In Conjunction with the Chelsea Fancast
Join Alex Churchill author of “Over Land and Sea: Chelsea FC in the Great War.”
Alex has also worked on centenary books: Somme: 141 Days, 141 Lives and Passchendaele: 103 Days in Hell. Alex has appeared in numerous television documentaries about the war and has given talks, or is booked to speak for a number of organisations including: the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, BBC History Magazine, the Chalke Valley History Festival and the Western Front Association.
Departing London with a stop en route to the coast on the afternoon/evening of Friday 24th May 2019 and returning on Monday 27th May 2019
*Two nights on the Somme and one night at Ypres
*An overview of the war 1914-1915
*A trip through the battlefields of 1916-1918 looking at the general progression of the war on the Somme, at Arras and at Ypres; stopping to look at sites specific to football and the war, and focusing on the inidivudal stories of Chelsea players and fans in each locality.
*Stops at key sites including the Thiepval Memorial and Tyne Cot Cemetery
*Time in Ypres to explore the town and witness the Last Post.
*Q & A Sessions (inevitably in a bar)
*There will also be scope to include any relevant stops for family members or points of interest of those on the tour if they can be worked into the itinerary.
To register your initial interest and join the mailing list please submit the following details:
Manchester United 2 Chelsea 1
Sunday 25th February 2018 14:05
In the News: My blood pressure had just about returned to normal levels by the weekend after watching replays of Suarez tripping himself up and screaming for a penalty. We need retrospective bans for the likes of him and Sp*rs's diving little sh*tbag to eradicate this nonsense out of their tiny brains. Otherwise it will never stop. All hail Leo DiCaprio for tweeting that he was going to break down his Oscar into 11 pieces and dish it out the the Uefalona players on Tuesday. FIFA should be sh*tting their pants after a riot officer was killed after the Spartak Moscow game. This World Cup is going to be a barrel of laughs. Speaking of unacceptable behaviour in football, Evra was subjected to calls of “lying b*stard” by the Red Scouse. Because of course Suarez has turned out to be completely misunderstood, hasn’t he? Whoever is in charge of quality control at the Daily Fail needs to be sacked. This week there was a webpage dedicated to a man who photographed a Gregg’s steak bake and claimed it looked like Henry VIII’s shoe in the standard Holbein portrait. Is that them ticking off culture? And there was a massive banner headline about some bloke called Gareth Ball scoring for Real Madrid. Jesus wept. And I’m officially bored of the saga of Pip Squeakiola and his yellow ribbon. Couldn’t give a f*ck. Rather see him punished for awful behaviour at Wigan.
The Others: Leave it to the Goons, as always, to make us feel better about ourselves. Booed off after losing to Ostersunds, Roy Keane has declared that Wilshere is the most overrated player on the planet. Um, no. He’d have to be rated in the first place for that to happen. And that’s only the case with a few deluded Goons who have been put through the wringer so much by Whinger that they don’t even know what day it is anymore. Then came the cup final. I can’t believe they deprived us so willingly of a shot at the trophy only to put in such a pathetic display at Wembley. Mini Goons wept in the crowd. Piers Morgan went into a full on, beautiful nappy sh*tting meltdown online. So they get to be the-club-that’s-in-crisis this week. Yay.
Spurs robbed of a penalty after ten minutes - good start. Then another on 30 minutes when Kane was judged to be offside. The referee giveth, and then he taketh away. Joyous. Even more joyous - they couldn’t hit a barn door in the second half. The Diving little shitbag in diving shock as he attempts to win a penalty. Doesn't work so he audaciously tries it again two minutes later after he’d already kicked the ball out of play. Lucky f*ckers won it by a single goal in the end. Keeper had saved far worse than that.
United had won just one of the previous 14 meetings of us. But which Chelsea was this going to be? I never know anymore. More of Tuesday night please.
Them: Still an utterly unterrifying United line up compared to yesteryear - the fact that we were willing to sell them three players should tell you everything. I question the wisdom of putting all your eggs in a diving Chilean basket. Ashley Young? How old is he now? I'd have it was more likely you'd spot a dodo wearing a United shirt these days than that diving prick.
Us: The Farca result and the presence of a striker quelled the nappy sh*tting - but should we really have chosen today to put Morata back in the starting lineup?
