“Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York*;
And all the clouds that lowered upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths,
Our bruisèd arms hung up for monuments,
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.”
Richard III – William Shakespeare
About three weeks ago, following back to back defeats by some charmless northern folk and a series of unimpressive displays which made Thursday Night, Channel Five a distinct possibility, this article was going to be called “The Winter of Our Discontent”. However, the first two weeks of December has seen the advent, appropriately enough, of what could be season-defining form.
We have no way of really knowing what’s happened in the dressing rooms of Stamford Bridge and Cobham. Rob Beasley of The S(c)un(m), of whom fellow hack Bill Bradshaw once said “he’s a Chelsea fan. Heaven only knows what he’d write about them if he wasn’t”, reported that AVB launched a Night of the Long Knives, in which each member of the squad was flayed publicly, which so put of the fear of God (or your chosen deity) into the players that they’ve realised he’s not a man to be trifled with.
Although the exiling of Alex and the artist formerly known as Sulky Nic to the back of beyond has seemed harsh and undignified to many of our fans, it has certainly had a huge impact on the remaining players. Drogba rolled back the years against Newcastle and Valencia, although he was slightly less impressive in Monday’s horrendous conditions in “El Cashico”. JT has returned to his best form and David Luiz has pulled himself together and looks here for the long haul. Mata looks to be our best buy for many years, and Ramires and Danny Sturridge looked already to be locked in mortal combat for Player of the Year.
This new attitude seems to be cascading down to the fans. The ground was noisier than usual against Valencia, and the wall of sound was phenomenal against Man City. Henry Winter of The Telegraph tweeted late on Monday that he’d attended 60 games this season, and Monday night was the best atmosphere so far.
There are a couple of seats around by me that don’t have season ticket holders in them, and these were occupied by a lady and gent who were obviously Spanish and spent the whole 90 minutes encouraging the team in Spanish, lobbing in the odd “get up you bastard” when a City player went down, and, in the case of the lady “come on Lampy, lovely boy” when Frank was about to take the pen. I’d rather have a couple of genuine football fans from abroad who want to support us because of the Iberian connection, than a couple of corporates/sloanes there because they’ve been told it’s a jolly super night out (presumably the case of the pissed up corporates at the back of the West Lower who spent most of the game singing carols).
Even the vile weather on the way home and not getting to bed till 1am couldn’t ruin what was a great evening (pre-Christmas jolly with mates in the White Horse, featuring the “chicken pie that wasn’t a pie” and just the right amount of alcohol).
I have a genuine feeling of optimism about the team right now that I haven’t had for a while. AVB appears to have broken the stranglehold of player-power that’s had the club in its grip since Jose Mourinho departed and the crucial Christmas programme could establish that the sorcerer’s apprentice and his men are special ones too.
I’ll be back before Christmas with a festive flourish, and ahead of the Chelsea Pitch Owners AGM on 20 January, there’ll be a look back to the events of the autumn, subsequent developments, and where CPO might be going next.
*it really is “sun”, rather than “son”. Edward IV, son of Richard, Duke of York, and brother of Richard III, adopted a blazing sun as his badge on acceding to the throne, which he gained when a blazing sun appeared in the skies at the dawn of the decisive Battle of Towcester. In fact onlookers claimed to have seen “three suns in splendour” – which was believed to be a sign that Edward and his two brothers were destined by God to win the battle.