Midway through the second half, for one minute at least, Jose Mourinho and Steve Bruce stood together on the touchline absorbed in a friendly discussion like two fathers watching the Sunday Under-10s. It was not hard to guess what the Birmingham manager's preoccupations were at this time of the season but the concerns gnawing at Mourinho might come as something of a surprise.
Never mind the two-goal lead, and forget the 11-point gap at the top of the Premiership, because the Chelsea manager had been in a disagreeable mood from kick-off. He had aimed a feeble kick at a basket of sports drinks when Hernan Crespo missed a simple chance and cursed Joe Cole for his weakness for stray backheels, but what was really eating at Mourinho was the reaction of the home crowd.
He has in the past criticised the supine nature of Chelsea's home support that can, at times, barely raise itself above a self-satisfied murmur of approval. On this occasion though Mourinho was railing against the mocking roars of "Ole!" that greeted every pass his players made. Some might call it a joyous celebration; to Mourinho it suggested complacency.
"I told the crowd to stop all that 'Ole, Ole!' stuff today for two reasons," he said. "We must show respect to our opponents and my team must understand that the game is not over.
"I don't like 'Oles' because one day when Chelsea are losing in another stadium and the crowd will chant 'Oles' against us, I won't like that. We have to give respect to our opponents all the time."
This most utilitarian of managers had previously warned Cole that any more frills would mean he would be dropped, but if this was another example of Mourinho's policy of tough love towards his prodigal midfielder it did not seem to have spoiled Cole's New Year. Because of a suspension for today's game against West Ham he has been granted a four-day holiday and strolled through the press room to wish everyone well before driving off with his girlfriend down North End Road in his red Ferrari. Life didn't seem too bad.
Mourinho said that "in one or two situations" Cole had "played a little bit for himself and for the crowd", although he still described him as the club's form player. The Chelsea manager has an aversion for what he believes is a tendency among his players to go for "historical score-lines" when his obsession has always been the more prosaic task of securing the result.
Crespo tapped home the first after Maik Taylor had parried Arjen Robben's shot on 24 minutes and the Dutchman scored the second from the same position - on the left of the area - from Eidur Gudjohnsen's pass on 43 minutes. Bruce effectively sounded the retreat when he substituted Emile Heskey on 65 minutes in order to rest him for the game against Wigan today.
Birmingham's manager made all the old jokes about the £70m-worth of players on the Chelsea bench and how he begged Mourinho not to bring on Didier Drogba, but at 19th in the Premiership and now without the injured Matthew Upson he admitted he was "running out of time".
He would, no doubt, be quite content with a home crowd as satisfied as the one at Stamford Bridge. For Mourinho the search for perfection continues.Reuse content