The dwindling Chelsea career of Andrei Shevchenko was dealt a further blow last night when he was picked to play for the club's reserves in the less than auspicious surroundings of Brentford's Griffin Park. The £31m striker does not look likely to feature at all against Olympiakos in the Champions League second leg tie at Stamford Bridge tomorrow.
The club claim that Shevchenko is still recovering from injury although the player himself had not been on any medical bulletins in the last few weeks. Instead his career has nosedived under new manager Avram Grant, once billed as the man who would get the best from the Ukrainian. The game against Reading reserves came just 24 hours before Shevchenko's former team, Milan, prepared to do battle with Arsenal at San Siro.
The recent furore surrounding Grant and his Carling Cup final defeat has taken attention away from Shevchenko increasingly peripheral role at Chelsea. He has not started a game since the 4-4 draw with Aston Villa in the Premier League on Boxing Day. He last appeared as a substitute, for 15 minutes, against Huddersfield in the FA Cup on 16 February. Also in the reserves squad to play at Griffin Park were Steven Sidwell, Claudio Pizarro and Tal Ben Haim.
Shevchenko, 31, has endured a desperate second season at Chelsea, playing just 18 games and scoring seven goals. Chelsea first teamers were drafted into the reserve team squad last night because the club have an important FA Youth Cup game on Friday and want to keep their youngsters fresh for that one.
The arrival of Nicolas Anelka in January was a further blow to Shevchenko who is now the third choice striker in a team that only really accommodates one within its best formation. No wonder that the Ukrainian was spotted on the team coach of Milan when they left the Emirates stadium after their Champions League tie last month.
There have been numerous efforts at Chelsea to raise Shevchenko's standards back to those when he was one of the most feared goalscorers in Europe. Most notably, the former British sprinter Darren Campbell worked personally with Shevchenko to improve his speedwork but Grant was not keen to have the one-time Olympian around the training ground.
This latest snub to Shevchenko leaves him in a familiar position. If he leaves he may yet be able to claw back some dignity for the tail-end of what has been a great career at another club, possibly back in Italy. On the other hand, he will never be able to negotiate the £110,000-a-week wages he commands at Chelsea in a contract that will run until 2010.
Chelsea have announced that they will be appealing against the red card shown to Frank Lampard by referee Peter Walton during Saturday's game against West Ham. The dismissal was for a shove on Luis Boa Morte which followed an incident in which both players appeared to stud one another. Lampard runs the risk of being given an extra game on top of his existing three-match ban when the Football Association's regulatory commission meet today.Reuse content