Following a momentous week and a misconstrued question, Chelsea Legend Pat Nevin puts the record straight in this week’s column…
Steve Holland put it succinctly and perfectly on Saturday, feelings are still a bit raw at the moment at Chelsea. It has been a very emotional week for everyone and even Saturday’s 90 minutes often felt more like a Shakespearean theatrical than a game of football down at Stamford Bridge. The vast majority of the fans made it clear that Jose’s departure was a very bitter pill to swallow after all he has given the club. Usually football fans can’t wait to get rid of a manager when the team is on a bad run, Chelsea fans were however stunningly loyal to Jose, and it is to your eternal credit that you were so.
Also, I reckon it is a good idea for anyone caught up in the crossfire of what has been a tough week to own up to any mistakes or more specifically, misunderstandings. I’ll not hide mine at the bottom of page 27. So at the risk of being self-indulgent I would like to clarify a story that emerged, not for my sake but for Cesc Fabregas who was unfairly targeted.
During an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme I asked, in passing while talking about some other recent happenings at the club, if the player who said the phrase six weeks ago: ‘I would rather lose than play for Jose,’ had been outed in the press as Cesc? I absolutely wasn’t having a go at Cesc, but asking the question, as the reporter I was talking to was the one who originally broke that story. Basically I thought that this had been the press line in the following days back then. He replied, ‘No comment’. Even the newspaper put a question mark at the end of my sentence!
Cesc denied it all at the time of course (honestly as it turns out!) and odd though it may sound I couldn’t have cared less anyway. The reason I wasn’t that bothered was because the BBC reporter (a man I like and admire I may add) had made it perfectly clear that it was something said in the heat of the moment, in a fit of anger and it certainly did not mean that player wasn’t going to try for the team really.
That is exactly how it should be and I was very pleased to hear it.
When a story appeared in one of the newspapers this Saturday it was reported as if I was deliberately outing Cesc. Now whether it was mischievous on the newspaper’s part for deliberately misunderstanding me or whether I was not clear enough in what I was saying and the fault was thus partially mine, it doesn’t matter (I accept my accent, diction and even clarity of meaning aren’t always picked up perfectly, especially by some southern ears). In short, I did not mean to have a go at Cesc in any way at all; I was merely asking a question.
At this point I then decided to get all CSI about it and called the original Radio 4 reporter and he obligingly told me that whatever was said or intimated in the press six weeks ago after his story was first aired, it definitively was NOT Cesc Fabregas who was the culprit! So, deep breath, when Cesc got a negative reaction as he was substituted on Saturday, if any of that was anything to do with what I was reported to have said, first I am sorry to Cesc, I absolutely didn’t mean that at all, it was misconstrued, but nonetheless I apologise. Secondly, I plead with the fans they adapt that reaction for the upcoming games. Cesc has released a number of statements of late that have been brave, honest and self-deprecating. He has been badly wronged and he didn’t deserve that on Saturday, full stop. I hope that is crystal clear.
For further clarity, no reporter from that or any other newspaper contacted me to ask for further comment or if they had the story correct, Funny that!
So that all came from a ‘leaked’ dressing room story a while back and I am certainly not a fan of that sort of behaviour generally, but there is a lot of loose talk in football and to a degree it can’t always be helped. I was however very happy with one dressing room leak from Cobham this week. In the midst of all the chatter it was made known and reported (I hope this one is correct) that talking to the players after Jose’s departure, Roman Abramovich said he was saddened to have to let the manager go. That is exactly how it should be and I was very pleased to hear it as no doubt the fans were too. It wasn’t a pleasant, easy or according to Roman, even a desired decision.
I was also caught out by the day of Jose’s leaving, rather publicly on Radio 5 as it happens, but I graciously congratulate the journalist who had the inside knowledge that I didn’t. It is often a tough job being a journo even if we don’t always like the spin some of them put on things, particularly involving our club, but that is the business. I am however beginning to wonder if I am going to have any more mishaps this week. I tried to guess the Premier League scores on Saturday in the version of fantasy football I do, I got every single one totally and spectacularly wrong, except for Chelsea! I was very confident we would win by a couple of goals.
So while everything is going pear-shaped for me, can I make a few further quick predictions, hoping that I will jinx them all!!! (For clarity, please do not report that I am truly predicting these happenings…you have to be so careful.)
Firstly, I predict Chelsea are not going to get into the Champions League places this season. I have to admit however that I am still doing the arithmetic. The average fourth-place team's total in the past five years was 71.8 points. This season, with everyone beating everyone else, it might even be lower than that. So if we won 18 and lost 3 out of the next 21 games, then Champions League qualification might still be on. Yes I know it is a very long shot.
I would also like to predict that Leicester will not win the league, obviously because like many people, I would love to see them do so. Actually let’s go the whole hog, I will also predict Santa will be taken ill with a cold and Christmas will be delayed by a full day (yes kids that means it will not be delayed because I am saying it this week!).
Enough already, I am going for a lie down after sending Cesc Fabregas yet another Christmas card. Meanwhile I will be hoping that the fine form shown by the team in the game against Porto, the last half-hour against Leicester and just about the entire game against Sunderland continues for the rest of the season. That is my Christmas wish along with the hope that time will quickly heal some of the scars of what has been a painful week for us all.
Last week in the quiz I asked, in light of the draw for Euro 2016 at the weekend, who was the first Chelsea player to appear in a match at a European Nations Championship finals? The answer to what was a very tough question is John Spencer for Scotland in Euro ‘96 on 10 June. Tony Dorigo was in the ‘88 England squad but never played. John Spencer and Craig Burley both played in the ‘96 Scotland team but Spencer came on first as a sub in the 46th minute with Burley coming on in the 85th minute. Later that evening Dan Petrescu played in the Romania side that lost to France.
There can be only one winner from the very few who actually got it right and that is Mike Ferry who had all the information too.
This week to have a chance of a late Christmas present of the new Chelsea: The Complete Record book signed by one of the players, could you give me the answer to a question that could be looked up in that book. With Chelsea due to play Manchester United before I write my next column, what is the date of the first ever game between Chelsea and Man U? Answers as ever in the box below.
Finally and most importantly, may I wish all of you reading this a happy and peaceful Christmas for you and those you love.