2007 FA Cup Winners, 2007 Carling Cup Winners, 2007 Premiership Runners-Up and 2007 Champions League Semi-Finallists - WHAT A SEASON, WHAT A FANTASTIC SEASON!!
After seeing my beloved Blues lift the Premiership crown two years in succession after a long, very long wait of over 40 years, never did I think that ONE single season this season (and any other season) could better than the previous two.
Season 2006/2007 did just that and more.
The promise of the Summer signings of Ballack and Shevchenko failed to materlise although Shevchenko was more of a success than the signing of Ballack - Sheva worked hard for the team and still managed to score fourteen goals. Ballack however was just lazy and strolled around like a player who thought he owned every single football ground in the Country.
My dreams of this partnership were completely shattered as I kept on visualising Ballack dominating the midfield area and sliding inch pefect, slide rule balls through opposition defences for 'The Shev' to run onto and have a more the equal chance of scoring goal after goal.
The season was made more memorable when the first FA Cup Final for seven years went back home to Wembley and I was there to sing 'when John went up to lift the FA Cup.' Chelsea made history that day by becoming the first team win the FA Cup at the 'New' Wembley and the last team to win the FA Cup at the 'Old' Wembley.
The season started with a 3-0 win against Man City at Stamford Bridge followed by a surprise 2-1 defeat at Middlesbrough a few days later. Sheva scored his first league goal and we all thought it would be the start of many.
Wins against Blackburn, Charlton, Liverpool (remember Dids first and one of many superb goals?) and Fulham saw Chelsea continue their presence at the top of the Premiership before a surprise loss of two points at home in a 1-1 draw against Martin O'Neill's Aston Villa.
Saturday 14th October at new-boys Reading's Madjeski Stadium was one of the most (of many) pivotal days in Chelsea season as well as the most horrific I have ever witnesssed. Not two minutes had been played when Petr Cech came to smother the ball and ended up with a fractured skull for his troubles. An injury that was to rule him out for the best part of three minutes.
A minute before full-time substitute goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini was clattered and stretchered off the pitch unconscious with his neck in a brace and barely breathing. Up stepped John Terry to take up the goalkeeping challenge and Chelsea held firm to record a 1-0 win. Also in the game, Mikel lost his rag and was shown the red card.
The ramifications of Cech's and Cudicini's injuries rumbled on and on, whilst the perpetrators Hunt and Sonko protested their innocence.
Hilario made his Premiership debut in the 2-1 win over Portsmouth at Stamford Bridge and the following week he saved a penalty in the 2-0 win over Sheff Utd at Bramall Lane. Ballack marked his appearance with a headed goal.
The second pivotal moment in Chelsea's season and for me THE game that cost Chelsea the title was the 2-1 defeat at Tottenham. After taking the lead from an unlikely source, a superb Claude Makelele volley, Chelsea and Jose threw the game away in the second -half. The reason? Ferreira was withdrawn at half-time and replaced by Boulahrouz, twenty odd minutes later Boulahrouz was withdrawn with Chelsea leading 2-1.
With all the fight, determination, resilience that Chelsea had shown this season making two crucial defensive changes were too much for an embattled Chelsea side to recover. Not only we did lose ground on the race for the title, we lost our PROUD unbeaten record against Tottenham spanning sixteen years and 33 games. There was more to come later on in the season to gain sweet revenge over Spurs.
We lost John Terry after he was sent off by Graham Poll and lo and behold we lost JTs services for a back and leg injury. I cannot get my head around that JT's 'injury' absence conincided with allegations of JT being racist towards Ledley King during the spat prior to JT's sending-off. Not a lot was made of it in the press and media but the chatrooms and unofficial websites were buzzing and rumours that JT DID abuse King were circulating like a vicious forest fire. All in all JT missed a total of 14 games, which started not long after JT appeared at a FA discplinary hearing.
Was there a cover-up? Or is this just a conspiracy theory? After all the England Captain CANNOT be seen to be a racist!!
Hilario missed the next four Premiership games with Carlo doing a great job by only conceding one goal. Chelsea won three of the four. The draw against Man Utd at Old Trafford showed Chelsea's intentions that they were not about to give up the title lightly.
Hilario returned for the Premiership and played in every game until Petr Cech''s return at Anfield in January. The memorable highlights in that period for Chelsea were: Essien's wonder-strike against Arsenal which ultimately won Essien the fans goal of the season award. the game ended 1-1. Everton away where Frank and Diider scored a tremendous goal each in the last few minutes to secure a valuable 3-2 away win. Arjen Robben's last minute stunner against Wigan.
Following that, Chelsea's next three games all ended in draws and more pivotal moments title changing moments in a truly momentous season. With JT out. Essien continued in an unfamiliar centre-back role and despite doing an excellent job Chelsea dropped points at home to Fulham and Reading with Essien unfortunately conceding an own goal then against Aston Villa away just after the new year, Chelsea could only draw 0-0 and Khalid dislocated his elbow.
Wigan was trounced 4-0 at the Bridge and then up at Anfield the following weekend, the return of Petr Cech complete with a protective skull cup wasn't enough to prevent Chelsea going down 2-0. No Ricky, who fell ill on the morning of the game and no Terry which left us with Essien and Ferreira having to deal with Kuyt and Crouch. This was the game that Ballack and Dids contrived to F**K up that famous free-kick, the one that worked so well at Newcastle in the Carling Cup a month or so ago.
After the Liverpool defeat Chelsea were unbeaten in the Premiership and remain so until the Premiership starts again in August.
For the record Chelsea haven't been beaten at home since February 2004 (managed by Claudio) when we lost to Arsenal, a run of 63 games and a unbeaten home League record that Chelsea share with Liverpool. In fact since Jose Mourinho became a manager (including Porto), he has never lost a home league game.
Once we avoid defeat in the first game of the 2007/2008 season we take away the proud record that Liverpool have held for many a year.
For the record our remaining League results since the Liverpool defeat read as follows:
Blackburn H 3-0
Charlton A W1-0
Middlesbrough H W3-0
Portsmouth A W 2-0
Man City A W 1-0
Sheff Utd H W3-0
Watford A W1-0 a last minute Kalou goal kept us in the title race
Spurs H W1-0
West Ham A W4-1 two Shaun Wright-Phillips goals won this game for us
Newcastle A D0-0
Bolton H D2-2
Arsenal A D1-1 The day the title went!!
Man Utd H D0-0 The day we applauded Man Utd reserves onto the pitch as Champions
Everton H D1-1 The day we equalled Liverpool's unbeaten home League record
Look out soon for Part II which covers the Cups and anything else I feel is appropriate!!