If I were Chelsea manager, I would sum up my game plan for tonight’s game with Barcelona in three words: SMASH; KICK; DESTROY. I would lay it out on the tactics board in large comic sans, and explain that these wimpy Iberians don’t like it up ‘em, so get out there and kick them as hard and as frequently as you can without getting booked, and don’t forget to stand on their hands, faces or even balls while they’re rolling around on the floor like the pathetic girly men that they are. I’d tell them to get on top of the referee – hassle, badger, even push him about – every time he gives them a decision. Then I’d tell them to dive at the slightest contact, feign injury and scream for penalties you have no right to claim (always remembering to get right in the ref’s face). ‘I want to see Dani Alves leave the game on a stretcher,’ I’d say, ‘ with his crying parents at his side.’
‘Yes boss,’ they’d reply.
‘Then, while they’re praying for their son’s life, I want you to block the tunnel, whip out your chaps and slap them in that little ****s face.’
‘It’s a shame that Claude Makelele’s not still about, mind you; he could take your eye out at 20 paces.’
As usual, one weak-willed quitter would call my tactics into question. A fop, a romantic – someone who doesn’t quite understand the gravity of the situation. Probably Juan Mata, bless him.
‘But what about the bad press, boss? We’re already utterly reviled by most football fans; our higher-ups do their level best to p*** off the press at every opportunity, not to mention our own fans, who they went to war with over a new, unwanted stadium. Look at our captain! He’s one of the most hated players in the history of the game!’
John Terry would shoot a wild look at this improbably articulate and self-aware squad member, but I placate him with a caring, fatherly stroke of the head. In my time as Chelsea boss I would have stamped on any dissent so effectively that they would all see me as their guardian and confidante. They look into my eyes and they see a leader of men. In any case, JT will probably bog brush the little weasel later – and it’d be no less than he deserved.
John Terry would shoot a wild look at this improbably articulate and self-aware squad member, but I placate him with a caring, fatherly stroke of the head.
‘Exactly,’ I would reply, after a lengthy, uncomfortable pause. ‘We’re already looked upon as a cheap throwaway, a minor disruption to the natural order of things. A stinking collection of thugs and chancers paid for by a vicious Bond villain, a man who would eat his own children if it meant a few extra quid in his pocket. And that’s not going to change, so why not live up to it? We’re all in this dirty game together, fighting for as much coin as we can get, all the while exploiting the dreams of people who can barely afford a match ticket. It’s sick! The whole ghastly show is a vile pantomime, and you are all parasites!’
At this point I would cuff JT round the back of the head. I’ve learned that its best not to indulge him too much, and he respects repeated, random acts of violence. They all do, really.
‘But don’t forget: you might be rolling in the dirt, but at least you know it. Those Barcelona worms think they are better than you, morally superior, because they’ve found a club with a better PR department that will pay them the same obscene salaries. More than a club! Christ, they paint themselves as freedom fighters who took on fascism, when they are a den of petty nationalists and monkey-chanting racists. They and their pathetic, symbiotic relationship with the “bad” Real Madrid have crippled Spanish football, hoovering up the vast majority of the country’s TV money and creating an arms race that makes the cold war look like a game of drunken strip poker. They’re a rapacious, cynical capitalist machine that has a deal with Nike – NIKE, for God’s sake! And they’re not even good capitalists; they’re s****** debt like their hapless, supine government. And as for their conduct on the pitch... It’s worse than yours, Didier.’
Didier Drogba at this point would be staring at himself in the mirror, switching between his pout and I’m-in-pain grimace. He’s copped a lot of flak for ‘the peak-a-boo’ against Napoli, and he’s keen to make sure that he’s on top form – the camera loves him, after all. I should kick that mirror out of his hand, really, but if we’re to get past Barca we need that referee blowing every time he eats dirt. I continue with the pep talk.
‘Let’s be honest here: we can’t outplay them. We’re a cumbersome, old team, and they are lightening quick, full of verve and youthful joy. They are masters of ball retention, and have the best player in the world. However, we can out-cheat them, of that I am supremely confident. And well, if that’s what it’s come to, then so be it. Remember 2009? You were cheated out of a second successive Champions League final. They dived, pulled shirts, fouled cynically and harangued the ref, who denied you a stonewall penalty that was right in front of his eyes – It was one of the most flagrant sporting robberies ever committed!’
They are masters of ball retention, and have the best player in the world. However, we can out-cheat them, of that I am supremely confident.
Drogba would look up from his mirror. ‘It was a f****** disgrace, boss.’
‘And to make things worse Didier, they claimed it was your fault, for the way you played the game, as though playing sideways passes in front of the 18-yard box gave you the right to win – they blamed the victim! Well I hope someone breaks into Pep’s house, s**** all over his living room and steals his car; then I’ll ring him up and tell him it was his fault for not keeping a sniper on the roof.’
What else to say? I would tell them this, and it would all be true. Most importantly of all, the tactics are surely right. There is nothing left to do but to fire them up, to send them out there with fire in their bellies and the mean, malevolent spirit of Josef Stalin in their souls. Some occasions call for behaviour so fundamentally vile, so grotesque that even I can hardly bare to watch it. But it must be done; practicality trumps idealism every time, as the Trotskyites found to their cost, and sometimes there is nothing left to do but call upon the most ugly human instincts to fight, and win, the good fight.
‘Get out there, and f****** KILL.’
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