Chelsea's long-serving goalkeeper Petr Cech has defended the players' right to have their say about matters affecting them, however much negative publicity may result about supposed "rows" and "confrontations". Even at this most dysfunctional of clubs, results determine everything and by making good saves on the rare occasions he was called upon, the Czech goalkeeper ensured that what could have been a torrid afternoon on Saturday ended with Chelsea winning for the second time in a week and moving up the table.
That encouraged Rafa Benitez to believe that his contract until the end of the season will be honoured, even as Fabio Capello was being mentioned as the latest possible stop-gap.
West Bromwich Albion, arriving at Stamford Bridge under a popular former Chelsea player and coach in Steve Clarke, should, like Brentford and Wigan recently, have left having conceded four goals, but in Ben Foster they had a goalkeeper who was one of his team's best performers. He had 25 shots and headers to face, which on the law of averages alone should have meant more goals than Demba Ba's tap-in after Foster was for once caught out as David Luiz headed back a neatly worked short corner. Clarke, who believes his old club will finish in the top four, declined to criticise his goalkeeper for that one and the England manager Roy Hodgson, sitting in the stand, had reason to be pleased that Foster has indicated he is prepared to represent his country again.
Cech, signed even before Jose Mourinho arrived at Chelsea in the summer of 2004, and averaging a clean sheet every other game, then spoke out about the merits of free speech. "We had a lot of success thanks to the honesty and open mind everyone has in the dressing room," he said. "Everybody should have a chance to express an opinion and if the players are not happy, it is not the case that we say 'unlucky mate, we will carry on, you pick yourself up'. No. When we see something is going wrong, people have the right to express themselves and say 'we think this is wrong, we should improve that, we need to try to find a different solution'.
"Obviously we have only one boss, that is the manager, and it is up to him if he wants to listen to what the players say or find his own way to go through. It helps because communication is a very big part of a football club. It is important for the coach to know the feedback, to do more or less, but there is only one boss and it is up to him what to do."
Benitez faces two testing away games this week, against the runaway Romanian League leaders Steaua Bucharest on Thursday in the Europa League and then Manchester United in the FA Cup, where dissident Chelsea supporters will for once find common cause with the Old Trafford fans in their dislike of the manager.
In defence of his club and its philosophy, Cech claimed: "In the same period of time we won more or less the same number of trophies as Man United. They had one manager, we had eight, and we won the same trophies. Arsenal had the same manager and it is a long time since they won something. You can't always say that is the fault of the manager or the players."
Benitez, sensibly, is not looking too far ahead: "What will happen in the next week, I don't know." Who does, where Chelsea are concerned?
Goals: Chelsea Ba 28. Substitutions: Chelsea Moses (Hazard, 80), Torres (Ba, 88), Mikel (Mata, 90+4). West Bromwich Odemwingie 7 (Fortune, 62), Thomas 6 (Dorrans, 71), Rosenberg (Yacob, 83). Bookings: Chelsea Hazard. West Bromwich McAuley, Odemwingie.
Man of the match Mata.
Match rating 6/10.
Possession: Chelsea 53%. West Bromwich 47%. Attempts on target: Chelsea 9. West Bromwich 3. Referee K Friend (Leicestershire). Att 41,548.
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