Soapbox from Chelsea: a good day out at the Bridge. Honestly …

Pete Sixsmith is clearly being paid too much for his magical prose on these pages. First class all the way to London and back. But then nothing, with the apparent exception of at least one deserved point from the trip to Chelsea, is too good for the working class …

A change in the old routine yesterday, as the usual double act – Durham Branch and Lees Luxury Coach – was replaced by East Coast Main Line First Class accommodation for the first trip to Chelsea since Caarsten Fredgaard made his debut for the club 12 years ago.

There were familiar faces aboard the London Flyer as we flashed through the countryside, made all the more dramatic by the heavy frost and bright sunshine. The fields around York were pure white and the steam from the numerous power stations rose vertically into the sharp air.

Copious coffee, a croissant and a chance to read Louise Taylor’s excellent Guardian piece on Martin O’Neill, accompanied by the timeless Brian Matthew on Sounds of the Sixties (DAB radios work on trains) made for the perfect trip as the train pulled into Kings Cross on time.

A quick walk round to The Guardian‘s offices in York Way to view an exhibition of Soviet Cold War cartoons and then through the University area to Russell Square, popping into the British Museum to relieve myself of some of the coffee. Bladder emptied (too much information – ed), I strolled down Drury Lane, along The Strand (definitely not “’aving a banana”) and into Trafalgar Square, which looked marvellous in the bright sun. There were several of those living sculptures, a man dressed up as a Viking (although he did have horns on his helmet – a definite no-no) and several who were doing brilliant impersonations of drunks, complete with cans of cider, raggy beards and authentic Scottish accents.

I called in to the National Gallery for another wee (Pete!!) and a sandwich lunch, before proceeding in a westerly direction through to Leicester Square, round Piccadilly Circus (an utterly depressing tourist trap, complete with earnest Korean youngsters singing songs praising Ji Dong Wan – or it may have been The Lord, my hearing is going) and then past Fortnum and Masons (no Taylor’s Pies) and the Ritz before boarding the Tube at Green Park to Parsons Green

In the White Horse, there were more people stood outside than inside taking advantage of a glorious day. Lots of pals inside and a pint of Harveys Best Bitter – relatively weak and relatively cheap – before another very pleasant walk through the streets and a park to Stamford Bridge.

Getting into the stadium was not easy. There were lines of stewards checking your ticket, frisking you, searching your bag and asking if you had ever been a member of the Communist Party. Once in you were ushered to your seat and were able to take stock of what is quite an impressive stadium.

The old Stamford Bridge was a truly horrible ground, exposed to the elements and with a dog track round it. It must be the most extensively rebuilt of all the major grounds, because it is completely unrecognisable. The visitors’ seats were well positioned looking across the corner flag, so no need to stand up.

All we needed now was a decent game and a win, although I would have settled for an absolute stinker and a win if pushed. We got the decent game but not the win. We would have won if we had taken advantage of the five very good chances we created. McClean missed one in the first five minutes after Sessegnon wriggled clear to set him up and Bendtner was inches away with a clever shot that beat Cech just before the break.

By that time we were a goal down, conceded during Chelsea’s best period of the game. A good cross from Mata fell to the unmarked Torres, who showed what a good player he once was with a scissors kick that hit the bar with Mignolet beaten.

In a perfect world, it would have dropped down in front of Bardsley, who would have hoofed it away into the wide blue yonder, but it hit the back of Frank Lampard and went in. The Chelsea crowd woke up and the appalling Frank lapped up the adulation from the locals – who all seemed to hail from Detroit, Cyprus, Lincoln, Malta and just about everywhere other than SW6.

They played well for half an hour and we were hanging on a wee bit, but we came back strongly before the break, despite losing Matt Kilgallon with what looked like a nasty injury.

The second half was a good one and the assembled hordes from Slovakia, Belgium, East Cornwall and Shildon would have been exhilarated by it. Phil Dowd turned down three penalties (2-1 to Chelsea on that one) and we dragged ourselves back into the game.

I thought that our penalty shout was a clear one as Cole pushed Bendtner in the back. Theirs were at the other end so I couldn’t see, but I do not take kindly to being lectured by Messrs Hanson and Shearer on MOTD. A combination of a former Liverpool idol and a Mag faced with Sunderland doing well brought out their true colours. Sack both and replace them with Gary Bennett and Marco!!

