Chelsea 2 Watford 2: Rediscovering Our Spirit & Soul
This was fascinating to watch. A team full of very well paid footballers having to scrap against a side that has been quietly establishi...
This was fascinating to watch. A team full of very well paid footballers having to scrap against a side that has been quietly establishing themselves in the top flight and who clearly have a great team ethic. The sobering, if not slightly frightening reality, is that this Watford side is above us in the table on merit. Make no mistake, the league table at Christmas is a much more cemented reality than in September; this was one thing Jose Mourinho got right in recent weeks.
And yet, all the nerve shredding tension that accompanies watching us at the moment aside, I have to confess a certain perverse enjoyment at watching our struggles. Don't get me wrong. I was just as frustrated and annoyed as most Chelsea fans at Oscar's best impression of John Terry a la Moscow 2008. I wanted those 3 points badly and the table would have looked slightly more comfortable ahead of our trip to Old Trafford, had he managed to convert that penalty and likely secure the win we desperately needed.
But I suppose I was reminded of a different era when watching our efforts yesterday. It was probably Oscar's missed penalty that took me back to a Boxing Day clash in 1983, when we also drew 2-2, on that occasion, with Portsmouth. On that day, we managed to miss two of the darned things. We eventually went on to secure the title in the old second division, so the comparison has its limitations. But the spirit we were trying to rediscover in our performance yesterday - and I do think there are signs it is returning - reminded me of that era.
There was something exciting, even refreshing, about seeing our response at 1-2 down, taking the game to Watford and pushing them back. This was a different animal to the latter days of Jose's tenure. Oh, we certainly have our frailties. The right side of our defence looks decidedly dodgy, and Matic has obviously been replaced by an impersonator. Watford had their chances too and and only a great save by Courtois and a trademark block by John Terry, prevented us experiencing Bournemouth all over again. But we are finding our fight. Diego Costa suddenly made us think again of his initial months in Chelsea blue and his finish for the second goal was exquisite.
Strike me down, we even had after match comments by a manager that were truthful and that conveyed a genuine humility. Now that is refreshing. The spirit of John Neal lives on.
Perhaps we are in the throws of rediscovering our soul. I was reminded of this recently when applying for tickets for the Everton game in January. In recent years, the virtual waiting room has been a tension laden, but also tedious experience, with varying outcomes after sitting in front of the computer for 2 hours or so. This time, signed in at 6.45am, out by 7.15am with 3 tickets. The times the are a changin'. I don't want to get on my high horse, but times like these really reveal the true supporters and here I am not referring to how many matches you attend. Loyalty is defined by what is in the heart, not the bank balance. But perhaps it will also be a defining time for the players. Who really wants to play for our club and who really wants to continue donning the cherished blue shirt?
Time will tell people, but I for one consider this a challenging, but fascinating time. We will see the wheat separated from the chaff, and we will be better for it.