Tales From The 2008/2009 European Campaign

Chelsea vs. CFR Cluj : 9 December 2008.

So – with a bit of huffing and puffing, we made it.

I was able to get away from work a little bit earlier than usual. By 3.45pm, I had picked up Parky and his Lucky Crutches from The Pheasant and we were on our way. That extra 15 minutes paid dividends as we were parked up by 6pm. It was constant chatter on the drive up. Non stop – virtually all Chelsea related. Parky dived into his personal treasure chest of Chelsea memories…he mentioned some of the things which Trowbridge Andy ( from Saturday’s jaunt to Bolton ) talked about. Let us not glory in past demeanours, but Parky certainly saw some action back in the old days…he was on the train coming back from Luton in 1975-76 which “somehow” caught fire and he also told a pretty grisly, but also faintly humorous, story about throwing a police dog out of a ( stationary ) train window.

The Goose was temporarily closed, so we met up at the Lillie Langtry, pretty close to West Brompton tube. It was the usual turnout for a CL home game – nice to see the next generation represented in Ed and his increasingly wayward hairstyle ( I’ve got a comb in my bag mate! ) and Milo.

Just time for two pints of Carling, me darling.

Received a call from Beth just as we walked past The Slug at Fulham Broadway. This was her last game of her trip and we agreed to meet up for a drink and meal after. I had Wednesday booked as a holiday and so was in no rush to get back.

Bought a copy of “CFCUK” – a good edition…more than one person questioned the “love” for Anelka and Drogba. Funny – have been thinking the same of late. Personally speaking, I will never forget Drogba’s selfish slouch from the pitch at the Luzhniki in May and I am so very tired of his antics. Anelka seems to be playing reasonably well, but it seems his general demeanour makes it difficult for us fans to get close to him. I don’t think it’s a race issue.

Into the stadium…surprised that 1,500 Romanians were present. It made Bordeaux’ 400 look really paltry. More free scarves. Alan had brought his lucky European wine gums. Mine didn’t work in Moscow, but they usually do. I texted a couple of people that “the wine gums are out” but I think this was misconstrued – I think they thought that I was referring to the demise of Bordeaux. You know who you are – is this true?

We increased momentum and drive as the game progressed and thankfully made it through. The events in Rome were working in our favour, though, so there was never a moment when I felt under real pressure. A snappy goal from Kalou got us on our way, but a lot of our play in the first period was a bit annoying. Yet again, the midfield didn’t seem to want to move for each other to make angles. At one time, the move stagnating, with no movement, I bellowed “MOVE”. You probably heard me in Poughkeepsie and Tallahassee. It didn’t always come off, but at least Joe Cole was involved with runs to lose markers…at least he seemed motivated. Ballack – despite a nice few through balls, didn’t seem too interested…with Frank out, I expected more. I want to see him run our midfield, but he too often hides for my liking. How often do you see him gesturing and demanding the ball, knocking one-twos? Hardly ever.

We missed Frank.

Pete from San Francisco ( who was over for the Roma and Liverpool games in October ) was sitting a few yards away and we met up for a chat at half-time. He is over with work and I will hopefully spend more time with him on Sunday.

For the Expats amongst you, a lovely old Christmas song from 1980 was aired at half-time…Jonah Lewie’s “Stop The Cavalry.” I felt all festive and frosty.

We had a lot of the ball in the scond-half, but – completely against the run of play – Kone scored for Cluj with a great header from a wicked cross. Ho hum.

We made some substitutions…Juliano for Joey, then Drogba for Kalou. I clapped Kaklou off, not so sure about Drogs! Seeing Drogba and Anelka upfront, paired together in a two-pronged attack, I suddenly lost myself for a few moments, fantasising about this ( on paper ) incredible pairing. Who in The World would not want to have these two beggars up front? But still we stick with a 4-3-3. Are we mad not to give this a real go for the rest of the season? Let’s see what Big Phil does. Anelka quite impressed me to be honest – he doesn’t often lose possession. But – oh! – that body language.

A lovely finish from Didier gave us a deserved win…but virtually everybody in the MHU thought it was an own goal. Even when he does score, we can’t love like in days of old!

After the game, Parky and myself met up with Beth outside “Frankies.” I will surely let The Wild One tell the story, but she was not a happy bunny. She had been sat in the front row of the Shed Upper, but a few instances left her fuming…I’ll let Beth tell you all what happened…but she was almost asked to leave! Into “Frankies” for a couple of drinks – this place, which first opened as a Sports Bar in 1997 for regular punters is now an up-market restaurant.

On the site of The Shed. My heart bleeds.

A bit of a natter. Clive Walker called in to chat for a few minutes…1983 and all that. Parky was chuffed. We left there at 11pm, but I am afraid all of the places we tried for food were shutting. I said my “goodbyes” to Beth at Fulham Broadway…”see you in April.”

On the walk up the North End Road, Parky and me nipped into a KFC and it rounded off a good night out. Back home at 2.15am…

Let our 2008-2009 European Campaign roll on.

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