Shock of the week

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What is Chelsea? A simple question with many answers.

It is a posh part of London, the name of Bill Clinton’s daughter and a football club. But Chelsea is far more than that. According to the club’s chief executive Peter Kenyon, “Roman Abramovich, the Chelsea owner, wants the club to be a force for good.”

This came as something of a revelation. I had naively assumed that dedicated Chelsea’s main business was winning trophies.

Though Chelsea’s community work is not to be sneered at, the club’s contribution to such wider humanitarian causes as world peace would seem, on the face of it, negligible though if anyone can show me proof that the club’s communications director Simon Greenberg has been working, secretly, to bring concord to the middle east I’d be happy to be corrected.

Kenyon and Abramovich set sights on global domination


Emboldened by the conviction that Chelsea has a moral mission, Kenyon even lectured the likes of Spurs and Aston Villa about how to put their house in order.

Which, as they don’t have the backing of a billionaire willing to spend £132m a year on wages, seemed a bit rich and, quite frankly, did more to bring the game into disrepute than a hundred post-match rants at referees by managers.

It’s hard to imagine this happening in any other industry. Does Tesco’s CEO Terry Leahy waste time telling Somerfields how to do their job? No, he gets on with his job and, as the deadline for Chelsea to be financially self-sufficient looms, perhaps Kenyon should do likewise.

Football directors should remember that when you have nothing to say it’s best to say nothing.

Surprises and misery

Guided by Ukrainian tactician Roman Grigorchuk, Latvian champions FK Ventspil held Norwegian title winners SK Brann until the 87th minute in Bergen before losing 1-0 in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League.

A cracking performance for a footballing nation that has been suffering from a collective hangover since qualifying for the Euro 2004 finals.

Ventspils, who won the Latvian league in 2006 and 2007, have a half decent record against Norwegian sides. In 1999, they beat Valerenga 2-1 on aggregate in the Intertoto Cup after losing the away leg 1-0. So the second leg, in Latvia, will be no walkover for Brann.

Lithuanian champions Kaunas 0-0 draw at Ibrox would have been the result of the week in the second qualifying round if Belorussian champions BATE hadn’t beaten Anderlecht 2-1 in Brussels.

Rangers labour to bore draw with Lithuanian champions

Rangers have endured some truly miserable nights in Europe – the 1-0 defeat by AEK Athens in the 1994 European Cup,  which prompted “Geeks 0 Greeks 1” headlines, being just one – but I expect Rangers, liberated from a style of play some have dubbed ‘Walternaccio” to triumph in Lithuania.

It’s harder to see Rapid Vienna, 3-0 losers to Cypriot champions Anorthosis Famagusta, staging a similar comeback. And Bruce Rioch’s Aab must surely be through to the third qualifying round after a 5-0 rout of Modrica.

Nice guys don’t always finish last

In Eric Gerets' case he finished third in Ligue 1, the position he steered Marseille to in 2007/08. Gerets might just be the most underrated coach in European football. There are many more high profile names but the Belgian, famed for his long throw-in as a midfielder, has done the business at almost every club he has managed.

He has won the Belgian title twice with different clubs (Lierse in 1996/97 and Club Brugge in 1998/99), the Eredivisie with PSV (in 1999/200 and 2000/01) and the Turkish league in 2005/06 with Galatasaray. Last season, he did a good enough salvage job at Marseille to earn another tilt at the Champions League in 2008/09.

Even more important, Geret is gracious in victory and defeat. It’s a pleasant change to hear a coach who doesn’t hog the glory for every triumph and blame every loss on the referee/fixture list/the football authorities/a conspiracy against them by plotters or persons unspecified and unknown.

Gerets celebrates Champions League qualification