again, but they wouldn’t have if we had a game the next week, that would have been thrust into the forefront of our thoughts and banished the niggling doubts.
So between Sunday and Wednesday the demons will bedevil the players and the staff. Some will question if they made all the right decisions at the right times, but you can’t do anything about it now other than win against Fulham tomorrow, try to secure a top-four spot and with any luck get another European trophy for the cabinet. That will soften the blow, just a little, because what we all know is that had we gone through, Wigan would have had no chance against us.
Last week’s quiz asked which team had won the most consecutive FA Cups? There were a couple of correct answers to choose from.Wanderers FC had three consecutive wins in 1875/76, 1876/77 and 1877/78 and Blackburn Rovers had three consecutive wins in 1883/84, 1884/85 and 1885/86. Actually there is some debate over Blackburn as they had a replay but it still counts I think.
There were hundreds of correct answers, but the lucky one picked at random is Professor Fraser Brown PhD from Leeds, the prize will be sent out soon.
To have a chance of winning a DVD signed by one of the players, this week in honour of our visit to Craven Cottage, could you tell me which post-war player has played the most combined games for Chelsea and Fulham in that time? Answers as ever to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Good luck with that and as ever to the team this week.
Actually before I get into big trouble I should adapt the mood of the story above about the summer of 1989 just a little bit.Here goes, it was a wonderful summer, the finest of my life, I got married to my beautiful wife….who is leaning over my shoulder right now frowning about the fact that I appear to have forgotten that little piece of information in my gloomy report!