The danger in having too many bogeymen

Opposing views: the fans' verdict
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The Independent Online
Half-way through the season and we have now lost twice, still within the quota of five that champions are thought to be allowed through a season. Without playing particularly well for a month we have still been picking up enough points to keep their noses out in front of the other teams.

Then comes Chelsea. Newcastle have a problem with Chelsea, as they do with Wimbledon and Southampton. All sides have their "bogey teams" it was just that Newcastle have more than most. We must be thankful that there is now a safe distance between us and the likes of Oxford, Shrewsbury and Wrexham. The thought of them may still induce icy shivers in the Cup, but they help us to put into perspective how far our club has moved in so short a time.

To have an off-day at Chelsea is to be expected, and the point from Wimbledon was gratefully received. But there are many lessons to be learnt. To us, the paying public, it may seem obvious what is wrong within the team on certain days, and we are none too reticent in offering our opinions. A thousand fans can have a thousand views, but the general consensus can build which often differs from that of the management.

David Ginola must learn not to act as if an extra in a Tarantino movie whenever he is tackled. He does get fouled - regularly - yet each time he elegantly does a double salchow with a half-twist he diminishes his chances of gaining the free-kick. Referees set themselves against it and thus when he is fouled nothing is given. He does not actually dive to gain advantage. He just tumbles in a rococo fashion and it is up to Keegan to teach him not to.

During games like Saturday's, even the great man himself comes into question especially over his substitutions, or rather lack of them. For a month we have not looked defensively solid yet Philippe Albert remains on the bench. Obviously Keegan knows what we do not, yet sometimes the key to a game seems so simple.

Chelsea can have that one; it is nearly Christmas, the time for giving and thinking of others less fortunate than ourselves. At the moment that is everyone. Let's hope it is the same come May Day.

Day we looked a team again

The season started with a prolonged bout of Gullit-mania and the highest of expectations but by the time the Dutch master sustained a calf injury a month ago we long-suffering Blues fans were already settling in for the customary depressing winter.

Until the last two Saturdays, that is.

First a draw at Old Trafford. Then Saturday's beating of Newcastle and the talk at Stamford Bridge now is less about Gullit, or even Bates and Harding. Rather unexpectedly we are enthusing about the lesser internationally known talents of David Lee and Michael Duberry. Between them they held Newcastle at bay during an admittedly nail-biting second half and even created a few chances themselves.

Since returning to the Chelsea fold recently after a loan spell at Bournemouth, Duberry, a tall, sometimes creative defender, has already faced up to Tony Yeboah, Teddy Sherringham, Andy Cole and, on Saturday, Les Ferdinand. And he is making a pretty good fist of it.

The first half, by almost universal consent, was the team's best patch of the season. Dennis Wise, reunited with his old pal from Wimbledon, Terry Phelan, at last showed the kind of form that has elevated him into the fringes of the England team. As for Mark Hughes, well he is as irrepressible and as much a favourite as ever.

There are few Chelsea regulars who will forget in a hurry the style and magic touches Ruud Gullit has already brought to Stamford Bridge. But on Saturday the team played and looked like a team again, rather than a famous conductor in charge of a sub-standard orchestra.

All Chelsea fans must know by now that it would be wrong to get carried away. Bates and Harding might have embraced each other, but there are still some major problems between them. And there are still problems in finding a scoring partner for Hughes.

As the anticipation builds for Newcastle's return to Stamford Bridge in the Cup in January one thought occurred to a West-stander on his way out on Saturday. Why not play a fit-again Gullit alongside Hughes up front? That really would be something to see us through the winter.

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