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Dorset

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Dorset last won the day on April 20 2012

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  1. “Football, from its birth as a Victorian leisure product, has always been, at bottom, a business. But this is something else. When the variables of league positions and on-field glory are increasingly narrow, when signings are cheered like goals by the digital diaspora, when having a “good window” is a season’s goal, commerce really is beginning to intrude inside the chalk markings.” Barney Ronay (The Guardian, 2nd Sept, 2017) Admit it. Deadline Day is meant to end in the blues for us Blues. Reportedly flush with net spend cash and hell bent on consolidating our position at the top of the Premier League money tree, it was ever thus and whether it be under Jose, Carlo, or as now seems to be the case with Antonio, we simply cannot make the required transition when actually in transition. But, as Barney Ronay points out above, in this paragraph from his latest article, are we really surprised that this relatively straightforward act of progression is beyond our club's capabilities, individual great managerial abilities or, of late with stadia costs looming, Roman's sensibilities, and especially when the commerce, the hype and all the excess has become even more important than the game itself? Logic suggests that it shouldn't be like this, but we are going way beyond financial sense now, heading deep into Ronay's diaspora territory where the scattergun rules and even Arsene Wenger bids £93m for a player. In truth, this transfer window has not so much been about the story, but the telling of it. For example, when we land a big fish like Alvaro Morata and comparison is made with Romelu Lukaku the media men and pundits emphasis is immediately placed on Premier League experience rather than Champions League appearances, thereby toeing the it's-my-party line and I'll-buy-if-I-want-to attitude that now pervades PSG, Manchester and, since Philippe Coutinho became a wanted man and Bill Kenwright got into bed with Iranian billionaire and ex-Arsenal shareholder Farhad Moshiri, both red and blue halves of Liverpool as well. Of course, I hear you say, the Fourth Estate was bound to peddle the pro-Mancunian argument that Rom was worth the extra money whereas Alvaro is no more than an untried and untested risk, yet by stark contrast and fast-forwarding to Deadline Day you will hardly hear mention made of Danny Drinkwater's league-winning 'experience' above the babble of criticism based on him being over-priced, over here and unworthy of a supporting actor's role in our line-up, even if it does now mean that he is reacquainted with N'Golo Kante, last season's Chelsea star of the Premiership show. No, apparently this counts for nothing in a print world that would have us believe our constant fears of a sterile Matic/Kante midfield were completely unfounded and still periodically panders to Jose's mock astonishment that we should ever have let the Serb go, to him of all people and United in particular. How silly we were to shoot ourselves in the foot in this way and how regretful we will be whenever he makes an interception, sets up an attack, shields the defence, or merely turns up wearing a red shirt. Moreover, Drinkwater's arrival means comparison with Matic is an easy one to make, assuming him to be his replacement rather than Bakayoko, whereas anyone who watched Monaco last season knows we have upgraded on Matic with this signing and Danny has been brought in specifically to partner Kante in a 3-5-2 formation, or be the insurance man from the subs bench when 3-4-3 is deployed. Whether Chalobah or Loftus-Cheek could have performed this role is a debate for another day and another forum, but for the moment I think it safe to say that the outlay is justified, if for no other reason than our net spend figures are good when compared to those of the northern juggernauts. However, not so when it comes to 'gross splurge', as Ronay puts it is his piece, which is why he is one of many telling the story in such slanted terms. Here there is an overall rise of 23% on last year’s spending in the Premier League with Manchester City the biggest gross spenders on £215m, followed by £180m from Chelsea, then Manchester United and Everton on £145m. This is the less acceptable face of football capitalism as far as Chelsea is concerned and it will also be the one that is most repeated, but it hides a multitude of cold, hard facts and figures that make a mockery of the contention, for instance, that United has had by far the better transfer window. Even using gross spend [cost of moves in] as the common denominator, Chelsea achieved the following:- Álvaro Morata Real Madrid £58m; Tiémoué Bakayoko Monaco £39.7m; Antonio Rüdiger Roma £29m; Davide Zappacosta Torino £25.8m; Willy Caballero Manchester City free, whereas, for only £35m less United merely acquired Romelu Lukaku Everton £75m; Nemanja Matic Chelsea £40m; Victor Lindelof Benfica £31m; Zlatan Ibrahimovic free agent. So, to suggest that we did so poorly in the marketplace compared to United when we brought in these five players and they ended up one player less, even taking into account the hokey-cokeying Zlatan, is to stretch credulity to incredible lengths in most peoples worlds, but not, it would appear, in our footballing sphere. Indeed, even Ronay's curiously dampened down verdict on both clubs dealings seems to confirm the media myopia that surrounds the game at present, with efforts [ours and theirs] assessed as follows:- “Chelsea kept missing out on their man, no doubt leaving Antonio Conte tearing out his chestnut-brown nylon weave at times. But Danny Drinkwater is a good signing and Tiémoué Bakayoko a fascinating one: Bakayoko is a convincing midfield cruiser, although the Premier League may ruffle that splendid strolling style. Manchester United have handled the window well, buying early then getting out. Romelu Lukaku seems a much better deal now than he did at the start of the hyper-inflationary summer. No goals conceded in the Premier League, no pieces to be integrated through the autumn: this is a damage-free window.” Strange, is it not, that in the space of just two paragraphs Chelsea move from missing their men to finding both a good and then splendid one, while United shift uneasily from having a well window to one that is merely damage-free. Distortion is clearly the order of any Deadline Day and the assessments subsequently hang on its coattails, but when brought into sharper focus, Chelsea have made good signings and now have this strong squad:- Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois, Willy Caballero, Eduardo CBs: David Luiz, Cesar Azpilicueta, Gary Cahill, Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen, Jake Clarke Salter WBs: Davide Zappacosta, Victor Moses, Marcos Alonso, Abdul Rahman Baba, Kenedy CMs: Cesc Fabregas, Tiemoue Bakayoko, N’Golo Kante, Danny Drinkwater, Kyle Scott Wingers/Forwards: Eden Hazard, Pedro, Willian, Charly Musonda CFs: Alvaro Morata, Michy Batshuayi Only time will tell whether this squad is good enough to defend the title and also have a half-decent shot at the Champions League, but it is far from the shambles some would have us believe and quite close to the finished article that might emerge after the January window opens and an additional big striker signing is made to offset Diego's departure.
