Loan Roundup

August 31, 2008

Ryan Bertrand has been one of our most consistent players out on loan. He is well regarded at Norwich and has made the leftback spot his own. He was impressive in his loan spell last season and has picked up from where he left. During the last two seasons, he has slowly worked his way up the England ranks from the U17s to U19s and now he has been called up by Stuart Pearce for the U21s. He would face competition there from Middlesborough’s Andrew Taylor but having dislodged Joe Mattock from the U19 starting eleven, I don’t think it would be much harder. The key thing for him would be to keep on delivering consistent performances for Norwich while he is there and I am sure he would get the nod. Norwich fans believe he could easily make the step up to the premier league and has the right attitude and ability to carve out a name for himself. We could only hope it’s true.

Jimmy Smith injured himself in the pre-season but he has returned back to fitness and figured in a few games for the Owls. He hasn’t been anything close to impressive so far for Owls and hasn’t lasted a full league game. He would have to pick up his game and deliver some good performances otherwise he would be back on the bench. Championship is a hard division and there are no easy games. I don’t think he has a future at Chelsea but for his career I think it is very important that he makes a good impression in this loan spell.

Slobodan Rajkovic went to the Olympics to represent Serbia in the football tournament. His team couldn’t get past the group stages but he had a good tournament. He scored the equlalizer in their first game against Australia but in the next game against Ivory Coast he proved to be a villain as he headed back into his own net. He is still quiet young and learning his trade and going by that it would be fair to say that he had a good tournament. His involvement for Serbia ruled him out for the first leg of Twente’s Champions League qualifier against Arsenal. He was back for the second leg and came on as a substitute towards the end of the game but his team was already 6-0 down by that time. The Dutch Erdivisie kicked off this weekend and Rajkovic’s name was on the teamsheet but he was not brought on as he saw his team draw 1-1 with Roda JC.

Ben Sahar has not featured in any of the competitive games for Portsmouth this season though he has made the bench a few times. I was sceptic about his chances at Pompey back then and from the look of how things have gone I doubt he would get more than an odd game or two. May be when the UEFA Cup games start, he would get a game here and there in the league but that is a big ‘may be’. His chances of playing in the Carling Cup are already dashed as Pompey have drawn us so unless we lose there is no chance he would play in that competition. The FA Cup 3rd round games would start in January and by that time his loan spell would be over unless it is extended so it would take some optimism to believe this loan move is going to do any good to his development.

Shaun Cummings moved to MK Dons, managed by the Chelsea duo of Di Matteo and Newton on a month long loan. His first game for them, when he came on as a sub, was enough to impress the MK Dons faithful that this boy has talent and has got what it takes to compete at this level; his loan move was subsequently extended till the end of this year. He is a versatile player and has featured at left back as well as left wing for MK Dons and has become a regular starter for them in the last few matches.

Jack Cork moved to Southampton on loan this month and has already won the hearts of Saints supporters in his two appearances. He started at rightback in his first game when he came on as a sub and later in the week made his full debut playing in the heart of defence. Some said he was the next Alan Hansen and that is a big compliment for a player of his age. He was not in the starting lineup for the last league game against Blackpool as Southampton lost 1-0. His presence was sorely missed if you go by what the Southamton fans think so it won’t come as a surprise if Jan Poortvliet gives him a start in the next match.

Lee Sawyer moved to Southend United this month on a 3 month long loan deal. Unfortunately he has seen his team losing out in both the games he played in. His performance hasn’t gone unnoticed though. In the last league game, Southend fans were unanimous in their view that Sawyer was the best player for them. He stuck in everytime and always looked hungry for the ball. Injuries have disrupted his development in the last two years so a good loan spell would kickstart his career once again.

Tom Taiwo has been a regular feature for U18’s last season and also made a few appearances for the reserves. His loan move to Port Vale came as a bit of surprise to everyone but as it is a month long deal so it would be interesting to see how it all pans out. Taiwo has worked with Sinnott, the Vale gaffer before when he was at Leeds so he was quiet enthused by this opportunity. He came on as a sub in the last game and gave a tidy performance. It might be a co-incidence but two Vale goals came on just after he entered the match. I am sure there is a lot more to come from him.

Chelsea Reserves 2 – 2 Manchester United Reserves |Friendly| 26th August

August 31, 2008

It was a game of two halves where we did well in the first while Man United came back strongly in the second. We were by far the better team in the first half of the game. We kept the ball well and passed it around quiet nicely. We could have gone 1-0 up as early as the first minute but Tejera’s shot bounced off the right post. The first goal came off a corner. Tejera whipped the ball in and United cleared the ball but it fell at the feet of Sinclair just outside the box. He attempted a shoot but his mistimed shot fell at the feet of Bruma who brilliantly flicked it to Mellis and he slotted it perfectly past Ben Amos. The second goal came as a result of a good buildup play. Sinclair won the ball around the final third and passed it to Tejera who pushed it in the path of running Magnay. Sinclair continued his run and met the ball crossed by Magnay from the right with a powerful header which was too much for Man United goalie to stop.

The second half was mostly Man United. I was disappointed by the way we approached the game. It was there to be won but we sat back and got a bit complacent and paid for our mistakes. Both the goals could have been avoided. Nielsen lost the ball in the midfield and they caught us on the break. We gave too much time and space for one of the Silva twins and he struck a powerful shot which was out of Taylor’s reach. The second goal was all the more disappointing as it came just at the death. All they needed to do was to clear the ball but our players had other ideas. Bridcutt who I thought played well in the middle today fouled a United player in the box and referee had little hesitation in awarding a penalty. Gibson went up to take the stop kick and made no mistake.

I was impressed by our defence especially in the first half as they looked quiet assured. Mancienne looked too good for this level of football and brought the ball out of defence a few times. Magnay was our best player in the first half IMO. He defended well and went forward at every opportunity. One of the things I like about him is his strength and is not someone who can be easily knocked off the ball. Bruma and Van Aanholt, who was taken off in the second half after picking a knock looked decent and composed in possession. Taiwo came on towards the end replacing Van Aanholt.