First there was a handshake. All of the Red Swarm sitting there, pencils poised, with a boner about a potential snub/bitchfight went limp. Quick goal please, obliterate his game plan. And Lord knows we tried. Amidst rampant singing of Antonio’s name, we started with intent and notched up 85% possession in the first five minutes. After just three minutes a volley by Alonso was smacked into the crossbar by Morata, then hit just over by Hazard on the follow up. At the end of the first ten minutes we'd almost scored twice and they hadn't fashioned a shot. And Pogba had shown the limit of his worth by throwing himself on the floor. Moses was dancing around him at times like he was nailed to the floor. Moses, who we once loaned to West Ham. Past Pogba. Who cost how much? The overrated fool spends more on his hair every week than the spend on gin in a year. Hazard took time out to mock him, which makes me feel better about not having got close enough to do it myself yet.
Stat-wise we were running riot, but had fashioned nothing else dangerous as of yet. Conte and CP were even having a laugh and a joke on the touchline. Flaccid journos everywhere. We carried on pressing. Moses made a good run but got tangled up in the box. On 25 minutes they finally sparked into life a bit. Then it was like someone had suddenly let a crowd in when Sanchez hit an effort about as powerful as my kitten having a fart that comprised their first shot of the game on 27. Little Willy had been potent thus far. If you're United, you deserve to be lined up and pimp slapped by Chequebook Pulis for our goal. It began with Pogba lying on the floor with one boot on moaning. Willian breaks and feeds it to Eden. Willy is then allowed to keep going the length of the pitch completely unnoticed by the entire United team. Once within range of goal he had the sense not to pass to Morata and to smash it himself. 0-1.
I curse every one of you that started singing “Jose, what’s the score?” Because then we shot ourselves in the foot, as it turned out, because straight afterwards five of them let Hazard run across the face of goal with nobody approaching him. We didn’t score. Seconds later a curling shot from Alonso bent wide. On 37 Matic was left looking like a chump. Break on. Morata loses ball. Recurring theme. So at that point we could have been comfortably ahead all things considered.
Then on 38 Lukaku finally scored a goal against some actual opposition. Scrappy defending, not enough closing down but they had done nothing to warrant being on terms in this game. We used to have a fat kid at school who moved like a sleep deprived hippo and goal hung too. Pretty sure he's not earning a seven figure salary now.
Still we had chances as we approached half time. Hazard made a great run into the box. He was surrounded and all he could do was drop it back for Alonso who hit it wide. I was already wound up by Morata. He began the game showing no signs of this ambiguous back injury, but by getting pushed around a fair bit. This was forgivable, but then he went on to spend much of the opening 45 sitting on the floor moaning about being fouled, and I think it was injury time before I actually concurred with him on one. For me today having Morata up front was no better than us playing with a false nine. He’s coming back from injury but he really needs to buck his ideas up. Man. The. F*ck. Up. And look for some decent form to end the season now. Injuries I can take, a dip in form even, it happens to everyone, but it's so frustrating to see someone of his ability pussying out time after time instead of taking the game on. This might make me sound like a b*tch, and it may just be my general bad mood, but I don't have it in to me to put blind faith in another striker with emotional baggage who can’t get his act together. I stuck blindly behind Torres from the first to the last, that was fine, but now I’m not interested in anyone who can’t come in and just do their job and earn the astronomical salary they have been given. Oh but if we would send every player to “Azpilicueta School” and hypnotise/electric shock everyone into behaving exactly like him.
So instead of being comfortable and forcing them to change everything, we were back at square one. Willian burst forth almost straightaway after the break, but the forward momentum petered out with Morata. I make no further comment. Hazard also made a valiant effort to get us in on goal, but it was a pretty level start to the second half, play ebbing back and forth. We’d had more than double their attempts on goal but since Willian put us ahead none of them had really troubled De Gea much. The sun was in his eyes though, which left me hoping that fate/mother nature would teach him a lesson for that little pony tail. As CP made his first change just after the hour mark, the sum total of their attempts for the last ten minutes had been a lame shot dragged way wide from Sanchez, who was basically anonymous for 90% of the play.
The game was opening up. I wanted Giroud. Perhaps a straight change up top, or Cesc on for Drinkwater? You'd be loathed to take Willian or Hazard when they look capable of stinging them on the break. And yet off went Eden. I cannot comprehend this unless there was something Conte knew about his ability to continue that we didn’t.