  2. According to Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, the current astronomic rise in transfer fees worldwide is 'unsustainable' and he's not going to play ball when it comes to paying through the nose, though he is quite happy to participate in the bidding process and reserves the right to hop on the bandwagon just long enough to trouser £54m for a suitably sustainable Kyle Walker. Presumably he will now lie low for a while, refrain from mocking those afflicted with buy-at-any-price-itis, before rising like a Phoenix and striking when the market collapses to get Neymar in for a mere pittance. Of course, that wont happen and we, like Levy, are deluding ourselves if we think it will. Indeed, our very own Antonio recently spoke to Martyn Ziegler (The Times) on this subject and, unlike Levy and translating his opening remarks into full fifties Lionel Bart broad cockney, he readily accepted that fings ain't what they used to be. He then went on to say the following:- “Every team has to understand what their ambitions are. If their ambitions are to win or fight for the title or try to win the Champions League, you must buy expensive players. Otherwise you continue to stay in your level. It’s simple.” Get the message Daniel? Forget the subsequently headline-grabbing comment about forking out £100m for Harry Kane, dismiss the praise lavished on the quality squad that Potchettino has at his disposal, it's all secondary to the Italian's unsubtle put down. In short, if Spurs don't end up participating on both sides of this big bucks bonanza they reveal a singular lack ambition and by ramming home the point [that Levy was quite happy to drink up the Walker draft while not being prepared to stand his round when it came to his turn to pay] Conte made it abundantly clear where he stood on the matter. Moreover, he went on to say it was “a miracle” Chelsea, and before them Leicester City, were able to win the Premier League due to the size of their squads and now that Chelsea are back in the Champions League it is a different ball game [because] to bring in four or five “average” or “normal” players would still cost the club £200 million. But much more importantly, Antonio's conversation with Ziegler confirmed his intention to continue spending at the top end of the market, no expense spared, rather than make compromises, and this leads me [somewhat belatedly I know] to the main point of this post, which is to suggest that we now have a very good idea of how Conte envisages the make-up of his squad given the unfair crack of the whip, otherwise known as financial clout, he has at his disposal - a mixture of expensive top quality imports, bolstered by development squad players at a certain level who provide cover in the short term that never manifests itself into potentially disruptive claims for more, unless excellence is shown when performing that role. In his interview Conte was equally as revealing on this particular aspect too:- “Sometimes young players lose their patience very quickly, a lot of the time because of parents or the people around them. Trust the club, work very hard because to play at this level you must be stronger and very good. Sometimes young players think that they can play easily in the first team but that’s not true.” Bearing this in mind, it is interesting to look at the emerging talent taken to China with those currently in a first team squad that could be down to just 19 players if, as anticipated, Costa, Matic, Remy [perhaps Kenedy] move on. This would leave us with a pool of 25 players, to which will be added a further 3 or 4, should Conte get his way. If press reports are to be believed, the positions Conte wants to strengthen are both FB/WB positions, another CM and a front man. Working on the principle that he will require two players for each position [plus three keepers] and that this will necessitate specialists for both 3-5-2 and 3-4-3 formations (6 CBs and 4WBs) the existing group plus new players and anticipated signings could be paired off as follows:- GKs - Thibaut Courtois, Willy Caballero, Eduardo, CBs - Gary Cahill/Jake Clarke-Salter, David Luiz/Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger/Fikayo Tomori FB/WBs - Cesar Azpilicueta/Victor Moses/?Marcos Alonso/? CMs - Cesc Fabregas/Mario Pasalic, N'Golo Kante/Kyle Scott, Tiemoue Bakayoko/Jeremie Boga WMs – Willian, Pedro Edin Hazard/Charly Musonda Jr CFs - Alvaro Morata, Michy Batshuayi The blotting of Kenedy's far from copybook start to a Chelsea career means that he is unlikely to challenge Alonso and that makes it an even more massive question mark to set beside Marcos name, but whoever the player bought turns out to be the odds are he's going to fit the 'expensive' template Conte referred to above. The right side requirement seems not so pressing and in China we have seen the boss give Tomori an opportunity to stake a claim here. He did well against Bayern, but whether it is enough to make Conte think twice about splashing out on a more 'expensive recruit (a Kyle Walker clone anyone?) well, your guess is as good as mine. Likewise with any additional purchase made in the CM position, where we are said to be interested in taking the 19yr-old Renato Sanches on loan. To my mind, in view of how little of it there would be, we would be better off giving the game time he would get to Lewis Baker, Jeremie Boga, Kyle Scott or Mario Pasalic, rather than let Bayern play our loan game against us in what is bound to be a contractually restricted period geared towards ensuring Sanches couldn't hurt them in the Champions League. Okay, Sanches has had more big game experience than our three, two of whom [Baker and Pasalic] are already three years older, but it really would be ironic if we ended up with him in our ranks, playing a handful of games before toddling off back to Germany, while our two 19 and 20yr-olds looked on from the bench, or even further afield. And so, at last, we've reached the heart of this matter, the tipping point you might say between Daniel Levy's short-arms, deep-pockets approach and Antonio's buy and fight, simple but costly, two-step guide to ambition fulfilment. The fulcrum is, of course, Roman Abramovich, major benefactor of this parish and holder of the purse strings. The next few weeks will tell us which way and exactly how far he is prepared to lean in order to sway the balance in our favour and against the financial wind of change that's blowing through the Premier League. We've already changed a hell of a lot, full scale from local Palais into bowling alley, onwards and upwards, with cathedral high expectations over the next few years - how much more can we expect from the man?