The midfield trio of Mellis, Tejera and Bridcutt worked hard and were on top in the first half. You can compare the three to Lampard, Ballack and Mikel. In the second half Tejera and Mellis came off for Fernandes and Ferreira. Mellis was the pick amongst the midfielders for me though Tejera also had a good game. Di Santo had a relatively quiet game and was brought off just before the half time as he had picked up a knock. Sinclair didn’t saw much of the ball in the game and I have always been critical of this aspect of his game. He goes missing once too often for my liking. In the second half I think there was some 20-25 minute period where he had just one or two touches of the ball. Stoch was the pick of forward players. He was direct and quick and whipped in some good crosses. One of them fell to Magnay in the first half who headed it across but was saved by the goalkeeper. Nielsen was also disappointing for me.

In the goal, Hilario was hardly called upon in the first half but Rhys Taylor was tested as soon as he came on in the second half. I think he did well and made some good stops. I liked the one time when it was two Man United against Taylor and goal looked inevitable but before the United player could pass the ball, he came from nowhere diving forward and cleared the ball. Good performance from him.

The substitutions in the second half took away a bit of our flow but I think 2-2 was a fair result considering the performances put in by both teams over the 90 minutes.

Team: Hilario (Taylor 45), Magnay, Bruma, Mancienne, van Aanholt (Taiwo 72), Bridcutt (c), Mellis (Fernandes 80), Tejera (Ferreira 73), Stoch, Sinclair, Di Santo (Nielsen 35)

Goals: Mellis 30, Sinclair 45

Wigan Athletic 0 – 1 Chelsea FC |BPL| 24th August

August 31, 2008

Delighted with the result but disappointed with the performance. Wigan has never been an easy place to go and get results atleast for us since they have been in the Premier League. In ’05-’06 it too an injury time winner from Crespo to separate the two teams on a day when Wigan could have won with a little bit of luck. Just after Crepo’s goal, I remember Mourinho going over to to Jewell to give his commiserations before the match was over. Jose knew we had been in a game and Wigan deserved to get something out of that game. The following season was another match where Wigan dug in and fought for every ball. Robben and Heskey were the two players who made all the difference that day. We went up 2-0 in the first half but then an inspired performance from Heskey saw Wigan pulling two goals back. It looked like two points dropped before Robben scored at the death to give us all three points. We didn’t deserved to win that game too and Jose said the same in the post match interview. Last season was a relatively comfortable 2-0 win but Wigan did came strongly at us in the second half of that match. It would be fair to say that Wigan-Chelsea clash has lived upto it’s reputation of another tight physical game where we could have so easily dropped points but we didn’t.

When you score against a team so early in the game there are two things that could happen. Their heads might drop down and they get rolled over by the opposition or they might come back strongly at you. I am afraid the second was the case today. Steve Bruce has put together a very decent side and some of the players in his team surely know how to play football. Palacios and Valencia already gave a glimpse of what they had to offer last season and Zaki, the Egyptian striker made a strong case for himself today. They fought as a unit, chased every ball, pressed at every opportunity, closed down spaces and more importantly won the physical battle. It is on days like these when you look at the teamsheet and wish you had a player like Drogba to call upon. We needed a more direct approach.

We lost the game in the midfield today. It was there for everyone to see. Palacios was brilliant while our worldclass quartet of Lampard, Ballack, Essien and Deco had a bad shift. Ballack and Essien were not fully fit but still Scolari persisted with them for the full 90 minutes. I am not sure why he did that because we had a few players on the bench who we could have easily brought on. It was never going to be easy to play a slick passing game on the JJB pitch. It did look in a much better shape than last year’s but last Friday’s rugby game between Warriors and Rhinos had caused a bit of wear and tear.

I won’t criticize Anelka and Joe Cole much because they received little or no service from the midfield. We seemed a bit short of ideas in the middle today. Sometimes it seemed that players didn’t knew whether to push on or sit back. Anelka can’t hold the ball up like Drogba so we needed our midfield to link up play with the forwards more but it wasn’t happening. We should have subbed Ballack at half time and brought Malouda/Kalou on and went with a 4-3-3. Wigan have one of the biggest pitches in the Premier League so it was disappointing to see us not making full use of the wide areas. Essien surely had one of his poorest performances in a Chelsea shirt. So many of our players in the middle had an off day that I am not sure whether it was down to tactics or individual performances.

There were some positives from the game though. Petr Cech was brilliant at the back and some of the saves he made were top draw. MOTM for me. I won’t say we defended really well because we failed to close down on some occasions and at times gave their players too much space but I was quiet impressed with our defending on set-pieces and high balls. I was impressed by the way Terry bossed evertyhing in air. Deco though being not brilliant was one of the better players in our midfield today and he took his free kick really well.

There is no need to press the panic button. The important thing is that we won the game and we are top of the league. We have got an excellent group of players here who are capable of putting a much better performance than what they managed today. It is still early days for Scolari and I am sure today’s game would be an eye opener for him in terms of how tough the games are sometimes going to be against some of the so called smaller teams. It shows the strengh of the Premier League.

I don’t really go into that beautiful-ugly football debate. I believe that first you have to play well. The beauty and the beast thing follows. We didn’t played really well today which was disappointing but I am sure Scolari would sort it out. In a way it is good that people have seen both sides of Scolari’s management in the first two games. People who were going ga-ga over Samba spirit taking over this Chelsea side would take a back seat now. To win the league you need to show pragmatism, strength of character and resoluteness and even though we were not particularly good today we hung in there and got the three points. Onwards and upwards.

Chelsea FC 4 – 0 Portsmouth FC |BPL| 17th August

August 31, 2008

Great start to the Scolari era. The cynics might argue that Pompey didn’t played to their potential and I might not disagree with them completely however the way we approached the game it was evident that this was not a performance to be taken lightly. Redknapp said in this post match comments that our movement was too much for his team and they couldn’t stay with it. He also said that it was a mistake on his side to approach the game with two forwards and he should have relied on his tried and tested 4-5-1 which would have made our movements more difficult. It wasn’t a secret but we know how the other teams are going to approach the game when they play against us especially at Stamford Bridge and may be on their home turfs too going by his performance.

