In the News: I’ll get back to the usual mockery at the weekend, but I want to say something about what hasn’t been in the footballing press of late. A creditable apology. Earlier this season Colin Wing was accused of making a racist remark against Raheem Sterling. He always insisted that he called him a “Manc c***.” In the context of the game this was shortly after Sterling had dumped one of our players on the floor. Mean response, maybe. But the simple fact is that if you removed every fan who said something horrible to a player in the heat of the moment from a match, grounds up and down the country would be empty. Some people do it, some people don’t, but if you’re a match going fan, it is not new to you. It is an environment you willingly enter. The press even hired their own lip-readers who backed Mr. Wing’s claim, and not even the player was able to claim that he heard anyone racially abusing him.
We need to do everything we can to kick all forms of discrimination out of football. It revolts me. It should revolt everybody. Nobody should be expected to work in an environment where they get that thrown at them. I know I would walk off the job. I am an ethnic minority myself, and I have not one single ounce of compassion for what happens to people who are guilty of these offences, no matter which club they support. That said, they must ACTUALLY be guilty. It is for the police, victims, witnesses and the courts, with the help of the clubs, to work out who is. Not the press. Or the FA, who allegedly offered the Met money to convict. I’d be really interested to know if a transaction like this has actually been carried through at any point and at whose expense.
At no point was Mr. Wing ever cautioned, charged or prosecuted for a crime, and yet his life is in ruins. It was a witch hunt using keyboards instead of pitch forks. It made Salem look restrained. To quote a Fancast regular, Joe Tweedie: “Trial by social media is one of the worst things about today. It’s so real time that companies feel compelled to act because if they don’t they’re being “cancelled” or harbouring “racists”. No one has time for the due diligence to occur. And when social media is wrong, as it often is, there are no repercussions. People just move onto the next outrage. The next person to cancel.”
Colin Wing was charged, brutally prosecuted, he and his family vilified, before he was hung out to dry as a racist within 48 hours by the media. They produced pictures of his house. They harassed his neighbours in the middle of the night. This is wrong. It’s terrifying, in fact, the force with which this whirlwind of indignation destroyed a man whom the authorities and the alleged victim (in this case, I don’t for one second belittle abuse that Sterling or anyone else has suffered at other times) never saw fit to accuse of a crime, and then moved on to the next story leaving carnage behind.
I liken all this to submarine warfare in WW1. You had all this established practice about seizing enemy ships and giving passengers and crew time to evacuate safely before you ran off with the spoils from the time of Henry VIII. It allowed for a reasonable and balanced process where people didn’t get hurt and the perpetrators were encouraged not to act like a*seholes. Then along comes this technology that makes it possible to obliterate an enemy ship in minutes without all of this pesky humanity and touchy feely sh*t and it flies in the face of it to surface and give them a warning as to what is coming. So this technology sucks the responsibility out of their actions for those who have access to it. You’re not going to stop people using this invention, because it’s shiny and effective and somehow people are willing to overlook the fact that this new practice is outrageous and casts the established rules aside and causes mass casualties by its appalling behaviour. They’re going to blow you to sh*t and carry on with their day because it’s possible to do so. And that is what has happened to Colin Wing. He didn’t get his due process, and when finally it came out in the wash that he wasn’t guilty, nobody gave a sh*t. Who is regulating these morons who evidently can’t moderate themselves? Since the case was dropped in its entirety, the lack of remorse on the part of these supposed journalists has been non-existent.
Another Churchill once said something about great power coming with great responsibility. In this case, the power comes with great numbers of followers, provided by companies like The Marketing Heaven, and therefore a great reach in the world of social media. The people manipulating them, because that is what is is, do have a duty to act responsibly, and in this case, they did the opposite. And now the law has proved them incorrect they should acknowledge it. Matthew Syed, you can go first.
The Others: Epic games involving English clubs this week. Chelsea women won 0-8 at Yeovil on Tuesday night and the following evening Everton U23s seized a narrow victory over Newcastle’s youth in what was a pulsating game. Probably.
Ok. I will pick these bits out because you know the press would if it was us… Nothing but respect, we were told as the Red Scouse gargled along to that god awful song before kick off. Yes look at the darlings. I wonder which were the ones setting off the fireworks so respectfully outside the Farca hotel the night before the game? Not enough media spunk to go round with Scouse and Messi in the same game. The following night was equally as sickening. We had Jermaine Penis waffling on about the Diving Little Sh*t and his reformed character. His matureness. Is this fool on crack? Ali tried to start a pinch up in the first leg?