  3. Very pleased that Kyle Scott has been given a chance to show what he can do at this level. As many of you will be aware, I have long held this lad in high regard and despite a lot of other comings and goings he has managed to hang on in there through every development stage so far and deserves this opportunity. Mason Mount may have more flair, Charly Musonda more natural talent, but Scott has great technical ability, reads the game really well, can play in a number of midfield roles and, most important of all, he has the ability to control the pace of a game in a Pirlo-esque fashion. Clearly, he has trained well under Conte and I don't think he would let anyone down if the boss used him as cover in any of the CM roles [apart from the Bakayoko marauding one] now that Nathaniel Chalobah has gone and Ruben Loftus-Cheek is out on loan. He only had fifteen minutes to impress yesterday, but patrolled the midfield busily and, whenever opposing midfielders on the ball looked up, there he was ready to dispossess and distribute simply and efficiently. Having said all this, he will probably find himself out on loan with the rest come early August, but I hope not, even though there seems to be changes afoot for the Development Squad players that remain... A quick check on the official Chelsea website reveals that the Academy now currently consists of just an Under-18s group with 19 kids in it and a single Development Squad of a dozen players, the most notable of which are Dujon Sterling, Mason Mount, Kyle Scott and Trevoh Chalobah. This drastic reduction in numbers is due in no small part to a further 12 youngsters having already gone out on loan, namely:- Abraham, Palmer, Kane, Colkett, Collins, Aina, Loftus-Cheek, Piazon, van Ginkel, Ugbo, Zouma and Dasilva. It looks to me like a complete overhaul is about to take place.
  4. Nathaniel Chalobah

    Cannot really answer for him as far as the maths is concerned, but I would assume he is counting Nat's games in Italy and also his previous time with Watford.
  5. Nathaniel Chalobah

    Hard though it may for many of us Academy romantics to accept, the priority this season must be to make a better fist of defending the title than Jose did previously and part of the procedure has to include funding Antonio Conte's bidding for those top quality players he requires. That said, we are seemingly as close as we've ever been to seeing our youngsters make the grade and with that in mind Chelsea's head of youth development, Neil Bath, recently highlighted the changing landscape of academy work, particularly 'in relation to senior football breakthrough and the pathway evolving into a 15-year project'. He believes it is imperative that our programme and philosophy adjusts alongside those changes in the wider game [presumably a reference to massive transfer fees] but the most important thing he said was the following:- "Realistically, to break into a first team like ours you need to have played 150 to 200 games at senior level. Even someone like Edin Hazard had done that in France before coming to Chelsea so the reality is our young players will need to experience the same, which is almost three full seasons out on loan. If a player goes out at 18 or 19 years old, that means they will be 22 years old before being able to really compete for a regular place in the team and you can see that pathway with the likes of Ryan Bertrand and Nathaniel Chalobah.” Reading between those lines, it clearly doesn't matter to Bath whether you end up reaching your full potential playing for Chelsea, Southampton or Watford, as long as you reach it and everyone concerned benefits. Of course, we would all like to see a few repeat versions of JT's homeland route map to success, but it is proving almost impossible in this day and age, even at the culmination of the most perfect of Academy processes. Nathaniel Chalobah didn't quite complete that process, but still came out of it with a 5yr deal at a Premier League club. Andreas Christensen will be next in line to try and take his chance, followed by Charly Masonda and then [next season] Tammy Abraham, hopefully after banging in another 20-plus goals for Swansea this season..
  6. Andrea Belotti

    He does.
  7. Andrea Belotti

    I showed the YouTube clip to my 9yr-old grandson (who has Costa's name on his Chelsea shirt) and his exact words to me were “I want us to buy him if Diego leaves.” Not the most convincing of arguments in answer to your question, admittedly, but I sense he saw immediately that Bellotti has the same fighting spirit as his hero, a quality I've never seen in Lukaku, even when he was being compared to Didier in his pomp. That said, I'm not completely sold on Bellotti myself, although one thing I am pretty sure about is that there is no way Antonio would have had Lukaku on the top of any striker-to-buy list while there was the slightest chance of getting this guy instead.
  8. Romelu Lukaku

    Once impressionable young men like these have joined a religious sect it will be very difficult to get them out for pre-season training.
  9. Romelu Lukaku

    This embryonic Lukaku transfer is already being hailed as a huge coup for United and a major statement of intent, the suggestion now being made that the Belgian was Jose’s first-choice all along, but something about that claim simply does not add up ... Remember United moved for Antoine Griezmann first and when he elected to remain at Atletico Madrid they turned their attention to Alvaro Morata, with no mention made of Lukaku at the time. Then, after a month of negotiations and desperate meetings Real still would not back down on their original €90m valuation. So, bearing all this in mind, was Lukaku really Jose's first choice, or his third? Okay, he fits the Special One's usual template of being a physical presence with the stamina he insists upon, having played 95 per cent of the total available minutes in last season’s league campaign, whereas Morata has never played more than 43%, but it is the damning evidence that stacks up against him to the greater degree:- a) Lukaku has hardly any European football experience compared to Morata and Griezmann, who have both played in Champions League finals. b) his touch and control have always left a lot to be desired. c) he has little of the defensive nous of a Didier or the off-the-ball intensity of a Diego, qualities Jose usually demands of his target man. d) statistics also confirm that he lost possession 584 times last season, whereas for Morata that figure stands at only179, albeit because he played far fewer games, but when adjusted for pitch time Lukaku is still 25% more likely to lose the ball than the Spaniard, doing so every 3.5 touches. e) he requires teams to play to his own strengths, whereas Morata and Griezmann do not. Taking all this into account, it is more likely that any interest we allegedly had in Lukaku was driven by technical director Michael Emenalo right from the outset, with his triumphant return [hopefully] emphasising Jose's error in getting rid of him in the first place. This interpretation of events would go some way towards explaining Conte's distinct lack of enthusiasm for either the ultimate completion of a deal or the positioning of him in the press as the pursuer of Lukaku as his No.1 target. In short, if all this media hype had had any basis whatsoever, why on earth would we not at least put in a bid for the guy at some stage and be seen to be backing the manager? No, what we have done is back him in the right and proper way, by staying well clear of a shabby, stage-managed affair preferring instead to support the boss in his pursuit of the targets he really wants.