F*cking Lingard. Another lapse at the back, more punishment. It’s this weeks theme. And we haven't really looked like scoring at all really since half time. Willian did have a fair go at levelling it straight away but it would have entailed beating the ponytail on his near post which was a little too much to ask. We couldn’t even capitalise on a stupid mistake by Lindelhof. Giroud. Amen. In exchange for Moses who had faded away completely in the second half. Such a difference in attitude between Olivier and Alvaro. And in body language. So now we had two up front and plenty of time left to try and salvage a point out of a game that we had looked thoroughly capable of winning at some stage. We also brought on Fabregas for Drinkwater - probably ten mins too late if you were going to try and win it. Not convinced by the timing of the manager’s subs or the removal of Hazard today.
Shit or bust then. And we did equalise, and Morata did step up. Which brings me to Refwatch: Atkinson missed a blatant foul on Hazard in our own half but his transgressions were insignificant and few and far between, and had no wider impact on the game. The others are so bad I’ve started to like him. He was let down by a clanger from his moron Lino for the big call. His only possibly defence might be that he was as startled as the rest of us that the Morata had made it onto the ball first, and without falling over.
United had given up playing football. Bailly on for a forward. Running the clock down, Matic pretending to have cramp, Pogba inexplicably running round staring at his own gloved hand like he's never seen it before. Frustrating.
So: Robbed. F*cking robbed. Though we are Chelsea so there's a fair dose of "we could have wrapped it up by half time if we would have taken our chances." Rooney sitting with a blanket on his legs. In front of his kid as well. Not that he was ever setting an example to begin with I suppose. I can't actually find that much to get really angry about. Other than recommending that they bring Stevie Wonder in to do a job share with the Lino. At least he could provide some acapella support for the halftime Birthday crap. A couple of weeks ago we were getting destroyed by Bournemouth. In the last few days it's only the odd unfortunate lapse in concentration that's cost us results against Diverlona and at the Theatre of Plastic Dreams. We're not lacking in the ability to win against our main rivals, just in a bit of luck, savvy and the ability to close a game out at the moment. Yesterday was apparently the first time we've gone ahead in a league game this season and not won. Out of 16? This game is not the one that is going to cost us the top four. It will be squandering points by not beating the likes of Bournemouth, Watford. We've now got a blissful whole week to prepare for City, which is a novelty. For me, we needed four points out of these two Manc fixtures, so we've got to go for a win. At the very least we need a better approach than the Goons, which was to turn up and roll over like a stoned golden retriever and wait for our bellies to be tickled.
*Dissapointed Thibaut photo comes from Chelsea's official site
Chelsea 1 UEFAlona 1
Last 16 UEFA Champions League
Tuesday 20th February 2018 19:45
Chelsea 3 West Brom 0: I've relied on the sage wisdom of Uncle Albert to update me on the two fixtures while I was away. For this one I was sitting in the lounge bar listening to a playlist of 90s Egyptian epicness, gleaning match facts from the club's official Twatter. I hate nappy sh*tting, but this was just as bad. State sponsored propaganda in which nobody in blue put a foot wrong. Suspect their coverage of the fall of Constantinople in 1453 would have read: "Thou has witnessed a few Ottomans outside the window. But we looked like holding them off for five minutes around lunchtime." Anyway, a nervous start and we finally put the previous week or so behind us. Albert put it down to the might of Eden Hazard and was pleasantly surprised by Zappacosta's input. He was also glad that Giroud's performance might put the wind up Morata and give us a bit of competition in the squad.
Chelsea 4 Hull City 0: We were up at 2:30 GMT to make the drive to Abu Simbel on this day from Aswan, so by ten o'clock odd at night when this kicked off I was basically a gibbering, Egyptian gin-soaked wreck. Thankfully, Willian set us off on right path after less than two minutes which meant my powers of concentration weren't taxed too much. Easy opposition, says Albert. Then he adds the old platitude about how you can only play what's put in front of you. He was massively impressed with Emerson and says he didn't play a bad ball all night. This, tho, he says was “The Willy Show” and that came through even through Chelsea Stasi channels on Twatter in Aswan. Giroud and Drinkwater also apparently impressive.