Getting to the game I thought it was an excellent all around performance from the team. Having said that I think there is still scope for improvement especially from some players. I am not exactly sure what formation we were playing as there was a lot of movement especially among the midfielders. Mikel was the only one whose job looked clear. He was going to sit back and keep the game ticking with his passes. The rest of the midfielders interchanged their positions quiet a lot and took turns in attacking and defending. Anelka was upfront all on his own and Joe Cole was seemingly in a free role behind Anelka.

Coming to individual performances, I thought Mikel was the MOTM today and showed a lot of composure and awareness in that holding role. His positioning was excellent all throughout and he made some good interceptions and tackles. I don’t think he put a foot wrong in the match. I checked his stats on the telegraph website and out of his 101 passes, 94 were good. I am assuming every good pass means a complete pass so the pass completion ratio was around 94% which is phenomenal and just what is expected from a guy playing in his position. If he is good the whole team would look good.

Deco had one of the finest premier league debuts you would ever see. He looked so relaxed and at ease that it didn’t seemed as if he was playing for the first time. He distributed the ball quiet nicely and his vision and intelligence was there to see. It looked like a lost cause when Bosingwa crossed and both him and Ballack went to the ball at the same time but somehow he managed to direct it goalwards and Anelka was there to head it in. He struck the ball really well for his fourth goal and though James might have saved it but what matters is that it went in and he added his name to our list of players who scored on their debut. He also did his fair share of defensive duties and tackled well. However, his first few tackles looked a bit rash in the first half.

I am not sure why Ballack played in the first place because he only joined towards the end of our pre-season tour and would have been short of match fitness. The reports said that he picked up an ankle injury and it might have something to do with lack of match conditioning. Anyways, he looked good during the time he was on the pitch and his pass which set up Joe Cole for the first goal was world class. Scolari reckons he would be back for next week but it is not so big a worry because we have other good players here.

The whole summer was about whether Lampard would stay or not and it was great to see him pulling on the blue shirt again. He and Deco combined well in the midfield and he was as much influential as Deco in the middle if not more. His touch was class and there was this one time I think when he received the ball on his left foot and then at the blink of an eye switched it to his right and played a through ball to Anelka. He took his penalty well and set the ball rolling for another 20 goals this season.

Anelka looks a more confident player then he was last season. He lead the line well and his overall contribution to the team was good. He dropped deep at times allowing others to run into spaces and linked well with our midfield. There were a couple of times last season where Anelka deserved a goal on his performance so it was good to see him heading the ball into the net and getting on the scoresheet. He didn’t seemed as averse as last season in putting his shooting boots on and I think if Scolari is able to accomplish what he spoke about I.e ‘putting fire in Anelka’ then we would see a lot more from him this season.

Joe Cole was playing in a free role just behind Anelka atleast till the substitution of Ballack after which he moved to the right side. He was a bit more direct today than he usually is and even though he had a great game I think he could have done more. He would relish playing under Scolari by the look of things and if he maintains his consistency levels then he would be a contender for end of the season awards. I have always rated him as one of the better finishers in the team and he took the first goal really well. He also won a penalty so it was a positive contribution from his side.

The defence didn’t had much to do in the 90 minutes as we retained the ball well especially in the first half. There were periods in the second half when we dropped our tempo a bit and invited Pompey to attack. The full backs got forward well and judging only by today’s performance it looks like the 16 million for Bosingwa was money well spent. He ventured forward at every opportunity and crossed the ball well. Apart from his attacking side, he did a fine job defensively. He tackled well and made some good interceptions. Ashley took off from where he left last season and it would take some performance from Bridge to upstage Ashley. JT was as solid as ever and there were a few times when he brought the ball out of defence which he normally doesn’t do. Carvalho looked a little shaky but it is still early days. Cech was solid at the back and looked like his old usual self. A few question marks were raised about his performances in the pre-season games but he looked really sharp and up for the match today.

Among the substitutes, I thought Malouda if not great was decent. He put in a few good crosses into the box. SWP did alright and his name goes on the assist sheet for that final pass to Deco! Ferreira didn’t had much to do when he came on for Bosingwa. Overall, a satisfying performance and we can certainly build on it. The next game away at Wigan is not going to be a walk in the park. I am not sure what’s the state of the Wigan pitch. They were going to relay it in summers so it might not be so bad but nonetheless we have to be prepared for everything and if winning beautiful was the motto today we might see the ugly side of Scolari in some of the coming games.

It’s Claret and ‘Blue’ now for Steve Sidwell

July 13, 2008

Steve Sidwell finally left Chelsea for Aston Villa last Wednesday in a deal rumoured to be around 5 million pounds. Considering Chelsea signed him from Reading last year on a Bosman, the deal makes business sense especially as we are already well covered in the midfield department. However there were one or two stories in the media a few weeks back that Sidwell was holding out for a compensation from Chelsea. Considering he signed a four year contract last year and is taking a wagecut in moving to Villa, it won’t surprise me if we have made a payoff.

Sidwell was signed by Jose Mourinho last year to add strength in depth to the squad as the midfield was going to be severely depleted in January due to African Cup of Nations. It looked a good decision in foresight as Ballack and Lampard both missed a sizeable part of the season but with Sidwell in the ranks we had someone experienced to call upon if needed. Sidwell knew that it was going to be the biggest challenge in his footballing career trying to find a place for himself in the Chelsea team but in Mourinho he had a manager who made him believe that he would judge him on merit and he was certainly not there to make up the numbers. Unfortunately, the manager who signed him didn’t stayed long enough, Mourinho left the club in September. Under him he did got chances to prove himself but he didn’t really set the stage alight with his performances. I distinctly remember that Reading game when we were quiet poor in the first half when he was orchestrating things from the middle. Mourinho took him off at the interval replacing him with Mikel and within no time our game improved and we went onto win the match.