  10. Diego "the guv'nor" Costa

    Diego being Diego should not surprise any of us, yet this public airing of dirty linen, unlike the one that took place during the post title-winning celebrations, is not a pretty sight for Chelsea fans. Let's face it, he has always had a penchant for winding everybody up and that includes those of us who would never hear a bad word said against the guy. For many he will always be remembered for revelling in the role of Premier League arch villain, but the fact that most of us will be calling for two strikers to be brought in to replace him says it all about the weight of lone striker load he's carried for the team over the last three seasons. I'll miss him when he's gone and I've got a grandson who will be even sadder to see him go, whenever and wherever that may be. Indeed, timing is everything when it comes to Costa's acting career and he has probably seen fit to give this soliloquy after a textual prompt from a boss who cannot really leave the restless, foot-tapping Lukaku waiting in the wings, a-nodding and a-winking, for much longer. He, understudying alone, will not convince the majority of fans that this is a problem solved and I for one hope our interest in Alvaro Morata is not only genuine, but boardroom-committed enough to see him arrive at the Bridge instead of pitching up at Old Trafford. Both Jose and Antonio will believe they can personally influence the Spaniard's decision-making over and above any financial aspect, so it will be interesting to see if money talks sufficiently loudly at a time when United cannot wait to spend as much of it as it takes to get somebody (anybody?) in to replace Zlatan. It would appear, despite stage right direction from his agent, that Chelsea was Lukaku's preferred choice in a head-to-head contest with United and it remains to be seen if Morata follows suit. Indeed, it seems that gone are the days when Jose could be counted upon to rustle up a Drog or Diego to spearhead a campaign and he will be desperate to show that Zlatan was not the [somewhat ancient] last knockings in that particular line. After an apparent Lukaku rebuff, the need for a Special One transfer coup is undoubtedly greater that Conte's, so it would be a real body blow if the Italian could land a Lukaku/Morata double-whammy.
  11. Next Seasons Prep

    Firstly, you were right to want a lot of youth integration (Ake, Christensen, Baker, Chalobah, Musonda, Abraham, Aina) and I also agree - now IS the time for dominance - but you are wavering on integration for no real reason other than to imply it cannot be achieved if the club pursue it as a policy. Lest we forget, Nathaniel Chalobah and Nathan Ake are improving with every game and will have gained such a lot from being part of the celebrations after the West Brom win, so how silly it would be to send them on their disheartened way well before the start of next season. No, my optimistic belief is, contrary to your gut reaction, dominance can be achieved with a fair sprinkling of youth added to the existing squad and indeed it could be argued that you would be hard put to reach the highest levels of Conte-esque control without the harmony factor this type of integration provides – just look at ManU's attempts to throw money at their recent problems if you want to see where spending big [as an alternative to youth development] gets you in the end. That is not to say spending isn't required, as has already been acknowledged by Conte in the immediate post-title press conferences, but the extent of it should be limited and focussed on proven top quality, uninfluenced by any need to bulk buy due to a ditching of the youth element currently within the group (or previously being considered for return) because faith is suddenly lost in their ability to succeed long term. In any event Conte will insist on a bigger squad than those twenty-five he has had at his disposal this season, CL demands being what they are and in an effort not to fall foul of injury crises should they happen due to the increased number of games on top of Antonio's already punishing training schedules. An extra five bodies should suffice and I would anticipate these places going in the main to the most promising Development Squad players, much in the same way as RLC, Nate and Aina made their [albeit mini] breakthroughs last term. Given those extra numbers, my ideal 1st team squad for next season (3-4-3 formation) would be:- GK: Courtois, Blackman, Eduardo (nor retained if successful bid made for Craig Gordon) CB: Azpi, David Luiz, Cahill, Ake, Christensen, Zouma RWB: Moses, Sterling LWB: Alonso, Aina, CM: Kante, Verratti, Cesc, Matic, Chalobah, Musonda, Baker Forwards: Costa/Lukaku/Morata,/Batsuayi/Abrahams (4 from 5 - if Diego leaves retain/buy the rest, if he stays my preference would be Morata over Lukaku as he provides a better balance) Hazard, Sanchez, RLC, Pedro, Willian. This leaves one place available, which should on the face of it go to a wing back, as Sterling and Aina covering for Moses and Alonso could be said to be two unnecessary gambles few managers would take. Nevertheless, Conte may think them both risks worth taking, as Azpi provides excellent cover on both flanks and Musonda is another versatile option. There is also the retention of Kenedy to consider, but this hardly settles any risk aversion/acceptance argument. Therefore, bearing this in mind and taking into account his Italian mindset, Antonio may lean towards the purchase of another big name defender instead, although getting in three major signings of the quality of Verratti, Sanchez and Morata will cost a small fortune even before you start to think about buying the Koulibaly's of this world... or decide to fork out the £90m Everton are said to want for Lukaku!
