GILES SMITH'S THURSDAY THOUGHTS

Posted on: Thu 06 Dec 2012

It is time to take stock following the implications of Wednesday night's football - and columnist and season ticket holder Giles Smith does just that…

Feeling humiliated? Neither am I.

Disappointed - yes. A littledeflated - definitely. But humiliated? No.

Yet how often did one read or hear that Chelsea were readying themselves for 'the humiliation' of being knocked out of the Champions League in the group stage?

Really? In the context of the humiliations that football is capable of visiting upon a person (getting kicked out of the FA Cup by Barnsley, say, or only managing a draw at home to Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool in the Premier League, to mention only those two), slightly under-cooking the group stage of the Champions League, having qualified as winners, and failing to advance on (in effect) away goals barely even registers.

Maybe if you don't manage to win a single game and finish fourth, like Manchester City - maybe that's humiliating. But even then, I don't really suppose so. There were some quite good teams in City's group, you know - as there were in ours.

Failing to hold on to a 2-0 lead at home to Juventus - was that humiliating? It wasn't particularly brilliant, maybe. It fell short of the required level of excellence. But humiliating? In a world in which you can travel to Nottingham Forest and lose 7-0 (it happened, my children), I hardly think so.

And now there's the Europa League. Nothing humiliating about that, either, I would suggest. Indeed, it's a wildly under-rated competition, I've always thought. Badly hit by snobbery and the sneering of people with unrealistic expectations. And at last - something to do on Thursday nights.

It's the second most important knock-out competition in European football, don't forget. And winning it really wouldn't hurt. I notice the final is in Amsterdam this year. Who doesn't fancy a night of glory in the great Dutch city in May? Bring it on.

A pundit I overhead on the radio last night, as I drove back from the game, reckoned that what he and I had just witnessed was 'possibly the most irrelevant result in the history of Chelsea Football Club'.

I don't know how he worked that out. In the context of a club that recently changed its manager, that has suffered a massive loss of momentum, that has been struggling to score goals, and whose two most recent results were a 0-0 draw at home to Fulham and a 3-1 defeat at West Ham, a 6-1 thrashing of European opposition would have to be heavily freighted with significance, I would have thought, irrespective of its immediate and narrow consequences with regard to the knock-out stages of the Champions League.

The only real way to measure the 'relevance' of last night's result is to weigh it against a few other possible outcomes and see how it feels. How would 0-0 have gone down, relevance-wise, on the night? How would 2-1 have felt, for that matter?

At this sensitive stage in its history and development, I'm not sure the club really does irrelevant results - not even in the upcoming Club World Cup. As such, last night's 6-1 drubbing, with its passages of breathtakingly unfettered play and its two goals for Fernando Torres, seemed anything but irrelevant at the time, and may even come to be regarded, looking back, as some kind of turning point.

Anyway, everyone knows that the most irrelevant result in the history of Chelsea Football Club was the 2-2 draw away at Aston Villa on the final day of the 1990/91 season. Eleventh in the league, 10 points adrift of 10th - nothing going on there whatsoever. Unless you can think of an even more irrelevant one. (Charity Shield and Super Cup appearances not eligible. Too easy a target.)

One of the unarguably good things to come out of the recent turmoil is the now regular use of the 16th minute of all matches for a heart-felt, crowd-wide show of appreciation for Roberto Di Matteo, in gratitude for his service. It only makes one wonder whether the format could be expanded, though - whether there might be something even bigger in 'minutes for managers'.

The sixth minute would, obviously, be the time to mark the contribution of Jose Mourinho and the six pieces of silverware that he landed in his years here. (Mourinho always included the Charity Shield when totalling up his trophy haul, and so should we.)

I'd be emphatically in favour, personally, of devoting the ninth minute to Gianluca Vialli, whose shirt number that was, for his player/manager victories in the League Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup, and simply for being Gianluca Vialli.

Gullit and Vialli Chelsea


Then there would obviously be some sense in applauding throughout the 55th minute in a tribute to Ted Drake and his delivery in 1955 of the first, and for a long time only, top division title in Chelsea's history.

In the 70th minute we could salute the late Dave Sexton and his iconic and, in many ways, club-defining 1970 FA Cup final victory over Leeds.

And how about setting aside the 90th minute to mark the equaliser that Emile Heskey scored at the Bridge for Wigan in April 2008 and which, in effect, deprived us of the Premier League title that year - all as a little nod to our old friend Avram Grant?

We could be at the beginning of something here.