Friday, December 15, 2006

Salvation a "repugnant notion" - apparently

Polly Toynebee was quoted in a newspaper recently making the following statement about Jesus:

"Of all the elements of Christianity, the most repugnant is the notion of the Christ who took our sins upon himself and sacrificed his body in agony to save our souls. Did we ask him to?"

Oh dear. Basically Toynbee is saying that becuase we had no choice over whether Christ came to die for us all then He is by defintition not giving us a choice and assuming that we all need salvation. Apparently the idea that we can all be set free to have eternal life is repugnant, purely becuase it involves the idea of a sovereign God who is perfect and above all things, and who can decide things like that without consulting us.

This is the attitude to God that the human race has showed throughout time. Right from when we rebelled against Him at the fall to the present day. We think we know better and who is God to tell us how to do things? With the rise of political correctness and more and more human rights laws coming into effect, the attitude more and more is that we have the right to decide everything in our own lives and our own standards and morals, no one else has a say. "It's my life, who is God to tell me what to do?" This is clearly Toynbee's attitude. She knows best for her, who is God to decide to come and save her when she doesn't think she needs saving?

Well, God is God. That's who He is. He is perfect, everlasting, eternal, all-powerful and above all things whether you accept it or not. He was before time, indeed, He made time. He made everything. Our bad choices have resulted in the pain, suffering and injustice we now see in the world. He is the solution.

The irony is that the concept of perfect almighty God who despises sin willing to sacrifice His own Son for the good of all mankind, even those who reject Him, seems absurd by human standards. He has no need of us or of anything at all. Who of us could do what He did and give up our only child for the whole of mankind?

What the cross proves is that God is a God of perfect love and who loves His people despite their sin, even at the expense of His own Son. God chooses to love us, He doesn't have to. He wants a living relationship with us and do do that fully we need forgiveness, which He can offer us. The realisation of this truth only makes God greater. He loves us despite ourselves. We may not think we need salvation but God knows better. But not only does He know better, but he does something about it and sends Jesus. The reason He died for us when we don't ask Him to is not only that He perfectly loves us but that we didn't and some still don't think we need Him to come, He needs to show us how much we need Him. I truly hope Polly Toynbee understands that one day.

The God Delusion: More like self-delusion

I've been reading more of "The God Delusion" and some reviews. They truly are stimulating reading. I realised that this topic was worthy of at least one more response. Here is another review, which includes some quotes of Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion". Yet again, his arguments are flawed.

"At heart, this argument (the central argument of the book) is an elaboration of the child's question "But Mommy, who made God?" To posit God as the ground of all being is a nonstarter, Dawkins submits, for "any God capable of designing a universe, carefully and foresightfully tuned to lead to our evolution, must be a supremely complex and improbable entity who needs an even bigger explanation than the one he is supposed to provide."

Dawkins asserts that "the presence or absence of a creative super-intelligence is unequivocally a scientific question."

Yet again Dawkins humiliates himself. Surely the whole essence of God is that he is divine, that He has no maker. He trancends time and space. He is beyond them all. He is above all. He is beyond what the small human brain is capable of comprehending. That is why He is God. God has no maker. He is before and after everything, the alpha and omega "beginning and the end". He is outside of time, time doesn't exist for him. Our human brains can't work without it, but God chooses to intervene inside of time to act in human history. And how God, a spiritual, supernatural being, needs to be explained scientifically, especially when he created science itself, is pure babble.

What this book seems to avoid is the story and evidence for Jesus, not just from the Bible but from other historical documents. There is no doubt that that man lived and was crucified. The questions need to be asked. Why have His teachings endured for 2000 years? Were His teachings those of a madman? Were his teaching and words that of an idiot? When did He ever kill anyone? What negative impact did He have on anyone else's life during His ministry?

God cannot be measured nor explained in human terms, yet Dawkins tries to do that and fails. That is why he fails. God is a supernatural, infinite, spiritual being. He cannot be compared to or limited by any inherently flawed (as no human being is perfect, apart from Jesus Christ) human idea or concept.

More and more it seems that Dawkins' "God Delusion" is the one he is imposing on himself - the delusion that God doesn't exist. I suggest he reads the work of the atheist who became a Christian, C.S.Lewis, and then looks again at the Bible with an eternal, spiritual view instead of a worldly, limited one. He might be surprised at what he finds.

The God Delusion: Does Testimony Count For Nothing?

This is a quote from a review of the book, "The God Delusion", by Richard Dawkins. It basically sums up what the book is all about:

"...(Dawkins argues that) while Europe is becoming increasingly secularized, the rise of religious fundamentalism, whether in the Middle East or Middle America, is dramatically and dangerously dividing opinion around the world. In America, and elsewhere, a vigorous dispute between 'intelligent design' and Darwinism is seriously undermining and restricting the teaching of science. In many countries religious dogma from medieval times still serves to abuse basic human rights such as women's and gay rights. And all from a belief in a God whose existence lacks evidence of any kind. Dawkins attacks God in all his forms, from the sex-obsessed, cruel tyrant of the Old Testament to the more benign, but still illogical, Celestial Watchmaker favoured by some Enlightenment thinkers."

First off, let me make this clear that I am writing what follows from a Christian perspective. I've been a committed Christian 14 years and reading about a book which makes these sort of claims warrants a response.

Having not read the book myself yet, I don't know in detail what he says, but saying that there is no evidence for the existence of God is wrong for a start. Firstly, and most importantly, there is the Bible. Jesus of Nazereth is acknowledged to have lived, both by atheist and Christian historians alike. The only difference is that Christians beleive he was the Son Of God. The people who wrote the New Testament down clearly did as well, and some had personal experience of living with the man Himself for 3 years and witnessing Him after His resurrection as proof. You cannot just dismiss their experiences and words as non-evidence. After all, in a court of law today we rely on the personal testimony of individuals, why should this not be the case with the Bible?

Does Dawkins have any evidence to disprove testimony from the gospels and those living at the time which shows that a man called Jesus of Nazereth living around 30AD fulfilled all 322 Old Testament prophecies about the Son of God? Is that not evidence? The odds of that number of prophecies being fulfilled in one person at one time are so high that it's nigh on impossible that it could ever happen. But it did in the case of Jesus of Nazereth. From where He was born, to His family line, how he would die and even the fact that soliders would cast lots for His clothes when He was excuted, all the prophecies about the Messiah were fulfilled by Jesus of Nazereth. It's simply too many to be just a coincidence.

Then of course there is the testimony of the millions of Christians living today. I myself have seen people's lives transformed through coming to faith in Christ and seen people healed of serious diseases and conditions in front of my very eyes. I've experienced God's Holy Spirit and healing in my own life and been given words from God for other people which have been completely accurate, without any prior knowldege on my part of their own thoughts and situation and in some cases never having met the person before. You can't make something like that up. Is this not evidence for God, or is it just made up, or tricks of the brain - becuase I know what I've seen and experienced is not made up and just cannot be attributed to tricks of the brain. Your brain can't tell you something specific about a person you've never met before on it's own, no matter how powerful. It's real. It's true.

The argument that there is suffering therefore no God does not hold water and avoids personal responsiblity. God is a God of freedom, He gives us a choice of how to live our lives. If we choose to reject his ways and follow our own selfish desires, then eventually, taken to its extreme, then extreme suffering will result. But if God forced everyone to follow His teachings there would be no individual choice and no freedom, we'd all be robots. That's a God of tyranny, not a God of love. God's love for us gives us freedom, which we have abused. That is why there is suffering in the world. I lost my Mum in April 2000. She was a good person, a Christian. Why? Did she deserve to die young? She suffered from chronic asthma, a condition which like all other illnesses and conditions came about from our rebellion from God, not from God Himself. I don't blame God for her death and in hindsight God has used it for the good of many people. It was her time, and now she's in a better place. Would I want her back? Yes, of course. But she's gone, and I will see her again I beleive. But what happened to her was not God's fault. Human choices have resulted in suffering all through time, and all evil - including suffering, sickness and disease - came into our world not through God but the choice of the human race to rebel against Him.

Human beings go to war, not God, and God's timing is better than ours. He intervenes at different points in human history - but only at the right time. Who are we to question God, considering He is perfect, and the human race are far from it? God made human beings perfectly until they chose to rebel against Him. He also made the universe, He made time itself. Originally everything He made was perfect, until the human race rebelled against Him.

He is also ultimately, perfectly just. Sometimes He allows things to happen that we don't understand. That is why He is God and we are not. He sees all things that have and will happen. He loves all people equally, more than any human being is capable of loving. It's a hard truth, but don't underestimate the responsiblity of human beings for the suffering of this world.

It must also be remembered that God's ways are not our own ways, so sometimes He is difficult to understand and there is an element of mystery about Him. If there were not, we would be equal with Him and He would not be God. We have to allow for that element of mystery.

God loves all people - whatever race, religion, gender, age, colour or sexual orientation they may be. Christians don't beleive homsexuality is the way God made humans to be, but that doesn't mean He hates homosexuals. He loves them as much as anybody else, and they should be treated equally to all other human beings. All human beings have sinned - rebelled against God and disobeyed His commands - in one way or another, and there is no sin worse than another. No-one has a right to judge anyone but God Himself, who as our creator and the perfect, supreme being above all others warrants that position. Any Christian who codemns and judges gays and lesbians or any minority group does not I beleive understand the true notion of grace and forgiveness so inherent to the God of Christianity. They should 'remove the plank from their own eye before looking at the speck in anothers'. Women are very important in the Bible, from Esther to Ruth in the Old Testament to Mary mother of Jesus and then Mary Magdelene, the first Christian evangelist. Jesus throughout His ministry repsected and honoured women, treating them as equals. Some of the writings about women in the New Testament need to be put in context of a culture which saw women as second class citizens, and not as a teaching to apply for all of time. I prefer to look at how Jesus treated women for the Christian attiude towards women - one of equality, but having different roles to play than men.

