Pat Nevin: Bright Blue
column Tue 11 Apr 2017
Having watched Eden Hazard make hay while the sun shone on the south coast on Saturday, columnist and Chelsea legend Pat Nevin is enjoying his football at this time…
There are certain moments when you are a player when everything feels right, it all slips almost effortlessly into place. It is the same for a fan to some degree but as a player these moments are less common than you might think. Even if you play well, win, score a goal or make one, quite quickly you are thinking about the rest of the game, the next game, the rest of the season. You do not allow yourself to appreciate the moment and you certainly never allow yourself to look back, even 10 minutes. There are more pressing things on your mind.
Sometimes however there are little periods when you can allow yourself to slightly bask in the now and realise just how good it feels.
From a Chelsea perspective, I can remember a moment in my first season, just near the end of the campaign. We had just won promotion and it was a sunny day at the Bridge. The fans were on the field, we were back in the big time, I was sitting on the edge of the stand and looking down enjoying the celebrations, the sun was shining. I admit I allowed myself that moment with the fans. We still had to win the league, so that was in the back of my mind, but this was a moment to savour. Everything seemed right.
Maybe the sunshine helps and nearing the end of the season adds to it all, but there was a moment after Marcus Alonso scored against Bournemouth when I allowed myself that little moment to understand just how good a time this is for Chelsea. Clearly the fans celebrating and the expectation for the next few weeks helped, even though nothing has been won yet. But it was all rather glorious as the team overcame yet another hurdle following the win against Manchester City at Stamford Bridge during the week.
Specifically, during the game that free-kick seemed to seal it, but there were moments watching Eden Hazard in particular that seemed to be effortless and joyous. Eden is in incredible form at the moment, the ease with which he goes past players, top Premier League players at that, is spellbinding. Even the occasions when it doesn’t lead to a goal or a chance, the artistry is just as much fun for me to watch.
I have been in those moments before as a player, though clearly not as often as Eden, but when you are there you are floating, feeling completely untouchable. There is no effort involved, it is a natural, creative, relaxed power that is almost impossible to explain. In short it is fun and I hope Eden and the team took a moment to look around and understand the feeling. It also helps when quite a few thousand Chelsea fans are adding to the delight with their singing and cheering.
The fly in the ointment is that, as I wrote earlier, nothing has been won and Spurs are trying their best to put as much pressure on as possible with their impressive current run. Having said that, if Chelsea do win the league it will be that much sweeter if it hasn’t been easy, and that the tension is still around for a while longer. For some Chelsea fans it might also be quite sweet to see Spurs hopes being dashed, though personally I do not care which team is closest. For me it is not about them, it is about us.
In that it is all about Chelsea, then the next game against Manchester United is the focus, hopefully on another sunny, joyful day. We will look around the other results, but the ability of our manager to focus himself and the team on what we have to do has been consummate. Forget that there is a little bit of breathing space. By winning we squeeze the breath out of the challengers.
Manchester United is going to be another tester. Jose’s side have European interests and it is maybe another little bit of luck in our favour that we get them when they have been travelling again, but you have to take advantage of any little breaks. The old saying is, make hay while the sun shines. Chelsea appear to be doing just that right now.
I’m writing this from Turin getting ready to cover the Juventus v Barcelona game and yes, the sun is shining on a beautiful warm evening. I know it is a tough job but somebody has to do it! It underlines exactly where Chelsea want to be next season. Who would bet against next season matching us against Juve in the Champions League at some point. I am sure Antonio Conte wouldn’t. Football is like that, bringing old friends together as if it is written in the stars. The gaffer is probably preparing for it already. I know I am!