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Giles Smith Thursday Column


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Good read and nice little dig at the yids at the end

After the barren landscape of an international break there is so much for columnist Giles Smith to get his teeth into this week - the Champions League, the Carling Cup, the new look and even the Europa League…

So, once again that sound was heard in the land. As John Terry wrote in his programme notes for Tuesday night, 'No matter how many times you hear that Champions League anthem at the start of the game, you never get bored of it.'

Entirely true. It's very like 'The Liquidator' in that respect - although slightly less catchy, and without a big clap-along opportunity.

Nevertheless, as we always find ourselves wondering at this time of year, why does nobody ever sing along with the Champo anthem? Neither players nor fans ever join in. After nine consecutive seasons in the competition, it can't be that we don't know the tune, can it? We may not know the words. (Although, if you just repeat 'These are the champions!' over and over again, you won't go far wrong.) But we definitely know the tune, surely.

It seems to me we're all looking for leadership here. Maybe from the captain? He certainly sounds keen. If John Terry starts up, I feel confident the rest of us will follow. Any chance?

Much was written after the victory over Bayer Levekusen about what the excellent Raul Meireles has brought to the team in terms of bite, strength and intelligence in midfield. But less was said about how he has also shifted the club into a totally new dimension, hair-wise.

Florent Malouda has toyed with that hard-to-pull-off Mohawk look from time to time, with relative degrees of success. Salomon Kalou has worn a low-rise one periodically and John Terry, too, has been there or thereabouts, if memory serves, in previous seasons.

But until Meireles arrived from Liverpool in deadline day's most significant piece of transfer business, we have never (correct me if I'm wrong) had a player with the wherewithal and the personal certainty to tackle the Travis Bickle look head-on and nail it.

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After a few quiet years, with close-cropped or neat, shaven looks, leading the way, these are suddenly burgeoning times for hair at Chelsea. There's Malouda and Kalou, as mentioned - both restlessly creative and prepared to get up and down the barbershop if necessary. Romelu Lukaku certainly looks like someone with much to offer. Fernando Torres can be quietly inventive, and, even now, you never quite know what you're going to get from Didier Drogba, in terms of ambitious pony tails and complicated cornrows.

It was David Luiz, of course, who lifted the entire place in this area. But in Meireles we have clearly found another player with, not just stand-out hair, but potentially fan-galvanising, wig-worthy hair.

And now, when we have barely had the chance to get our breath back, up looms what is, everyone agrees, an utterly massive match - a critical encounter, potentially tough, calling for sharp focus and concentration, with so much at stake, and far more than pride - and creeping ever closer by the minute. Tremblingly close, indeed.

Fulham at home in the Carling next Wednesday night, I mean. Of course, there's Manchester United, away, in the league in the meantime, but there's less riding on that. After all, you can't go out of the league this early in the season. Even Arsenal - though they are clearly in all sorts of difficulty and recently suffered horrible psychological scarring at Old Trafford of a kind that one wouldn't wish on anyone - aren't, technically speaking, out of the league at this stage.

You can, however, go out of the Carling - and that's for ever. Done, dusted - no second chances. So, should the manager rest a couple on Sunday, and keep them fresh for the bigger battle? He'll know, better than us, the condition of the squad's bodies and minds. But if he chose to leave a few out to increase our chances of a place in the coveted fourth round, you would have to respect his priorities.

On this of all Thursdays, it seems only polite to extend a hand across to north London and wish Tottenham well as they embark on their Europa League campaign. People mock the Europa, but it's a valuable opportunity for a club to transcend the usual domestic boundaries and measure itself on a proper European scale.

So, tonight Shakter Karagandy, tomorrow the world.

Or is it Narva Trans they're up against? Or Flamurtari Vlore? Or Siroki Brijeg? Or is that next week?

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