Certainly, religion is not restricting the human rights of any minority group now, indeed increasingly Christians and traditional 'majority groups' are being marginalised in society in the name of political correctness. So Dawkins' arguments here don't stand up for me.

God a sex-obsessed tyrant? I think not. Not the God I see in the Old Testament (where this is alleged) but also not the God of the New Testament nor that I have seen and had any experience of. The God I read about and have experienced is totally different. In the Old Testament He is shown as a God of creation and of love interested in justice for His people, and the Old Testament shows starkly the rebellion of Israel against God, His punishment for their disobedience and the restoration of that relationship.

God is not a tyrant, if He was we would have no freedom whether to beleive in Him or not. He is a God of grace and mercy, of freedom. And where this 'sex-obsessed' idea comes from I really have no clue. God made sex to be enjoyed within the context of marriage, and anything else is adultery according to the Bible. That certainly is not sex-obsessed in comparison with today's attitudes towards sex and sexuality. How anyone can find Dawkins' argument on this to be true is beyond me.

Finally the arguments about God opposed to science. God and science go together. God made the world, God made science, but God cannot be explained through science, which is where faith comes in. His arguments against science hold no water too. The Bible does not contradict or dispute science, apart from the theories of Darwin - which are only theories with no 100% proof and which Darwin himself came to disagree with by the time of his death.

Basically all these arguments from Richard Dawkins don't stand up to the scrutiny of testimony of Christians all around the world, the testimony of the Bible and the true nature of God. If Dawkins put his narrow-minded intellectual arguments, personal pride and prejudices aside and allowed himself to experience God for himself then he may think differently. Although even then he'd try to explain it all away by saying that it's our mind playing tricks on us.

Bottom line, he has no foolproof evidence that God doesn't exist. The evidence in favour of God is, in my opinion, far more compelling.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Don't Believe The Lies Of The Devil

Spiritual attack and spiritual warfare is something that we often like to ignore or sweep under the carpet. However, it is very real and it's important that we know it's significance and how we can fight it.

The devil (often referred to as 'the enemy') is described in the Bible as 'the king of lies', amongst other things. This basically means that he will tell any lie in order to take us away from God, no matter how much it might sound a bit like God. We can hear things that sound like God and things which are good in themselves, but which take away from our true purpose and calling. Therefore the enemy is getting his way. Check what you think God is telling you against the Bible, against the nature and character of God and indeed with what He has said to you before. If it conflicts with that then the liklihood is that it's not from God - certainly with the first two options.

Other lies he tells us, as in my case, is how worthless and useless we are. He uses our cirumstances against us to persuade us to think that we are useless, worthless, insignificant, will never achieve anything and that we don't matter. He makes us live in fear of doing anything or of what we might not become and makes the negative easier to beleive. Part of this involves doubt. Doubt is yet another weapon. We doubt ourselves, we doubt our friends, we doubt and lose trust in God because we believe the lies that are fed to us.

He also puts barriers up in our daily life which stop us making the right choices. Little problems, big problems, daily stresses and even so-called good things in life can all be things the enemy uses to take us away from spending time with God.

If we let him do any of this, then he is winning the battle. There is a spiritual battle going on, the enemy trying to take as many people away from God as possible and stop those who do beleive from achieving and doing the things God wants from them. We cannot allow this to happen. We must be aware all the time for the ways the enemy is attacking us. We all have our weak points and the thing is to be aware of those and pray into them, to ask God's protection. Get praying, get into the Bible, spend quality time with God listening to Him, talk and pray with close friends, house group leaders or pastors.

Ulitmately the truths we must hold onto are these. God made us, God loves us, God chooses to love us, Jesus died for us, if we are Christians then we are set free and forgiven from our past. God can heal us from our past hurts and we must let Him do that, through counselling and prayer ministry. God thinks we're worth it. God has won the war, this battle will continue to the end, but ultimately the enemy has lost already, becuase of the cross. That is fact.

Don't let the enemy feed you lies about yourself. You are worth it, in the truest sense. God has said so.

Monday, November 13, 2006

What History Really Means

Since Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea and Jose Mourinho came and brought us success we had never dreamed of before, many football fans have tarnished all Chelsea fans as glory hunters, whether they were recent converts or long-term supporters. We have been tarnished with the same brush. Now interestingly, from where I’m looking, the loudest and proudest boasts come from supporters of a red-shirted team from Merseyside. A club and set of supporters whose definition of ‘history’ is totally different from most normal human beings and football clubs. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you which club that is.

So, what is the reason Liverpool fans criticise Chelsea and their fans? The number of times I’ve heard that we have no history so therefore we have no real right to the titles we win, they are just bought, is countless. Liverpool fans seem to think that because they’ve won all these titles (18 league titles and 5 European Cups, if you didn't already know) they have some right to win them all the time. They don’t understand what it really means to win a league title or how much effort is required, because they grew up winning every year. They haven’t been without for long enough. Chelsea were without league success for 50 years and so when we finally won the league we knew what was required, we knew it wasn’t just about players, but about team-spirit, tactics, organisation and motivation.

What they mean when they say this we have no ‘history’ that we have no history of long-term big success, no pedigree like the self-called ‘big clubs’, or more specifically, Liverpool. That we don’t have a big trophy haul. That is very different to not having history. Try to think how many times have you heard or read a Liverpool fan shouting or writing or unfurling a banner with their number of league trophies and European Cups. It’s quite a lot isn’t it. Goodness, I know as much about Liverpool’s successes now as I know about Chelsea’s.

Liverpool fans need to learn the meaning of the word history. You see, did you actually know in Liverpool the word history doesn’t mean the same as history does to the rest of us? Liverpool and their fans define history by how many trophies that they’ve won, how many league titles and European Cups to be precise.

Now last time I looked, that isn’t what history means in any context. History is what happened in the past, what has been and gone. So Liverpool fans are right in one sense. The have a history, and the all their league titles amd European Cups are part of it. That is not the present. In the present, in the now, Liverpool have no league titles for 16 years and counting. That’s their recent history.

History, in terms of football is not just about trophies, and if anyone seriously thinks that is the case then they are probably a glory-hunter. Having a history means having a past, having a story to tell. It means going through ups and downs, peaks and troughs. Chelsea certainly have a history in that sense. In the truest sense, we very much have a history. The arrogant ravings of Liverpool fans about their number of trophies (need reminding?) miss the point about what history means.

Not all Liverpool fans are glory hunters, (certainly not many below the age of 16 – they really wouldn’t have much to celebrate really). But I guarantee you a lot of them are a lot are, and they were so used to success they think that it’s part of nature, like the seasons, that Liverpool should win the league and be dominant. They don’t appreciate how much it means. They’re only bothered about the quantity and the only thing they can resort to is pathetic posts and chants about how great their history is, forgetting that that is exactly what it is. History. In the real world, the present, Chelsea are the dominant team in England and potentially in Europe. Money has played a part in our success, but so have a lot of other things. Qualities that Liverpool do not seem to appreciate.

Sometimes I think Liverpool and their fans still hark back to a time when money didn’t rule football through Man Utd and Chelsea, but when Liverpool ruled, which was supposedly not anything to do with money (on a lesser scale). Liverpool must adapt to modern football, or their dominance on the football pitch will never return, and the Liverpool supporters must realize this too. Face facts, you need money to succeed and if Liverpool are to be what they once were again they need to invest in bigger and better players than Jermaine Pennant. If that takes a big investment, so be it. But unless that happens Liverpool will never be dominant again. That was the past. Not the present. Football now is different and they must adapt or never achieve dominance again.

A quick mention of Man Utd. They now have a history to rival Liverpool’s but never boast about it to put us down. Why? I think the reason is that most of them grew up not knowing success. Much like us, they had a track record of being nearly-men, a sleeping giant dining out on success long-gone, with only the occasional cup to show for it, that is until Alex Ferguson showed up. They understood how much hard work and how much of an achievement it was and is to win a league title. They know how much it means. They have a history not all about success, but spectacular failure too. They relate to us.

So what does all this mean as a Chelsea fan? Well we’ll have to endure these constant taunts for a long time. Until we have some sort of trophy-winning history of our own. Hopefully, if we go on to really dominate, as it seems will happen, I’d like to think we would never boast about our ‘history’ or our money if another team took our place at the top. What we should do is savour the moments we enjoy now, remember them when things are more difficult and take pride in what we will have then achieved. Then wait as our time comes again. With Roman at the club, we are always going to be competing at the top level, but we will have a time when we don’t win anything for a few years, and we must be ready for that. Remember what real history means and keep some perspective. Don’t follow the example of the glory-hunting scousers who think history means trophies. Until they realise it doesn’t they’ll never reach those heights again and if they do, they will never ever enjoy them as much as we do and probably Man Utd fans, to a certain extent, do as well. Let’s stay on the higher ground, because boasting about trophies is the type of argument that frankly belongs on a playground.

Oh and by the way here’s one trophy-winning stat for Liverpool fans. In Premiership titles, Chelsea now lead by 2-0. Hear that? 2-0. That’s a fact. I’m also willing to bet that the number on our side increases before Liverpool’s does.

I’m now setting a timer to see how long it takes to hear the numbers 18 and 5, and the words, ‘history’ ‘money’ and ‘arrogant’ and ‘Gerrard’ shouted down in my face in response. Better not tell them we won a European trophy before they ever did as well, or that Mourinho chose Chelsea over Liverpool…

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Chelsea Monthly Review: October 2006

Now for the first of my Chelsea monthly reviews, and we bgein with the month just gone, October 2006.