Us: Hudson-Odoi outside in his pyjamas eclipsed anything involving personnel on the pitch. The Beard up front, and yes, Hazard started.
Them: They wore white and their flags were made out of bin liners. I was too nervous to notice anything else, except for the fact that despite how raucous they were in the ground, I was in Fulham from about 3pm and their behaviour appeared to be impeccable.
Last home game of the season. Firm start from us, not the hideous stuttering we’ve borne witness to on occasion this term. I wondered if they would try and conserve energy after the faded so badly last week, but it didn’t look like it. Slightly less of a headless chicken approach, but the difference was negligible. First shot from them in the shape of a header, but it was a comfortable save from Kepa. 10 minutes gone and a penalty shout. Looked more hapless than malicious, but it did seem that he just fell over Ruben and took him down. Nothing doing. Another couple of close calls but on twenty minutes and we still hadn’t had a clear shot. On 23 minutes, after much faffing on a free kick we finally took it and I was sure Luiz had flicked it on, but somehow they managed to scramble it clear. Gits.
In the opening half an hour, 99% of our crosses into the box so far had been toss, but it you are going to trust any player right now to take matters into his own hands it’s Ruben. We were in a direct line with it in The Shed and you could see it was going in as soon as it left his foot. BOOM. 1-0. He was almost in again straight afterwards, and moving on there wasn’t a lot coming from Frankfurt that looked like it was actually going to get them a goal. When they did look scary on 36 minutes, Luiz came to our rescue. Willian tried to pick a fight with Falette after a sh*tty tackle. Good job the referee intervened, otherwise Little Willy was getting knocked into the ground like a tent peg by that beast. Gilt edged chance for Ruben to get his second on 39, but it was deflected out. All in all a very satisfactory half of football. Didn’t trust us. Obviously saving up all the batsh*t crazy drama for after the break.
Great block by Dave to start the second half. They were screaming for a penalty on 48 minutes, then again on 49. Neither of them were, because I say so, but it’s ok, we were feeling benevolent so we let them have an away goal anyway. That seemed to give us a boot up the a*se. The ball was flicked back to The Beard by Hazard on 50, but he socked it wide. We couldn’t quite get a proper grip on the game. Nothing The Beard tried paid off up front, no real magic from Eden so far either. In fairness to Sarri, he did, actually, look tired. Familiar territory. Our season in a nutshell, but it was a measure of Ruben’s strength that they’d just taken to kicking him because they couldn’t handle him. They were all over us. On 58 minutes Kepa was required to punch it clear, but then like the loveably(ish) incompetent, bonkers lunatics that we’ve become this season, we were straight up the other end and trying to scrap it in. Willian off on 61 for Pedro Pony. No offence Willy, but I feel much better with him chipping in at the back with the pressure were under now. All of which is if our own making.
First corner of the second half for us on 69 minutes. Typically sh*t. A thumping long range shot from Luiz was off target. We were a man down shortly afterwards with Christensen’s forced departure. Instead of bringing Cahill on, Sarri moved Dave in there and brought Zappacosta on on the right. If this was to go tits up now he was really going to get it from the fans. Perhaps he didn’t think Cahill had 45 minutes in his legs if it went to extra time. Bearing in mind he’s ignored him all season. Free kick on 75 minutes. Get everyone up. And then do nothing. Urgh. The football gods wept at the state of that. Ruben dug us out of a hole straight afterwards and the result was a long shot that needed prompt attention from the Frankfurt keeper. But no cigar.
We just looked utterly cagey with the ball now, terrified of f*cking it up. Ruben defending like a boss with ten minutes ago. And he needed to, because we kept giving the sodding ball away. Why have we always got to be the problem child? Everyone one else has got the job done and taken their place in the finals and here we were. Dave was almost sent off on 83, because he was playing in the wrong bloody position. The one he got away with after his yellow resulted in a dangerous free kick. An actual dangerous free kick, not when Bet365 tells you it is and the opposition are still in their own half. Luiz’s face put the block in. He was becoming more and more dominant in the box.