  12. Last year, before the away game against Crystal Palace, an article written by Louise Taylor appeared in The Guardian under the headline “Chelsea’s perfect 10 but are they that good and have they any weak points?” Going on to ignore the first question completely and failing miserably to get to grips with the second, the piece proved to be one of many forensic Chels studies made over the Christmas period and relied heavily on the posing of further [unanswered] questions, such as, is three at the back really that great an idea and could matching up a trend be capable of demystifying Conte’s 3-4-3 blueprint? But, needless to say and try as hard all the hacks and pundits might, none of them have come up with anything like a magic potion to cure the Premier League’s primary ill this season - the growing concern that by the end of February, if not earlier, Chelsea will have turned the title race into a non-event. More importantly, neither have the managerial medicine men at any of our closest rival clubs. Since last December we have gone from strength to strength with only Spurs, of all teams, finding a chink in our armour-plated defence which, true to their own advertising hoarding blurb, resulted in them getting under it by means of the relatively simple tactical ploy of targeting the right-sided height issue in our back three when defending as a five. But that was to be it, all there was by way of Sherlockian detection and fault-finding, an exercise in failure that seems to have ended in mass shoulder-shrugging, case-closed acceptance for ManU, Man City and Mankind in their quest to rid the football world of an unspeakable, unprintable CD virus - Chelsea Domination. Indeed, apart from the solitary panacea provided by a Dele Alli double and the resultant three-point drop at the Lane, abnormal service was duly resumed against Leicester, an aggrieved press corps subsequently reverting to type with their last ditch lazy journalism, the en bloc frolicking in a murky pool of ‘let’s destabilise Diego’ nonsense. So, can it really be said that the Conte era heralds an unstoppable advance of full blown CD or is this just the wishful thinking of a fan instantly sold on the Italian‘s football philosophy? Any Chelsea supporters response probably hinges on his or her own levels of optimism when measured against the numerous false dawns we’ve experienced over the last decade, but assuming you have sufficient faith (and who wouldn’t in present circumstances?) it is tempting to look forward to our basking in what could easily be a very long sunny spell of success. Exactly how long may well depend on the length of time it takes for the hero everyone else is holding out for to step up to the plate, whether it be Potch, Pep, Jurgen or Mou, the Fourth Estate aren’t fussy, although the current flavour of the month is the former and any championing of the latter would have to be grudgingly made through gritted laptops. Yet in all honesty what are the odds of the Media’s saving grace (or graceless save in Jose‘s case) coming from this quarter? Slim to none, I’d say, because our Antonio has played a blinder so far and he appears to have no equal. This then, begs the question - where, exactly, are the ’weak points’ Louise Taylor refers to and, should there be none beyond fake news about Diego, is Chelsea Domination potentially as incurable as it is inevitable? In the past, when faced with a similar threat in the 2004/5 season, there were age-old antidotes available. A good dose of ferocious Fergie could always be relied upon to stiffen ManU sinews and if that potent mix of teacup tossing and press censorship failed to do the trick (as it did the very next season) most expert analysers still displayed sufficient blind faith in Professor Wenger and his bottled elixir to proclaim such quackery a ‘cure all‘ and not the ‘do f***k all‘ it has turned out to be. The Special One ended up confounding both, only to suffer at the hands of an increasingly resentful Media that rubbished his management style and methodology, undermining the working relationship with Roman and derailing CD in the process. Ten years on and the club now look a different proposition altogether, the likelihood of our perennial weakness - a pressing of the self-destruct button - an improbability under Conte, and the added bonus being that his football philosophy hardly lends itself to the s**t on a stick criticism we were subjected to when Jose was in his pomp. Also, slap bang in the centre of a period best described as ‘the-big-Manc-spend-up-years‘ our own rigid adherence to Financial Fair Play has served to counter the derogatory ’buying the title’ claims once levelled against us, this principled stance being helped in no small measure by a flourishing Academy. Indeed, it could be argued that CD has already been firmly established in this area through a relentless winning of FA Youth Cups year-on-year, as well as other highly-regarded European trophies. Previously a hornets nest regularly poked at by the Media for being an excessive waste of money on young players that would ultimately do nobody any good, our Development Squads have [at last] proved themselves to be the breeding ground for top class talent and all that remains is for youngsters like Loftus-Cheek, Chalobah, Aina, Ake, Musonda and Solanke to establish themselves in the first team, thereby completing the evolutionary cycle. Cynicism on this subject was rife before Conte arrived, but now even a previous critic like Henry Winter of The Times has had to take a serious look at the progress being made rather than just give it a cursory glance. When a journalist of his standing does this you end up with a quality piece, as seen from the following paragraphs taken from his recent article on RLC:- “The club now feel that Ruben Loftus-Cheek, whose progress was again tracked by Gareth Southgate on Saturday, is ready to “cross The Road” permanently. The Road runs through Cobham’s expansive complex, separating academy from first team, development to delivery, and signals a player fully in contention for sustained involvement… … two years ago, Chelsea discussed whether Loftus-Cheek should go on loan to sharpen him up, but José Mourinho felt that the player was progressing quickly and wanted him within the first-team fold. Injuries, and pupils’ differing learning speeds, as well as competition for places, held Loftus-Cheek back and Chelsea now regret not sending him out on loan. But such is his weight of talent that he has forced his way through. Others have taken more scenic routes, such as Nathan Aké, newly recalled from a successful loan with Bournemouth. The Dutchman, 21, knows that he is returning with a good chance of playing, especially with Terry and Ivanovic fading. … Chelsea engage in an internal debate about Aké’s best position, probably a left-sided centre back but also capable of holding midfield, even wing back. He and Kurt Zouma, who was bought from Saint-Étienne for £12 million, loaned back and then brought back, are not in Conte’s squad merely to make up the numbers. They will be joined by another centre back, Andreas Christensen, next pre-season. In the summer of 2015, Chelsea decided that their highly regarded Danish centre back, then 19, needed to work on his heading and tackling. His passing and reading of the game was considered advanced. After extensive discussions at Cobham, Chelsea opted for a two-season loan to Borussia Mönchengladbach, where they felt that Christensen would mature as a player and a person. He was soon in the Denmark national squad and is constantly monitored by Paulo Ferreira and Eddie Newton, popular former players who are now in charge of overseeing the loanees.” And the conveyor belt also looks well set to keep the talent flowing for many years to come, those not making the grade with us receiving a level of coaching that is second to none, standing them in good stead to pursue a career with another club eager to employ a youngster with the football equivalent of an Oxbridge education. Of course, the real high flyers must have one thing in common - patience - but of those named above RLC, Chalobah and Ake are within touching distance and there now appears to be a natural pathway leading to regular first team appearances next season. Just as there is a fine skill to The Road building going on at Cobham so there is an art to choosing the right moment to move on to pastures new, as recently displayed by Branna, and to retire, as no doubt JT will demonstrate at the end of this season. Though parting is such sweet sorrow in the case of the legend, there is a feeling that nowadays the club is even getting these momentous changes right (in terms of their timing to fit in with a greater scheme of things) and maybe, when one door closes on Steve Holland joining Gareth Southgate at the FA, another will open to welcome Lamps back into the fold in his place. So, no weak spot crumbs of comfort to be found for the Media in this direction either, which leaves them clutching at a last short term straw in this season’s title race that is best summed up by the phrase - ’it’s Chelsea’s to lose’. This phraseology is, of course, as close as we are ever going to get to symbolic waving of the white flag and grudging acceptance of the existence of CD as a growing force. Resigned, as every news outlet is, to acknowledging the situation (often in the most coded and sour-grape fashion) you can sense the pessimism in every pundit voice or printed word, excellent work such as Henry Winter‘s article being an exception to the drool. How different it all would have been if Pep’s Citeh or Potch’s Spurs, or Klopp’s Pool, or Arsene’s Arse, or even the increasingly moody Mou’s United, had been in our position. Revolutions would have been gleefully predicted, Histories gloriously made, Dynasties started, New Eras begun, Geniuses hailed. But instead, unless I’m very much mistaken, we shall see Antonio simply, solemnly sworn in as a great manager with little mention made of the potential for CD, or even an acknowledgement of it already having been established at youth level. A media narrative that was once all about an unspeakable club owned by an unspeakable Russian, with unspeakable players, managed by an unspeakable individual, spending unspeakably large sums of money, has been rendered ridiculous in one watershed season under the guidance of Antonio Conte, our catalyst for future success on what could be an unprecedented scale. Only time will tell, but this unspoken truth could end up speaking volumes. .