Avram Grant replaced Mourinho as the Chelsea manager and it was back to square one for all the players especially the ones signed during the summers. Sidwell had to prove himself all over again. Grant was under pressure to deliver results right from the start and with the majority of the fanbase against his appointment, it was hard for him to make unpopular decisions. He preferred to stick with the experienced players and Sidwell was rooted to the bench, not even the bench at times. He played an important part for us in January when we were very thin on numbers. It would be hard to pick out standout performances of Sidwell in Chelsea colours but I distinctly remember two games, the one away at Wigan in the FA Cup and the League Cup semifinal against Everton at Goodison Park where I thought he performed really well. In his time at Chelsea he only scored one goal and that came against the Hull side who have been promoted to Premier League this year.

Sidwell during his time here didn’t gave any glimpses of his play which could make us believe that he was a genuine first team material but one thing you can’t deny about the lad is that he does work hard for the team. People don’t usually notice that and I know at times they have been too critical of him. Some even wrote him off before he played a game which is sad. At a club like Chelsea these days the pressure of winning is probably too much and players don’t get any honeymoon periods. They are expected to fire on all cylinders right from the word go and not everyone can live upto that expectation. Sidwell couldn’t.

I am not too disappointed about his departure to be honest because if not for the African Cup of Nations last year we were well covered in midfield which is still the case. Moreover it would be better if an academy players takes up his position as when you are 6th in the pecking order, games are not going to come your way every now and then. Sidwell is undoubtedly a good player and at a club where the level of expectation is not so high he would settle in well. I am quiet chuffed that he has chosen Villa because in Martin O’Neill he has a manager who has the ability to get the best out of his players. With Gareth Barry expected to leave for Liverpool, Sidwell would be the top contender to take his place in midfield.

It would be too harsh on the lad to label him a mercenary because if we use that criteria then every other football player on this planet is one. He was brave and ambitious enough to take the chance that came his way when Chelsea came knocking on the door even though he knew that getting into the first team was by no means a piece of cake. He got the chance to play at one of the top clubs in the world alongside the best players in the business which I believe any footballer worth his salt would have jumped at. Villa presents a brilliant opportunity to him to get back to playing football week in and week out and prove his detractors wrong. Hope he does well there!

Rajkovic loaned out to FC Twente

July 10, 2008

Serbian starlet Slobodan Rajkovic has moved to the Dutch club FC Twente on a season long loan yesterday. Steve McLaren the former England and Middlesborough manager who is currently in charge of the team from Enschede was quiet enthused by his signing. He said that he is quiet pleased with signing a young player with his qualities and also mentioned about his ability to play in different positions in defence.

McLaren further said that he had been keeping an eye on Rajkovic for quiet some time and when the opportunity to sign him came along, he acted immediately. He said that a lot of English clubs were also monitoring his situation so his signing is some sort of minor coup. The German club SV Hamburger were also amongst the clubs who were tracking Rajkovic.

Rajkovic was snapped up by Chelsea quiet early when he was only about 16 and the signing fee at that time was a world record for a player under eighteen years of age. As part of the deal, Rajkovic stayed at his parent club OFK Beograd till 2006-07 season. Subsequently he was loaned out to PSV where he spent the whole of last season. Chelsea has developed close ties with PSV over the last few years and have parked quiet a few of their players who are not eligible for workpermit in England at the time of signing. Alex and Alcides were the two Chelsea players loaned to PSV before Rajkovic who moved as a part of the deal which saw Alex coming over to Chelsea having secured a workpermit from the home office.

Rajkovic didn’t had the greatest of seasons last year with PSV and was involved more only towards the later half of the season. He didn’t get many chances to start at his favoured centerback position and more often than not was preferred at leftback. He did put in a couple of strong performances especially the one against Fiorentina in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Cup which caught the eyes of Steve McLaren. Having watched him on a few occasions for PSV and Serbian National Team I think he has the potential to go places. He is a no nonsense defender and has the ability to dominate aerially. He lacks a bit of pace but makes up for it more often than not with his excellent positioning like our own John Terry. He might already look like a man monster but he is still 19 years of age so he is a bit short on experience which shows sometimes in his game.

It remains to be seen whether he will in the first team plans for McLaren as it is still early days in his job and he would be chopping and changing his squad a bit in the summer. But considering that lack of first team opportunities was one of the main reasons why Chelsea recalled him from PSV, I have a fair reason to believe that he would get good number of games. FC Twente are also in the third qualifying round of Champions League and if they are able to negotiate the two legs successfully they would be playing against the big boys of Europe. Rajkovic already has some European exposure with PSV last season in the UEFA Cup so a chance to play in the Champions League would be a good learning experience for him. He is likely to be on duty for the Serbian national team in Olympics during the month of August which would prevent him from taking part in the qualifying matches. He is highly regarded at Chelsea and would be trying hard next season to impress the Chelsea management. Here’s hoping we might not have to wait too long before we see him in Chelsea colours.

Why Chelsea mustn’t let Lampard and Drogba leave?

July 8, 2008

Chelsea as a club has grown leaps and bounds in the past few years especially since the arrival of Roman Abramovich. However, the success has come not just because of one man. It’s down to a lot of people right from the players, the managers to the coaching staff but then there are always some who are cut above the rest. Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba are surely two among the later. To win matches in football you have to score goals and surely these two names must be on the top of anyone’s mind when you are looking for goals. Take away the two men and you take away nearly half of the goals. Take away half of the goals and you take away half of the wins that too some really important ones. It’s really simple, it really is.

Just shifting the topic a little bit towards history for a moment and I know the Scousers if they are reading would jump straight away with ‘You’ve got no history’ chants but anyways who gives a fuck about them these days. When we talk about history, it is not always the past glories and triumphs that we should look for. There are a lot of other things, glories apart, you can take a cue from. History teaches you lessons, lessons which may not be exactly valid in the context of today nowithstanding there is always something to look at.

