May I take the first opportunity and wish us all a very productive year, filled with love and harmony.
Chelsea Football Club is reigning as champions in the English Premier League, a title they had won several times before. But this time around, seemingly the shoe is on the other foot. The champions are pulling with teeth and as we speak they are number four on the log standings, trailing some of the previously big names such as Manchester United and Liverpool, as well as Manchester City.
Latter are the leading title contenders and they seem to have decided to take no prisoners in this season's title chase. Up until yesterday the main competition was between the two Manchester rivals - Manchester City is in the driver's seat with 62 points, followed by Manchester United with 50 points. Liverpool came third with 47 points and Chelsea in fourth also with 47 points, but with the goal difference tipping the scuffle in favour of Liverpool.
Manchester City is leading the crowd with a 10-point difference. And, lest we forget, a few years back I predicted in a write-up on Cross Currents, a column I wrote for The Namibian newspaper at that time, titled "We went to Manchester City", that Manchester City was destined to dominate the Premier League in years to come. Seemingly that prediction is close to vindication.
Manchester United in second place also looks increasingly promising and with the "Special One" Jose Morinho as coach with a wholly rejuvenated squad, seemingly they are the team to watch on the horizon of European football.
Morinho has remained a prolific and controversial coach in the English Premier League. The first time I got to know him he coached Chelsea to stardom after they had been whipping boys for long. He is by nature an arrogant personality, somewhat full of himself with a hot tongue towards opponents.
Once a journalist asked Morinho the question: "Chelsea is riding high, which team in the Premier League do you fear the most?" His answer was: "The second division of Chelsea." While at Real Madrid the media asked him: "It must be a challenge to coach Real Madrid after your mixed results in the English Premier League. What is your game plan?" His answer was, "The challenge is not to coach Real Madrid, the challenge is to win with Real Madrid." Morinho is regarded as one of the best coaches on the world scale and many Chelsea fans still believe that he is the best coach for the club and look forward to his return to the Bridge.
Chelsea Football Club are the champions of the English Premier League and they deserve the title, given their track record in the Premier League. I was drawn to the ranks of Chelsea a good ten years back, while they were the Premier League's whipping boys. At the time I just enjoyed soccer with no favorite team. One evening I settled to watch a match between Chelsea and Liverpool. At the time Liverpool were at the peak, still boasting some of the best names in European football.
I got to watch at a point when Chelsea trailed four goals to zero. The coach of Chelsea fielded Mark Hughes who at the time was reaching his sell-by date in professional football. His arrival changed the game, as he scored the first goal upon arrival. He then received a long corner ball from the right flank and netted a header. Next he received a short ball from midfield, dummied the defence to set up Zola, who scored the third goal. Zola scored another goal and by then the teams were level at 4-all. In the dying minutes of the game, Mark strolled with an extended dribble into the goalkeeper's box and he was brought down, it was a penalty. He scored from the spot and the final score was five to four in favour of Chelsea. Mark won me over to Chelsea and to date I have stayed at the Bridge. The other day I went through a sobering experience that left me with mixed emotions. Chelsea played Stoke City, latter with Mark Hughes as head coach.
A very strong game indeed with Chelsea playing forcefully and defeated Stoke with 5 goals to zero. At that point my mind tumbled back in memory lane and I remembered that night with Mark Hughes as game changer. I wanted to see Chelsea winning as we are still in the title chase, theoretically at least, for the fact that the final whistle is yet to come and with the soccer I know, predictions are not always reliable. But I wished I could advise the coach of Chelsea to stop scoring at 2-0, as face-saving ploy for Mark. Chelsea of this season is not much to write home about. They play good football but they remain a moving target with every match they play and their scoring pattern is too tenuous for comfort.
With the current score line between Chelsea and the log leaders Manchester City now, more so with the mood in the latter's camp currently, I must confess that I am led by wishful thinking this time around and that it is just a matter of time before we concede defeat and hand over the title to Manchester City. But my money will remain on Chelsea always and I look forward to seeing Jose Morinho back at the Bridge, for that is the only hope to salvage the fortunes of Chelsea. I hope that Chelsea's bosses see what I see at the Bridge.
Congratulations Manchester City and please be not proud. We shall come back!