The cold won't freeze our spirits

The arctic freeze here in the USA shut down parts of the country for days. Maybe it seems like we are just a big bunch of babies frightened by a wee bit of chilly weather, but as someone from the frozen tundra of Northern Ireland, I can assure you it was brutal.

In seven years of coaching in New Orleans, I’ve never been as cold on the sideline, the temperature plummeting so dramatically we slashed the game down to a 20-minute first-half and only played 15 minutes in the second.

We don’t have the infrastructure to deal with the cold. For instance our water pipes are exposed underneath 19th-century houses - mine froze, burst, then froze again - while ‘gritters’ are unknown (I explained the vehicle to a local who later referred to those ‘sand mobiles’). The roads are treacherously icy.

So I feared I would miss the FA Cup replay against Norwich, the four-mile trip to the city’s football pub resembling a trek to the South Pole. But, in an illustration of how popular the sport now is in the States, my friend had the game on at his house. I walked less than a mile to watch it in the heat of his renovated and insulated apartment.

All four competitions Chelsea compete in are screened live on American TV, a far cry from the story a few years ago. The Premier League is shown by one network, another has the rights to the FA Cup, a third signed up the Champions League and the Carabao Cup. Until relatively recently there was no chance you could see an FA Cup replay or an early tie in the League Cup on a Wednesday afternoon in winter.

Of course, to get all these channels you need to subscribe to a dizzying range of cable or satellite packages and sign up for all manner of things such as hunting, fishing and dogsledding programmes as well. I have what is called ‘basic cable’, so I get some matches, but I usually have to go to the bar to watch the Blues, which is my preference anyway. And not just for the obvious reason.

But in the depths of record-low temperature, it was great to be able to dander to a mate’s home and follow the action from the Bridge. Whether you agree with the use of VAR in that game or not, I was grateful for the technology that beamed it across the ocean right into the comfort of the living room.