Saturday 21 April 2018

Chelsea: No one likes them, and they don't care

Aidan O'Hara

Aidan O'Hara

WHEN the wrongful imprisonment of Coronation Street's Deirdre Barlow was brought up as a serious question in the House of Commons, the man who played her on-screen husband and stitched her up must have known he had done a good job.

Every actor wants to play the villain, the one who toys with emotions and, in this case, creates a scenario where a tabloid newspaper could use a quote from a genuine inmate who reckoned that poor Deirdre had "been done because she had a bad solicitor. Just like me".

Villains might have a short on-screen life-span but, for imprinting themselves on a viewer's conscience, their impact is far greater than decades of Emily Bishop. They might not be nice, but at least they are memorable.

On Saturday, the team that arguably provokes the most negative reaction of all danced around Wembley without a care for what anybody else thinks.

In the celebrations, John Terry didn't bat an eyelid in the self-promotion about his own character while ignoring that the problems he created for himself in recent months are entirely of his own making.

Even in the picture on this page, Ashley Cole is using his fingers to illustrate the number of FA Cup winners' medals he now owns, but choosing to use four fingers on one hand and three on the other might have been a slightly less offensive way of doing things.

Instead, the sight of Cole holding up five fingers on his right-hand with a two-fingered salute on his left seems appropriate in a moment of triumph for his career and for this particular squad of players, whose career achievements are clouded by public perception of what they are like as people.

Terry's sending-off against Barcelona was indefensible, but so too was the argument that this was the sort of behaviour which characterises his football career.

His excuse writers should have come up with something more original than the "not that kind of player" line, but for a centre-back to get a first Champions League red card after 87 games in the competition -- albeit one from self-inflicted idiocy -- didn't speak of a player who was widely labelled as a thug afterwards.


The peculiar thing about most players who are hated by opposing supporters is that nobody can come up with a consistent set of characteristics as to why they are so reviled.

With a different player to Cole, winning seven FA Cups, four league titles and closing in on a century of games for your country would be something that's celebrated by everybody, not just the man himself and his team-mates.

He has consistently been the best left-back in the Premier League for over a decade, but admitting admiration for Cole is as well received as arguing that some of history's great dictators ran a pretty tight ship.

The reason for Cole's unpopularity comes from off-field activities. He admitted he "nearly crashed his car" at only being offered £55,000 a week at Arsenal which, on the surface, is a ridiculous argument but, in the real world, no worker would be happy if somebody in a similar company with far inferior talent was being paid a superior amount of money.

Yet most of the vitriol seems to stem from him being unfaithful to his former wife, Cheryl, which is not a characteristic that should be cherished, but there have been dozens of footballers whose infidelity has been revealed without such of public outrage.

It's a similar story with Terry who has been EXPOSED -- the capital letters always emphasise just how exposed -- as everything from a love-rat to a money-grabber.

He is also due to stand trial accused of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand and, if the court of public opinion was anything to go by, Terry shouldn't bother turning up. Yet the sad part is that the alleged racial abuse seems almost incidental compared to the person who has been charged with making it. More people want Terry to be found guilty, than care if somebody is exposed to such racism again.

The third key member of Chelsea's reviled old brigade is Didier Drogba, whose acting talents, at times, would be worthy of Deirdre Barlow. At least in Drogba's case, there's a begrudging level of admiration, which isn't asking a lot given his record of scoring in six Wembley cup finals in which Chelsea have won, and his immense charity work in the Ivory Coast make him more of a saint than sinner.

Having been the bad boys in beating Barcelona, Saturday's victory means they have now put Liverpool's season under the microscope, and defeating Bayern Munich would deny Tottenham or Newcastle tens of millions in revenue for next season.

Chelsea's unpopularity, particularly for Cole, Terry and Drogba, isn't going to change but, in the words of the chant, no one likes them, they don't care. Like all great villains, however, it'll be a long time before they are forgotten.

Irish Independent

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