Cramming it in before Christmas, columnist and Chelsea legend Pat Nevin writes about an eventful week with a special conversation as its centrepiece…
It has been another breathless week and that has just been for me flying around the UK on a variety of interesting appointments, one of which was stymied by a six-hour delay at Edinburgh Airport waiting to fly to London for the Steaua match. One or two of the more sharp-eyed among you may have noticed my absence from the midweek show on Chelsea TV. Gigi, Jody Morris and Clive Walker managed perfectly well without me, a little too well if truth be told!
I still had to get down because there were other appointments, a chat with the wonderful Chelsea Foundation Senior Fans was a highlight before a much anticipated (by me anyway) meeting with the boss for a forthcoming Chelsea TV Special to be aired over Christmas. There were more delays as Jose had some fairly important team matters to sort out on Friday night, but the ensuing hour at the team hotel was an honour and a pleasure.
I am acutely aware that anyone Chelsea-minded would love to have an hour to chat to Jose Mourinho. Actually anyone interested in football would feel that way no matter who you support and he didn’t let me down. When I say chat, it would be more accurate to say I asked the odd question and listened intently, determined to learn as much as I could about the man, his thoughts and his methods. No spoilers here, but I suspect it might be well worth listening to.
One thing I can say, that he has touched on before and I have espoused since August; this is a season to be enjoyed. As entertaining, unpredictable and as surprising as any in the Premier League’s history, I can’t bring myself to complain and neither can he when it is compared to the one, two or three-club processions witnessed in just about every other top league in Europe. Saturday was a classic case in point. I wonder if anyone in the country actually correctly predicted the final results in the Man City v Arsenal or Spurs v Liverpool games.
Even our own meeting with Palace was not without plenty of tension as the game wore on. Anyone can surprise anyone in this league on any given day. Just as my weekend began to calm down I had a flight to Dublin so frightening that the woman beside me cried through the last five minutes and held my hand so tight it almost broke a couple of my fingers! Of course I was perfectly calm as the plane was thrown about like a child’s kite in a hurricane.
So onto quieter times then? Well no, tonight’s game is no foregone conclusion as Gus Poyet’s Sunderland continue to improve and battle for success. Could this be another shock? We will see, but there is one thing that was absolutely no shock and that was the Champions League draw. The looming figure of Didier Drogba on the horizon was impossible to ignore, even Jose openly said he expected to see our old number nine back at the Bridge before a ball was drawn.
There are a small number of players who Chelsea fans could not do anything other than cheer when they turn up, even if they are trying to score against us and knock us out of the Champions League. Many players get a polite reception, others, some of them truly great players for us, are merely acknowledged and then the business of the 90 minutes takes over. For Drogba it is something more special. I will not be surprised if there are banners made to welcome him back and if he had the audacity to score a hat-trick at the Shed End there would scarcely be a grumble towards him.
The problem is, will he actually want to score against Chelsea? I know it sounds odd but if you have that special relationship it is actually painful to put the ball in the Chelsea net. I know, I had to do it in my first trip back to the Bridge after I left for Everton. A terrible pass back, missed by Erland Johnson and there was me one on one with Chelsea keeper Dave Beasant right in front of my beloved Shed End. I didn’t miss many one on ones in my career and I had so much time, there was even enough for me to think, ‘should I really do this?’ Professionalism kicked in and I rolled the ball into the net, but it was the only goal I ever scored when I was gutted about scoring. There wasn’t even a team mate there I could pass it to, for him to do the dirty deed!
Whatever will be will be when Galatasaray come to town, but I am already looking forward to it. In the meantime there is more to look forward to. Tonight’s game, which if it is half as exciting as the game at the Stadium of Light the other week, will be fascinating. There are fabulously set up matches against Liverpool and Arsenal. I’m also looking forward to seeing that interview with Jose, to make sure I didn’t sound too much like a fawning fan boy and I am sure there was something else…Oh yes Christmas is coming too. I think I better start finding some time to buy a few presents.
Last week’s quiz was a bit of a gift, our top-scoring striker last year was of course Fernando Torres. Most of you got that right and happily El Nino was on target again this week, nothing gets you sparked like the manager having a gentle dig in the press! There can only be one winner and this week the randomly drawn chap with the early Christmas present is Rasmus Kahl from Copenhagen in Denmark.
To have a chance of being the lucky winner next week, with the prize a copy of the Frank Lampard 203 Goals book, signed by Frank, could you tell me who did Didier Drogba score his first competitive goal against for Chelsea? Answers as ever to me at firstname.lastname@example.org The best of luck with that and as ever to the team in the next few games.