There is something pretty seriously wrong with me. I just can’t stop crying.
For nearly two years writing on Football FanCast I have resolutely refused to nail my football colours to the mast. After last night’s simply astounding viewing at the Nou Camp, however, I cannot hold it in any longer.
Yet, as a Chelsea supporter, (gulp, I’ve said it) Tuesday’s Champions League night of triumph was staggeringly, epic and beautiful. Excuse the self-indulgence for a moment but it was so magical in a way that I could never have ever believed possible.
Maybe purists of the game will bemoan a crime against artistry and expression and a robbery on the grandest scale but for Chelsea- the nearest of nearly men on the European stage- this was tumultuous, ecstatic and ludicrously implausible all at the same time.
When John Terry slipped in Moscow I felt nothing. How can you regret a penalty shootout defeat with any real conviction? When Jose Mourinho’s negligently negative tactics went a long way to ending Chelsea interest in Europe each year between 2005 and 2007 I was similarly numb. Andres Iniesta’s late strike in 2009 was the worst of hammer blows but you always felt the late twist was on the cards- penalty decisions or no penalty decisions.
If the 1998 Cup Winner’s Cup win over Vicenza was an unexpected new pleasure for a new era of Chelsea fans and the 2004 Champions League triumph over Arsenal was cathartic then this was simply on a different level.
Throughout all of those nights of heartache a sterile numbness was all I could muster. Even when a homeless man goaded me minutes after Iniesta’s 2009 sickener I was not tempted to” do a Terry” and needlessly knee him in the back. It will, I concluded, just never happen.
And perhaps, even in this glorious afterglow and talk of “destiny” it still won’t. But even if May 19th ends in more heartache at the final hurdle this achievement stands alone.
Consider this first. The last time Chelsea fielded two non-centre backs in that pivotal position was during a November 2010 injury crisis. They were hammered 3-0 at home against a struggling Sunderland side. There was a full allotment of 11 men in Chelsea blue that afternoon too.
This phenomenal Barcelona side on the cusp of more history as the first side to retain the Champions League failed to score in 53 minutes against a makeshift Chelsea side that at times looked as if Jose Bosingwa’s monobrow was as likely to finally grow legs of its own and score a second goal than any of the other outfield players.
My Dad, not one for hyperbole and as anti-Chelsea as they come, called it the finest and most unlikely “perfect” performance he had witnessed in 50 years watching football.
And don’t let anyone tell you anything different; this was perfect. Ashley Cole pulled out of his spiralling nose-dive in form at the best possible moment. Jon Obi Mikel showed powers of concentration, discipline and application that he has not displayed since Chelsea last visited the Nou Camp three years ago. Ramires, Petr Cech, Branislav Ivanovic and a mentally exhausted Didier Drogba were each sublime in their bloody-minded resistance.
After 37 minutes, however, this bravery was surely going to be ruled incidental on another night of Chelsea European failure. Once John Terry had gone a long way in tearing down his own “JT. Captain. Leader. Legend” banner at Stamford Bridge and Barcelona took a 2-0 lead on the night, an old fashioned hammering was in the offing. No other outcome was possible.
Yet, one man landed a telling blow to the writers and sub-editors who can’t publish a Chelsea article without the term: “Old guard” making it into almost every sentence. Frank Lampard was possibly my man of the match and his contribution in the minutes before half time was tie-defining.
In a week where pundits and fans have been picking over contenders for the best XI in Premier League history, it is the criminally underrated Lampard that deserves an extraordinary level of credit. 150 Premier League goals, 88 assists and I am still to hear a single source suggest he merits a place at the top table. The highest goalscoring midfielder by more than 40 strikes and the second highest assist contributor does not, apparently, deserve a mention.
They say; “Look at the way Paul Scholes and Steven Gerrard can pass the ball. Statistics be damned, Frank Lampard could never do that.”
In consecutive weeks he has been afforded a single opportunity to play the lowest of low percentage incisive passes. He nailed both. Didier Drobga and Ramires cashed in spectacularly. Show me Scholes and Gerrard do that.
Yet, for all the inspired resistance, the iconic end came from an opportunistic, mistimed hack from Ashley Cole and the much maligned Fernando Torres was given a chance at redemption.
The Spaniard rounded Victor Valdes and Gary Neville had his Gerrard- Olympiakos moment in the Sky commentary box.
And in a faux Irish pub in the centre of Brighton, some 950 miles away, my emotional floodgates finally opened.