A Ticking Blue Bomb?

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A Ticking Blue Bomb?


Jose Mourinho and his former employer Roman Abramovich have one thing in common; they know how to cause a stir. It doesn’t take a deal of reflection to recall a suave, confident Portuguese Champions League winner announcing the introduction of his tenure at Chelsea with the now famous ‘Special One’ speech. Nor is it difficult to conjure memories of the Russian oligarch’s sudden purchase of the West London club and the myriad of international stars that began to land at Heathrow to be greeted by Chelsea officials.

Although Mourinho’s style is far more outwardly stated than Abramovich’s quietly overseeing manner, one thing is indisputable. What has happened over the past month at Stamford Bridge was the final episode in a great war of egos.

On one side we have the money men. The Russian owner, surrounded by his advisors; Peter Kenyon, the ultimate in wealthy footballing mercenaries, Bruce Buck, the American chairman, Eugene Tenenbaum and new Head Coach, Avram Grant. Brian Clough, the late great football manager, once wrote in an autobiography an entire chapter detailing the extent of footballing knowledge held by club directors. The chapter itself was an entirely ironic, blank, wordless page.

Apply this opinion as you see fit.

Opposing the wealthy we had Jose Mourinho, the players (all bar one Ukrainian former European Footballer of the Year) and the fans. Without fail every Chelsea game, home and away, would be accompanied by chants and songs praising the fiery Portuguese supremo.

Unfortunately, the struggle for power could go on no longer and after an alleged fall out between club captain John Terry and Mourinho, the war was at an end. A meeting between the various factions announced that there was to be a split by ‘mutual consent’, what this means we will never truly know. Mourinho himself when quizzed by reporters advised that they “look it up in the dictionary.” He was assuming, of course, that journalists actually own dictionaries.

The big question, after we writers finish shedding the tears that accompany the ‘Special One’s’ acrimonious departure from the game on these shores, is what next for Chelsea?

Is Avram Grant the man to take the reins permanently? A surprise it would certainly be, given the man’s lack of experience at the highest level of European football, and an even greater surprise following the appearance of the Dutch national team’s coach Marco van Basten in the Chelsea box as a guest of the club’s owner. Other rumours persist that former Germany coach, and everyone’s favourite German (Steffen Freund excluded), Jurgen Klinsmann may be in line. Also has been the pre-requited mention of Guus Hiddink, the Russian national team’s coach, a man who allegedly was ‘persuaded’ (please note; the inverted commas hint at a financial encouragement rather than anything more forceful) by Roman Abramovich to take up the post initially. In more recent developments, the renowned Ajax coach Henk ten Cate has been given the ‘green light’ to discuss a possible role in the Israeli’s coaching staff, a move that will doubtless cause further tabloid tongue wagging.

Whatever occurs, it needs for the club’s sake to occur soon. A lacklustre, if a bit unfortunate, performance against main rivals Manchester United on Sunday would probably not have instilled confidence in this new post Mourinho era and aside from a good win against Valencia, league for has not exactly bristled with any renewed vigour.

Already the nay-sayers believe this is the beginning of the end of the ‘blue flag’ flying high and despite the wealth of talent and experience within the Chelsea dressing room, it will take an extraordinary show of character to overcome the void that Mourinho’s absence will undoubtedly leave and more importantly for the clubs immediate future, would a trophy-less season precipitate in the Russian oligarch’s interest diminishing?

Tottenham Crisis #2382838736356

Some clubs become synonymous with certain aspects of their history. Liverpool’s full voiced fans, Manchester United’s flair, Millwall’s ‘never say die’ attitude are but three examples. However I fear that everyone’s association of Tottenham Hotspur will be one of constant crisis.

Over the past fifteen years they have gone through a gaggle of managers, spent countless funds on often overpriced players (Sergiy Rebrov anyone?), have been about as consistent as a lower league referee’s decision making and have had only one piece of silverware of which to brag.

Despite this, it was beginning to seem as if the times were ‘a-changin’ in N17, as the Dutchman Martin Jol entered a third full season of his tenure at Spurs, consecutive fifth placed finishes had created an air of consistency that was beginning to waft from White Hart Lane. That was until the tricky business of kicking footballs began.

A dismal start has seen only one win from the club’s first nine league games, and the manager’s position being precarious to say the least, precarious that is since virtually the beginning of the season when Spurs’ representatives were caught ‘Ashley Cole style’ chatting with Sevilla supreme Juande Ramos. An act that was seen, quite rightly, as totally undermining Jol’s postion. However, league fortunes have not exactly seen and upward turn since that clandestine occurrence.

Questions will be asked of how the situation has occurred at a club who were widely tipped to push even harder this year for an elusive ‘top four’ finish? A simple question that has a simple enough answer; Tottenham created their own problems with one very poor purchase.

Last season their strike force, and in particular Bulgarian new-boy Dimitar Berbatov, where lauded as being one of the most deadly around the top flight. All three of Berbatov, Robbie Keane and Jermain Defoe scored in excess of fifteen a-piece, so why spend a further £16-odd million on another forward? Moreover, why rock a steady ship? The three seemed pretty settled last term, only the fourth choice frontman, Mido was a minor source of discontent, and he was sold for a higher price than he was bought for. Now we find that Defoe in reported disagreements with his manager over a new contract, who can blame a player not playing consistently for being unwilling to commit his future to the club?

Darren Bent’s arrival has caused an embarrassment of riches going forward, causing said forwards to appear increasingly frustrated by a lacklustre midfield. Only Aaron Lennon has genuine pace and Jermaine Jenas, Teemu Tainio and Didier Zokora continually under deliver. Steed Malbranque has never been utilised in the centre of midfield where he gained his reputation at Fulham, Tom Huddlestone looks good when things are going well, but disappears when they are not and promising youngsters such as Adel Taarabt and Kevin Prince Boateng’s opportunities have been fleeting at best. We are in our third month of the new season and Spurs’ strongest midfielder thus far has been the 18 year old left-back Gareth Bale.

The defence was invested in wisely with the acquisition of the promising Frenchman Younis Kaboul, especially given the injury problems to club captain Ledley King, although Tottenham continue to leak goals. The cause of this appears to be repeatedly due to the clubs goalkeeper, Paul Robinson.

There are no two ways about it; Robinson has the look of a broken man and a handful of blunders have not helped his cause. For me, the worst thing that a goalkeeper can lose, with the obvious exception of his eyesight, is his confidence. We have seen it before with Robinson’s main England rival David James. A torrid time at Liverpool in the mid/late nineties saw him in a similar position to the one Robinson now adopts, and when it happens it creates a situation where fans begin to expect a cross to be dropped or shot to be spilt.

Overall, and with the always envious benefit of hindsight, that £16million spent on Bent would surely have been better reallocated. If we look at the purchases of other, apparently lower profile clubs, it could be argued that a more prudent approach would have not let Berbatov’s Bulgarian buddy Martin Petrov slip past for £5.5 million to Sven Goran Eriksson’s Manchester City revival and, although it seems expensive for a goalkeeper, £9 million was enough to see Scotland’s Craig Gordon move to Sunderland, and given that three mishaps in the last week alone from Robinson will suddenly make the figure seem not so steep after all.

Unfortunately for Tottenham, this horse has already bolted. What needs to happen, and happen soon, is a dramatic upturn in results, before the situation turns into one of the most embarrassing relegation battles the Premiership has ever seen.


Article by David Hardy


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