For much of the second half, it was Chelsea who looked to counter attack as, led by the impressive Lee Cattermole, we pushed them further and further back. Chances came but were not taken. McClean missed another two and as the clock ticked relentlessly on, Sess set up Craig Gardner for a side foot into an unguarded net – and he put it wide.

There was still time for Connor Wickham to put in Bendtner, but the angle and some good goalkeeping from Cech led him to screwed that wide too.

I thought Bendtner had a good game. Most of our chances came from him, either setting it up or just failing to finish it off. He is by no means the perfect player he thinks he is, but he is difficult to mark and has an astute footballing brain. The man behind me disagreed and thought that he was crap and lazy and that Bardsley and Richardson were useless and that O’Neill had his tactics wrong and that Margaret Thatcher was misunderstood. He didn’t say one of those things; you work out which one.

It was a performance that made you think what we could have done had we had a goalscorer on the pitch. I have rarely seen a Sunderland side take a game to illustrious opponents in this style and the Chelsea fans we talked to back in the White Horse saw it as as hard a game as they have had all season. They drank up and left for whichever part of the South East they came from.

So, Brand Chelsea 1, Gallant Northern Types With Funny Accents 0 and a slightly disappointing trip back on a dry train due to the presence of Sunderland and Leeds fans using Kings Cross. As I sipped a coffee in a shop opposite the station, a loud and drunken Leeds fan came in for some sandwiches, dragging his six-year-old son with him. The boy was demanding a McDonalds, but dad told him to shut up while they bought some beer which they would drink before they got on the train.

At his age, I was being taken to Headingley by my father and grandfather to watch Leeds RLFC, with the odd away trip to Hunslet or Featherstone Rovers thrown in. Jimmy Greaves was scoring for Chelsea and we were languishing at the foot of the First Division. Times change – and not always for the better.

16 thoughts on “Soapbox from Chelsea: a good day out at the Bridge. Honestly …”

  1. Geoff’s son said “Brian Deane is available.”

    Deane was never blessed with a whole lot of pace in his pomp. He must be in his late forties now, but even at this late stage of his career I’d take Brian to add more zip than Bendtner does, as well as winning more headers in the box.

    I reckon we could get him in.

  2. Nice reportage.
    Loss or not, I feel confident in our new mindset where we’re disappointed not to be beating a team like Chelsea (Even though they are full of old men and overpriced, ineffective strikers).
    Bendtner is a great player for holding up the ball and bringing others in to play (Heskey, anyone?), but it’s his lumbering, half-assed gait that confuses the expectant masses.
    Plus, I learn’t yesterday that P. Cisse has joined Newc***le… But on the flip side, Brian Deane is available…

  3. “Can I ask, why was Kevin Kilbane booed by our own fans?”

    Because he was consistently poor perhaps?

  4. We played better yesterday and created more chance than we did in the 3-0 win last season, Chelsea were not going to underestimate us and gave us a great deal of respect. the goal however fortuitous should not have been enough we had plenty good chance to take this game and a calmer more experienced Jimmy Mc should have been the toast of Wearside this morning. The improvement in the team and the effort the players are putting in is exceptional and I agree let’s get off Bendtners back.

  5. Frazier Campbell? Ryan Noble? Connor Wickham (who looked sharp when he came on yesterday)?
    What is available in this window? Sessegnon apart, I can’t think of many good signings we have made in January. Rade Prica? Sulley Muntari?
    O’Neill may be tempted by the likes of Zamora, but I think we should wait until the end of the season.
    There was a piece on Jordan Rhodes in The Observer and it was made clear that Huddersfield will not sell until the summer. He looks a real prospect.
    No doubt some desperate clubs will pay way over the odds for the kind of player who is no better than Brett Angell or Tom Ritchie, but who has a persuasive agent.

    • Angell and Ritchie eh? Oooh it gives me the heebie-jeebies just thinking about them! Aye we’ve had a few duffers over the years, Lilian Laslandes anyone?

