Posted by: davidjmarlow | 30/10/2012

A case of Chelsea mourning…

There is something genuinely uplifting in waking up to Sergio Mendes version of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Chelsea Morning’. The combination of the bossa nova treatment, and Joni’s lyrics – the ‘song outside the window’; and ‘the sun pour(s) in like butterscotch’, the ‘rainbow on the wall….milk and toast and honey, and a bowl of oranges too…’ – capture the hopeful beginnings of a dynamic productive day in a city that, at its best, is a wonderful place of opportunity and experience. Joni, herself, doesn’t consider the piece one of her best, describing it two decades later in 1996, as the ‘work of an ingenue’. But in a sense, that is the whole point of it – the innocent optimism that each new morning is a fresh start that can deliver something positive if we put our energy into it and ‘wear it ‘til the night comes…’.

Of course, Joni’s piece is about a district in New York. There has been nothing innocent, optimistic or positive to say about the football club in London’s equivalent district for a very long time…

The precursor of recent events was probably the Ken Bates/Matthew Harding row in the early 1990s. In a way epitomising the times (Prime Minister John Major being a Chelsea fan), the despicable Bates marginalised and demonised a genuine supporter and benefactor (of both Chelsea and ‘new labour) until his death. Bates then took ‘his’ profit, selling to Abramovich in 2003, before buggering off to Leeds, placing that club into administration, and buying it back for £1.

Towards the end of the Bates era, John Terry established himself as a regular of the Chelsea side, then as vice captain and finally as captain. Many supporters would label Terry as ‘Mr. Chelsea’ and he certainly represents the major remaining legacy of the Bates era. Fined in 2001 for drunkenly harassing American tourists at Heathrow in the immediate aftermath of 9/11; charged with assault and affray following a night club incident in 2002; and fined (again) for parking his Bentley in a disabled bay during the case – by the time Bates sold out, Terry was ready to move onto bigger and even more rotten behaviour befitting the club’s new status as a Russian oligarch’s plaything.

His sale of tours of Chelsea’s training ground to what he thought were ordinary supporters, quickly escalated to the affair with his team mate’s girlfriend, which he initially sought to suppress with a super-injunction. Latterly there was the Anton Ferdinand racial abuse, where Terry admitted calling Ferdinand a ‘fucking black cunt’ and ‘fucking knobhead’, but claimed he was actually asking Anton ‘Oi, Anton, do you think I called you a fucking black cunt?’

Bizarrely, because Terry stuck to his story (i.e. he lied consistently), although the judge thought Terry’s account, and supporting testimony from Ashley Cole, was unlikely, he concluded (wrongly in law in my opinion) that there was reasonable doubt that Terry had committed the offence for which he had been charged.

A FA independent commission, on the other hand, found Terry and Cole’s accounts ‘improbable, implausible and contrived’, but the FA then, rather implausibly themselves, banned him for a modest four games – half the tariff they had imposed on a foreigner – Luis Suarez – for a similar offence.

Beyond these highlights, ‘Mr Chelsea’ has undoubtedly contributed to the implosion of the career of former team mate Wayne Bridge, sometimes quite actively fomented unrest in both Chelsea and England dressing rooms – seeing off eight managers at Stamford Bridge since he inherited Bates’ mantle. His racist interlude led directly to Capello’s resignation at England, with profound impact for my own club – Spurs – as our manager, Redknapp, transfixed by the lure of the national job, allowed Spurs to drift from a comfortable third place in the Premiership, to finish out of the eventual Champions League positions.

A rotten player does not make a rotten club, but Chelsea’s ambivalence in the face of Terry’s consistent and persistent behaviour, and his unwillingness to ever volunteer anything remotely like an apology (let alone a sincere one), says a lot about them. His transgressions over a decade, and his influence on fellow players like Cole to join his deception, have gone largely unpunished (apart from an unspecified fine for the Ferdinand affair).

When Terry as captain led Chelsea out for their Champions League tie at Shakhtar Donetsk last week, the club was making a clear statement of who they are and what they stand for. It wasn’t pretty, and neither, for them, was the result.

And then on Sunday we had the second Chelsea loss in a week, this time at home, to Manchester United grossly aided and abetted by one of United’s house referees. (He has performed a similar role for them in recent Spurs games – missing the Mendes goal in 2005 and then allowing Nani to score in 2010 for United from a Spurs free kick!). So, no Spurs fan will have any sympathy for Clattenberg (and I certainly don’t). But the Chelsea formal complaint that he made racist and inappropriate comments to two foreign players – Mikel and Mata – comes across as rather contrived and convenient in the aftermath of their more relaxed attitude to their club captain.

….to chelsea mourning

I rediscovered ‘Chelsea Morning’ somewhat by accident a couple of months ago, after at least a decade when I never heard it. I fully recommend you have a listen – especially to the Sergio Mendes cover. Don’t be put off by the title and its superficial association with the obscenity that now masquerades as a football club at the Bridge.

On the basis that ‘what goes around, comes around’, there ought to be a lot more setbacks for Abramovich, Terry and his mates in the future. And with luck and a little justice, alongside Joni Mitchell’s classic, we can celebrate ‘Chelsea mourning’ for a long time to come…


  1. A great article and I entirely agree with the comments about the way Chelsea FC has behaved. It is disgraceful that they have been so inept on such an important issue. Why is JT still an employee of the club ? In any other walk of life the comments he made would have ensured a disciplinary hearing and a ‘charge’ of Gross Misconduct.

    I am particularly encouraged by the Man United fans’ response last night. not the ‘Clattenburg’ banner but the one that said: Chelsea FC – fighting racism since Sunday.

    Football fans not only know what is right but how to express it, pithily !

  2. […] only other blog that dealt with perverting the course of justice was ‘a case of Chelsea mourning’. In this John Terry stuck to his ‘improbable, implausible and contrived’ story about calling […]

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