Fight for every point

I was at Wembley on Saturday and Stamford Bridge on Tuesday – what a great few days we have had.

Starting with the FA Cup semi-final, it was a really good game and Spurs played well, but the judgement Antonio Conte made, given the proximity of the Southampton match in the Premier League, to rest Diego Costa and Eden Hazard paid off. We were stretched a bit in the first half but as soon as the substitutions were made, I felt there was only going to be one winner.

It was a great Chelsea performance, and it reinforced the old adage that sometimes teams know too much to lose. It was excellent game management. Chelsea were not going to lose, even though it was always going to be hard graft.

Spurs have been playing some good football this year, for the neutral it was arguably the most intense game of football we’ve seen for a long time, and it was perhaps more suited to be the final than the semi.

I’ve been asked whether the win will have dealt Spurs a psychological blow in the league. It’s a tough question to answer. Us Blues tried to persuade ourselves that if we didn’t go through it wouldn’t have any impact on the remainder of our season, but you have to say it must be better to have come through having won that game for the remainder of the league season.

Southampton played well at the Bridge on Tuesday, but our firepower and determination saw us through relatively comfortably in the end, while Spurs narrowly beat Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

Neither side will have any easy matches from here on in. We know from facing Palace recently, everybody has something to play for and we will have to fight for every point in our final five matches.

Everton on Sunday will be a tough game, and is likely to be our hardest of the five remaining matches. They are still chasing a European spot, and the way the league is structured means each place has financial implications, so every team will be looking to maximise their points and earnings.

If you had been told that with five games to go, we’d be four points clear, you’d have taken it wouldn’t you?

That extraordinary 13-match winning run we went on put us into what for some seemed an unassailable position, but more seasoned Chelsea fans probably thought this could go to the wire, and I think it will do.

I think it’s a benefit to be in the driving seat, playing Everton before Spurs meet Arsenal on Sunday. In my career, it depended on the event but I tended to be a frontrunner and try to control the race from the front. In football, it’s better to have the points on the board than be playing catch-up.

There have been plenty of turnarounds from this stage before, but I do think we will go on to win the league – and then we still have the FA Cup final to look forward to at Wembley.

It was also extremely pleasing that we lifted a fourth successive FA Youth Cup this week. Everybody in the Academy deserves a huge amount of praise for this unprecedented achievement, and it obviously bodes incredibly well for the future.

This week also marks the 140th anniversary of our beloved Stamford Bridge, which originally opened as an athletics track.

I would have loved to have taken part in an athletics event at Stamford Bridge. It staged a lot of top-class events and saw many records broken. Chelsea’s original title was Chelsea Football & Athletic Club – so I would of course have loved to run there. It would have been my home track.

I also have an anniversary this year. Boxing Day will be the 50th anniversary of my first game at the Bridge – we beat Arsenal 2-1 on December 26 1967. I was sitting in the old West Stand with more than 50,000 in the ground, and Alan Birchenall scored both our goals. Firsts are always special. That’s the one game I’d like to go back to if I had the opportunity.  

On another personal note, this week we marked 100 days to go until the World Athletics Championships in London. It is looking really good, and don’t forget it’s the third biggest sporting event in the world, so we’re into the last lap of our preparations for another summer of brilliant athletics in London. You can find out more here.

For now though, let’s focus on Chelsea and ending the season with a final push for silverware…