October was an eventful month for Chelsea FC, starting with the tragic and ending with the sublime. 6 games, 5 wins and a draw and the team starting to gel and put in some good performances. We lost 2 goalkeepers, one for a long time and another for a shorter space of time and the new players started to bed in. A month which showed the promise of what is yet to come.

It began with an away trip to Reading. Within 1 minute an avoidable reckless challenge on Petr Cech put him not only out of that match but for several months. He had a serious operation to repair a serious head injury. Then 42 mins later Chelsea scored a goal. But that wasn’t the end of it. Right at the death Carlo Cudicini was knocked out cold and had to be stretched off. Leading from the front as ever, John Terry took over the gloves for the remaining seconds. Chelsea held on for victory, one that seemed as significant as the one against Blackburn two seasons ago. Chelsea had faced a battle and one. Then there was the small matter of the European Champions coming to the Bridge four days later….

Barcelona arrived as a team to be feared. 90 mins later they were defeated. Another Didier Drogba wonder strike and a superb team performance gave us victory. Hilario, on his debut in goal and supposedly our weak link, looked an inspired signing. No sign of nerves and with the crowd behind him never looked like making a mistake. Frank Lampard looked back to his best and Didier Drogba and Michael Essien continued with their good form to help bring Chelsea victory. Not only that, but the new signings looked like they were beginning to settle in and find their feet. Ashley Cole starting to look the player he was at Arsenal, Ballack starting to dictate play, and Shevchenko was getting into scoring positions and getting chances. He just needed a goal….

Portsmouth, a team with one of the best defensive records in the league, arrived at the Bridge the following weekend. This was expected to be a difficult game. It was anything but. Chelsea had 15 shots on target and if not for a combination some great saves by David James and some poor shooting they could have had 5 or 6 goals. Robben was having a field day down the left and Portsmouth looked all at sea. As it was we got to 55 mins and still no breakthrough. It looked like being one of those days. But step forward Shevchenko. A beautiful ball in from Robben down the left, a perfectly timed run and the ball was in the net. At last. The look of relief on his face was palpable. The celebrations and noise in the crowd almost raised the roof. Like a pressure valve bursting. Two minutes later Drogba set up Ballack for his first league goal for Chelsea and it looked safe. Even when Portsmouth got a goal back it only looked like being a consolation. Yet another win and a good performance in the bag.

Then to the league cup and an away trip to Blackburn. Chelsea changed to a 4-3-3, with Joe Cole and Kalou making their first starts of the season. Both impressed in a 2-0 victory, Joe Cole with a little back heel for the first and a good finish by Kalou for the second. A good performance and we never looked in any danger.

Then back to the Premiership and a trip to Sheffield Utd. Beforehand we were boosted by news of Cech’s continuing recovery and return to light training. In the match Hilario was again in good form, saving what was a poor penalty early on, and despite decent build up play by Utd they never really threatened and once Chelsea went ahead through Frank Lampard’s free kick there was only one winner. Michael Ballack got his a goal in his second successive league game, a great header from a Lampard cross making it 2-0 and game over. Lampard and Ballack were starting to link up well in midfield and Chelsea were still winning. But the biggest game and the most excitement was yet to come.

The Nou Camp, not a happy hunting ground for Chelsea and scene of two poor performances in the last two seasons. In the past, Chelsea had been overcome by the occasion of these type of games, not feeling at home in Europe. Things were about to change. After 3 mins it didn’t seem so as Deco robbed Boulharouz and smashed an unstoppable shot to give Barca the lead. What followed was dive after dive and booking after booking. Confusion reigned as it seemed Cole had been booked twice, although it emerged later it was Lampard who had received the first booking. But it was getting heated and Chelsea weren’t really in the game. Things changed at half-time. Chelsea responded in the second half, Lampard almost immediately drawing them level. Chelsea were dominating, creating chances but Barcelona hit back with a bit of genius 6 mins later as Ronaldinho set up Gudjohnsen with a point blank finish, 2-1. Gudjohnsen becoming the second former Chelsea player to score against us this season. The match was on a knife edge, Barca leading but Chelsea dominating. Hope looked lost. Then in the third minute of added on time Essien made a powerful run down the right, a long deep cross headed back across goal by John Terry. Didier Drogba, who else, chested down and slotted it past the keeper. 2-2. Mourinho slid to his knees in celebration. The Chelsea fans went wild. Chelsea had got what the least their dominance had deserved. It felt like a victory. It felt like a turning point in our European adventure. This match even more than the one at Stamford Bridge symbolised Chelsea’s desire, hunger, intent and arrival as a major contender in Europe and to many made them favourites to win the Champions League.

It was an amazing month, beginning with such a low and ending on such a high. The team is starting to gel, our players are finally recovering from World Cup hangover and getting back to their best. The best is yet to come. We may not know what the future holds in terms of trophies quite yet but if this month is anything to go by it looks bright. Keep up this improvement and the trophies are going to come.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Chelsea Monthly Preview: November 2006

So we enter November, the winter is drawing in and overcoats start to come out. It’s what could prove one of most important months of Chelsea's season so far. Lots of important games, against tough teams, in three competitions. The fixtures will be coming thick and fast, and there will surely be opportunities for all members of our squad to get a game and contribute.

The month starts in spectacular fashion, with a Super-Sunday visit to Three Point Lane our first port of call on Bonfire Night. With Man Utd putting pressure on us in the league and potentially three points clear by this time, this will be an important game to win. A London derby against a Spurs side running to a bit of form, but still not the force they were last season. Given that we will have two extra days rest from European excursions and the strength of our squad, with Sheva now finding his shooting boots too – and that it’s Tottenham – three points should be safely acquired.

Then back to the Bridge for the next round of the Carling Cup, against Martin O’Neill’s Aston Villa. When they last visited earlier in the season they managed to grind out a point against a Chelsea side who dominated but couldn’t finish their chances. They are taking this cup seriously, but fortunately so is Jose so we should see a slightly changed but still strong side out. Our home record would seem to point to a victory, but this will be no easy game. I think Chelsea will win, but it may have to go to extra time at least in order for us to get the result we want. With cheap tickets too hopefully a full house will be in attendance and get behind the team and push them toward victory.

If there is extra time, it shouldn’t have as much of an impact as our fixture the next weekend is what will likely be, with all due respect, a relatively easy match against Andy Boothroyd’s Watford. With a number of draws but no win this season and near the bottom of the league, pitted against our quality and almost invincible home form this should be a formality. If Watford raise their game it could be difficult, but at the very least we will grind out a win here. However, if we create as many chances as against Portsmouth and start putting them away, then it could be the cricket score we’ve been threatening for some time now, and Sheva could really fill his boots. But definitely three points.

A week later and West Ham are the visitors to the Bridge. West Ham have just ended a run of 8 successive defeats, so are on a little bit of a high. The prospect of a big derby against the champions could see them raise their game. We will have to have our concentration and performance levels at their highest for this game. It seems that West Ham have this annoying habit of unsettling us and performing well, when you think they haven’t a hope. We’ll need to play well, but again at home I can’t see anything else than Chelsea winning.

This is followed by a potentially difficult trip to Germany in the Champions League to face Werder Bremen. We only need a draw or even a 1-0 defeat to confirm qualification. Bremen are in good form and held Barcelona at home, and I think a battling draw would be a good result in this match, and that is the most likely result, which would then see us qualify for the knockout stages.

The month ends with two big away fixtures which could potentially determine our eventual league position.

The first of these is arguably the most difficult. Man Utd away. United are in red-hot form at the moment, playing some great attacking football, scoring goals, getting win after win and keeping pace with us on points at the top of the league – leading only on goal difference. I’m sure they won’t change their game to suit us, and will be going for the win, as indeed will we. Hopefully we’ll have our best players at their best form. If we do, we can beat them. If not we may have to settle for a draw, which won’t be bad result against Man Utd at the moment. Rooney and Ronaldo will be the danger men for United, and if we can keep them quiet we have a chance. Will be an intriguing match.

Bolton away is our last match of the month. Of course the Reebok stadium holds many good memories from the last two seasons. Bolton have been in terrific form, getting very good results while not playing well. However with them having lost 4-0 to Man Utd it remains to be seen how they respond. We should feel confident of getting the points here.

At the moment both Man Utd and Chelsea are winning game after game, keeping pace with each other. Something has to give soon, and this could be an important month in the title race. Get the results we need and we could be set to push on ahead of the rest in the title race. Lose the potentially difficult games and we could be a long way behind. Even more so, we could be out of the Carling Cup too. It could be a difficult month. But I fully expect us to come through it relatively unscathed, top of the league, through to the next round of the league cup and having secured our place in the group stages of the Champions League.

It should be a very interesting month, all in all.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Chelsea Player Profile: Joe Cole

Having begun our Chelsea Managers series with Jose Mourinho, we now begin our Player Profiles with someone whom many thought was Chelsea's best and most consistent player last season and who shone for England in the World Cup, Joe Cole.

Many a players’ career has been described been one of unfulfilled potential. Many talented teenagers tipped as the next big thing fall by the wayside. Until around Janaury 2005 that allegation could have been made against Joe Cole. He was born in Islington on 8 November 1981 and grew up in a Chelsea supporting family, and indeed for a couple of seasons was a season ticket holder. From a very early age though, it was clear that he wasn’t going to be in the stands for long. Almost from the moment he started playing he began to be seen as one of England’s brightest footballing prospects. As a teenager many big clubs were fighting for the signature of the promising midfielder. Sir Alex Ferguson wanted to bring him to Man Utd and he even had a trial at Chelsea. However it was West Ham, who have become almost a feeder club for Chelsea in recent years, where Joe chose to continue his footballing education.