Step back to the 60’s when Chelsea were the most glamorous team in the country and though were not exactly as dominating like today but were known for their stylish brand of football. It was probably the most successful era in Chelsea’s history up until the late 90’s when Gullit and his ‘sexy football’ took over Stamford Bridge. Some truly great players graced the hallowed turf during this decade and the League Cup, the FA Cup and the Cup Winners Cup were brought home for the first time in more than 60 years. It was a magical era indeed.

Just like today when we have an array of superstars at the club even back then there were players who were real icons of that era. Peter Osgood and Alan Hudson were two pivotal figures in this Chelsea team. Osgood, the goalscoring striker, and Hudson, the main man in the midfield. Got my drift! Both Osgood and Hudson came from the youth ranks at Chelsea, Osgood a bit earlier during the reign of Tommy Docherty while Hudson, born a stone’s throw away from Stamford Bridge, was blooded in the first team by Dave Sexton who succeeded the Doc.

Hudson and Osgood were a big part of the team that went onto win the FA Cup beating Leeds in the epic final which went to a replay and then a year later conquered Europe in Athens beating Real Madrid in Cup Winners Cup which incidentally too went to a replay. The club might not have finished above the 3rd place in the league during there time but there was something special about this group of players. The honeymoon didn’t last for too long though. After the 1972 season in which we got to the finals of League Cup, Chelsea went on a decline and the league position deteriorated. The club was crippling under the debt which came with the building of the East Stand and it forced the sale of a number of players. During this time both Osgood and Hudson fell out with the then manager Dave Sexton and were put on the transfer list consequently. Southampton snapped up Osgood within months of being put on the list while Stoke spent little time in paying 240,000 pounds for Hudson. The heart of the team was gone. The club went down a year later which was the start of a turbulent period in Chelsea’s history when we went up and down the divisions, finally returning back to the top flight in 1989 where we have remained since then. The supporters at that time wouldn’t have known that after the League Cup Final of 1972 it would take the club another 22 long years to reach another cup final (barring the Full Members Cup Finals ) where we were beaten 4-0 by Manchester United. For them the defeat was painful but it didn’t really mattered because they knew that Chelsea was once again back where it rightly belonged. Peter Osgood and Alan Hudson did return back to Chelsea like prodigal sons but they could never replicate the form they showed in the swinging sixties.

Coming back to today, things have changed in a way we could never have imagined before. Chelsea is in a very strong position under the ownership of Roman and even if he decides to leave us someday we would be attractive enough for another prospective buyer. We are in a position now to buy the best players in the world, pay them the best wages and give them the best conditions to train in. Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba have been an integral part of our success over the last few years but they are likely to leave this summer. The conditions and circumstances surrounding their transfer are a lot different then the ones during the times of Osgood and Hudson but no one can deny the fact that Lampard and Drogba are as important to our team as Osgood and Hudson were back then.

It is highly unlikely that we may win nought for the next couple of years and go on a downward spiral from here on but then stranger things have happened. It might not be a long wait for another 22 years but going by today’s standards and the skyrocketing expectations of the fans, a two year wait might be too much for some. I am hoping against hope for their stay but at the same time I am prepared to resign myself to fate. However, one thing which I don’t want is to return back to this post a few years down the line and curse the history books because they gave us the cue but we ignored.

Bertrand heads down to Carrow Road

July 5, 2008

Ryan Bertrand after spending later half of the last season on loan at Norwich will be heading down to Carrow Road again this season. The loan deal is initially for 6 months with a possibility of turning it into a season long deal. Ryan was one of Norwich’s better players last season and Glen Roeder, the Norwich gaffer having been impressed by the exploits of the young left back jumped at the first opportunity to sign him.

Ryan came to Chelsea in 2005 from Gillingham and since then he has made considerable progress at the club. He went on loan in his second season with the club having made the step up from youth to the reserves. His first destination was Bournemouth in League 1 but his spell was unfortunately cut short by injury. Last season the club loaned him to Oldham Athletic as part of the deal which saw Daniel Philliskirk signing for our youth team. He really came to the fore at Boundary Park under the tutelage of John Sheridan, the Oldham manager. His exploits caught the eye of a number of clubs in the country and after the completion of his loan term he joined Norwich in January.

His spell at Norwich proved to be a highly productive one as he put in some excellent performances and became a regular starter for the team from East Anglia. He started in a total of 18 games for Norwich last season and in many of them he played on the left wing rather than his preferred left-back position. He faced competition at the left-back and left-wing spots from Mo Camara (on loan from Derby) and Kieran Gibbs(on loan from Arsenal) and he was able to dislodge both of them relatively easily which told a lot about his ability and versatility. This season he would be facing competition for the left-back spot from the veteran defender Adam Drury who missed out on most of the last season after suffering from a ligament injury. It would be interesting to see who is preferred by Roeder for the left-back position but with Ryan’s verstatility I am sure he would be able to find himself a place in starting XI one way or the other.

Ryan was eagerly chased by many clubs this summer. Glen Roeder termed his signing as a massive coup when he revelead that Reading were desperate to sign him and clubs like Derby, Watford and promoted Hull City were also interested in him. Last year has been an excellent one for Ryan’s development and certainly the role of John Sheridan and Glen Roeder, the managers of Oldham and Norwich respectively can’t be disputed. Breaking into the Chelsea’s first team is not an easy task these days with an array of international superstars on the club’s books but Ryan is certainly someone to look for in the future. He is still young at 19 and from what he has shown till now he certainly has a great career ahead of him. He has also been a regular in the England U17 and U19s and would be heading down to Czech Republic this July for the European Championships. Here’s hoping that he does well in Czech Republic and in his loan spell at Norwich.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Di Matteo takes charge of MK Dons

July 5, 2008

Sometimes it takes a player years to endear himself to the fans but at times an inspired moment of magic is enough. Roberto Di Matteo scored after just 43 seconds in the FA Cup Final in 1997 against Middlesborough and ended Chelsea’s long wait for silverware. It was enough to become a hero in the fans’ eyes and to etch his name permanently into the Chelsea folklore. It’s more than a decade now since he scored that famous goal at Wembley but people still talk about it as if it happened only yesterday. For us Robbie was a hero, a player who we loved and most importantly he was a great human being. Being a great footballer is just not enough, you got to have some humility and class and this is what separates the legends from the greats. Robbie was a bonafide Chelsea legend.