  13. Chelsea paid hush money allegations

    “It was, according to an official Chelsea statement, “understandable” that the club inserted a confidentiality clause into an agreement with Gary Johnson after he told the club that he had been abused over a period of five years by Eddie Heath, a chief scout in the 1970s. It was “understandable” that instead of investigating thoroughly, finding out whether other young people had been harmed under their care, they hushed it up. It was “understandable” that Johnson - who was first assaulted at the age of 13 and was a victim on hundreds of occasions - was paid £50,000 not to talk about it by the club. The scandal of the child-abuse allegations in football is that it is increasingly clear that clubs, the authorities and, yes, even the media turned a blind eye to the allegations circling all those years ago. The crucial difference with this story, however, is that while the alleged abuse is historical, the decision to cover it up is not. The payment was made last year. The present directors of one of the world’s biggest clubs seem to have been trying to airbrush serious crimes out of existence. Indeed, when you take a step back and examine their carefully drafted evasions, the Chelsea statement, released on Saturday, is staggering in its duplicity. They went as far as possible to justify the decision not merely to gag Johnson, but to sit on their hands when they came to investigating his claims that he was not the only young Chelsea player whose life was ruined by Heath. Did Chelsea investigate these allegations with the diligence that you would expect from a club who, according to the same statement, are “fully committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of all children and young people who are in our care or attending our premises”? Did they put a fraction of their vast wealth into a proper review given that the welfare of children is “of paramount importance”? Not a bit of it. With startling abruptness, the club offer the following explanation for why they did so little: “With the limited information the club received, we were unable to identify any further individuals who may have been subject to abuse.” And this is where the issue becomes serious indeed. For Johnson came forward for a simple reason: he had been emboldened to do so, after suffering regular bouts of depression, by victims who spoke publicly during the Savile affair. In much the same way, the crisis in football came to light after an interview by Andy Woodward, who waived his right to anonymity to speak bravely (and heart-breakingly) about his abuse at the hands of a youth-team coach. The directors of Chelsea must have known that by offering hush money to Johnson, they were effectively thwarting the very process that could have led others to brave the spotlight, particularly those who may have been at Chelsea, thus shining a light on the problem, bringing belated relief to the victims and, who knows, bringing other paedophiles to justice, some of whom (unlike Heath, who died in the 1980s) may still be acting in a criminal way. And this is what makes this scandal so astonishing: the pristine image of the club seems to have taken precedence over the interests of victims. That the decision was made in the aftermath of Savile, of the scandal that has rocked the Catholic church, of the terrible tales still emerging from care homes and the Boy Scouts, makes it even more egregious. After all, nobody in a position of authority, particularly at an institution involved with children, can have been oblivious to the fact that the paying of hush money would directly hinder the operation of justice. One should be clear, of course, that the true criminal in this terrible story is Heath. He is the one who conspired to ruin the life of Johnson and perhaps other victims too. He is the one who robbed a young man of his innocence, who forced him to take part in threesomes with other boys, who put his own gratification above those over whom he had a duty of care. But it is surely also true that Chelsea had an overriding responsibility to act with urgency when Johnson came forward. Greg Clarke, the chairman of the FA, said last week that if it could be shown that payments had been made to silence victims, it would be “morally repugnant”. Well, now it has. In an interview with the Daily Mirror, Maryce, Johnson’s wife, said: “It has been there almost 30 years and occasions when it has come up so many times . . . I have learnt to just leave Gary when the depression hits him, to let him get over it. But at times it has taken weeks.” Johnson, whose courage in speaking out should be saluted, said: “I felt shame, I felt my childhood had been taken away. I spent my late teens in turmoil, absolute turmoil.” Chelsea have commissioned an “independent review” into what happened and I, for one, look forward to scrutinising the lawyers who have been hired to conduct it. But whatever they come up with, there can be no doubt of serious culpability. This isn’t an oversight, or a slip; it seems to have been a conscious decision to make it financially disadvantageous for a victim of sexual abuse to speak out. One can only hope that it is not symptomatic of the attitude of other clubs when it comes to child protection. “All [Chelsea] fans deserve to know the truth about what went on. I know they asked me to sign a gagging order. How many others are there out there?” Johnson said last week, surely echoing the thoughts of every right-minded person in the game. “They may have paid others for their silence. I hope and pray no clubs are allowed to cover this up - no one should escape justice. We need total transparency now for the good of the game.” Matthew Syed is third in line, behind Matt Hughes and Matt Dickinson, to write forThe Times on this matter, restricting ever-widening club involvement solely to CFC in the process. Earlier Hughes chose the simplistic self-praise route of ‘uncovering’ the concerns that were raised over Eddie Heath, a method that took the form of a trawl through previous fragmented coverage, followed by false presentation of it as fresh investigative journalism. The Times needed this platform from which to pontificate because it was way adrift of both The Telegraph and The Guardian in terms of being seen as a newspaper at the forefront of events. Dickinson continued the theme in the very same edition and these quotes from his article are enough to show the accusative angle taken:- “Troubling questions are stacking up for Chelsea, which are very unlikely to be satisfactorily answered by the club’s own inquiry into their having paid off a victim of child abuse two years ago. Did they investigate properly or was it more important to maintain the glitzy façade? Did they report it to the relevant authorities or did they hope it would go away? Did they think of the welfare of other potential victims or were they happy to prolong the agonised silence? A club might be more preoccupied with upsetting the sponsors. They might not want to delve back into the grubby Seventies and Eighties when they have a gleaming corporate box to sell. There are good reasons why a club would be expected to report something of this magnitude. But who wants to risk having to pay multiple victims if you can make one quickly disappear? We should note that it is too easy to say that throwing money around is typical of football’s - and Chelsea’s - way of dealing with a problem. Chelsea are facing tough questions about how they dealt with this issue as football tries to come to terms with the scale of this abuse and all those victims who never felt able to speak up in public.” This latest tilt at the club comes several days later and, as it appears to bring nothing new to a Times table already groaning under platefuls of emotive verbiage and unanswered questions that require little or no substantiation, you can’t help but think it is all designed to keep the parochial Chels pot