Cup football, and the stories around two very different ties, from the early round encounter with Chesterfield to the conclusion of the big semi-final with Spurs, are themes in Chelsea legend Pat Nevin’s column this Tuesday…
When you are covering football, perspective is sometimes a difficult thing to keep in its place. A few things happened at the weekend that helped to recalibrate my thinking and the first was down at Stamford Bridge.Most Chelsea fans will have been impressed by the decibel levels coming from the Chesterfield fans, it was very loud. Not only that, but it was also hard not to like their willingness to continue singing and backing their team as the goals just kept coming in that first half; and right in front of them at the Shed End, just to rub salt into the wounds.I admit some of the actual words they were singing were on the wrong side of pleasant ‘banter’ and it would have been easy for the Blues fans to get upset, especially at the trolling of Romelu Lukaku. In fact, we had the right to be generally offended but then my favourite moment happened. With impressive doggedness the Spireites stayed resolute in the second half, when we had admittedly made a few changes, and they managed to score in front of their own fans.
They went crazy obviously, even though a comeback was not likely in that they were 5-1 down, but they finally had their big moment. That however wasn’t what I loved best, what I loved was the reaction of almost every single Chelsea fan in the ground. As one they rose to their feet and applauded the opposition. In the press box, I was sitting beside a man who could only be described as a Chelsea institution, and he was on his feet applauding before the ball hit the net. It was a moment of true sportsmanship, which I am not convinced many of those Chesterfield fans or players witnessed but it was a touch of sheer class.That applause went on for some considerable time and maybe it wasn’t just the goal, or their fighting spirit, maybe it was also those fans. Even though we weren’t taken with what they were singing, we were very impressed by how they sang it.
Considering all the advantages Chelsea fans have, the money spent on our team, the glories we have had and the quality of play we can enjoy week in week out, it was glorious to see our fans understand there are other sides to the game. It is too easy to be the big, arrogant bully who forgets the little guy who is working incredibly hard and is just trying his very best in difficult circumstances.
There are people there who have given to their club for decades and they do not deserve to be dismissed or ignored. They have been caring about the game for a very long time and those who know the history know how important they are, and that they should be shown respect. Well done Chelsea fans for taking the time to care.In the meantime, we enjoyed a few performances of our own with Lewis Hall particularly having a superb introduction to first team football. Callum Hudson-Odoi had another very good game with a cracker of a goal and Mateo Kovacic was able to show why there is such an incredible gulf in class, all on his own. He is having an exceptional spell right now and considering the battle for that midfield berth, he actually looks undroppable for the biggest games on this form.
Talking of big games, Spurs tomorrow is a fantastic one to look forward to. Two goals up, a bunch of key players rested at the weekend, there is every chance of us making it to Wembley yet again, as long as we have the right attitude. After attending our FA Cup win at the weekend, I was at Spurs for their tie against Morecambe on Sunday, which was a much-less comfortable affair for them.The fact they trailed 1-0 until the 74th minute when the cavalry of Kane and Moura finally arrived on the scene must have worried their manager; it certainly had their fans in a bit of a panic at half-time. The embarrassment would have been incredible had they not turned it round, and of course the Chelsea fans with our kindly spirit would have been too polite to mention it tomorrow night…well maybe we would have, just a little.The point was that there is certainly a difficulty for them when they have to rotate their squad. So, I would be amazed if we saw anything less than every big gun at their disposal lined up against us at the start of the game. It may not be a totally pivotal moment for us, but any silverware would be a colossal thing for them as they have had to wait so long.If Spurs can win 3-0 tomorrow and then win their games in hand in the league, they would be in a final and they would only be one point behind us. Those are very tall orders to be fair, but that is why they will be giving everything in this one, so as ever the Blues will have to be on top form and taking nothing for granted.
It should be a great atmosphere in what is a superb stadium, I must admit. That was the first time I had gone there since they moved into their new home and it is very impressive. Still, as we showed ourselves on Saturday, there are more important things than owing big shiny houses. Remembering and caring about others who love it just as much as we do, is just as important.