In the News: I got through ten days in Egypt, surprisingly, with only one row about Mohammed Salah. A guy in a fake Roma shirt started off trying to sell me ten book marks for 100 quid (Egyptian), followed on by telling us he had been a die hard Red Scouse fan for about six months and ended by chasing us round the stepped pyramid at Saqqara hollering at us in clipped English that Chelsea were Muslim hating racists. I said it had more to do with the fact that when he played for us he was young and sh*t but at that point we got bored and departed in the direction of gin. I also met a kid called Yussef on Kitchener Island in Aswan wearing a Farca shirt and insisting Chelsea were not going to get beaten tonight. I’m going back there to get lottery numbers off of him. Aside from that there are a lot of baffled Egyptians being bludgeoned with Jordan Henderson advertising for a bank on the motorways wondering what is wrong with his face.
Lots of stating the obvious by the Red Swarm so far this week. We'd have to be near our best, they take nothing for granted when it's us. I did an online poll that revealed opinion about the result to be thus before kick off:
Turn the f*ckers over: 55%
We're f*cked: 25%
Overbo says we shouldn't remember him for that one night in 2009. Well, when the next biggest day of your career was a Norwegian league game with 11,000 fans and you quit the day after that car crash in 2009 you've not got a lot else to scream about.
The Others: "FA won't take cup semi final away from Wembley if R***enham make last four despite concern from other clubs over home advantage." They'll have to beat Rochdale first.
I do love it when Pip Squeakiola comes crashing back down to earth and lands on his shiny bald head. I like Wigan. When you go to visit they are very friendly place, kind of old fashioned (I went in 2010ish with an iPhone and the Steward thought I was a witch) They even give you your own bar to drink in under the stand and coverage of whatever is on before kick off. It has a real social club feel. They have to fight for attention against all the egg chasing nonsense yet there are a good few thousand of them there every week no matter how bad it gets. That and they have got this awesome Amazonian woman fan with a mad birds nest of ginger hair that looks like a tall version of Gwildor from Masters of the Universe who is always up for some banter. Delph's tackle was moronic. As for pulling out a yellow and then changing it for a red. He hadn't shown the yellow and it's his prerogative. Perhaps the Lino added his two pence worth in his ear, or perhaps Delph said something that required further punishment. I guess because like all other referees, Anthony Taylor is a mute we'll just have to guess.
You get a real sense of what a f*cking "gentleman" Guardiola is when he gets turned over. Tunnel scrapping, launching himself like a maddened Dervish screaming abuse at the referee in the tunnel (Even I've managed to refrain from doing that to Anthony Taylor) and comments like "Congratulations to Wigan, they had one shot on target." Bellend. Let me explain it for you: First of all they had two shots on target. One of them went in the back of the net. Your spoiled brats had five and missed them all. So you lost. Howard (sitcom alias) summed it up: "Petulant little c*nt who cant win anything without a pre-assembled world class squad or half a billion quid."
I said I'd be happy if we got to twenty minutes without conceding. Howard's final thought re the game: "If its 0-7 but Messi doesn't score I'm taking it as a win"
Us: Cahill left out of the back three, much to the joy of the extreme fecal faction. Though Blue Hulk almost turned a table for eight that weighs half a ton over in The Elk when he saw that we were playing a false nine. Lots of moaning, with shoulder shrugs in the pub. Looked like he wanted to catch them on the break to me, not sure it was going to work.
Them: It was mostly them in the opening seconds, which you'd expect; until Dave knocked it out from under the tax-dodging little ferret (Messi) and Willian was away. The first shot fell to Hazard who hit it high from range. Dare I say they'd given it away scrappily a few times already. 7 minutes gone and we'd slightly edged it. Moses had even won a header. The first corner went our way too. Rudi got on the end of it but he couldn't line it up properly. Great run by Hazard on 12 minutes but his cross couldn't find a blue in the crowded six yard box.
They had had most of the ball, but much of the play they'd had had been dicking around in the middle looking for a decent ball forward, until they headed it wide of the goal somewhat weakly on 15 minutes. Possession was continually edging up on their side but that is exactly what we expected and barely any of it was threatening. Surprisingly lacklustre Uefalona contingent in the shed too. Far less of their smug yapping than usual.
