The Thursday Preview: Chelsea Vs Cardiff City
Clive Walker bending in a screamer against Liverpool in the FA Cup and Peter Rhoades-Brown slotting home against the same opposition a few years later; Pat Nevin accosted in the dressing room for reading a book and labelled The Professor; Ron Chopper Harris; Osgood IS good; The Shed reverberating to another Kerry Dixon strike; turquoise disabled vehicles behind the corner flag; a mudslick of an FA Cup Final replay against Leeds; Petar Borota; tattooed bruisers from Britwell and Bracknell dodging seats as projectiles; Bobby Tambling; Eddie McCreadie’s sporting of the archetypal manager’s coat; a final day Tiger vanquishing hat-trick from Steve Finnieston; Peter Brabrook; 8,000 souls for a second tier battle with Cambridge United; Greavesie the Predator; Micky Droy a feared colossus who could walk through concrete.
There was once a club called Chelsea; not all they stood for was good; at times it was the opposite, but there was character there – in spades. This was a real team. That’s now lost. Fine, Seventies hero Ray Wilkins is still there, now a miniature version of his former boss Fayed; Ancelotti’s good grace is an improvement on the ambulance criticizing odiousness of the Special One – but the former governor of Chukotka changed the terms of matters forever. In a game so ridden with Faustian pacts that it resembles Hades itself, Chelsea’s is the most alarming.
But they are a clinical bunch when it comes to dispatching lower flight opposition. League worries will have pinched hard, but they’ll fancy Cardiff at home. Until recently, perhaps not, but the Welsh side were put firmly in their place by Newcastle and Andy Carroll is no Drogba. Add to that the likely absence of Stephen McPhail and Jay Bothroyd though injury, and the continued unavailability of chief asset Joe Ledley and the Bluebirds are in for a toughie for sure.
Cardiff City present an enigma to opposing fans. An early Two Unfortunates post provoked a storm of angry words, albeit thankfully off line. The suspicion that they lived beyond their means has been richly confirmed this week and although they now possess a month’s stay of execution, their inability to sell Ledley on in the window and the cacophony over season ticket sales has bitten grimly. There is a feint brightness, however: Sam Hammam, that scribbler of dressing room walls, has been paid and derelict land circling the stadium has also been flogged. Only HMRC are sending bailiffs to the door and the sum involved is insignificant compared to the one owed by their Cup Final adversaries of two years ago. There is righteous belief from Welsh folk that the club can climb out of this mess and a big time trip to the Bridge will warm the cockles. 2-0 Chelsea though.