Joe was being talked of in the same breath as Paul Gascoigne in terms of sheer ability, and it was being said that he was a certainty to go on and become one of the greatest players of his generation. The skill he was showing with the ball at his feet, the fleetness of foot, the creativity, tricks and flair he showed were marking him out as a midfielder of great potential, a class above his peers. After only 8 appearances for the England U21’s, scoring two goals, he made his full England debut as a sub in the 4-0 home thrashing of Mexico on 25 May 2001. He was part of the England squad that competed in the World Cup South Korea in 2002, but never had the chance to make an impression. His career seemed to plateau. He was performing solidly for West Ham but not really delivering on his promise and was failing to cement a place at international level. However, given the high expectations placed on him from such a young age, when there hadn’t been a young English talent of such skill for over 10 years, then you can understand the pressure he may have been feeling. Part of the problem at international level was that it was difficult to accommodate him. With the likes of Paul Scholes at his peak as an attacking midfielder and given Joe’s lack of defensive ability he rarely got a chance to shine. It was a frustrating time to be Joe Cole.

In 2003, at the age of 21, his career was at a crossroads. The season just gone had been dramatic for him, not only captaining West Ham but also suffering the pain of relegation. It was clear that the time was now right for him to make the step up and challenge himself alongside better players, in order to fulfil his immense potential. Many thought he would go to Man Utd who were interested by all accounts. However by a happy coincidence his availability had been timed just right with the purchase of Chelsea by Roman Abramovich, who was spending money like it was going out of fashion. At the age of 21 and after 126 league appearances for West Ham, scoring only 10 league goals, he signed for Chelsea for what now seems a paltry £6.6 million. At last, people were thinking, a club where he can really improve and show his potential at the highest level.

His first season at Chelsea, however, seemed to continue in the vein of his career thus far. A glimpse of great potential and some good performances, but not really being able to establish himself alongside such attacking players as Damien Duff and Frank Lampard, who were establishing themselves as key players in the new Chelsea era under Abramovich. At the end of his first season there were mutterings of his unhappiness and desire to leave. Indeed, it was thought that a new manager may not even want him in their team.

The man who made Joe Cole arrived in June 2004. Jose Mourinho was an intelligent, talented young manager with man-management skills that had fans had not seen the likes of before. He was man who liked his teams to play with flair and skill, but not at the expense of defensive solidity and organisation. Encouraging for Joe Cole was the example of Deco at Porto, a player man thought similar to Cole. Again there were positive signs. Again though, despite coming off the bench to score against Birmingham in the second league game of 2004-2005, he again was struggling to establish himself in the first team.

The defining moment in Joe Cole’s career came at Stamford Bridge against Liverpool. Joe had scored a great winner from a Frank Lampard free kick and people were raving about his performance, including the player himself. Jose Mourinho had a different outlook though. He criticised him for his lack of defensive responsibility and discipline. Joe Cole disappeared from Chelsea first team squads for a while. Many thought, once again, that Joe Cole was bound for the exit door. However over the Christmas and New Year period Joe Cole had his opportunities, mainly from the subs bench, and started contributing. He was working harder, getting stuck into tackles, and not trying one trick too many. Promising. Once Arjen Robben got injured he got a run in the first team. This was his big chance to establish himself as a Chelsea regular, and quite possibly his last. He took it. Playing mainly on the right wing, the change in attitude began to be noticed. The goals started coming, and he was tracking back and defending. The new attitude was summed up by a goal against Norwich. He lost the ball, won it back, beat two defenders and sent a great strike into the top corner. In the 4-2 thrashing of Barcelona he came of age, and people started noticing his all round contributions. He was becoming the player people thought he always could be. Against Bayern Munich, tracking back to a right back position to win the ball back, and chasing a lost cause winning the ball and creating what became a key goal by Didier Drogba. These performances symbolised the transformation of Joe Cole.

In 2005/2006 there was a new challenge in front of him. Shaun Wright-Phillips arrived for £21 million, who was playing in Joe’s new position on the right wing. However, as Wright-Phillips struggled, before too long Joe Cole got his chance again and took it. He became a regular in the first team, scoring key goals and making a few more. His season was summed up in two goals, against Arsenal at Highbury, winning a lost cause and making it into a goal, and that goal against Man Utd which clinched the second successive title. More on that later.

It wasn’t just at club level that he was establishing himself. His performances had forced Sven Goran Erikkson’s hand, and he tried him on the left wing during England’s World Cup qualifying campaign. It worked. Joe Cole started scoring goals and making goals. Cutting in from the left wing and making darting runs into the penalty area. Alongside Wayne Rooney, he was becoming England’s real bright spark. The biggest credit to his achievement is that now there is no perceived problem with England’s left side any more. Joe Cole is an automatic pick for England’s first team. Wayne Rooney got injured at Stamford Bridge on the same day Joe Cole scored arguably his greatest ever goal turning three defenders on a sixpence and firing home at Stamford Bridge, proved that now he had become almost the complete player and was set at the World Cup in Germany to establish himself as one of the best players in the world.

Joe Cole had a good World Cup in particular during the group stages. With Rooney not fully fit and Frank Lampard and to a lesser extent Steven Gerrard not really firing, he looked England’s most dangerous player, who was going to trouble defences and make things happen. He was going to unlock the door to World Cup glory. Against Sweden he became a star. The goal he scored was pure genius, and his skills harnessed alongside a great work rate made him look completely at home in international football. No longer a selfish player, he played a pinpoint cross for England’s second instead of going for glory himself.

He surely has now begun to realise his great potential and is becoming the player that people always predicted he could and would be. He shows great commitment, great attitude and his decision making on the pitch has improved. He’s making more goals and scoring more goals. The scary thing for opposition fans is that he’s only 24. He’s going to improve. At the next World Cup he will be 28 and at his absolute peak. In that time he could have established himself as the key player, certainly for Chelsea and quite possibly for England. In my mind there is no doubt that potentially he could become the best player in the world. He has that much ability, and finally it is beginning to be fulfilled.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Anti-Chelsea Directives

Now for a bit of comedy on the site. As a Chelsea fan, it seems like a lot of people - UEFA, the media for example, have been against is in the last few years and applied one rule for most clubs and one for Chelsea. So I came up with this. Of course this is completely fictional, but sometimes it does feel like these rules do exist…

Without further ado, here are some new footballing directives handed down from UEFA/G14 to the footballing/sporting media and referees in all UEFA/G14 nations: These were made in consultation with Liverpool Football Club and Arsenal Football Club with additional input from Arsene Wenger and Steven Gerrard:

1) Thou shalt never criticize Liverpool or Arsenal players, even when they do the same thing as players from Chelsea

2) Stevie Gerrard is the greatest player ever ever in the universe, never to be criticized even if he's played rubbish, dived or made an awful, two footed, boots in the air tackle. If he plays badly it's always someone else's fault. It's either that he's played out of position (despite being lauded for being so versatile) or for England it's becuase he should be playing in the centre of midfield instead of Frank Lampard, who of course isn't even in the same class as Gerrard. This is the Frank Lampard was voted second best player in Europe and the World in 2005 - above Gerrard - and scored more goals from midfield in one Premiership season that any other player. He also scored more goals in World Cup qualifying than any other England player and was voted England player of the year twice in a row, as well as Football Writers Player of the Year in 2005. That's Frank Lampard by the way.

3) Liverpool are the greatest ever football team in the universe (closely followed by Arsenal) and must never be judged or condemned. They rule the world and are always morally right.

4) Jose Mourinho, Peter Kenyon, Roman Abramovich and Chelsea are responsible for all that is wrong with football. Not the G14 clubs who pushed for a bigger Champions League with more money for bigger clubs and Arsenal, Liverpool and Man Utd who made sure all the TV money from the Prem goes to the top teams.

5) Mourinho's words will always be twisted to mean something different to what he says in order to get him out of Chelsea.

6) All disputed decisions involving Chelsea are Chelsea's fault and Chelsea should be punished in any way possible with cards, suspensions, fines, media campaigns and media criticism.

7) Chelsea players who fall over are always diving, especially if their name is Didier Drogba or Arjen Robben. Never the opposition. This applies at all times, even when opponents from G14 clubs may fall over, look up and roll over.

8) When a Chelsea player who has been accused of being a dirty disgrace for causing a graze to a player (rightly according to these rules) is injured even worse by another player that player will not be punished or criticized in the media, especially if they are a Liverpool player.

9) All poor performances of Liverpool are always because Gerrard is off form and not because they are rubbish.

10) Gerrard is man of the match in every Liverpool win, even when he's not playing.

11) Gerrard will be hailed as the best player in the world when he scores a goal that Frank Lampard could have scored in a Cup Final, but Frank Lampard will only be called 'top quality' or 'high-class' (until he joins Barcelona).Gerrard will be called 'world-class'

12) Liverpool managers never say anything controversial or offensive, even when they do.

13) Despite being the top scorers in the Prem and playing the most attacking formation of all the top teams Chelsea will be labeled boring. Liverpool will be praised for great football (especially Gerrard) even though they scored miles less goals, put ten men behind the ball and conceded virtually the same

14) Liverpool always have an excuse for losing to Chelsea, such as a Chelsea player diving when a Liverpool player has him round the throat and the Liverpool player being sent off. Even after 82 mins when 2-0 down.

15) Chelsea players will be sent off for tackles that opposition players will get a yellow for.

16) Liverpool don't spend any money on players, even though they spent over £30 million the season they won the CL.

17) Peter Crouch is a great player (while he's a Liverpool player) and an inspired signing whereas the Chelsea player with the most assists in the Premiership and the same number of goals in about 10-15 less games is a big waste of money.

18) When Liverpool play Chelsea everyone must support Liverpool apart from Chelsea fans.