We had survived twenty minutes. Which for me is a completely unsubstantiated but oddly reassuring measure of not getting tanked. My one grumble so far was that with most of the team at my height, as soon as anyone launched the ball upwards we lost it, which was predictable. The odd ball was floating in to nobody in lieu of a striker too, which was annoying. But we weren't losing so I could live with it. It might just be because I hate their f*cking guts, but I don't remember them having come close at that point. 27 minutes and the diving began from the visitors. Umtiti lying on the floor holding his f*cking face. Still, we expected that as well. Willian survived one foul from Iniesta that wasn't given only to be brought down by Rakitic and his atrocious hair in a prime spot for an Alonso special. It was on target - I think the first of the game - but the keeper went the right way and it floated into his hands. But we carried on trying to get forward whenever we could nick possession. On 32 Hazard was away - the final effort fell to Willian after he found himself four on one and passed it and Little Willy cracked the post. Best effort yet at either end. A few minutes later we saw a near perfect ball from Cesc just miss the end of Eden's toe in the box too. Given the right pass, Eeyore Pique was there for the taking. Willian hit the post again before the ball came into Hazard on the volley, but his shot was over. That's it Chels. Grind these f*ckers down. We ended the half the better side. As per usual they don't like it up 'em, but we needed to remain disciplined at the back.
Talking points at half time.
1 We are more than in this.
2 Suarez has managed to go 45 minutes without trying to eat anyone.
They'd had 70% odd possession in the first half and that didn't look like changing after the break. The tax dodging ferret tried to run into the box straight away, but was mown down by Christensen. Then Iniesta got a lucky bounce twenty yards out, but he hit it like a dickhead and it went soaring over the bar. Our first break showed that they were still putting that much into attacking that if we could get away fast enough their half was wide open. On 49 we were pulled down in the box but the referee wasn't having it. He waited five seconds then gave them a free kick instead. And so beginneth sh*thousery from the officials. Refwatch: Apparently the same bloke that sent JT off at the Nou Camp in 2012. Typical fussy European ref, blows for everything, but not excessively in either direction in the first half. He began the second by giving fouls against us for nothing so he must have had a coded whatsapp message from UEFA at half time. That and a dick pic from Rakitic in order to give him license to carry on fouling us at will and getting away with it when he was already on a yellow. I'd say he got one from Biscuits too to atone for all the moaning he does without sanction but nobody is going to get off on a jpeg of a stump. It seemed to us that there was a whole lot of one sided bastardry emerging from the tit in the middle, but we are understandably paranoid about such sh*t when playing this lot. Thankfully no major decisions succumbed to his f*ckwittery.
Thibaut had had to palm one sideways on 53 but it was always a narrow effort and that had been as scary as it got. But we just couldn't quite get it right on the break. All we'd had had to show for the second half was a tame effort by Cesc. However, when that went out for a corner, step up Willy, who deserved to score more than anyone on the pitch, to leather it in. Mayhem. Take that you smug w*nkers. Take that UEFA. Take that ref. Now carry on doing exactly what you've been doing for the last hour boys. They were really coming at us now. Iniesta diving like a c*nt, Suarez getting mouthy (insert joke here), tax dodging ferret sulking. Typical Uefalona ploy. If you can't beat them, cheat.
Willian was at it again on 68. There was a fantastic moment when Kante went steaming past the ferret and he started jogging after him with a baffled expression on his face at the concept of having to do some defensive work. On 72 minutes Fabregas went down like he still played for them and still couldn't get anything out of the ref, who was flapping about like a blind, demented canary. All went to sh*t when Suarez dived for a penalty. I don't think there is a viler c*nt in world football. He ran his oversized mouth enough to get booked four times for dissent never mind the simulation he got away with. Just because you can't make out what he's saying through those teeth doesn't mean it isn't a yellow card. The goal was so avoidable. So frustrating that we'd stayed so disciplined and done so well at the back and we paid for our one lapse by conceding an away goal. It only took him nine years. Git.
That took the wind out of our sails.
Morata on for Pesto, who ran his legs off tonight, with about ten minutes to go. Then Fabregas for Danny Drinkwater. Yellow C*nt then books Morata for dissent. I have no words, either for how Alvaro’s managed to do it again or for how his was bookworthy when others yapped and squawked in his face all night long. 88 minutes and Alba and Suarez were rolling about like they'd been shot. I couldn't have picked two more likely candidates for that. Yes, truly this bunch of whiny, cheating little skulduggerous cretins are the paragons of the football world. A mere three minutes added on. Insert your own explanation here.
