Game 38: Chelsea 5 Sunderland 1
Sunday 21st May 2017 15:00
Spare a thought for the millennials, myself amongst them. If we were conscious of anything other than dribbling before the advent of JT's Chelsea career (not with a football, Harry F*cking Kane style) then it was primitive. Probably involved sh*t like Pokemon, or He-Man. (And yet both of these things are closer in living memory than the last time the league trophy was displayed at Anfield. And at least in living memory, unlike anything decent Sp*rs have done) Today marked the end of an era for all at Chelsea Football Club, but for us, we don't really remember the place before him and just at the moment it feels like it will never be quite the same.
The Others: Now that nothing is at stake Sp*rs won. I’m sure that’s a huge consolation for achieving nothing. Again. Arsenal have been condemned to a season of Thursday night ignominy in the Europa League. Hurrah. Oh, and the Scouse will be dining at Europe's top table with us next season. (And presumably running away without paying their bill) This after they assured everyone that this really was their year and that they were going to win the league. One can only assume that they were planning a shellsuit-clad heist to try and nick the trophy because they were never going to get their hands on it any other way.
Our Game: Yes, there was one of these to be played before we could start celebrating. Poor Sunderland were already down, but they turned up in large numbers. Let’s be honest, nobody really wants to read an in depth report of this dead rubber. Today was about getting our hands on the trophy and bidding goodbye to a club legend and a world class player, so let’s get it over with.
There was a lot of tin foil in the Shed End. We followed the instructions re waving it about, but then we resorted to trying to mummify Gonzo. We then gave Sunderland fans a standing ovation for their joyous celebration after going ahead in the third minute. Free kick came in, ball goes out to the right, lack of defending and put home by someone wearing a red and white shirt. Marcos Alonso cracked the crossbar and there followed some pinball in the box where nobody seemed to want to have a shot. Willian stormed in to save the day and smacked it home. 1-1. Then it was like a lunchtime kickabout in the school playground, all in the Sunderland box. Defenders flopping about, everyone trying to get a shot off, about 300 corners, some of which cleared the first man, JT quite rightly goal-hanging and trying to crown his final appearance with a goal. There was a brief point when everybody ceased to watch the game and collectively tried to figure out if Koscielny and his dinosaur head would miss the cup final as he’d had a straight red card at the Emirates. (Apparently another defender was stretchered off, too, but given how flaky they are I suppose this means that Arsenal are only marginally worse off than when everybody is fit) Then came the moment I personally had been dreading. I thought the 26th minute was a nice touch, same with the Guard of Honour formed by the rest of the team as JT left the pitch. Drogba being carried off was Drogba, but this was an entirely more fitting. There could have been more goals, lots more, but it was all square when we went into the break.
We faffed about a bit more at the beginning of the second half, who was going to put us ahead? Who else but Eden Hazard on the hour, when he combined with Costa to put us ahead. Diego went off straight off afterwards in exchange for Michy. A lot of people read a lot into the copious hand waving that went on as he left. I think attributing any deep subterfuge to him in this instance is a bit like looking at my kitten cleaning his nuts and convincing myself that he’s planning to invade Croydon. I don't think he's already planned his escape yet, is what I am saying, even if he does manage to in the coming weeks. I think he was just waving. The parade pretty much began when Pesto [he tells me he has just changed his name by deed poll now] came on for Hazard, who I am pretty positive is not going anywhere. Fabregas’s long ball into the box came off a Sunderland player fortuitously, but Pesto’s savvy saw him stay on it and head it over the line to make it 3-1. Remember that bloke Michy, who never seemed to be in the place you wanted him? Scratch that. Great sneaky ball in from Pesto and he lunged onto the end of it to make it four. Not satisfied with that, a couple of minutes later he spotted a gap in the defence and curled the ball through, past the Sunderland keeper and into the far corner. Confident as you like. Scored four in the last three games. Where the bloody hell has he come from?! So Dave played every minute of every league game, Thibaut got the golden gloves for 16 clean sheets, and we’re the first club in the history of the Premier League to win 30 games in a season. And yet Sp*rs are the best team in it, don't you know.
I could pass scathing comment about the discrepancy in coverage between Slippy G's last game amongst the Red Mafia, led by Scouse Sports News. But then I'd be wasting words that could be better spent on John George Terry.
Drogba’s departure was somewhat dampened by the fact that he’d already left once before. Frank’s was a clusterf*ck in terms of organisation, but this was done right. Everyone knew what was coming weeks in advance and it gave us a chance to get used to the idea that we were seeing the last of a club legend. We had free souvenir programmes, they even plied us with alcohol. We got to see JT lead the team out, and we got to give him an ovation on the way off. None of this made me feel any better about what was to come. Were we all ready to celebrate the title? Absolutely. And then some. But the mood at Stamford Bridge had a sad edge to it for many, because there was an inevitably emotional goodbye to come too.
We’ll gloss over the bit where JT was born in East London and started off with West Ham, and jump straight to where he joined us as a midfielder at 14. Desperation caused his move to defence and he’s never looked back. Making his first team when Steps were still considered cool (in my world, anyway) he’s since made 717 appearances for Chelsea. There have been downs, namely Moscow, but he’s contributed to nearly fifteen glittering years in our clubs’ history. Five Premier League titles, four FA Cups (and counting) three league cups, the Europa League and the Champions League. Then there are the personal accolades. Highest scoring defender in club history, UEFA defender of the year three times, PFA Player of the Year, FIFPro World XI five seasons in a row. Let’s also chuck in that he was the first player to lift the FA Cup at the new Wembley and also the first international goal scorer at the new stadium as well. Let’s also not forget the FA cutting off their nose to spite their faces with regard to his England role after he’d made 78 appearances for his country. F*ck them. Their loss five years ago was our gain, because in my (probably not so) expert opinion, it’s the reason we have been able to delay today’s pained goodbye as long as we have.
If you had told me that I would have been watching us win the league today back in August, I would have thought that you were as delusional as Wenger. I thought we were a three year project, that we’d see pretty much a full turnover of playing personnel before Antonio Conte had a hope of making his mark, and yet there we were jumping about to One Step Beyond. This season did not define John Terry’s career, he is past his best, but it rounded off nicely. I think that the move to three at the back accelerated the end of his effective days at Chelsea, but not by much. His role in this title win was a cameo, but one that I think we all would have wanted for him, and I am glad that he leaves us on a high. That said just because he has left us, I don't think that that means JT has got nothing to offer the world of football.
Giant beach balls, flames and sparkly confetti dispensed with, hardly a seat had been vacated before someone handed him a microphone. Before he said anything, our Captain Leader Legend made sure that Steve Holland got the recognition he rightly deserved before he departs for a new challenge. (England, so a f*cking big challenge) JT's farewell speech was emotional; thanking Roman Abramovich for making all of Chelsea’s achievements possible in the last decade or so, the team mates that scaled those heights with him. His voice broke when he thanked his family. By this point his kids were also tearful. Then there was thanks for the squad, for Antonion and for us, the fans, who, he says, have never failed him in his time at the club, supporting him when he was on his a*se or out of form. Time is a great healer and all of those other soppy platitudes. Much like those who worshipped Tommy Langley, Osgood or Jimmy Greaves in their youth, we'll have to come to terms with his departure. But I'm going to let myself have a sulk this evening, and a lot of gin.
Veni vidi vici might be more pithy for Antonio, bestow on JT the London version: He turned up, he had a look about, and he f*cking smashed it. For nearly twenty years. Here's to you John. Good luck with whatever (yes, whatever) you chose to do, and don't be a stranger.
Now let’s go and shove it up L’Arse next weekend and make it a double.