I’m not surprised we finished in the Champions League places with that defence! The back four we lined up with on that lovely day back in May 2003 almost typified Chelsea at the time. Strong, quality not in doubt, prone to a massive risk from time to time!
I remember a game back in 2002 when Melchiot had the ball facing his own goal line, in the corner and was being pressed by a forward. He decided the best course of action was to flick the ball up, do a couple of kick ups and launch the ball up the field. This kind of act typified Melchiot. Arriving in 1999 from Ajax, he struggled to displace Albert Ferret, possibly due to the aforementioned desire to perform keepy uppys in his own area. He did, in fact, start the Cup Final and also scored in the Charity Shield against United the following Autumn. From there on he was our regular right back. Safe to say he was certainly enjoyed by the Chelsea fans. Never the best defender, he was a colourful character who had a knack for scoring against United. When Jose came, he quickly identified right-back as a position that needed strengthening (poor Mario) and Mario was out the door. An unsuccessful trip to Birmingham was followed shortly after by an impressive stay at Wigan, even managing to make the Holland squad for Euro 2008. He has been seen recently doing media appearances.
Ah, William. Typified the French attitude. Passionate. Classy. Sulky. Scored a wonder goal against Tottenham in 2006 and screamed across to the bench, overcome with emotion, he and Jose embracing like long lost lovers. Four months later, he allegedly threatened to score own goals if he wasn’t allowed to leave for Arsenal.
His versatility was his downfall. Primarily a central defender, his ability to play both left and right back led to managers abusing this fact and shunting him wherever they saw fit. The arrival of Carvalho also led to Gallas being shunted out to left-back for the majority of his remaining two years at the Bridge. He left for Arsenal in 2006 and hilariously had a meltdown at St. Andrews as Birmingham came back to draw 2-2 with Arsenal, denting Arsenals title challenge. He went on to show that Chelsea would always be a part of him, criticising his own teammates and managing to get himself removed as captain. He then went on to complete the trifecta and moved to Tottenham in 2010 and was unfortunate enough to be a defender in a Harry Redknapp team. He went on to play in Australia and retired in 2014. A character, that’s for sure.
What a player. What a laugh. See previous pieces for more on the big man. He inspired the 2003 vintage of WATN.
You need an attacking full back who makes massive risks as much on the left as you do on the right. Step forward Celestine Babayaro, the Nigerian wonderkid with the amazing flips and powerful shot. Who couldn’t defend a lick. Apparently, though, Nigeria classes him as the second greatest full back to have ever played in the Green and White, behind a certain Taribo West.
Joining Chelsea as a relatively experienced youngster in 1997, we paid north of £2m for the player who would be our left-back for a decade to come. However, the form of Graeme Le Saux and the inconsistency of Babayaro led to a mixed spell at the Bridge. Ironically, it was as he was younger that he played more for the Blues. He never matured the way that we expected him to, always good at driving forward, never as good at the defending bit. Due to this, it was hard for managers to place a proper amount of trust in him and he was always found on the periphery. It was a shame. He had talent certainly, but could never match it with the discipline needed to become a regular in a title challenging/winning side.
Next week. The midfielders!