  6. Can I ask, why was Kevin Kilbane booed by our own fans?

    Meanwhile, I have rewatched the chances we had, and I don’t think any of them were “sitters”. All demanded a perfect first touch. MCclean I don’t think expected the ball to come to him as it should have hit Bosingwa. For me, Gardner’s was about the easiest. Bendtner had his back to goal and an advancing Czech to deal with. Not so easy.

    Anyway, I am pleased that we caused Chelsea so many problems. Good signs there. They looked were relieved at the final whistle which says something.

    I think MON would look to get a striker in. Cisse from Freiburg would be ideal for me, but might be overpriced. If we can pry Pav from Spurs, I think he’s got 2 or 3 good seasons left in him (before we release him to the knackers yard)
    Any else think of any striker targets who could fit the bill?

  7. In response to Keith. I don’t think that our supporters are any better of worse than those from any other club. Bendtner, on the majority of occasions that he has turned out has been indolent, and useless, although as I concede he had a good first half yesterday.

    We have often had players who failed to perform and yet are picked by their respective managers week in and week out. Fabelmo was Bruce’s nightmare selection, and Kilbane was Reid’s (and so was Darren Williams on other occasions).

    The fans can’t be fooled, but there are some who will steadfastly refuse to give credit when even a bad player puts in a decent shift. Bendtner provided a good example of that. His arrogant and laconic style endears him to very few, but even general indolence and sloth would be forgiven but he’s supposed to be a centre forward (apparently), but his goals record of one in the last eleven games suggests otherwise.

    If he was pulling his pluck out every week to better himself then even the staunchest critics would get off his back. Maybe even me 🙂

  8. Like you I was surrounded by fans giving Bendtner lots of abuse. Why is it our fans always want to have a player to dislike and abuse. Does neither the team or the player any good. Proper supporters would do just that – support the team. For the record I thought he had a good game at Chelsea and at Wigan last week. Like you I enjoyed the performance not the result.

  9. The goal was a complete and utter fluke Bill. He reacted to the rebound but very much in the way that civiiians in a war zone would react to artillery being fired three miles away; involuntarily and unspecifically without any expectation that their response would have any meaningful effect.

    I thought Bendtner had a very good first half but resumed what is now a customarily sub standard performance in the second half. One goal in eleven games. He isn’t very much of a threat (unless you are a pizza shop attendant or perhaps have your car parked in Stowell Street on a weeknight).

    Neither of the Torres claims for a penalty were justified, although the dreadful Phil Dowd’s decision to book him for diving was entirely so. Torres seems to think that if he pushes the ball between two opposing defenders, that they are obliged to step aside and get out of his way. This unfortunate and incorrect assumption is one that is also held by commentators and pundits alike. Defenders are allowed to stand their ground and if they happen to be too close together for him to get through, then tough luck Fernando. Nobody ran into him and nobody tripped him; so no penalty. The body check into Bendtner’s back was as clear a penalty as you will see this season, and reminiscent of yesteryear’s antics at the same time on Saturday afternoons when Mick McManus might have done the same thing to Les Kellett.

    I admire the Sixer for having sufficient vitriol reserved for Frank Lampard. Mine is exhausted at the sight of Terry and Cole.

  10. Bill, giving Lampard credit for anything is akin to saying that I believe that Margaret Thatcher had the interests of the British working class at heart. He is such a loathsome individual that as far as I am concerned it hit his leg and went in. It was Kilgallon who should have hoofed it away. and followed through on the odious Lampard.

    • There’s no doubt (Fat) Frank was as surprised as anyone that the ball bounced off his shin and into the net. In addition he had an absolute stinker of a game, so I think the minimum of credit should go to the badge kissing oaf.
      Bendtner, had one of his best games in a Sunderland shirt. For once he looked interested, actually won a few headers and gave them something to think about. Obviously he carried the absolute minimum of goal threat but at least he wasn’t the completely useless, lumbering, lethargic, waste of a shirt he has been in too many games.

  11. Fair’s fair. That was a well-taken goal by Lampard. It didn’t go in off his back. He reacted quickly to put away the Torres rebound and he had every right to celebrate. I wish it hadn’t happened, I wish Bardsley had hoofed it away into the wide blue yonder, but he didn’t and Lampard deserves the credit.

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