Mourinho buries Chelsea's cavalier past

Chelsea 4 - Norwich City 0
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The Independent Football

There is not much left at Chelsea to remind one of the good old, bad old days. The once-fearsome Shed is a sanitised kiddie section backing onto overpriced restaurants and a megastore. Training moved to purpose-built quarters at leafy Cobham this week, finally vacating the student digs of windswept Harlington. The team, meanwhile, is simply unrecognisable, completing their sixth four-goal haul in nine Premiership games without breaking sweat to go six points clear on Saturday night.

There is not much left at Chelsea to remind one of the good old, bad old days. The once-fearsome Shed is a sanitised kiddie section backing onto overpriced restaurants and a megastore. Training moved to purpose-built quarters at leafy Cobham this week, finally vacating the student digs of windswept Harlington. The team, meanwhile, is simply unrecognisable, completing their sixth four-goal haul in nine Premiership games without breaking sweat to go six points clear on Saturday night.

But they treasure their memories at the Bridge. Peter Osgood was given a hero's reception when he went for a half-time walkabout and 700 fans paid to attend a recent dinner at the Hilton at which Dave Webb was honoured. Which brings us to a tale of Christmas past; 27 December 1971. Webb, a defender of the old school, played the entire 90 minutes in goal after Chelsea found themselves at kick-off without an available custodian. Webb, remarkably, kept a clean sheet as Chelsea beat Ipswich 2-0, thus adding to an aura of casual brilliance which means the era of Ossie and Webby remains revered.

It is, though, inconceivable to imagine such amateurism occurring on Jose Mourinho's watch. Nor would he tolerate the culture of alcohol-fuelled indulgence which, together with poor decisions in boardroom and dug-out, led to that squad's enormous potential going to waste. When asked whether, with his team 3-0 up at the break, Mourinho had been able to "enjoy" the second half, the Chelsea manager offered a long soliloquy about how pleased he was at the way his players had pressed Norwich in their own half in the second period, at the importance of the fourth goal, and the contribution of the substitutes. A simple "no" would have done.

The game, of course, has moved on. Chelsea fans may love Ossie but woe betide any current player who copied his off-field behaviour. As for the on-field flicks and tricks, they are enjoyed but not at the expense of winning. Tiago may be an unglamorous water-carrier but few supporters appear to be longing for Joe Cole.

One who may, though, is the writer of a letter to this month's When Saturday Comes. Sarah Hogden, of London, states: "I don't know if I like this new-found glory", pines for the "entertaining inconsistency" of old, suggests she is becoming jealous of Norwich fans, and concludes: "I just don't like my club any more. We've become, in nature, the Man Utd I've always loathed."

As Norwich capitulated in front of a large but silent home support, one wondered whether the majority shared Hogden's view. Not that following Norwich can be that much fun. The travelling support were loud and cheerful, but not winning every week must be more boring than winning every week, especially when losing is done so suicidally.

Damien Duff opened the scoring when Thomas Helveg, ex-Milan, ex-Internazionale, captain of Denmark, carelessly passed straight to him. Poor passes by Mattias Jonson and Gary Doherty enabled Arjen Robben to present Frank Lampard with the second. More sloppy defending led to the corner Didier Drogba headed in for the fourth. Only Chelsea's third, beautifully created and executed by Robben with neat contributions from Lampard and Tiago, was a crafted goal.

However, that strike and other sweet moves underlined the New Chelsea's class. "I can see where she's coming from but it's not boring yet," said another Chelsea punter in reference to Hogden's letter, Simon Norman, of Leatherhead. He added: "I can remember going all the years when we were crap so I'm going to enjoy this for a while. Let's at least win the League first, which we've not done in my lifetime, then we'll decide whether it's boring."

As Duff, Robben and company began to stretch their legs, and the crowd went into a rousing rendition of "One Man Went to Mow", it became clear this was the prevailing view. Few fans under 60 will remember Chelsea being champions - the best Ossie and Webby achieved was third - and to attract 42,000 on the last Saturday before Christmas, at Chelsea's prices, suggests there's still plenty of enthusiasm for Roman's revolution.

Afterwards a downbeat and crew-cut Mourinho criticised their first-half display, then suggested his team would achieve 90 points this season. That would be enough to win seven of the nine Premierships since the division was cut to 20 clubs. Manchester United gained 91 points in 1999-2000 and Arsenal 90 last season. Norwich would be delighted with half as many.

Goals: Duff (10) 1-0; Lampard (34) 2-0; Robben (44) 3-0; Drogba (83) 4-0.

Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Ferreira, Gallas, Terry, Bridge; Tiago (Parker, 76), Makelele, Lampard; Duff, Gudjohnsen (Drogba, 60), Robben (Kezman, 78). Substitutes not used: Cudicini (gk), Johnson.

Norwich City (4-5-1): Green; Edworthy, Fleming, Doherty, Charlton; Jonson, Bentley, Helveg, Safri (McVeigh, 70), Huckerby; Svensson (McKenzie, 8). Substitutes not used: Ward (gk), Drury, Shackell.

Referee: M Dean (Wirral).

Man of the match: Robben.

Attendance: 42,071.

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