His career was awfully cut short when he broke his leg in 2000-2001 season playing against St Gallen in a UEFA Cup match. For a player who was at the top of his game at that time we can only wonder how much more he could have achieved if he had played for a few more years. He spent 18 months on the sidelines and finally decided to call it a day in February, 2002. At the time when he was signed by Gullit he was the most expensive transfer signing by Chelsea and during his times here went on to win the FA Cup twice(scoring in both finals), League Cup, Cup Winners Cup, Super Cup and the Community Shield.

Fast forward six years since his retirment from the game, Robbie is making a return to England but this time as a first-time manager of MK Dons. He will succeed Paul Ince who left for the Premier League side Blackburn Rovers this summer. MK Dons are a club on the up and were promoted to League 1 last season as League 2 Champions. With a new stadium and solid infrastructure, the expectations of the fans are high as ever. In Peter Winkleman, they have a chairman who was slated by many when he moved the club from Wimbledon to Milton Keynes but now there are people who are calling him a visionary. MK Dons has proved to be a stepping stone for many budding young managers over the last few years. First Martin ‘Mad Dog’ Allen left it for Leicester and this season Ince is the latest one to make the step up. Di Matteo is another managerial novice but going by the trend or the magical powers of the MK Dons hotseat(whatever you may call it!) you can’t help but feel that we might see him managing at a higher level in a few years if he does well.

Robbie has been out of the game for the past six years but he had been working on getting his coaching badges. He has already acquired the UEFA ‘B’ and ‘A’ licenses so he has the basic qualification required for a manager these days. He would be bringing Eddie Newton, his teammate during his time with Chelsea as his assistant manager. Eddie has been coaching the under 16’s at Chelsea and has done excellent work with the boys, some of whom had figured in the FA Youth Cup. Eddie also partnered Robbie in the Chelsea midfield back in those days though employed in a more conservative role compared to Di Matteo’s attacking role. He was also the second name on the scoresheet that day at Wembley when we won the FA Cup by beating Middlesborough so MK Dons are infact getting not just two FA Cup winners but two Wembley final goalscorers.

It’s great to see Chelsea old boys getting into management, Robbie and Eddie being the latest ones to join the ranks. It is interesting that all of our Italian contingent during the 90’s have tried their hands at management after retirment now. Vialli a decade back with us and Watford, Casiraghi and Zola are incharge of the Italian U21s and now Robbie. I would certainly be keeping one eye on MK Dons’ results this season to see how our boys are fairing in their first managerial challenge.

Good Luck Robbie and Eddie!

His famous FA Cup goal:

Add to Technorati Favorites

Sahar moves to Pompey

July 1, 2008

Ben Sahar would be joining Barclays Premier League Club Portsmouth on a 6 month loan deal starting today. This deal would keep him at Portsmouth till January after which Chelsea will assess his situation and take further decision about his future. Portsmouth were not the only club after the young Israeli and it was a protracted saga that ultimately culminated in a loan move to Pompey today.

NEC Nijmegen who play in the Dutch Erdivisie were the favourites to land him for much of the last month. The initial contact came through Frank Arnesen who was known to technical director of NEC Carlos Aalbers and at that time NEC looked to be in the driving seat. Sahar also went on a two day trip to Nijmegen to assess the facilities and meet their manager Mario Been. The manager was very keen on signing the Chelsea starlet because their two main strikers of earlier campaign Kevin Bobson and Jermain Lens had returned back to their parent clubs as they were on loan. Sahar was impressed with what NEC had to offer and expressed his interest in joining the club next season. All what remained was an agreement between the two clubs and finalizing the financial details of the deal with the player.

Pompey were interested in Sahar from the start but their interest had taken a backseat when negotiations with NEC were ongoing. Pompey had offered him more money than what he could have got at NEC but Sahar was more inclined towards joining NEC at that time. One of the prime reasons was because of Mario Been, the NEC manager, who had promised him a place in the starting XI. Sahar was clearly keeping both his options open. About ten days back his deal with NEC broke down because the two clubs could not settle on taxation issues which Sahar didn’t liked and canceled his flight to the training camp. With this move breaking down, Portsmouth was the most viable option remaining. Sahar agreed in principle to sign for them last week after Harry had promised him game time. Portsmouth were interested in taking him on a year long deal but Sahar opted for a 6 months to first see how he settles in there. The loan spells at QPR and Sheffield Wednesday had certainly made him more mature. It was the right decision in my opinion as the main emphasis of a loan deal is the development of the player. Warming the bench serves no purpose.

Harry has promised him game time but I doubt he would be able to get much especially with the players like Defoe, Kanu and Utaka already in their ranks. Pompey are also expected to be in the market for another striker possibly Crouch so that would push him further down the pecking order. His involvement might also get limited because of the system preferred by Harry. Last season it was more of a one man on top which might be the case this year too though we can’t say for sure. Nugent was signed last season for 5 million but he hardly got any chances and is likely to leave this summer so Sahar may end up the same way. He is only on loan and I doubt any clauses have been put which would force Harry to start him in every match as Pompey are a Premier League side. NEC would have been a good move for him especially as the Dutch league is more technical and he would have added more to his game there. Moreover the pressure and media attention there is considerably less compared to England so the focus is more on football.

It’s hard to predict what the future holds and we can only hope that he would get chances there to prove himself. The 7 subs rule will obviously help his case and in Harry he has a manager who can bring the best out of young players. Pompey would be playing in Europe this season and some European exposure would do him no harm.

This is what he had to say on signing for Portsmouth (Excerpts taken from Portsmouth Official Site).

“I’ve heard a lot of good things about Harry Redknapp, the club and the staff and they obviously had a very good season, so I’m happy to be here.

“I know that I’m young and I still need to develop, to get experience and to learn from big players, like there are here.

“I’m ready for the challenge of being part of such a big club like Portsmouth.