19) Liverpool fans are the best in the world, and are showing passion when hitting children over the head with glass bottles, write insulting graffiti inside a stadium or throw bottles at players. Chelsea fans who do the same are just thugs.

20) When Real Madrid, Barcelona or Man Utd spend £30 million on a player it's a statement of intent or great investment, if Chelsea do it they are buying success.

21) When the three former clubs win things after spending money it's because they're a great team with a great manager, with Chelsea it's only because of money.

22) Whenever Chelsea play in the CL all people must support the opposition 'in the name of good football', even when they are Liverpool who play some of the most boring football ever.

23) All decisions in Chelsea's favour are wrong and unjust and Chelsea's fault, whereas ones in oppositions favour must always be ignored.

24) When Chelsea complain of a bad decision they are moaners, all other clubs have been 'harshly treated' and are 'unlucky'.

25) Big-names only join Chelsea for money, not because they are the best team in England. If they join anyone else it's for ambition.

26) When a big-name English player does badly at Chelsea then Chelsea have ruined England's World Cup chances, anywhere else they've just had a bad season.

27) Chelsea never give chances to youngsters, despite the fact that Theo Walcott would have got more first team football at Chelsea than at Arsenal this season and they have just bought two of Europe’s best young talents.

28) Arsene Wenger is the greatest spotter of young talent in the universe, whereas Chelsea poach young talent already established, despite all the youngsters Arsenal signed being well known talented youngsters when they signed.

29) Wenger is a better manager than Mourinho even though Mourinho has won both European trophies on a budget the fraction of Arsenal's and won four successive league titles, two successive Prem titles which Wenger has never done. His success at Chelsea is all about money, unlike Arsenal's who spent £17 million on Reyes, £8.5 million on Bergkamp, £10 million on Hleb and £10 million on Henry.

30)Liverpool are the only football club in England with history.

31) When Liverpool players and staff make bold statements they are called confident and Chelsea are called arrogant.

32) When Chelsea players play well for their countries or new clubs you must say “it’s Chelsea’s fault they don’t play like this so often”

33) If a player leaves Chelsea, it’s because “Jose doesn’t rate them” even if he says he wants to keep them, and they say they want to move to get regular first team football.

34) Never give the Chelsea manager any credit whatsoever. Any success is down to the players, whereas bad results are because of the manager.

35) If Chelsea sign a big-name player then it’s an Abramovich signing, if he’s unproven it’s Jose’s signing. This is despite Jose saying he wanted Shevchenko from when he arrived and being strong minded enough not to have to say that and good enough to get another job very quickly.

36) It’s a travesty that Steven Gerrard has not been awarded the OBE for winning the European Cup 12 months ago. However despite winning back-to-back Premierships which only one other club has ever managed, JT and Lampard don’t get any recognition and no-one is to complain when they don’t.

37) If Chelsea win the Premiership again or another major trophy then it’s because of money, not tactics and team spirit at all. If it's another team it's becuase of hard work, tactics and team spirit, not becuase they bought any players.

38) Joe Cole has worked his way into the England team and become a more complete player on his own, not because of Jose Mourinho.

39) Jose Mourinho only thinks he’s a good manager, despite having won more titles in his managerial career than any other manager in the Prem apart from Sir Alex Ferguson. Arsene Wenger is a great manager, despite never having won the European Cup or even one European trophy at Arsenal.

40) It is imperative to continue with the campaign to get Frank Lampard to go to Barcelona, a ‘real’ football team. Even though he has said he wants to end his career at Chelsea.

41) Continue with the campaign to drive Mourinho out of Chelsea so someone else can come in and they won’t be as good. This is despite the fact that success under Mourinho is only down to money and he has had no impact on it at all himself.

42) All fixture lists will be in favour of Arsenal and Liverpool, in terms of first home and away fixtures, last fixtures and fixtures after CL matches, in order that Chelsea will go out of Europe early despite being England’s best team.

43) Arsenal and Liverpool never do any wrong in the eyes of UEFA or the FA, whereas Chelsea will be guilty of all allegations made against them, even if they are false.

44) When Chelsea spend £16 million on a talented 19 year-old with international experience it’s reckless and a big risk. When Arsenal blow £12 million on a talented 16 year old who’s never played international football it’s a wise investment.

45) Always moan about the amount of debt Chelsea are in and say it’s morally wrong and that they should be more responsible with money, and don’t ever criticize Arsenal and Man Utd for getting themselves into even bigger debt.

46) Chelsea Football Club are evil, have no soul and are all about money.

47) All trophies under Abramovich are tainted with money and Russian exploitation of Oil. You the media will moan about even though it was never mentioned before Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea and his money has saved at least two football clubs from going out of business.

48) When a Chelsea player is almost killed by opponent you will take the side of the opponent, even when the incident was avoidable, and criticise Chelsea and Jose Mourinho.

So there you go. These rules may be fictional, but certainly in the last two or even three years it’s seemed like some of them are true at times…..don’t you think?

Chelsea come of age in Europe

Despite their domestic dominance of the last two seasons and despite reaching two Champions League semi-finals, it's always felt to me that Chelsea have been outsiders in Europe. We stood in awe of teams like Milan, Real Madrid and Barcelona, watching and looking at their performances and history in Europe and always considering ourselves inferior in status and achievement. Our two semi-finals felt like a smaller club defying the odds to get to the final stages of the competition, despite the quality in the team.

But something changed over the two matches against Barcelona this season, in particular with our peformance at the Nou Camp. Despite a lot of negative publicity, as ever, I thought our performance and attitude over the 90 mins was superb. Twice Barcelona took the lead, twice with great goals. But twice Chelsea came back. They never gave in. They always believed. Not only that, but at times they played some superb football as well. They created nearly double the number of total shots and again nearly double the amount of shots on target. Barcelona scored two of their three shots on target. If we had scored that percentage we would have had at least 3 goals if not more.

Remember they were playing against the European Champions in their own back yard with 90,000 odd fans on their back, as well as the considerable skills of this Barcelona team. I don't rememeber the last time a team went to Barcelona and created more chances and more shots on goal than them, yet alone a team coming from behind twice to draw with them. Chelsea were not intimidated. Not one bit. They were not overcome by the occasion and never looked out of their depth. They didn't look like upstarts trying to crash the European party, as they have in previous years. No, last night they looked like they belonged. They looked at home. They played without fear, without looking or even feeling inferior to their rivals. They looked like a club and a team not that was inferior, but that was the equal of the European Champions. They were not out of place.

Chelsea looked like a world-class team and a big club last night. In their minds, they know now that they are a big team, a top-class team, a champion team which belongs in the exalted company of Madrid, Milan and Barcelona. The players beleived they were their equal and nothing was going to stop them getting their result. They were not intimidated by history or reputation, becuase they knew that in terms of qulaity they were at least Barcelona's equal.

Terry led by example again, Lampard put in a world-class performance capped off with one of the great European goals - no fluke, a great goal. Robben looked more and more dangerous as the match went on. Makelele broke up the play brilliantly. Ashley Cole was rasping down the left linking up superbly with Frank Lampard, getting forward and looking to get crosses in at every opportunity. They played with nerves of steel. The face of John Terry when he celebrated that equaliser will live forever in the memory. He will not rest until this club has won this trophy. He beleives we are good enough, he will not be intimidated by anyone, and that attitude and belief has finally been implanted into the team in the European Cup. We've had it in the Premiership for a couple of seasons, but finally we're starting to have that belief, confidence and swagger in Europe as well. That is an ominous prospect for any team that stands in our way.

Chelsea, both yesterday and two weeks ago played like a team who not only beleived or hoped they could win the Champions League or were guest stars in the competiton. They played like a team who knew they were where they belonged and who knew they were good enough to win the Champions League. They played with the swagger and confidence of a team who know how good they are and know what they're capable of, and know that they ae the equal of any team in Europe. They proved why they are the favourites for this competition. They are part of that group of big clubs, they are the team everyone is fearing in the next round and they know it. Not only that, but they are also a team with fantastic spirit and unity, willing to work their socks off. A team who won't give in. They really will fear no-one in the knockout stages and no team will want to play them. This belief is also starting to transmit itself to the fans as well, and certainly in my case the ambition of winning the European Cup has gone from being thinking we might win it, to a belief that we can and will win it. After watching the way we've played and the spirit we've shown against Barcelona over the last two games I beleive that if we can keep playing with this attitude, really work hard and put our minds to it, then there is nothing beyond the reach of this team

The Champions League final next year is in Athens, the scene of our first European triumph inspired by the late great Peter Osgood. How fitting it would be and what a tribute to his memory to win our first ever European Cup in the same venue. With the confidence, belief, attitude and talent in this team it would be no surprise.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Chelsea Retro: A Preview of May 2006

Another piece of Chelsea Retro, a preview of the last month of the 2005/2006 season, written after Chelsea had clinched the Premiership title for the second successive season. This is quite funny looking back bearing in mind the results Chelsea did (or didn't) get.

As I write this Chelsea have just wrapped up their second successive Premiership title with a 3-0 defeat of Manchester United. As we finally left the ground the talk in the media was not just about Chelsea’s back-to-back titles, but of Wayne Rooney. We all watched in deathly silence as England’s star player and great hope for the World Cup left the field, and now looking like he will miss the World Cup. No-one likes to see a player, especially such a key player and great player for England, go off with an injury like that. For me it took the gloss just a little - although only a little - off what was a great day, arguably the best atmosphere I’ve ever experienced at Stamford Bridge. We should celebrate too, back to back titles is a great achievement, only achieved by great teams – which is what we have.