boiling away merrily, or whatever the sombre, strident-stirring equivalent of that metaphorically might be. Nevertheless, whilst we all know Matthew Syed needs no second bidding to deride all things SW6, we must not deny him the opportunity to have his say, by painstakingly trampling over old ground in the puffed up statesmanlike manner we have all grown accustomed to reading and ultimately laughing at. No exception here, then, although trying hard to give him the benefit of any doubt that might be going (and desperate to be as fair-minded as you always strive to be, g3) I did give his article a thorough scan in the hope of unearthing at least a modicum of originality. And, lo and behold, here it is… “The scandal of the child-abuse allegations in football is that it is increasingly clear that clubs, the authorities and, yes, even the media turned a blind eye to the allegations circling all those years ago.” Such a pity that, having got to the nub of the matter as early as his second paragraph, Syed reverts to his predictable default position, namely overkill on criticism of one club. Even the media? EVEN the media??? And there I was naively believing that ’allegations circling’ was the acknowledged domain, the everyday working environment of the investigative journalist. In such circumstances, media turning of a blind eye is arguably the most reprehensible of the lot! Still, I note with interest and gratefulness that, when it comes to the ‘independent review’ Chelsea have commissioned, dear old Matthew, for one, will ‘look forward to scrutinising the lawyers who have been hired to conduct it'. Better late than never, some true due diligence from a journalist at last... even though it has only come about with malice aforethought.
  14. Chelsea paid hush money allegations

    Okay DB, let me have my say about the media… As is always the case with The Fourth Estate, it is not what you write, but the way you write it, and I will take The Times recent coverage [postTelegraph and Guardian's Bennell breaking news] and their catch-up-if-we-can, faux exclusive majoring on Chelsea’s involvement. Starting with the most provocative of headlines, then a sub-liner that hints at successful investigative journalism in action (yeh, right), a few paragraphs are enough to give a flavour of the piece:- Dark secret that has come back to haunt club “Matt Hughes uncovers the concerns that were raised over Eddie Heath at Stamford Bridge, where Barry Bennell was one of his youngsters… The independent lawyers appointed by Chelsea to investigate the conduct of Eddie Heath will not struggle to find anecdotal evidence of disturbing behaviour… Heath will not get the opportunity to defend himself in public because he died in dramatic circumstances in the late 1980s - The Times has been told that he suffered a heart attack while putting out the corner flags before a training session with Charlton Athletic - but there was no shortage of individuals speaking ill of him in private yesterday… As a recruiter Heath was ahead of his time, stockpiling a huge number of talented young players at Chelsea, which was unusual for that era…” Emotive words (dark secret/haunt club/disturbing behaviour/speaking ill/stockpiling talent) but as yet neither substantiated nor solely applicable to one club‘s actions, no doubt the media will continue to imply and infer in this way for as long as it takes to besmirch character in situations requiring their noble profession to pontificate from up there on the high moral ground. And should this stance be interpreted merely as my typically tribal-based over-reaction to one hack’s approach to the story, here are a few more sample paragraphs from Matt Dickinson’s parallel piece in the same newspaper, on the same day:- How could Chelsea see this as best swept under the carpet? “Troubling questions are stacking up for Chelsea, which are very unlikely to be satisfactorily answered by the club’s own inquiry into their having paid off a victim of child abuse two years ago. Did they investigate properly or was it more important to maintain the glitzy façade? Did they report it to the relevant authorities or did they hope it would go away? Did they think of the welfare of other potential victims or were they happy to prolong the agonised silence? A club might be more preoccupied with upsetting the sponsors. They might not want to delve back into the grubby Seventies and Eighties when they have a gleaming corporate box to sell. There are good reasons why a club would be expected to report something of this magnitude. But who wants to risk having to pay multiple victims if you can make one quickly disappear? We should note that it is too easy to say that throwing money around is typical of football’s - and Chelsea’s - way of dealing with a problem. Chelsea are facing tough questions about how they dealt with this issue as football tries to come to terms with the scale of this abuse and all those victims who never felt able to speak up in public.” Once again, emotive words and inference (paid off victim/improper investigation/glitzy façade/happy to prolong agonised silence) delivered from a position of pomp, with scant regard for circumstance. In short, every tabloid and red top wants a slice of this scandalous cake now that those individuals concerned have been brave enough to step into the spotlight, but where exactly was this broad supportive media shoulder back in the day when these atrocities were actually taking place? Where was the investigative journalism [as opposed to the current bandwagon stuff] rooting out the Bennells, the Ormonds and the Heaths, carrying the banner headline of truth in the rumour, innuendo and locker room talk and demanding that the public be made aware of what was going on, regardless of any victim’s plea for anonymity? So there we have it, plain and simply put - ‘Matt Hughes uncovers the concerns that were raised over Eddie Heath at Stamford Bridge‘, but, if truth really be told, only with self praise aforethought, when prompted by current events and encouraged by a massive pointer in the direction of SW6 - yes indeed, Matt, well done you! And well done you too, Marina Hyde of The Guardian, the only journalist I have yet to come across who has been prepared to admit to the failings of her own profession on this issue, in a recent article where, under the most honest of headlines, the following two paragraphs stand out as beacons of truth:- Football abuse scandal shows media must learn lessons from its silences “Historically, many journalists have always delighted in inserting themselves approvingly into the nobler tales of how stories are brought to the world. But we must not flinch from putting our trade at the centre of stories of institutional failure either. Why do we collectively fail to follow up broadcast investigations into allegations of sexual abuse in football? What was it about crimes of the most serious kind in the national game that didn’t make the media cut? What do we ignore in the current era that will seem an unfathomably shameful oversight a mere couple of decades from now? The abuse scandal currently snowballing began its belated journey toward enormity when Andy Woodward waived his anonymity to speak to Daniel Taylor. That was an act of immense courage and immense significance. One of the unpleasantly enduring facts about our profession is that without a face to the horror, the horror is just the horror, and very often seems too inconveniently faceless to be properly reported. Over the past few years, progress in the way the media handles highly sensitive narratives has been made, but we kid ourselves if we imagine this tendency toward a certain template for storytelling is not still resulting in other terrible silences.” Never a truer word... and above it never a clearer example of a certain template for storytelling by Messrs Hughes and Dickinson, in a rival newspaper that really ought to be setting higher standards.
