I don’t think the world of football will ever see players like Chelsea great Ray Wilkins, or Arsenal’s Alan Smith again, but does it mean that the sport is doomed to future with only controversy and media frenzies?
We often reminisce about the old days and how much better things were back then. It could be the heyday of our ’70s team that brought home the FA Cup and Cup Winner’s Cup. It could be the promotion winning sides of the ’80s where both sets of squads played hard, but fair.
It could be as recent as Jose Mourinho’s reign in the hottest, most uncomfortable seat in today’s game. Whichever era it is that you harken back to the answer is the same. Today, the Rocky Mountain Blues’ own Mike LeClare asked a very relevant question:
Is it just me or has this season been particularly rough for us to support our Blues? The off the field antics (sometimes on the field as well) have been distracting and embarrassing for a club of our stature. I will always, let me stress, ALWAYS support Chelsea but I am curious what other fans think. Is this just me?
Seeing as I’m writing this opinion column I guess I should answer purely from my own perspective, which will doubtless differ from many others.
In regards to off the field antics? No. Sure, I think that Roman Abramovich’s choices in who gets the manager’s role and for how long has utterly bewildered me on several occasions. Why would you offer a temporary coach a two year contract after winning you the two biggest cup competitions in all of football and then sack him after nine months? I had some issues with his tactics but he was learning fast and was as true and honest a Chelsea man and legend as you will ever see.
And after that bombshell … you go another two steps beyond the line and bring in the one man who’s only consistent run as a manager inclued an extensive slating of Chelsea fans? Personally I don’t care much for Rafa,but it has nothing to do with his comments as Liverpool manager. My issues are with his managerial abilities and the fact he has a heart condition. Being Chelsea’s manager probably holds more stress than any other position in English football. Why risk the wrath of the fans, and more importantly, the health of a man? This thought is based on former Chelsea top man, John Neal, who retired because of a heart complaint.
Yes, this is bad. What’s worse in my experience? Having to be fenced into a stand to prevent pitch invasions and hooliganism. I’d take the current off-the-field issues over the possibility of electrified fences and bankruptcy any day of the week.
Next up? Racism. John Terry is acquitted of racism against Anton Ferdinand in a court of law, but found guilty by the FA’s kangaroo court and is fined and banned for his efforts. Yes this is bad. Whichever way you look at it nothing good comes from such a public event as this. Has it been worse? You bet your house it has been. Not even thirty yeas ago Rocky Mountain Blues Patron Paul Canoville and teammates Keith Dublin and Keith Jones were subject to racist abuse from our own fans.
Yes, our own fans. By no means was Paul the only black player to suffer this, nor was it just at Chelsea, but it’s so abhorrent that I’ll let that sink in a little.
I’m not nearly kidding. I was there.
As for Eden Hazard’s antics with the ballboy against Swansea in the League Cup semi-final? Heat of the moment or not, and regardless of any play acting by the ball boy, he lost his ability for reason in the heat of the moment and every second we miss him on the pitch for his action will be well earned. Cantona was banned for six months for his quote Kung Fu kick on Palace fan Matthew Simmons. Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher escaped a ban for throwing a coin back at Arsenal fans after several had been launched his way. Hazard’s punishment will lie somewhere in between the two and I think the fact that both Hazard and the ball boy have apologised to each other will help his case.
I think Hazard’s event on the field of play is the most embarrassing in my time as a Chelsea fan. The only Chelsea old boy I can think of who would have caused similar reaction would have been Vinnie Jones. But then Vinnie would have said only a couple of choice words and the lad would handed the ball back and peed his britches simultaneously.
The challenge Chelsea faces is in its ability to instill the same ethics regarding the game that Ray Wilkins, Alan Smith and so many more like them had. Roman burned Ray’s bridge, so that’s not an option. That leaves the mantle to Rafael Benitez’s successor. In this regard I hope it’s Steve Clarke and also that he’s given a good few years to do it.
But what can we do as supporters? We applaud the skill of the opposition when they score if it is deserved and we deride those who put on a blue shirt and try to con the referee into blowing his whistle. I’ve been doing it for years and years, it’s a trait handed down by my father. We may hate Spurs, loathe Arsenal and have disdain for Manchester United, but we also respect their ability as footballers and the fact they make games of football competitive matches when they do it fairly.
I close with a photo of Arsenal’s Alan Smith, albeit in an England Shirt just like Butch Wilkins at the top. Why? No matter who you support he’s a player you should know about, respect and listen to when he’s commentating. He made 465 domestic appearances, earned 13 England caps and yet he’s got only one yellow card to his name.