“They are now in Europe and that will be a big challenge as well.

“But I came here to be part of a team and to play, so hopefully I can do well. I’m just waiting for the new season to start.”

“My goal is to play and I’m striker, so of course I want to score a few goals for Portsmouth – that’s why I’m here.

“It’s a new beginning and I’m ready for it.”

Good Luck Ben! I will be keeping an eye on Pompey next season for sure. Looking forward to seeing you giving a torrid time to the likes of Ferdinands and Carraghers. 🙂

Credits: dannyb1 of CFCnet for translating some of the articles in the Israeli media who were the first to get onto any news related to Sahar.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Smith going to Wednesday

June 27, 2008

Jimmy Smith’s year long loan deal to Sheffield Wednesday looks imminent now. Owls Boss Brian Laws, had emphasized last week that he wants to build a side for next season which is ultra fit and high with energy. Well, Jimmy Smith fits the bill perfectly for him. An attacking midfielder by trade, he is young, hungry and full of energy and would be eager to prove a point at Hillsborough which may boost his chances of playing for Chelsea.

Owls had a particularly unimpressive campaign last season where they toyed with relegation and it was only a final day victory at home over Norwich which guaranteed Championship survival. Last season was a long hard one for the players and Owls fans alike especially with the poor performances on the pitch, the financial and boardroom instability and talks of a takeover looming. With the club heavily in debt, they had to sell many of their key players from the 06-07 campaign in which they nearly reached the playoffs. The creative midfield players were missed badly last season and it comes as no surprise that Brian Laws has made signing midfield players his top priority this season. Barry Nicholson(Aberdeen) and James O’Connor(Burnley) are also supposedly close to signing for Wednesday.

Coming back to Jimmy. He has been with the club for a long time now but has only made one appearance for Chelsea which came against Newcastle in ’05-’06 coming on as a substitute for Ricardo Carvalho. He spent the next season on loan at QPR where he had a brilliant start scoring on his debut against Norwich. He scored some cracking goals from midfield for QPR but eventually the goals dried down. His form dipped and was relegated to the bench but even then he maintained good spirits and kept working hard. Towards the end of the season he again saw some games for QPR and eventually returned back to Chelsea. He gained valuable experience at QPR which certainly helped in his development as a player. He scored a total of 6 goals in 29 games for Rangers which can be seen in the clip below.

The club management thought that he was still not ready for first team action and with already a host of international names manning the Chelsea midfield it was thought that the best for him would be another loan spell. Peter Grant took him on loan to Norwich but he injured himself in a pre-season game which curtailed his development. It wasn’t until late October when he got the chance to make his first appearance for the Canaries. By that time Grant had been sacked and Roeder had taken charge at Carrow Road. He did get to play a few games under Roeder but was preferred mainly on the right hand side of midfield which was not his best position. He didn’t stay at Norwich for much long and returned back to Chelsea in January and spent the rest of the season playing for the reserves. Apart from his usual central midfield role he played a few games in an unaccustomed centerback role and also captained the side on a few occasions.

Back in March, Scunthorpe made an offer to sign Smith on a permanent deal but that was turned down by Smith. With four-five reserve team players released this season I had thought that may be Smith too would get the axe but he didn’t. I can put that down to either of two plausible reasons. The first one is that the club still believes that he can cut it out with Chelsea and intend to give him some more time to prove his worth. Some players make the grade a bit later but that looks unlikely for now in my opinion. The second one which I believe to be the actual case is that the club are putting him in shop window. He still has a year left on his contract with Chelsea and I think that the loan deal to Wednesday would involve an option for a permanent transfer if he impresses enough.

Jimmy Smith was talked of as a player who could be the next Frank Lampard but he hasn’t shown enough till now. However he is a hard working player and one thing in football is that you can never write someone off. He might still make it in the Premier League if not with us then with someone else but that is something to look forward to in the future. For now we can all hope that his loan spell at Hillsborough turns out to be a successful one and may be, just may be that would open a chance for him at Chelsea.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Return to Braga : Life goes full circle for Filipe Oliviera

June 21, 2008

Filipe Oliviera

Not many among the Chelsea fans would remember him now as he only made a handful of appearances for the first team during his three year tenure one of which was spent on loan at Preston. Filipe Oliviera came to Chelsea before Jose Mourinho whose arrival led to an influx of a host of Portuguese players. Incidentally he came from Mourinho’s former club Porto where he was a trainee but was sold to Chelsea for a fee reported to be around 500k pounds, the same season in which Jose took charge of the Portuguese Club.

He joined our youth setup in Pre-Roman era and we all know the state of it back then. He made his Chelsea debut against Viking, coming on as a substitute for Zola and later that year against Man City he made his Premier League debut. He never started a full match for Chelsea and mostly came on as a sub in the last minutes of the match. In his last season with Chelsea he was sent on loan at Preston North End where too he found it hard to figure regularly. He came back after the end of his loan spell and made his last appearance in a blue shirt against Newcastle which was the final game of the Premier League winning season.

It was clear that he was never going to make it at Chelsea. Moreover he was already 21 by that time and it was probably the best decision for both parties to part ways and for Oliviera to try his luck at a different club. He was released from his contract subsequently and signed with Maritimo FC. His two year spell at Maritimo ended when he was released from his contract again last season. He was snapped up by Leixoes FC where he spent a year but now he will be playing in Braga’s colours next season. He has been signed up on a two year contract and hopefully it would prove to be a good move for him after being a journeyman all these years.

Incidentally Oliviera got his first footballing education at Braga’s academy before joining the Porto’s youth setup. Braga is also the place where he was born and after moving from pillar to post for the best part of last six years may be a return to home comfort would kickstart his career again. Wishing him well in his new endeavour.

He is clearly very enthused about this opportunity and here is what he had to say (taken from,

“I have always had a lot of respect for Braga. Naturally I feel privileged to have returned to the house where it all started. Now I just want to help the club,” beamed Oliveira.