This of course changes the whole complexion of May’s fixtures. We have two away fixtures, both in the first week of May, to complete our league season. The results are now academic in terms of winning the title, but if we win these two games then we will break our own record points total and achieve 97 points, two more than last season. This is from a team who apparently are worse than last season! In fact even a draw and a win would see us equal the 95 points of last season, having lost two more games. Quite an achievement if it can be done – and I believe it will be.

As for team selection for these games, well it could be interesting. We must face these fixtures without our skipper John Terry, cruelly denied the chance to play all 38 league games this season. He will be anxious to make sure he does it next season. It will be a chance for fringe players to get a run out in the first team. Jose spoke yesterday of giving players some rest, especially with the World Cup coming up for most, so expect some changes. SWP will probably play both, as will Damien Duff. Lassana Diarra could also be given some first-team experience in the Makelele role, with Maniche, Carlton Cole, Glen Johnson, Robert Huth and Carlo Cudicini likely to play some part in at least one if not both games. This will give some a perfect opportunity to stake a claim for a first team spot next season, while for others it may be their farewell appearance. The good thing is that it will keep the team hungry and players will be fresher, meaning no lack of effort or complacency. Jose and the team will want to end the season on a winning note and break that points record, which will be their goal now.

Blackburn away is the first of these games. Always a difficult fixture, Blackburn have a lot to play for, with the possibility of European football going to Ewood Park. In contrast to last year Blackburn have actually played some good football this season and deserve their league position. Craig Bellamy has proved to be a great signing and is looking back to his best. A real danger man for us and arguably Blackburn’s biggest chance of achieving a result. This will be a difficult match and therefore most likely a low scoring affair. 1-0 to Chelsea.

Newcastle away is yet again our final league match. Newcastle, who may or may not have Michael Owen available, are in good form currently and proving just how correct they were to sack Graeme Souness. From lower table they have climbed up into European contention and what with it being their final home game and a European spot up for grabs they will be very up for it. This again will be a difficult fixture for us, especially having already won the title and it being at St James’ Park, which is always a difficult atmosphere. However with a team selection which will again give opportunity for lesser used players, who are fresher and arguably hungrier to play than first team regulars now the title has been wrapped up, I believe Chelsea will record another victory. 2-1 to Chelsea.

Also this month we will begin to get the papers coming out in force with rumours and gossip about the comings and goings at Chelsea Football Club this summer. The inevitable rumours will surface about top strikers like Adriano, Shevchenko and Eto’o and numerous left-backs and centre-backs. It could also be the month when we complete the free transfer of Michael Ballack. Whatever, the rumour mill will be going into overdrive now that Chelsea’s season is effectively over.

It has been another great season. Back-to-back titles is not to be sniffed at, and we could easily beat our points total of last season. Whatever happens though we can be proud to be Chelsea supporters and enjoy this time – we are the Champions!!! Again!!

What actually happened:
Chelsea lost their last two league games away to Blackburn and Newcastle, both 1-0. In both games they fielded under-strength teams, but still involved Shaun Wright Phillips and Damien Duff in both games and Frank Lampard in one of the games. At Blackburn they had three penalties not given and created enough chances to win and against Newcastle again had chances to at least draw if not win the game but lost to a Titus Bramble goal. At the end of the month Chelsea confirmed they were signing Michael Ballack on a Bosman free transfer, and the next month Andriy Shevchenko arrived for a British record £31 million from Milan. By the end of August they had signed England left-back Ashley Cole from Arsenal as well, despite the eventually unfounded rumours of Roberto Carlos arriving from Madrid.

Chelsea Retro: A Preview of April 2006

Here's some more Chelsea Retro for you. This is a monthly preview of April 2006, which turned out to be the defining month in Chelsea's season.

This preview comes a little late, so apologies. I would’ve said we should have no problems beating Birmingham, but looks like that prediction was wrong! We go into the rest of this crucial month with a seven point lead at the top of the table. This is the month when we could either win the title and get to the FA Cup final, or throw away a seven point lead and get knocked out of the FA Cup. Basically, this month is make or break for our season. We play five games – four league and one cup, which will effectively decide the season.

So what’s going to happen? Well as a Chelsea fan of over 20 years I can safely say you never know with Chelsea. However there seem to be a lot of people starting to doubt us and saying we going to ‘do a Devon Loch’. However we need to look at this more objectively. The fixtures are West Ham and Everton at home with Bolton away sandwiched between. We then have the two biggest games, United at home and at Old Trafford against Liverpool in the FA Cup.

Despite what’s being said about us recently we are starting to play a bit better in recent games. We’re keeping the ball better and creating chances, and most importantly something is going right with our defence (funnily enough, since Gallas got suspended we haven’t conceded a goal). We are keeping clean sheets and as long as we keep doing that we will win games. Yes at times we’ve only played one half of games, but in those halves we’re creating enough chances to win.

There is no need to panic. The facts show that we have only dropped two points at home this season and have beaten Liverpool and Arsenal amongst others. If we keep this form up we will win the title either before or at the game against United – depending on how many points they drop. If United drop four points and we win our next three, we’ll win the title at home to Everton. If not, and we win two of those three , a victory against United will secure the title and even a draw will mean we only need a win or two draws from our last two to win it. The chances of United catching us are still slim and we should still be confident of retaining our title.

In the FA Cup it’s always about how you play on the day. We’re not scoring as many goals, especially away from home and Liverpool seem to have found their shooting boots. However, our domestic record against Liverpool in the last couple of season is superb and hopefully we’ll have our tails up from just winning the title. The odds are we’ll go through here.

We shouldn’t be worried at all about the mentality of the players. They know how good a position we’re in and will still be confident of winning the title and getting to the FA Cup final. Mourinho has instilled that belief and confidence in the squad and a couple of dodgy away results won’t shake it.

It’s us fans who must keep the faith and really get behind our teams at games. Let’s be loud, let’s be bold and really get behind the team. We must also stay confident and positive about our prospects. We still have a healthy lead at the top. Most years a seven point lead at this stage is a great achievement – we just have higher expectations after winning the title by 12 points last year. Winning a title a second year running is always more difficult and so it’s proving. Man Utd would much rather be in our position than theirs and even Alex Ferguson after the Bolton game said that Chelsea are still heavy favourites with their lead. All of us, the fans, the players and everyone involved at the club, just need to keep our nerve. If we do that, we win end this month as Champions looking forward to an FA Cup final and potential double – and all the critics and doubters will have been silenced. How good would that feel?

What actually happened:
Chelsea won all their league games after Birmingham up till the Man Utd game. They came from behind with 10 men to beat West Ham 4-1, beat Bolton 2-0, Everton 3-0 and then trashed Man Utd 3-0 at home to win the league. They did however lose 2-1 in the FA Cup Semi-Finals to eventual winners Liverpool. But nevertheless, a great month for Chelsea FC.

Chelsea Retro: Air of Invincibility Shattered

Here's a little look back at something I wrote at the end of March 2006 reviewing Chelsea's then poor form and looking at our prospects for the rest of the season. Interesting reading in hindsight:

In recent weeks, Chelsea has had some bad results. We’ve not been playing well for a long time, in fact the only decent performance of 2006 was in the FA Cup v Everton. Chelsea haven’t really been playing well consistently since we beat Bolton in the league back in the autumn. Yes, we’ve put together a run of 10 successive victories in that time, but nevertheless even during that run we never really were playing great football. But at the time it didn’t matter, we were still getting results and didn’t look like getting beaten.

Last season’s achievement and the sheer scale of it – records broken aplenty, only losing one game – gave us an air of invincibility coming into this season. Teams were sent out to stop us scoring, rather than to attack us and defeat us. Teams were looking for draws if they were lucky. We beat Barcelona 4-2 at home and looked unbeatable.

That form carried on into the start of this season. At one point our defence was so good they were having bets on us not conceding a goal all season and one tabloid newspaper was offering a reward for the first person to score past us. People were afraid of us, and there was talk of us not losing a game all season and in fact winning all our games. Of course these were probably unrealistic expectations, but people were saying these sorts of things about us.

How things change. Until Middlesbrough away it looked like a coast to the title, we would have it wrapped up by early April or even the end of March. We didn’t think we could lose a game. Then we lost to Middlesbrough 3-0 playing very poorly. Barcelona knocked us out of the Champions League after a combination of a refereeing decision and a poor away performance at the Nou Camp. The criticism that surrounded it – not enough flair or creativity, no world-class finisher, poor tactics, were heavy. The media laid into Mourinho in the way they had wanted to ever since he came to Chelsea and proclaimed himself “the special one”. They talked of Mourinho being a moaner, ungracious, a bad loser and not as special as he thought. Of course this criticism continued after the win at West Brom where Chelsea players and Mourinho were criticised for their behaviour, completely ignorant of the Bryan Robson swearing and shouting and his players’ intimidation of the referee. More criticism.

Then came Sunday and what was expected to be a stroll against Fulham, who were conceding goals like nobody’s business. The end result was a poor performance by Chelsea, especially in the first half, and a bit of bad luck giving us a third defeat of the season. Now there are articles springing up in the papers about how Newcastle threw away their 12 point lead in 1996. People are starting to ask ‘Will Mourinho do a Keegan?’ Even Chelsea fans themselves are starting to question some of the managers’ decisions, which could have been regarded as heresy only a few months ago. Suddenly teams are now going to start fancying their chances against us. People now think we’re beatable if you attack us and put the pressure on the midfield. The fear factor is fast disappearing.

However, I believe this could work to our advantage. Last season not many people expected us to win the league at the beginning. Even when we were five points clear many expected us to implode. The expectations from outside were nowhere near as high as this season. The same may start happening now. Teams may think they have a chance against us or underestimate us.

