Football: Wise response to Gullit

Chelsea 3 West Bromwich Albion 0
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The Independent Online
Ruud Gullit has only been at Chelsea for 18 months but he has already absorbed the club's traditions. Thus he sent his team out against West Bromwich Albion, of the First Division, with the message: "No more stupid results".

He was referring to the sort of anaemic Chelsea performances which have, in recent years, provoked cup night celebrations from Scarborough to Cardiff and several places in between. However, Gullit's direction ensured Albion's support would be drowning their sorrows, not toasting giantkillers on Saturday night.

Chelsea operated on the basis that if they were tight at the back they would win as their attacking quality was bound to bring goals. So it proved. By the time Frode Grodas made his first save, from an Andy Hunt header after 81 minutes, they were two up and the contest was over.

The match was a further indication that Gullit's Continental philosophy is slowly being taken on board at the Bridge. As well as self-policing - the team were allowed to stay at home on New Year's Eve and Christmas Day - the players are coming to accept the squad system.

In recent weeks Dennis Wise, the club captain, has been left out in favour of Craig Burley. Burley has been in fine form but, on Saturday, their positions were swapped. Wise responded with an excellent performance and a goal, neatly taken after Mark Hughes had flicked on Gianfranco Zola's cross.

Some players - Uwe Rosler springs to mind - would respond by running to the dug-out and gesticulating to the effect that they should never have been left out in the first place. Wise settled for telling the press: "We need competition for places to do well. You have to be patient. Will I be in next week? I'll have to wait and see."

Burley, meanwhile, came on with 18 minutes left and immediately wrapped up the game with an intelligent run and finish from Roberto Di Matteo's pass. All this had been watched by Gianluca Vialli. Now he came on for Hughes and copied the Welshman by hitting a post. This time Zola followed up to score. Will Vialli or Hughes play next week? Gullit would not be drawn.

Not everybody has gone Continental. John Spencer, Gavin Peacock and Terry Phelan have simply gone. But those who stayed could be on the verge of something big.

One of the late Matthew Harding's eternal complaints was that, when he was offering free tickets to friends, they would ask: "Who are you playing?" Harding would reply: "You should want to watch Chelsea whoever we are playing."

Now they do. "I was surprised it was full," Gullit said. "Even for this game. It means people are coming just to see Chelsea."

Goals: Wise (39) 1-0; Burley (74)

2-0; Zola (90) 3-0.

Chelsea (3-5-2): Grodas; Duberry, Lebouef, Clarke; Petrescu, Wise, Newton, Di Matteo, Minto (Burley, 72); Zola, Hughes. Substitute not used: Hitchcock (gk).

West Bromwich Albion (3-5-2): Crichton; Murphy, Burgess, Raven (Taylor, 66); Holmes, Hamilton, Sneekes, Groves (Butler, h-t), Smith (Agnew, 25); Peschisolido, Hunt.

Referee: M Riley (Leeds).

Bookings: Chelsea Clarke; West Bromwich: Agnew, Hamilton.

Man of the match: Newton.

Attendance: 27,446.