The hysteria surrounding the whole John Terry/ Anton Ferdinand “issue” had intensified to a point where all those involved in the actual logistics of the game were trying to out-do each other in the “taking it seriously” stakes. Each club produced an earnestly worded statement – then the chairmen of both clubs bought out a joint statement; the police announced an increased police presence and then QPR advised people to get there early as there would be full body searches before supporters could enter the ground. The powers that be had already dictated an early kick off and that alcohol would not be served in the away end. We had also endured a string of moralistic missives written by journalists perched very high on their horses – I’d imagine many of those articles were by the same individuals who were party to phone-hacking.
Racism is wrong and should be eliminated from the game and from society – but let’s keep some perspective here – nothing has yet been proved and as far as I am aware nobody heard the offending utterance. And unless I am very much mistaken, in this country, you are innocent until you are proven guilty – even if you do happen to be John Terry.
ANYWAY when we got to the ground the police vans stretched as far as the eye could see and the actual officers themselves were arranged in large groups all over the place. Gangs of stewards too were being manovered to various strategic positions – camera crews and press photographers jostled for position – hoping I imagine to get that shot where rivalry and testosterone boils over into riotous windmilling so it could be splashed over the morning papers with a mixture of moral outrage and simulated sadness as to what had become of the beautiful game.
They were all to be sorely disappointed. It was never going to live up to the hype – in fact it didn’t even come close. All those in day-glo jackets all looked a bit self conscious to be honest – they knew it was all a bit OTT and they struggled even to give a semblance of gainful employment.
Once inside the atmosphere was pretty subdued too. The FA, in a rare moment of common sense had instructed that “the handshake” should be cancelled. It was the correct thing to do and I for one was very pleased – not only because it’s a completely fake simulation of fair play thrust upon us by a body that has no clue, but also because I liked the retro moment of the teams running out and to their respective halves – The Big Match-stylee.
Of course there was the inevitable booing every time John Terry touched the ball – he didn’t look bothered – they booed, we cheered – it was pantomime.
There was no sign of the “cauldron of hate” that many QPR fans had predicted/promised – perhaps they would have delivered something close to emotion had they sold all their tickets…it’s difficult to project a seething volatile mass of rage with lots of pockets of empty seats all over the ground.
The game too was under-whelming with neither side playing particularly well – QPR because they are generally a poor team and us because we are in this trough of lethargic nothingness. We improved somewhat in the second half but still not enough to score an actual goal – I am glad that it was a disputed penalty that won it for us – I’m not bitter…much.
At the final whistle we all drifted home, or to the pub – the feeling of anti-climax still hanging disconsolately in the air. The whole day summed up our season so far I thought.
Perhaps the game this Sunday against United can finally jump start our season. When we played them at Old Trafford I was so optimistic and so convinced that we had just been unlucky to be playing them so early in the season. Little did I know then that we would continue to splutter and struggle and that poor old Fernando would still be struggling to find his feet (or the net).
United have looked far from their best this season too and their squad has its issues just as we do – the two differences as I see it are that they have goal scorers and currently we don’t and they have a manager that the team respect and are willing to play for, where as I could not say that for our team with any measure of certainty.
With injuries also now beginning to manifest themselves, the serious squad issues are now evident – those famine years where Abramovich denied us funds is still having an impact. Of course our owner has been enormously generous – but this feast or famine approach does not work. A little maintenance often is the way to go – that denial of funds was at a crucial time and prevented us from really organising any sort of succession planning on the pitch and we are having to start again, with little time and big holes in key areas of the pitch. The rumours are however that once again, it is not the manager identifying transfer targets and that instead he has to develop a system that fits the menagerie of players which will be put forward by the myriad of Roman’s “advisors”. If this is the case, we Chelsea fans need to prepare ourselves for a difficult time ahead as despite a number of expensive mistakes, it seems that those lessons have yet to be learnt.