Will Jose and Chelsea ‘do a Keegan / Newcastle’? I have my doubts. We are made of sterner stuff and have a manager who has won three league titles already. His confidence is unshakeable and his man-management flawless. The one-hour team meeting at the training ground, which didn’t even happen after the Boro’ game, is a good sign that they are determined to put things right and will be doing all they can to do so. Knowing the temperament of this Chelsea team they will respond in the way Champions do, but putting together a great run to the end of the season.

We now have something to prove again. Last season we needed to prove we could win the league and silence the doubters. This season we now need to silence those doubters, those sceptics in the media, those who try and put us down, by finishing the season in style. By winning our next five games in the league so only a draw against either Blackburn or Man Utd (depending on whether we reach the FA Cup semi-finals) will give us the title. By going unbeaten to the end of the season and win our first ever double. Only then will that air of invincibility we held for so long begin to return.

What actually happened:
Chelsea won the league title with a 3-0 thrashing of so-called title rivals Man Utd at Stamford Bridge with goals from William Gallas, Joe Cole and Ricardo Carvalho. Wayne Rooney got the injury that almost put him out of the World Cup. They also lost in the Semi-Finals of the FA Cup to eventual winners Liverpool. In the summer they signed Michael Ballack, Andriy Shevchenko and Ashley Cole and after ten games of the this season are joint top on points with Man Utd in the Premiership and top of their Champions League group after three games, with three wins - including defeating the reigning European Champions Barcelona 1-0 at Stamford Bridge with a superb performance. The air of invinciblity is now returning.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Have they gone too far?

So often in the last few years Jose Mourinho and Chelsea fans themselves have gone on about being victimised by the media. Comments written in newspapers and made by people on radio or TV coming out criticising the actions of Mourinho, CFC or the players or spreading gossip about Mourinho’s future at Chelsea, criticism of their style of play and conduct in comparison to clubs like Liverpool and Arsenal have been commonplace. Until now I was willing to put up with this, being the best means you are going to get criticism. However, when it came to the issue of Steve Hunt v Petr Cech, which was reckless and avoidable, the majority – with one notable exception – side not with the player who almost lost his life or with the club he plays for, but no, with Steven Hunt and Reading.

Let it be clear, Petr Cech could and would have died of his injury if it had been left unoperated or undiagnosed. Get that? Not just his career, but his whole life would be over. Gone. Past. Nobody who has experienced the loss of a close relative or friend would wish that on anyone. Yet in my opinion a lot of the media have used this as an opportunity to attack Chelsea and Jose Mourinho while they’re down. That is inexcusable.

When Jose Mourinho was first interviewed after the game he said it could be a life-threatening injury and a lot of people at first thought he was over-reacting. Yet it came out later that indeed he was right. Petr Cech could have lost his life. Then Mourinho went on to say that the tackle on Cech was entirely deliberate and that Hunt should be punished. The Monday after the game had a feature written by a tabloid journalist saying that not only was Hunt completely innocent, but that he should sue Mourinho for slander or libel.

Looking at the incident over and over, it seems more and more clear that this was an avoidable injury. Petr Cech had control over the ball and there was no chance of Hunt winning it back. He had long enough to realise this and jump over Cech and avoid any injury. Instead, to ‘let him know he was about’ he left his leg in. I’m sure that his intention was not to cause injury, just enough pain to know that Hunt wasn’t going to take any prisoners. Nevertheless, whatever the intent, in my opinion, and that of many Chelsea fans and indeed players and staff, is that the tackle was reckless and avoidable, and caused serious injury to the player. Under the laws of the game that is a sending off offence.

But however clear this may be to a lot of people, both the media (largely) and the FA have decided that it was an unavoidable accident and attach no blame to Hunt whatsoever. Hunt is not punished and the media launch a headlong assault on Chelsea and their manager for over-reacting and making false accusations.

This got even worse when Mourinho made what were probably in hindsight unwise comments regarding the situation with the ambulance on the Tuesday afterwards. Of course, the media took that one line out of a very long press conference, most of which I am reliably informed was not reported on at all, and used it again as a stick to beat Mourinho with.

However, you can understand how Mourinho felt. Emotions were running very high amongst everyone at that time, even the fans, yet alone his family, friends, manager and team-mates. Mourinho was upset and frustrated about what had happened and maybe said things that in hindsight he wouldn’t. He had every right to be angry at that time. To me, his actions are excusable given the situation. But whatever he said, it was interpreted as an attack on Reading and the local ambulance service, which of course it wasn’t. If people had listened to him after the game, he had been in fact very complimentary to the Reading team and their manager for the way they played and approached the game. But of course, being positive, this was lost in the carnage that followed.

More allegations of arrogance and even worse of exploiting the incident to fire up his players for a big match. That was absolutely sickening. Mourinho would never stoop so low about anyone, yet alone one of his own team. And all this while Petr Cech was still in his hospital bed recovering from a life-threatening injury, which had been lost in the clamour to criticise Chelsea and Mourinho. In the last week I’ve read articles calling Mourinho a buffoon, arrogant, a moaner and that no-one listens to what he says anymore. Well if that’s true then they aren’t really doing a very good job of proving it.

The media are the ones in my opinion who have exploited this situation, not Mourinho. They have leapt on the opportunity to attack Mourinho and Chelsea, whilst Cech was still in hospital recovering from an injury that threatened his life and was completely avoidable. The FA have as usual washed their hands of the whole thing, and Hunt comes up smelling of Roses and Mourinho, who has to suffer the consequence of losing his best goalkeeper to an avoidable injury, is the one criticised.

Sorry, but to me the media have gone too far this time. What they have done is completely out of order and shows a lack of respect for human life in favour of grabbing a headline. It truly sickens me and I suspect a lot of other fans out there. The sad thing is there is little we can do to stop it other than not read the newspapers. As long as the general public read it they will write it, conveniently ignoring the facts and the pain of a player and his family, in favour of getting a story. Sick.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

For the money or the glory?

Ever since Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea in the summer of 2003, and even before that, there has been more and more talk of players only being motivated by money. Even the poorest Premiership footballer probably earning upwards of £500,000 per annum, up to players earning over £5 million per year (in wages alone). In comparison, 10 years ago the top players only earned around £1 million a year, and 20 years ago wages were even less. What I want to discuss here is the argument that big players only move to Chelsea for money and that some, if not all, top players are only motivated by money. Personally I don’t believe that is the case.

The accusation goes that all the top players who move to clubs on big salaries only move for the money. The Bosman ruling has allowed players at the end of their contracts to move clubs for a big signing on fee and high wages. On top of this clubs, of which Chelsea is a prime example, without the track record of success of a ‘big’ club like Real Madrid, Liverpool or Man Utd, and have been perceived by some not to be able to attract these type of players on merit. Therefore any big players, who move to these clubs on big salaries, are by definition only going there for the money. Money is their only motivating factor, and they will go to the club which offers them the highest salary. Many have levelled this accusation against Chelsea’s big three summer acquisitions, Andriy Shevchenko, Michael Ballack and Ashley Cole. Also, because these types of players are at their peak and have won most trophies going in football, there is a perceived lack of hunger or ambition, so the only motivating factor must have been money. People say these players move for 'one final big pay day'..

To me, this argument is very simplistic and to a certain extent judgemental. It tarnishes all players that move on big salaries with the same brush, and makes big assumptions. I prefer the other argument.

To a certain extent money is important to all of us. We need it to live and provide for ourselves and our families. If we are good at a job we want to get paid what we’re worth, or rather the going rate. If another company offers us a similar position at their company, on a higher salary with more opportunities for promotion, then a lot of us would be tempted to accept. Most top international footballers in their prime, as the three players in question are, are already millionaires several times over. In fact, these top players don't need a big final pay day, so that idea is ridiculous. As long as they are paid the market value for their services - which I believe is fair enough, and not greedy - in recognition of their marketability off the pitch and ability on it, and what they could be paid by most other clubs, they will be happy to sign. That is not being motivated by money. It’s getting paid the market value for their services. They probably bring in a substantial amount of what they get paid into the club in terms of merchandise, and that value is recognised in their pay packets. Top players by definition are surely ones whose motivation is to play football at the highest level for as long as possible and to win as many trophies as possible. If they are only motivated by money their commitment and hunger on the pitch will be much less surely. This argument says that to top players, although they want to be paid a fair wage in comparison to other top players, that they go to big clubs just as much to win trophies as anything else. This is the argument that I tend to agree with.

Frank Lampard and John Terry both earn £5 million a year and allegedly have clauses in their contracts saying they will always be the highest paid players at Chelsea Football Club. Yet no one questions their motivation or loyalty. Why should it be the same with any other players? Gianfranco Zola took a pay cut when leaving Chelsea, but only decided to leave when Chelsea didn’t offer him a sufficient contract, which was ironically more than he earnt at Cagliari. Even though the salary offered by Chelsea even pre-Abramovich was more, because the amount was not what he felt he was worth in terms of his experience and contribution to the club, he decided to leave to his hometown club. Even when offered what he wanted post-Abramovich he declined, having giving his word already to Cagliari. A big-name player, clearly not motivated by money, but still wanting to be paid what he was worth. An example which demonstrates this argument.

In the case of Michael Ballack and Andriy Shevchenko, both were offered contracts by other clubs of equal value to the ones they signed with Chelsea. Hardly the actions of people motivated by money. Ashley Cole publicly fell out with Arsenal, his boyhood club, because they allegedly verbally offered him one contract only to withdraw it, and failed to support him at all when he was in trouble with the FA. Indeed, he would probably have earnt more going to Real Madrid than he does now at Chelsea. Factor in that Chelsea are clearly the best team in England at the moment and have a better chance of winning major trophies than Arsenal, then the argument about money falls down even more.