So: We're still in the tie, which is more than most people, including possibly me, thought possible before kick off. The frustrating is, though, that when you’ve cracked the woodwork twice it feels like you’ve missed a trick when you don’t win. Worries about the formation and the team selection proved to be unfounded. In fact, but for one silly lapse the plan worked. We got given next to nothing tonight, and it will only be worse at theirs. I fancy us to score, but I don’t know if I fancy us not to concede. Still, it’s not like we can dwell on it with back to back fixtures in Manchester now in front of us.
*Picture of Willian scoring whilst the tax-dodging little ferret watches on gormlessly from afar comes from the official Chelsea website.
Watford 4 Chelsea 1
Monday 5th February 2018 20:00
All those vacating the away end tonight might want to mind out not to get run over by the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
In the News: Before I say anything: I don’t perceive our board to be infallible. I’m not saying that they have not failed to keep promises that were made to the manager, or that behind closed doors they have supported him to the best of their ability. Because I don’t know enough to form an opinion. All I know is that our current manager does not believe this to be the case. I also don’t believe that as a supporter I have the right to know the intimate detail of what goes on in the board room. I do believe that when I arrive at a ground that the manager should be as invested in victory as I am. I do not believe this to be the case right now.
So. I like Antonio Conte. I’ve met him more than once, and not only do I like him as a manager, but he’s a nice bloke too. I have never wanted him to leave us. I’ve never advocated his getting fired. But he’s making it very difficult. Another day, another dollar, another cringeworthy flow of quotes that make you want to duck tape his mouth shut. Conte wants a public display of support from the club. I’d say there is probably no more public display of support than selling one of your best players (even if he is a lunatic) because your manager demanded that he wanted him gone. If Chelsea respond to this plea, they look idiotic because they are indulging the idea of having this conversation in public. And if they don't respond they look like a*seholes and Conte looks idiotic. Who wins? You also can’t put your employers in this position when the faith and the respect is not reciprocated. You can’t make statements about how we should have signed three players and not eight, when you are the one that has been complaining since last summer that you don’t have enough personnel. In that respect the board gave you what you asked for. He's had nigh on a quarter of a billion spent on him since last season. Only two other clubs have bettered this. One is basically funded by a state and the other has spent in a reckless fashion that is going to bugger their whole wage structure. Have the board bought Conte exactly what he wanted? Not entirely. Perceptions about whether this is the cut and thrust of the transfer market or anyone's fault are beyond our knowledge. But since last May he has left the club hanging about his intentions, so if there is a knock on effect from that, such as the board protecting what they perceive to be the wider interests of the club’s future, and not just his immediate demands when he has insinuated before that he would walk then he cannot b*tch about it. Even if you sand the veneer of hysterical bullsh*t generated by the Red Swarm off, there is still enough left to grind my gears. “My intention is to honour my contract.” Nothing he says or does right now substantiates this. Because so much of this has been orchestrated by Antonio himself now, that I know I’m not the only one with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that comes with the horrible suggestion that a professional that you like and admire might consider getting fired as their best option financially. It doesn’t help that it has happened to us before.
Anyway enough of this sh*t for now. Naturally Michy scored twice on his German debut. This will send the nappy sh*tters into overdrive, and the less dramatic will just roll their eyes and swear they saw it coming. He says he loves Dortmund because they play in black and yellow, and this is perfect because he loves Batman and Spongebob. This is exactly the same philosophy as that my friend's son Henry lives by. He turned two just after Christmas. BT are set to ditch Premier League coverage because they are shedding viewers quicker than we are shedding points. Not surprising when you compose a line up of Monotone Gerrard, Savage’s Hair and Michael Owen, who every time he opens his mouth sounds like someone has shoved 50p in a slot to crank him up to bore us all with tales of his glory days. All three of them. Before he turned 20. Carragher has called Van Dijk fat. Klippity Klopp has called Carragher fat. Good for a quick giggle, but hilariously these are the £75m man's stats:
9 goals conceded
0 clean sheets
1 penalty conceded
£75m. And supposed to win them the league.
The Others: Burnley did a number on City, United won and Sp*rs were lucky on two counts yesterday. Firstly because their equaliser was offside and secondly because Klippity couldn't set his chumps out to defend a lead in injury time if the Liverpool hierarchy promised him a lifetime’s supply of toothpaste.
