The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.

We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.

Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.

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Chelsea at the Edge of the End


Who likes Chelsea? Help me figure this out. The club sociology that I am able to collect from the internet basically tells a story of how the cast of Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Blow-Up” accidentally kissed the Beatles one magical night under a rainbow of Richard Avedon portraits, until caring too much about who Julie Christie was made them bitter and furious, so that before long they were wearing muttonchops and starting knife fights with pushcart vendors while a grainy montage of Margaret Thatcher footage played over and over again on the wall of the office building where Roman Abramovich would one day drink the entire contents of a camping thermos full of six hundred million dollars. Streams trickling from the corners of his mouth as he chuckled outrageously, he would then mentally command Vivienne Westwood to explode in a Virgin Megastore elevator somewhere off the Kings’s Road. And yet the Champions League would still be denied him.

I am wondering who loves a club at which the fans chant “you don’t know what you’re doing” to the manager as he makes the substitutions that are about to win them the game. The worst part of that incident from the Arsenal match last weekend is that Avram Grant never appears more uncomfortable and out of his depth than when he is confronted with evidence that extremely loud morons find him uncomfortable and out of his depth. It must have been an excruciating form of revenge for him to see Anelka flick the ball on to Drogba for the winning goal, proving him terribly right as he stood there looking more and more terribly wrong. Avram Grant must have felt embarrassed to have appeared to need a gaudy win to show up the crowd where a spell of concentrated glowering couldn’t. It’s hard when you’re subtle, man. So much of the time you’d rather just not make the point.


There’s just a lot of unexplained dourness around Chelsea right now. It’s odd. They have more money than the fat kid from Leave It to Beaver (fact: the person with the fewest money worries in the history of the world), a richly talented group of players, enough trophies to form a Voltron-like super-trophy with which to explore outer space, and an outside chance of winning both the Premier League and the Champions League in the next two months. And yet the fans don’t trust the manager, the executives don’t trust the fans, and the players either don’t trust each other or just came home from the Congress of Vienna. A diagram tracing all the lines of resentment and angles of dislike running through the changing room right now would look eerily like Rinus Michels’s early plans for Total Football.

They have a relatively easy schedule ahead—they’re five points behind Manchester United, but still get to play them at Stamford Bridge, where they haven’t lost since about 1066, so they could conceivably win the league by making up just three points in six matches. Their littlest ballboy has 62 caps for Iceland. Why are they being screamed at by snub racists with vile pubescent shoes? It ought to be luxury and high times for Chelsea, and instead you feel like their favorite chair is broken and the radiator clang from upstairs is gradually making them murderous.


Chelsea at the Edge of the End

by Brian Phillips · March 28, 2008

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