“Even at a long distance, I never disconnected myself from the club. Despite being a professional in all the clubs I represented, I never stopped following what happened with Braga. For example, when I was in England, I took advantage of my rest days and attended the inauguration of the Estadio Municipal de Braga (now the Esatdio AXA).”

Add to Technorati Favorites

Not so ‘Kean’

June 20, 2008

Two days back Coventry City’s assistant manager Steve Kean was linked with a coaching spot on Luis Felipe Scolari’s team. He gave an official statement to Coventry City’s website yesterday that someone acting on behalf of Scolari had approached him and although he was flattered with the proposal but he is not prepared to leave the job that he and Chris Coleman have started at Coventry.

I am sure a lot of Chelsea fans must be thinking just who is this man and why was he approached? Well, I will try to answer.

Steve Kean didn’t had a distinguished playing career. The Scotsman started off with Celtic and then spent six years with Academica Coimbra, a Portuguese club before finishing his playing career with Reading. He went into coaching after that and was the Academy Director and Reserve Team Coach at Fulham during the days of Jean Tigana, the mercurial Frenchman who got Fulham promoted from the First Division. When Tigana was sacked Chris Coleman, a former Fulham player himself was appointed as a caretaker manager with Kean by his side. He went onto manage Fulham for the next four years. All this time Steve Kean was an integral part of his coaching team and the two shared a very good working relationship. After leaving Fulham, Coleman moved onto Real Socieded in Spain and then to Coventry City in England where he is currently and Steve Kean followed him everywhere. Coleman rates Kean very highly and he leaves most of the coaching stuff for him to take care of, something which he has acknowledged many times. Coleman is a manager who I have always admired especially for his youthful exuberance and tactical astuteness and if he rates Kean highly then surely he is no numpty coach.

The question however is whether he is good enough for Chelsea. It is an important point because here we are dealing with players of much higher standard and it might prove to be a difficult task for a coach who isn’t accustomed to training big players and mind you with big players come big egos. The reason for which he was linked which even he had admitted speaking to Coventry’s website was because of his knowledge of Portuguese. We all know how important it is to communicate effectively with the players and Scolari needs someone to put his ideas across to the players in a coherent manner, for the same reasons Ramos brought Poyet when he took charge of Tottenham. The future of Steve Clarke who would be a great help to Scolari is still uncertain however it is widely believed in most quarters that he would stay with the club to provide continuity.

With Kean refusing the chance to take up a coaching position at Chelsea it remains to be seen if a similar appointment would be made in the coming weeks. I can understand the need for it but I don’t think it is so important. Having listened to one of Scolari’s interviews in english I believe communicating with players is not going to be a big problem for him. He can always brush up his english or maybe Clarke can learn a few words in Portuguese. How is ‘Joga Bonito’ for a start?

Add to Technorati Favorites

Condolences to Boulahrouz family

June 20, 2008

Khalid and his wife SabiaThe news couldn’t have come at a worse time for Khalid Boulahrouz who was having an excellent Euro so far. The death of his prematurely born daughter Anissa must have been too hard on him. He had left the Dutch training camp on Wednesday after his wife was hospitalised with some pregnancy complications. She had to undergo labour and gave birth to a girl who was named Anissa. It was a premature delivery, only after 22 weeks and the little girl couldn’t survive.

Initially it was thought that Boulahrouz wouldn’t feature in Holland’s game against Russia which will take place on Saturday but he has reported back to the training camp and it looks likely now that he would feature for Van Basten’s team. He is a brave man indeed because there are times like these which puts everything in perspective. Playing for his country is a matter of pride for any footballer and if Khalid is ready to put his personal loss behind and step onto the pitch in an orange kit then it is a very brave of the man.

My thoughts go with Khalid and his family at this moment of grief and I hope time would ease off their pain. Incidentally Khalid married his girlfried Sabia during his first year with Chelsea in December,2006. He would have never known that a year and half down the line he had to go through such contrasting emotions.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Makelele retires from International Football

June 17, 2008

Curtain falls on Makelele\'s international careerEvery good thing in this world comes to an end but there are some things you want to hold onto for as long as you can. For me watching Makelele battling against the teams on the international arena was one of them. The man who gave his name to a position on the football pitch surely was no mere mortal and must be given the respect and recognition he deserves.

‘The Makelele role’ as the holding midfield position began to be called in honour of the great man who with his trademarks interceptions, tackles, body movements and short passes made it his own for a decade playing for the French team and clubs such as Nantes, Marsielle, Celta Vigo, Real Madrid and Chelsea. The legacy of Makelele will live on in the international arena but one could sense that it won’t be long before he retires from the club football. We the Chelsea fans would miss him a lot because he has been an integral part of what has been christened as ‘The Blue Revolution’.

Tonight after France failed to qualify for the quarterfinals of the European Championsips losing 2-0 to Italy, Claude Makelele came out and announced his retirement from the international scene. It was expected that he would retire after the tournament but I had never thought it would come so soon. I was hoping for France to go all the way so that we can get to savour the game of the great man for some time more however it wasn’t to be. Watching the France-Italy game I never realized that it was going to be Makelele’s swansong and only after the game had finished and the French camp had gone into mourning it occurred to me that the footballing world is losing one of its great players. France going out of the competition which was no less of a shock paled in comparison.

It was ironic that a player of his ability couldn’t win a major trophy with his country. He came close though in the last world cup when France lost to Italy on penalties which was probably his best chance to win something. He deserved more, much more. It didn’t really mattered to Maka however. To him playing for his country was as big a honour he could ever get. After the game he came out and said,

“To have been allowed to wear France’s colours, that’s my trophy”

He was a great professional, a player with exceptional qualities, someone to look upto on the football pitch and a man whose humility and down to earth nature were some of the rare qualities which separated him from the footballers of today. Makelele might stick around for a few more years playing at club level but certainly a chapter has closed today and the footballing world would no longer get to see the Makelele himself in the ‘Makelele’ role. His legacy would live on though and the coming generation would look upto him in awe and say here was the man who taught the world how to play the ‘Makelele’ role.

Good Luck Maka!

Add to Technorati Favorites