Us: No Alonso - so Zappacosta comes in on the left. Fabregas not entirely fit, Bakayoko starts alongside Kante. Still no Christensen - Rudiger is left out, somewhat inexplicably for me after Bournemouth, yes Bournemouth came right out and said they targeted Cahill to dismantle us at the weekend. Gary kept his spot, and Luiz came into the middle of the back line with Dave on his other side. Willian returns, too early for me, watching him struggle tonight, and completed a front line of three small players with Pesto (autospell can have this victory, I no longer care) and Hazard. All in all, not what I would have chosen, but I’m not in charge.
Everyone was singing the manager’s name at kick off. There was no explosive start, but given the drubbing we suffered at the weekend that was fine with me. All I wanted was a nice steady game that showed some drive, and an ability to retain the ball after that fiasco would have been nice.
Nope. Not happening. It was a mere four minutes before we got punished for the first time for giving the ball away sloppily. Then we did it again and were lucky when the ball hit the side netting. It had been a bright start by Watford, but we weren’t doing ourselves any favours. After nine minutes Dave let Deeney run off him. This is Deeney, yes he who is about as dynamic as a carthorse with arthritis somehow finding a criminal amount of space in our box. Good job he’s a donkey, because he couldn’t even fashion a shot out of it. Shortly afterwards, in what would turn out to be one of our rare forays forward, a Moses cross deflected to Willian. So many places to put it, but he fluffed his lines and hit it over the bar. Then it was Watford’s turn to miss a glaring opportunity. Cahill kept us in it by throwing himself in the path of a home effort; before we got the ball straight up the other end. But Moses fell over his own feet in the box. Little did we know that this would almost be the highlight of the evening. When we did get the ball up towards their box, there was nobody in it to assault the goal. No Morata, no Alonso steaming in from further out with Lampardesque determination. Why no Giroud? I was annoyed by this already. I don't care if he doesn't speak fluent Conte after three days. It doesn't require a PhD in common sense to just sling him on and hoof it up to him. Three forwards. Willian clearly not 100%. Pesto hasn’t been at more than 65% of his best form for weeks now, which basically left Hazard up against their meathead back line on his own. He’s amazing. He’s not God.
Then the night really started going down the sh*tter. The second yellow for Bakayoko was very harsh, but it summed up a thoroughly inglorious half an hour in which everything he tried turn to sh*t. In hindsight you can say that Conte could have picked Drinkwater, but you don’t select your side assuming that Bakayoko is going to let you down to the extent that he did in his short spell tonight. That one wasn’t on Conte. I had Uncle Albert next to me and he was nappy sh*tting to the extent that a triple layer of Huggies wouldn't have stemmed the flow of effluence pooling at his feet. He says Bakayoko is the worst player he's ever seen at Chelsea. Ridiculous drama queen that he is. Barkles (special alias) put it more succinctly in a swift text: “When Andy Hinchcliffe is mugging you off in commentary you know you are sh*t.”
What is on Conte is the decision he made to take off Willian (fair enough) and put a not-really-fit Fabregas on with an hour of play left. No. Just no. Watford claimed the first accurate shot of the game on 34 minutes, but it was claimed with relative ease by Courtois. But it was like we were dragging ourselves towards half time with our hands. At this point I was insistent that Conte had to pull Pesto for Giroud at half time. More than ever with ten men we needed a focal point to hit it up to if we were to get anything out of this game. Leave him and Hazard up front and just concentrate on not conceding. As soon as I wrote that Mike Dean gave them a penalty. It was a joke. Delafool went down like his leg had been snapped. Courtois didn't get the ball but he didn't get him either. But then what more do you expect from a little ratfaced jobber who failed to come through the ranks at Uefalona? It was going to be one of those nights. Wasn’t it? Pesto had one chance in injury time and like Willian's earlier it soared over the bar. Here's a depressing statement: Even with eleven men, we had not collectively shown half of Watford's desire to win this game. If Conte was to send the same players out for the second half he’d be stealing a living tonight.
And the same ten it was. My blood pressure was rising. On 49 they broke through but thankfully the ball ran to Thibaut. A minute later we saw a promising run by Zappacosta, who crossed it well into the box. That’s where the problem was. The only person anywhere near it was Moses. But he was always two feet behind the defender and when he rose to try and hit it, he head-butted the Watford player instead. You have to give him credit for at least being in the box, because nobody else but Pesto was. More concerning than anything else on the pitch: Antonio was a picture of disinterest in the dugout.