  15. If they should read this, no doubt bookies countrywide will immediately stop taking bets on bola giving the daftest of definitive answers to my headline enquiry, but I’ll have an odds-on wager that it’s pretty much a rhetorical question for the rest of us after the weekend we‘ve all had. Can’t wait to see Kante gun down his previous employers repeatedly? Like the idea of having deadly Diego on your side, then leading the line in true baddie fashion, ably supported by a good guy named Hazard who causes last-third havoc at Leicester Gulch like no other can? Fancy some fun and games with Geezer as he crashes a free kick against the woodwork one minute, then misses a bicycled effort by a clear foot ‘n a half the next? - I know g4 is already booking early for his repeat performance of these events, such was the rollercoaster excitement generated. And yet, even more exhilarating was the Conte late-late show, that three-kid card trick we’ve all been waiting for, bar bola of course, who found the trio's arrival depressingly samey for some unaccountable reason. Still, whatever floats his boat I suppose, and I’m sure he’ll be back at Conte’s South West 6 World soon enough… just for different reasons. But in the meantime and rather fittingly, it was to be Moses and Chalobah who took us into that Promised Land where we‘ve longed to be, where battle-hardened loanees meld in a moment of magic to produce a wonderful goal for their parent club, the assist part provided by the first of the three Academy players to be set before us in the latter stages of a memorable match by a suitably proud father-figure in the dugout. Indeed, Antonio Conte deserves much praise for sticking to what looked to me like a prepared speech in substitutions, one that he’d been dying to make and not even a desperate [to come off] Diego could dissuade him from delivering. It was, quite simply, a massive statement of future intent. Okay, you can expect the hypercritical to hint at the Italian displaying little faith in Michy Batshuayi by continuing with Costa regardless, but I prefer to see the subbing in a totally different light - in order to get all three Academy kids on the pitch Diego had to put up with a full 90 minute work load - and the boss summed it up perfectly in a curt aftermath comment “I make the decisions,” followed by the olive branch additional explanation that he did not want to remove Costa’s passion from his team. However, all this post match pampering pales into insignificance when you consider the bigger picture and the overall impact the game will have on Chelsea for the rest of the season. Make no mistake, this was Conte’s real beginning in the Premier League and the performance bore all the authoritarian hallmarks of his old Juventus side and the tactical class of his Italy team. On this occasion those tactics focused on destroying Leicester from the flanks with our wing-backs, a hugely impressive Marcos Alonso and a rampant Victor Moses staying high and wide and hitting early crossfield balls. With wing work duly sorted Edin had the freedom to drift centrally, causing mayhem in the Leicester ranks. In short, it may have taken eight games to get there, but yesterday saw three at the back well and truly installed as our defensive set-up of choice. No coincidence then, that we have not conceded a goal using Don Antonio’s favourite system, and as an added bonus key players have been released by its implementation. Edin Hazard gets to come inside and use that deadly space behind the striker, while Victor Moses revels in the sheer expanse of it on the flanks. Add to this Kante’s ability to seemingly play both No 6 and No 8 roles at the same time, plus the [hoped-for] emergence of David Luiz as the accomplished central sweeper in the three, and there you have the ideal recipe for a successful season and beyond. Little wonder the boss felt confident enough to eulogise Academy-wise afterwards, marking everyone’s card with regard to his own pedigree for developing talent to the point of readiness and ultimate selection… “I know we have a fantastic academy, I know that behind Chalobah, Loftus-Cheek, Aina and Solanke we have other young players. Chalobah is deserving to play and people who know me know I don’t gift a place to anyone. If they’re ready I put them in. I had my first appearance in Serie A at only 16 years [for Lecce against Pisa in 1986].” Such is life, real or otherwise, there are bound to be those that fall by the wayside, but only the most hardened of human or resilient of robot keeps getting up, dusting themselves down, and going back out there to face the rigours to come - just ask Victor Moses if you want to know what all that feels like, especially immediately after you play a wall pass off a likeminded young professional before slotting home a sumptuous goal. Virtual reality it ain’t, hard graft it most definitely is, and well worth a somersault or two of celebration. So here’s to more of the same, please Antonio, because we’ve waited a while for all this to mesh into something resembling the dream ticket most fans buy into every time they get the train to Fulham Broadway and saunter on down to their own little South West 6 World - they may not be travelling on the Union Pacific Railroad, but at times, gol-darn it, it sure do feel like it!

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