In fact that applies to all players in relation to Chelsea now. Chelsea are the best side in England, back-to-back title winners and one of the top teams in Europe. They have one of the best squads and best managers in Europe, are now regualr qualifiers and are among on the favourites for the Champions League every season. Why wouldn't any top player want to come to Stamford Bridge?

There are exceptions of course. Players who demand a certain salary, or else threaten to walk out on their club. Or refuse to play unless their wage demands are met. Players like Winston Bogarde who happily collected £8 million from Chelsea and was happy not to play. That is a clear example of a player being motivated by money. But to me that is the exception rather than the rule.

Yes, the sheer amounts are staggering, and I’m not in any way saying that the high wages are justified. Nobody is worth that much money per year in reality. But the amount of money in football now means that comparatively the wages and fees for top players is increasing

It is up to you to decide which side of the argument you fall down on, but I would argue that players do not move just for money or just for the glory. They move to big clubs to achieve success and win trophies, and want to be paid what they’re worth in comparison to other big players - in rare exceptions, some are even willing to pay cuts. Let's make sure we don't assume too much.

For the money or the glory? You decide.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Chelsea Managers: Jose Mourinho - The Special One

Now the start of a new series on this site, profiling some of Chelsea's best managers. Of course there's no better place to start than with a profile of the man largely responsible for their recent successes, Jose Mourinho.

José Mário dos Santos Mourinho Félix, to give him his full name, was born 26 Jan 1963 in Setubal, Portugal. Football was in his blood right from the beginning, as he was the son of Portugal goalkeeper Felix Mourinho. As the years passed it quickly became apparent that Jose was not the most gifted of footballers, but still had a great passion for the game. Management is where he would achieve greatness.

Looking back Jose’s path to management arguably began at the tender age of 15. His father was a manager at the time and asked Jose to go on scouting missions and prepare dossiers on players, a skill he has now brought into management. Jose studied Physical Education at University, specialising in sports methodology. He then began work as a PE teacher. To put this in context, at around the same time Sir Alex Ferguson was winning the FA and Cup Winners Cups at Man Utd.

Jose was ambitious and determined to make a name for himself in management. But he was wise enough to know he had much to learn. He got his big break in 1994 when Bobby Robson took over as Sporting Lisbon manager. Jose, being able to speak Portuguese and English, had the opportunity to work with him as his interpreter. Bobby Robson famously asked him to tell him everything Luis Figo was saying about him which he couldn’t understand. Mourinho quickly impressed Robson with his commitment and work rate and was slowly given more and more responsibility. Indeed, he impressed Robson so much that when went to Porto the next year he took Jose with him. There he assisted Robson as he took Porto to two league titles, amongst other successes.

When Bobby Robson was asked to take over as manager of Barcelona, he insisted on Jose coming with him as one of the terms of his employment. There Jose honed his coaching skills even more. When Louis Van Gaal took over from Robson in 1997 Jose continued as his assistant. Jose said that working with two very different styles of coach helped him in his development. As he said in his book, “Bobby Robson isn’t interested in study or planning the training practice; he’s about training and having direct contact with players…..with Van Gaal all that was left for me to do was training on the pitch”.

Working with two different styles of manager had allowed Mourinho to develop his skills both in terms of preparing a training session and studying opposition, and in running a coaching session. He watched and learnt from two great managers. In 1999 when Bobby Robson went to Newcastle, he invited Jose again to go with him, but Jose this time declined, despite the promise of the managers’ job when Bobby retired. Jose was his own man and knew his own mind. He would do things his way. He stayed at Barcelona for another year, but was now becoming restless. He was ready to go into management in his own right. He quit his well paid assistant’s job at Barcelona in the summer of 2000 and waited for the right opportunity.

Benfica were the first club to give the untried Mourinho his chance, in 2000. However this was short lived. A fall out with the clubs’ new owners let to him quitting after just 9 games in charge. Jose proved he was nothing if not strong minded. In 2001 he took over at unfashionable Uniao de Leiria and started to show his true qualities as a manager. He took the side into fourth position, even above Porto, arguably the biggest club in Portugal. They needed a new manager and Mourinho, who knew the club president from his time there with Bobby Robson, was appointed in January 2002. He finally had a platform to make his name.

When Jose took over at Porto he announced that not only were they the worst Porto side in 26 years, but that the next season they would be champions. His supreme confidence already showing itself. He was proved right. In 2003, on a budget Jose has since described as ‘the same as Sunderland’s’, Porto completed an unprecedented treble of league title, domestic cup and UEFA Cup. Jose was already getting offers to move, but stayed. He wanted experience in the Champions League. Little did he know what would happen next.

In 2004 Porto retained their league title, only losing one game. They lost in the Portuguese Cup final to Benfica. But it was in the Champions League they made the biggest impression. In the group stages they held Madrid to a 1-1 draw, and then the tie that made him famous in this country. Porto were drawn against Man Utd. In Porto they beat them 2-1, Ferguson furious with Porto and Mourinho and showing it at the handshake at the final whistle. But it was at Old Trafford it all came to a head. Porto going through with a last minute Costinha goal, causing Mourinho to famously jump out of his seat and run down the touchline in celebration. From then there was no going back. Now his name was starting to get linked to clubs all over Europe. Inter and Liverpool at first, and then of course Chelsea. By the time Porto played Monaco in the Champions League final it had become the most open secret in football that Mourinho was off to Stamford Bridge. After the whistle blew on his teams’ 3-0 triumph he immediately announced he was leaving Porto. Most football fans knew where his destination was.

On June 3 2004 Jose Mourinho was officially confirmed as the new manager of Chelsea FC. He wasted no time on his arrival in proclaiming himself as “a special one” (not THE special one as has been commonly misquoted since) and a ‘top manager’. At the start of that season Chelsea were among the favourites to win the title, and Mourinho wasn’t afraid to admit his ambitions. The first test came on opening day against Man Utd. Chelsea may have only won 1-0, but the confidence that came from that victory, combined with a rock-solid defence marshalled by new captain John Terry, a midfield run by Claude Makelele and Frank Lampard combined with the flair and creativity flying wingers Damien Duff, Arjen Robben and latterly Joe Cole, finally becoming under Mourinho the player he had always promised to be, drove Chelsea firstly to the Carling Cup, their first trophy for 5 years, but then to their first league title in 50 years. Only one defeat and the least goals conceded of any team in league history. A record number of points in Premier League history. Some good performances were also served up in Europe, including 4-2 demolitions of Barcelona and Bayern Munich, and only some poor luck against Liverpool denied Chelsea their first Champions League final.

Mourinho had changed the whole culture of the club. From being a club that hoped for success, they were now one expecting it and demanding it. Winning was now to become the norm. Chelsea swept to their second successive league title the next season, and the most that can be said about it is that it almost seemed inevitable from day 1.

Mourinho has proved himself to be a manager who reads and understands football and players perfectly. He prepares his teams to win, and trains them in a variety of tactics so they are perfectly prepared. He prepares his team to play either with or against 10 men, is not afraid to make big decisions during games and leaves absolutely nothing to chance. Every training session is planned right to the last minute in meticulous detail. Players get dossiers on their direct opponents in games and occasionally DVD’s to study in preparation. He’s also a brilliant man-manager, knowing how different players respond to different treatment. The obvious example of this being Joe Cole.

He’s often outspoken and accused of being arrogant. But he knows how to play the media. He himself has said that he sees press conferences as part of the game and everything he says is planned and thought through. He is supremely confident both in his own ability and in the ability of his team. He has proven he can handle pressure. At the age of 43, after only six years in management, he has already won all but one of the competitions he has contested as a manager. In the last four years he has won the UEFA Cup and Champions League – on a small budget, as well four league titles, two domestic cups, the Portuguese Supercup and Community Shield. A better record than any other manager during that time. He has committed himself to Chelsea until 2010 and Chelsea have said they want to keep him beyond that. Whether that happens remains to be seen, but what is without doubt is that not only is Mourinho the greatest manager in Chelsea’s history but arguably the finest manager in Europe at the current time.

Chelsea are truly lucky to have such a great manager in charge of their club. Long may it continue.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Coming soon on this site...

Thought I'd chat briefly about what's coming up on this site in the near future. It's just to keep people informed and to give you an idea of the sort of issues and areas I'll be writing about over the coming months.

I'll be continuing with my features on Chelsea FC, including features on how money does or doesn't motivate players, a discussion on the merits of both Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack and their compatability. There'll be Chelsea Retro, a few articles I wrote last season that never got on this site. Also there'll two new series. Firstly Chelsea Managers, profiling the great Chelsea managers beginning with Jose Mourinho, and also including Ruud Gullit and Gianluca Vialli. Then there'll be Chelsea Player Profiles where I'll be profiling the best Chelsea players of recent years, starting with Joe Cole. Finally I'll be looking back at how Chelsea have performed in October and writing a preview of what lies ahead for them in November.

However, I'll also be taking a more in-depth look at another of my main interests, British politics. This will include a comparison between Tony Blair and David Cameron, their leadership styles, similarities, differences and their respective impacts on their parties. I'll also be examining how potentially successful David Cameron can be and whether he and his new-look Conservative party have the substance and qualities necessary for Government. I'll be talking about the issue of the next Labour leader and discussing not just who it will be, but who it should be. On top of this I'll be arguing how and why I think the Conservatives should take a long-term view should be they lose the next General Election.

Finally I'll be sharing a bit more about my expriences at the New Wine, Soul Survivor and Momentum Christian conferences last summer, and talking about how God spoke to me and how He changed both my life and the lives of others. I'll also be taking an in-depth look at prayer. I also intend to write a short response to Richard Dawkins new book 'The God Delusion' from a Christian perspective.

So as you can see, there's a lot to come over the next few months -and that's just what I already know! Keep checking up on the site to keep right up to date!