With half an hour to go Conte finally prepared to make the change that he should have made at half time. Pesto limped off, another potential injury on a mounting list and we were treated to the surreal sight of Giroud jogging on wearing blue. Too late for me if you intended to try and win this game but, God love him, our debutant did try. Harsh, said Uncle Albert - sent on with little chance of success and expected to work a miracle. It’s OK, I reassured him. He’s used to it, he’s been at Arsenal.
We looked better immediately, because there was actually a plan and a large beard to aim for, but we had other issues; namely the fact that poor Cesc’s legs had gone. I made the observation that for such a massive c*nt Sebastian Prodl is an even bigger f*cking cry baby. I can’t remember why. It was getting panicked now, the play going back and forth with far less control. I could count the amount of times we had touched the ball in their half on one hand. Never mind a shot on target. No chance. We finally got our first on 80 minutes, but Cesc had watched everyone else put it in row z and just placed it too precisely and along the ground. Not enough to test the keeper.
Don’t ask me where our goal came from. Eden bails us out again. A point would have been over-rewarding us for our contribution to the game tonight, but he at least deserved something for all of the effort he had put in. Refwatch: Mike Dean. Sending off was harsh, penalty shout was a joke. Possibly the only person who tanked as much as Bakayoko or the manager tonight. He gifted them a total of three goals tonight, by ignoring blatant fouls in the run up to two more. This may have been the case, and he may look like Dobby the House Elf after a week long bender, but even if he hadn’t put in a sh*thouse performance we still wouldn’t have outscored Watford tonight. We looked better in the dying moments than we had all night, but it was out of sight. Giroud was unlucky not to get a goal on his debut, but we were only ever in it for a total of about five minutes.
So: We got what we deserved. Which was f*ck all. They got more than they deserved because Mike Dean is an inconsistent f*ckwit that can't decide what a foul is. Two winnable fixtures, 0 points and six goals conceded. And a manager that, as much as pains me to say it, looks like he wants to get dropkicked out the door. Uncle Albert was incandescent with rage that Rudiger wasn’t brought on at 1-1 to hold the line, but that was the least of our worries. Hazard, Dave and Giroud have a right to feel aggrieved. In fact if I am Hazard I take my boot off int he dressing room and throw it at Conte’s face. Cesc took one for the team when he wasn’t in the physical condition to contribute what he was asked to. There are a number of players nowhere near their best; namely Pesto, Kante, Cahill. I don’t believe that this is divorced from Conte’s current attitude. No manager on the planet in any industry would walk into work twice a week and talk about how s*t their lot was, how hard done by they were and then expect to get maximum productivity out of those in their charge by chucking in the odd half-arsed remark about wanting to stay on. If they expected that to be the case they would be morons. He looked like a broken man, but so much of it is self-inflicted I can’t feel sorry for him. How does undermining the club at every opportunity improve anything? Surely this situation is now irretrievable. He just doesn’t have the demeanour, and doesn’t make the decisions in selection or as play unfolds of late that portray a man who particularly gives a sh*t. We may only be one point ahead of Sp*rs, but we are also only six behind United in second, and we've still got to play them. The fat lady isn’t singing yet, but I don't have any confidence right now in Conte's desire to make a resurgence happen. To me the only reason I can fathom that you would continue to continue in this miserable, sulky vein is to get shown the door. That makes me angry, because the connotations for us go beyond the summer. Whether we play in the Champions League next season for one, whether we keep Eden Hazard. But then is he even going to make it past the West Brom game now? Bogey club for manager sackings, init? Fifteen days until Uefalona. Does the club stick or twist? I’m not advocating he go, but I can’t see the turnaround in his attitude happening either. So I shrug, and bugger off to see the pyramids.
All of this (except the pyramids) is depressing, so I leave you with this feisty text from Mowgli:
“So down to 10 men, 4 - 1 down, a commentator that keeps calling Kante - Conte.
Having to listen to Carragher and Rooney.
I've just ripped the tv off the wall, took it upstairs, opened my bedroom window and launched it!
I've always wanted to throw a tv out the window like a rock star!”
Further investigation revealed that this is what he wished had happened. His arms were too weedy to get the 20 inch flatscreen off the kitchen wall, and had he chucked it, it would only have been a ten foot drop to the ground outside anyway. The thing would probably ave just bounced.