PAT NEVIN: MOLEHILLS AND MOUNTAINS
Bringing an end to seven days in which his words have been given much media coverage, former Chelsea star and current columnist Pat Nevin reflects on events in south Wales and west London…
Yet another quiet week for the Blues then…..not! Actually this time even I managed to get dragged into a little corner of the media spotlight over the whole Eden Hazard ballboy/ballman debate. Apparently little old me was even trending on Twitter! Wow, OMG, amazeballs, totes emosh and all that sort of thing. Ok I'll admit it, I don't really know what any of that means, particularly the bit about trending as I don't take part in Twitter (apparently there's plenty of people pretending to be me too, so that's nice or maybe not!), but I was deluged by the media the day after Eden's little altercation.
Now let's get this out up front, this is not Chelsea's opinion or line, just mine. It always is on this page. First of all I do not believe Eden deliberately kicked that 17-year-old who acted so embarrassingly, secondly I have a strong suspicion he either didn't make contact or barely made contact even by error.
When asked my opinion I clearly stated that certain camera angles (somewhat surprisingly not shown again by Sky!), made me pretty sure that Eden tried to remove the ball from under the lad and 100% did not attempt to kick him or endanger him in any way. In fact in the same situation I would have tried to retrieve the ball in precisely the same way.
Hurrah then to The Sun and indeed The Guardian diary amongst many others who roughly translated this into, Nevin says 'I would have kicked the boy too!' Actually The Guardian has since been pretty fair and pointed out they misread my position, I would have expected nothing less.
A grotesque misrepresentation by many however, just as the footage shown was to my mind just as grotesque a misrepresentation of Eden. Was it lazy journalism, an anti-Chelsea bias, an anti-footballer bias or just an honest opinion given by those who watched whatever footage they were fed? You can take your pick. In the meantime the trolls on social media were apparently having a field day on Eden and me; it was just as heartening that plenty of folk made a great effort to support us in a variety of ways, for those of you who did - thank you.
As a former pro I try thinking of it like this, if a ball is fired at pace from a cross you accept that most players can make contact with it, even if they and the ball are going at pace. Then consider the static ball partially hidden under the ball boy, if Eden is one yard away and also stationary do you think he has the skill to prod exactly where the ball is showing through? My answer to that is an emphatic yes, not as a former Chelsea player, but as a former pro who has a good awareness of the capabilities of those in my profession.
Of course my involvement was thankfully fleeting, but our current flying winger has to put up with it going forward. For me it was a travesty, but then again other opinions are available as I have found out over the last few days and if argued reasonably, honestly and with some expertise as well as balance, I absolutely respect it. I have only complained to one organ by the way, and await an apology from The Guardian, only because it is a newspaper I often take and it is annoying to get so unfairly blasted by them.
Anyway I apologise for going on a pretty self-indulgent manner as there are far more important and interesting things to talk about than this molehill that has been turned into a mountain, particularly tomorrow night and the visit to Reading. For the second calendar month in succession the first team have nine games to negotiate. A game every three or four days is usually perfectly acceptable, but if it is constant without a longer break then the injuries and suspensions etc. begin to take a toll. With Mikel and Moses also at the Africa Cup of Nations this month it is clear that the current squad is being stretched to the limit of its capabilities.
Brentford was another performance which was for long periods below the standard the lads would be pleased with. On another day the headlines would once more have been gleefully and probably rightfully slaughtering the Blues, but Spurs, Liverpool, Aston Villa and Norwich put paid to that. Another headline however never seems to be far away and Reading will be keen to provide the copy.
It is still an incredible run for Chelsea away from home under the circumstances. Swansea and Brentford on the road weren't great celebrations but in the past eight away games, six have been won, none have been lost with only those two draws. While doing that the goals stats of 22-6 look just as impressive. You can make anything look good with the right figures I suppose, I mean are Reading having a good or a bad time? Well they are in a relegation spot as I write and they have won precisely one home league game this season, but then they are on a run of four wins on the spin.
History and those types of statistics aren't the be all and end all when you are player, running out onto the pitch before the game. In fact they wouldn't even cross your mind once you have crossed the white line. In short if the Blues could keep their good away form going tomorrow and at the weekend against Newcastle then the fight for the top four will then be looking very positive indeed.
It was also heartening at the weekend to see two players score who probably needed a goal. For anyone who ever watched me play it is probably no surprise that I really like Oscar as a player.
Skill, vision and a willingness to try the unexpected will always endear but I felt that he was having a difficult little period. Maybe being further wide than he is used to or that he is suited to hasn't helped the youngster. Lately I felt he fell into the classic trap of trying too hard so as to impress and because of that he has been making fewer good decisions than he normally would. Two things often get you out of this situation and they are closely linked to each other. The first is goals and the second is confidence. Get the first and the second usually follows, and it is the same the other way around.
Fernando is another who needed a goal badly and when it came it was a cracker and an important one. He will hopefully get a lift from that and there are two other benefits. The first is that his slew into the top corner at Griffin Park took him to 15 goals for the season, well on the way to the 20 that is seen as the acceptable mark for a top striker most seasons.
The second benefit from his point of view is that it makes him top scorer this season at the club, overtaking Juan Mata. I suggested before that stats can be used and abused in positive and negative ways, but strikers are the one group who generally know their numbers. Fernando will have been acutely aware he was behind Juan, a midfielder, for part of the season but this will give him an extra spur to leave his friend and countryman far behind in the charts, and it might just return his smile. We have missed that of late.
Because of that this week's quiz question is, Fernando has scored 15 so far, but what is the biggest goals haul he has had in a single domestic season during his career in the top flight? Answers as ever to firstname.lastname@example.org and the lucky winner with the right answer chosen at random will get a Munich Champions League final picture signed by one of the players.
Oh yes and last week's winner was a young Mr Morgan from Swansea. Actually I am only joking, I would just like to say well done to the young ballboy/man for apologising fairly soon afterwards, fair's fair, we all make mistakes and at least he 'fessed up' pretty quickly.
The real winner to last week's quiz was Mark Eyles from Gillingham, who correctly said that we lost 2-1 to Cardiff City back in the 1986/87 season. Apparently I was playing but unfortunately I have absolutely no memory whatsoever of it!