Pat Nevin: What won’t surprise me about Romelu and why I was wrong with cup final prediction

A Premier League task still to complete, a match against traditional rivals and another chance to take on Liverpool on the Wembley stage – there is plenty for Chelsea legend Pat Nevin to get his teeth into in this week’s column…

Who would be a headline writer? Throughout the Wolves game it seemed like Romelu Lukaku would be driving the storylines all on his own. Winning a penalty, scoring a penalty and then putting the game seemingly beyond doubt with a classic finish to make it 2-0, underlining his redemption. Just then he had also just about nailed on the club’s position in the Champions League next season with that second-half brace. As Danny Baker often says, ‘What could possibly go wrong now?’

Even though our striker was getting a lot of love from the cameras, even he was being pushed close in the viewfinders by Todd Boehly sitting high in the stands, surveying what might be the highest profile acquisition of his life. If he does end up being a major part of the new ownership then the weekend was an object lesson on what it is to be a football man but also a Chelsea man. It is never straightforward, simple or predictable, and there is no point in complaining about that. It is just the way it is, was and always will be.

So Wolves managed to steal at least some of the headlines in the 97th minute. The facial expressions and reactions of Todd, and to be fair everyone else desperate for a Blues win, providing perfect pictures for the papers and a million online outfits. If it comes to pass for Todd, he will just have to strap in and enjoy the ride.

Arsenal crept closer and Spurs are grimly hanging on in there, but the real joy of three points would have been the chance to rest players and rotate before the FA Cup final. As it is, tomorrow’s game at Leeds United can’t be taken any less seriously than any other league game this season. On the positive side, wouldn’t a win against Leeds be a rather delightful way to just about seal a top-four spot.

About a million years ago I recall a 5-0 drubbing of Leeds at Stamford Bridge that brought the club back to the top level. The fans knew that doing it against them had a special resonance and that will be the same again, even if only a dwindling number of fans remember the making of that history to be fair.

The Elland Road club have fallen a long way from being our main rivals and because they are now worried about another precipitous fall themselves this season, they will be fighting just as hard as Everton did the other week at Goodison, so it will not be an easy three points if we do get them.

It is worth underlining that we should still not take it for granted that our club is once again in contention for major silverware at the end of a season. Anyone who once did get blasé about finals almost certainly reconsidered the position after the ownership issues of the last few months. The manager and the squad can’t ‘officially’ look as far ahead as Saturday, but I can and I can’t wait for Wembley on one of the most auspicious dates in world sport.

We will be underdogs considering the season that Liverpool have had, but only by a very small margin. The games have been incredibly well balanced between the two clubs this season and Liverpool are under huge pressure as they are still pushing on the three remaining fronts. This always takes it out of teams, whatever the players or managers say.

On an indulgent note, I am in the middle of a rather interesting few weeks in my day job. I was at Celtic v Rangers the other week and it wasn’t a bad wee atmosphere. Maybe a slight under exaggeration there. John Terry surprised everyone by turning up for that one, he surprised me in more ways than one. The Celtic scarf wasn’t the one I expected him to be sporting.

'I will not be surprised if Romelu Lukaku gets another goal or two'

photo of Pat Nevin Pat Nevin

I was then off to Frankfurt for an incredible atmosphere as Eintracht saw off West Ham to reach the Europa League final in Seville against the aforementioned Glasgow Rangers. I seem to be following the blue half of Glasgow like a bad smell as I will be at their Scottish Cup final against Hearts as well as popping over to Seville for what is unlikely to be anything less than an unforgettable trip, as the Scottish Blues face Frankfurt in the Europa League Final. I will be present when Celtic probably win their league title at Dundee United this week, just to add a bit of balance, before preparing for the Scotland v Ukraine World Cup play-off game, when most of the rest of the planet apart from the Caledonian hordes will be desperate for a Ukrainian win, for the obvious reasons.

These games are all diverting enough in their own rights, but I am still looking forward to the FA Cup final more than them all. The world-class quality on show should lead to a cracker of a game, whatever the outcome, and much to my surprise I will be there! Thank you to the English FA for the invitation. Someone must have given them a heads-up that I wasn’t convinced I would be there in person to see another Chelsea cup Final. If it does reach the heights of the Carabao Cup, but with a slightly different outcome, it will be a classic.


All this excitement doesn’t take away from the importance of Elland Road tomorrow night. I will not be surprised if Romelu Lukaku gets another shot at grabbing the headlines, as well as another goal or two. Many strikers exist on confidence as much as they do oxygen and those two goals at the Bridge will have had a spectacular effect on the big man.

He, like everyone else is playing for a starting berth at the weekend as well as that top-four spot and the big-name players love nothing more than turning up for the big games and making a big impact.

There is tension in the air and the club has a chance to have a few days that will affect the next few years in an incredible way on and off the field. By this time next week, we could have a major trophy, be safely in the Champions League and be well on the way to sorting out the new ownership and the next generation at the club. Chelsea don’t do dull, someone should warn the prospective new owners, but I guess they know that already even after just one game.

This is all before you add the drama of Emma Hayes’s side and their week. They clearly got the memo too about being exciting and unpredictable. Congratulations on winning the Women’s Super League again and here is hoping for a historic FA Cup double for the men’s and the women’s teams. Truly exciting times.

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