A Different Week - Chelsea reign supreme, but Fulham take the plaudits
As the political power in the country shifts from red to blue, so it seems does the nation’s footballing supremacy. As most people expected, Chelsea casually strolled past Wigan Athletic to secure their third Premier League title on the final day of the season. The ease of their strolling may have surprised some, but then this is some Chelsea side who are more than capable of hitting seven or more goals against even some of the tougher sides in the league, as Sunderland (7-2) Aston Villa (7-1) and Stoke City (7-0) will testify.
With these sorts of results behind them, it’s easy to see why the Blues have not only taken United’s throne, put pinched some of their crown jewels off them too - breaking their 1999/00 record of most goals scored in a season (97) with their own tally of 103. This was of course thanks mainly to the goal-scoring abilities of Didier Drogba and his last day hat-trick was more than enough for him to sneak ahead of Wayne’s Rooney and steal away the Golden Boot from the Red Devils top-scorer. His petulant sulking as Frank Lampard put Chelsea further ahead from the penalty spot may have left a sour taste in the mouth, but the way he responded in his relentless attacking was marvellous and his teammates’ relentless endeavour to help him on to the scoresheet was both touching and great to watch. Love them or loathe them, Chelsea are a fantastic side headed by a fantastic striker. Drogba, John Terry and Ashley Cole might not be top of the popularity polls outside of Kensington, but they are top of the Premier League and right now that’s probably all they really care about.
They can cement their dominant position this weekend with victory in the FA Cup Final against a Portsmouth team who’s own fortunes couldn’t contrast much more with those of their affluent opponents. It’s hard to see anything other than a win for Ancelotti’s men, but Chelsea will be all too aware of what happened to Tottenham in the semi-finals. A win for penniless Pompey against the Stamford Bridge millionaires is unlikely, but not impossible. Securing a first League and FA Cup double for Chelsea would be a fantastic achievement for Carlo Ancelotti in his first, highly successful season at the club, but whilst Chelsea look to clean up the domestic honours, success on the European stage continues to elude them. Since Abramovich showed up in west London, it has been stated by various members of the Stamford Bridge playing and coaching staff that until the European Cup sits in the Chelsea trophy cupboard, then the Blues can never be considered as a ‘big’ club and yet despite all their best efforts, Champions League glory is still something Terry and Co. are yet to taste.
In fact, the only English team to really excel in European competition was, of course, Fulham, whose fairytale adventure finally came to an end in Hamburg last night. Despite falling at the last hurdle, Roy Hodgson’s men can hold their heads high, having surpassed surely even their own expectations in a fantastic campaign that started back in July against FK Vetra and saw them travel almost 20 000 miles as they contested nineteen Europa League fixtures, including that incredible night at Craven Cottage when they came back from 4-1 down on aggregate to defeat the mighty Juventus 5-4. To lose out to Diego Forlan’s late winner was a cruel way for it to end for Fulham, but the future looks bright for the Cottagers and in Hodgson, they have a fantastic leader, who richly deserved his LMA Manager of the Season award and has taken the west London club from relegation candidates to European challengers, building a strong team around honest, hardworking players. The likes of Mark Schwarzer, Paul Konchesky, Danny Murphy, Simon Davies and Bobby Zamora might not be the biggest names in English football and they may not be individually great players like some of their better-known counterparts up the road at Chelsea, but put them in a team together and they can even send Turin’s Serie A giants packing. One certainly gets the impression that there is no room for egos or superstars in Hodgson’s dressing room, refreshing in comparison to the glitz and glamour of the Premier League’s other European representatives and another reason that, whilst Chelsea might claim the prizes, it’ll be their unglamorous neighbours who deservedly pick up the plaudits.