WEARSIDE WOE

I felt absolutely devastated when Chelsea lost to Sunderland in the League Cup.

It was a very winnable trophy and after the way that the Blues had come through the earlier rounds, you almost had the sense that our name was written on the trophy.

Britain Soccer League Cup

On paper, relegation-threatened Sunderland should not have posed too much of a problem but with Wembley looming on the horizon, the team faltered and we ended up being undone by one of our former players.

And so Chelsea were eliminated and we had to endure the agony of yet another trophy-less season.

I am of course referring to the 1984-85 season when the Blues were pitted against the Wearsiders in the semi-finals of what was then called the Milk Cup.

Having overcome Sheffield Wednesday in an epic quarter-final that went to a second replay after we had battled back from 3-0 down to draw 4-4 at Hillsborough, there was a sense that we were destined for our first appearance under the Twin Towers in 13 years.

And with the other two teams left in the competition – Ipswich and Norwich – also hovering around the relegation zone (Sunderland and Norwich would indeed go down at the end of the season), there was a very good chance that we could put an end to our 14-year trophy drought.

But we lost 2-0 in the first leg at Roker Park and despite pulling a goal back through David Speedie early on in the return match at the Bridge, a brace by ex-Blue Clive Walker saw us losing 3-2 and going out 5-2 on aggregate.

It was a pretty painful feeling for just about every Chelsea fan especially those too young to remember the FA Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup victories of the early 70s. And so I went through the whole gamut of misery and felt so resentful that I couldn’t stop myself from cheering when Walker missed a penalty in the final which Sunderland lost 1-0 to Norwich.

But nearly 30 years on, the bitterness of that defeat has receded and I prefer now to remember Walker for his contributions as a Chelsea player, most notably his crucial strike at Bolton in 1983 that saved us from dropping down to the old third division.

In fact I had almost completely forgotten about that match until earlier this week when we again to met Sunderland in the League Cup.

And unfortunately, it was a case of déjà vu against those unlucky Black Cats as we lost again, with another ex-Blue, Fabio Borini, scoring for our opponents in their 2-1 win.

But while I felt misery, bitterness, anger and just about every other negative emotion after the defeat in 1985, this time around, I felt little but frustration.

Frustration at our continued lack of sharpness in front of goal.

Frustration at our disturbing recent tendency to concede late goals.

Frustration that we have yet to beat Sunderland in a cup tie (including our FA Cup quarter-final loss to them in 1992).

And frustration that we won’t have the opportunity to celebrate a fifth League Cup victory this season.

But that’s about it really because while I do not want to sound condescending about a competition that I so enjoyed when we were victorious in 1998, 2005 and 2007, I know that we have much bigger priorities in the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup in the New Year.

So rather than wishing ill on Sunderland, I hope that they can go on to lift the odd three-handled trophy, especially as they now have a Chelsea legend in Gus Poyet managing them.

However, I also hope that the next time we meet them in a cup tie, we will come out on top for a change.

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