Blue has generally been associated with pain, with a feeling of depression or unhappiness. Feeling blue probably stems from the fact that a clot turns blue after a period of time, and until the area recovers its previous colour, there is a pain associated with it. For me though, feeling Blue has a slightly different connotation. Feeling Blue is the highest of highs in my dictionary as well as in the world of some others I have come across in life. Yesterday night, I felt blue, and it was way different than feeling Blue.
A Chelsea-Manchester United affair is like the main event at WrestleMania. Or it has been so for the last 8 years. This time though, as the teams strutted out, the feeling was a very different one. We were one of the also-rans, while United were still there at the top, doing what they do best. Before the match started, I would have happily taken a draw. Every year on this blog, I looked forward to the Manchester United game and got an interview done with a crazy Mancunian as a lead up to the big game. This year, I didn’t even bother for we are nowhere near them, not in the league table, nor in the way we play. Just hoping against hope that we are not embarrassed.
Being a Chelsea fan has done funny things to us across the years. It has been life in the streets akin to the ones at Monza, the fastest of all lanes. Quick passing, even quicker success, quicker still the removal of managers at the helm. A slip here, a piece of woodwork there, bad signings, worse signings, worse-r signings. We have seen it all. Yet, I remember distinctly, when I started being a Blue-blood, Chelsea were a team pleasing to the eye, but not pleasing enough to the all important 3 points. What impressed me most about them was that they turned up as party-spoilers to the big 3 and always managed to influence the title race, by never actually being in the hunt themselves. There was a swagger in the way we played and enjoyed our weekends on the pitch. The pressure was lesser, the grins were wider and it came with a shoulder shrugging acceptance of 5th or 6th place in the league table.
Lady luck always plays a huge role in this fixture. She dresses up in black with an AirAsia sponsor on the shirt and runs around frantically on the pitch. She chooses sides to pick every time these two meet, and generally favors the home team. As Gary Cahill brought down Welbeck, she emphatically cancelled out any wrongdoing on the centre-back’s part. Sturridge, like so many others this season, glided past Evra and Chelsea were in the lead. It was all going to plan.
All the 4th-5th-6th place talk changed when a certain Russian picked us to pump in his fortune to transform us into a heavyweight. From being a Jeff Hardy of the WWE, we were now competing with the Stone Colds. With the roubles, also came the t-roubles. But we loved every bit of it, because with it came success. Success came by largely due to the efforts of an irrepressible Portugese, a master tactician, who could get players to feel like warriors, teams like armies and most importantly make them believe in themselves. Under him Chelsea won a lot of titles, but lost a lot of the swagger in their play. They more than made up for it with their courage, strength and resilience, which has since come to define Chelsea sides of the recent past.
50million worth of pounds was fast cementing his place as the worst signing for the blues when he suddenly picked out his compatriot in the box. Mata lashed the ball in with tremendous ferocity and gave some much needed cushion to Chelsea. It was to get even better as David Luiz nodded home a Mata free kick, minutes later. 3-0, game set match Chelsea. Or so, I thought!!
We always thought we could buy ourselves out of trouble, like we did when Felipe Scolari managed to nearly end the Blue revolution. Fortunately(or unfortunately), my only tryst with Chelsea Football Club at Stamford Bridge happened when we under the reign of the Brazilian. Fortunate that it was during the good times under him, a 5-0 win against a beleagured Sunderland, unfortunate that it was probably the prelude to the worst ever time at the Bridge. It was the happiest day of my life to see them Blues run on the Bridge and dispatch 5 past a hapless Sunderland goalie. Never shy to wield the axe, we brought in Guus, and salvaged the season.
This Manchester United team though is made of champions and at the helm of it all is a champion manager. He rings in the changes. Chelsea park the bus. Sturridge decides to undo his good work and brings down Evra in the box. 3-1. Glimmer of hope. Game on!!
This season though, has been different. Firstly, we took a gamble on a young Portugese, a protege to the master Jose, and hoped to usher in a great new era at Chelsea Football Club. Managing the Chelsea dressing room hasn’t been everyone’s cup of tea as so many before him have found out. And even if you have the team standing by you, there’s always the small matter of the Russian above you. Clearly, the Chelsea job is one of the most difficult ever. There’s also the feeling that we will give him the time he needs to build the team he wants, something which we have never done before.
Precisely at this moment, lady luck switched sides. Welbeck ran into Branners legs, Rooney dispatched the second pen of the night, gave United a second wind, and with their tails up, it was only a matter of time before they equalised. A few minutes later David Luiz, hero of our third goal, chose to wander off like he often does in a game, and let Hernandez power in a header. 3-3. Heartbreak. Final whistle. A win for Manchester United.
The time isn’t quite reminiscent of the gloomy days under Scolari, but its not far away. A lot of things have changed at Chelsea over the years, in fact none of the 5 goal scorers from that Sunderland night in 2008 played yesterday against United. Change has been the only constant in the club. Yet, something feels amiss this time around. We find ourselves in an unfamiliar position of a scrap against the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal, and maybe even Newcastle for the all-coveted 4th spot. It is for the same reason that the new look Chelsea doesn’t inspire confidence, since we have never been in a dogfight before against 3-4 teams. We always either looked down at Manchester United or looked up to them. The rest never concerned us. For us fans though, what hurts most is that a significant chunk of the team simply doesn’t seem to care. Hell, if we lost every match after putting in an effort which left every player gasping for air at the final whistle, we wouldn’t complain. If we started every match like there was no other, it would be enough for us fans. If we played in the same high tempo after going up a goal, the heart would beat that one bit louder for the club. But is not so at Chelsea, not now at least.It is alarming to see the lack of confidence in the team. Clearly, we are not at the best of moments at Chelsea and every individual associated with the club has had a part to play in it. Chelsea has been at the heart of a lot of good things to happen to the premier league in recent years, and it would be a shame to see the superpower that we are dwindle away without a fight. A few years ago, squandering a 3 goal lead was unthinkable, a defeat at the Bridge was the stuff opposition dreamed of and fighting for 4th place would be laughed at. Yet, we are here now, at a time when a draw seems a good result, a loss is shrugged off and a win is simply a rare unexpected event.
When fans expect a rout at home, the signs aren’t good. To then squander a 3 goal lead, and blame the ref completely, shows that something is very very wrong. We have accustomed ourselves to play the ‘blame game’ when we lose, because mostly across the years, it was the right thing to do. Times have changed now, we should probably take a look within before pointing outside. Maybe, just maybe, with that we can then hope to turn the page and welcome a new era at Chelsea Football Club. Every club has its tough times, maybe this ranks amongst the toughest we have faced till date.
At this juncture, we can only pray that we stumble onto a bag called confidence which can help turn the fortunes of the club. Pray, and hope that fans across the globe can feel Blue again, as opposed to feeling blue which we have become accustomed to of late. Hope that this is not the beginning of the end for Chelsea. Hope that the journey home would become that wee bit shorter, hope that Match of the Day would be viewed with joyous anticipation, hope that we would jump around like toddlers enjoying all things Chelsea once again.
As they say, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.Come on you Blues!!