Pandemonium then when Sarri decided to take Ruben off for Barkley. Outraged boos as our best player tonight walked off to a chorus of “f*ck Sarriball.” On 87 Ross did drive us forward for The Beard to have a rare stab at goal, but it was straight at the keeper. Total inability to pass the ball to each other as the seconds ticked down. Dave was marking someone a foot and a half taller, two foot wider than him and he was on a yellow. Excellent game management boss. If we were going to make it through this, it was arguably in spite of the game plan, not because of it, but do we have to give him the benefit of the doubt for knowing better than we do what shape each tired individual is in at the end of a long season?
Five minutes added on. Free kick on 90. God love the guy behind me. THIS IS THE ONE, he shouted. Christ knows where he managed to find any positivity after this half. But it was us doing the pressing. Corner. Taken slowly. Nobody attacking it and it sailed into the keeper’s hands. Then the game rolled over and died. If you were us. Attempting to just pass it around and not lose. Ended up giving a free kick away. Luiz to the rescue again. They were even less enthusiastic about taking a corner. I’ve seen Sam Allardyce move faster after a trip to an all you can eat buffet.
Oh goodie. Extra time. Can we bring Ruben back on? Sliding save from them as we began the first half. Lots of Chelsea players shouting at each other, apart from Ross who was concentrating on trying to bury it in the top corner. Close. We looked somewhat rejuvenated, they looked like they were wasting time to get to penalties. The Beard, who’d been sadly ineffectual all night, went off after five minutes for Higuain. Somewhere Sheldon (sitcom alias) was screaming at his TV. They sloppily gave it straight to Hazard, but then we couldn’t get our sh*t together in the box. Just sloppy football end to end now. Panic stations.We nearly cocked it right up after ten minutes, lucky not to be out. Their keeper was making Ben Foster look like a whippet every time he had to put the ball back into play. Hurrah for Ross, who was at least trying to kick the ball at the goal when he got it. Lots of oafish, late and very tired tackles coming in from them by now. If only we were sensible enough to take advantage of their exhaustion.
Fifteen minutes left for us to get our sh*t together. Another crucial save from Luiz’s face. It didn’t look like either team could be particularly a*sed by now if I’m honest. We had a minute wiped off the clock by someone tying their bootlace. Nobody wanted to win, they were just terrified of losing. Emerson tried to win it single-handedly on twenty minutes. Nearly did it, sadly also nearly killed himself in the process. Really well held up by Barkley to win us a corner when play restarted. Best shot in ages on 24 from Zappacosta but tipped away.
Goal? No. Free kick to them. This is purgatory. It’s Lost and we’re destined to live this game on a loop for all eternity not knowing if we’re going to win it. Remember how we all lasted six years watching that programme and then realised that it was in actual fact a pointless waste of time? This is where this semi-final is headed. 29 minutes and up we go again. Pedro Pony lined one up. It it was deflected early. Zappacosta booked for kicking the ball away as they broke. Couldn’t blame him at that point. I’d have made the most of it and kicked it at someone’s face. Luiz with the clearance again. Whatever happened from here he’d played this like a final. He’d left absolutely everything out there.
Penalties against Germans. My favourite thing ever. After drinking battery acid and watching anything that involves Alan Carr. We got penalties at the shed end for once. Here’s a vote for you – was it
A) because Mark Worrall moved to The Shed for the night or
B) Because they are running away from Mowgli who had gone down to the MH?
Them first: Easy along the ground
Ross: Emphatic and smashed in
Them: Kepa right way, just under his body
Dave: Low and to the corner, too slow. His body language telegraphed where he was sending it.
Them: I had to run for a pee. Not a clue.
Jorginho: Go on, everyone has got to say something nice after tonight. Total opposite of Dave, no hint at which way he was going.
Them: Best penalty stop ever. One knee from Kepa, killed it dead.
Luiz: Belted it.
Them: Saved! Atchung bitches! Proper save this time. Tonight’s hero.
Hazard: Fate. Not been that confident since The Drog walked up in Munich.
So: We had the chance to bury them in the first leg. We didn’t. We had the chance to bury them in the first half. We didn’t. At all other times they chucked everything at us. But all of that is forgotten. Ruben was outstanding again, Luiz grew into the game like the warrior he has been for us since the CL campaign in 2012. Kepa may have the least scary face in football, even when he’s gobbing off before a spot kick, but he still managed to fend off the opposition when it mattered in the shootout. Verily, we have slain the best that Europe has to offer. Ahem. We have chewed a path so far through the continent that we’ve actually come out the other side. For a final in Asia. F*ck sake. And with quite probably his last kick of a football at Stamford Bridge, Eden, we never doubted you.