Every year, immediately before the last home game of the season, Chelsea FC unveil their new kit for the coming year, which the team then wears for the final game. Loyal fans queue up to buy the new shirts to show their support. This weekend was our final home game and the new shirts went on sale last week. This year, I was faced with a difficult dilemma.
If you’ve read my blog called Spitting Contests, you will already know that the purchase of a team shirt is a delicate decision. First, you must decide whether you like the new shirt. For the last several years, adidas has been the manufacturer of Chelsea shirts and we’ve had a great run until this past year when, for some inexplicable reason, adidas introduced a touch of the hated color of red (Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool) into the collar. Many fans could not bring themselves to purchase this season’s shirt. Not surprisingly, the team failed to win any trophies while wearing the poisonous red collar. Thankfully, the new shirt has no red.
Then, I faced the critical issue of which player’s name and number to put on the back. My strategy (for all sports) is to support the core players that define the era. So, my Yankee shirts are Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. During the most recent Chelsea era, our core players have been John Terry, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Petr Cech. For the last five years (not including the red year), Frank Lampard has been my main man. He has played the most games, scored over 20 goals for several years in a row and been considered one of the top midfielders in the world. I had a brief flirtation with our captain, John Terry, but couldn’t bear the embarrassment when he became tabloid fodder for his off-pitch indiscretions. Petr Cech is a goaltender and they wear completely different shirts from the rest of the team. Drogba spends a considerable amount of his time rolling around on the ground feigning injury or complaining to refs about being fouled. His replica shirts really should come with grass stains.
As I approached this year’s purchase decision, I had to face the question of potentially abandoning our core players completely and casting my lot with the future. Both Lampard and Drogba missed significant parts of the season due to injury and illness and Chelsea came away from the year with no trophies. Many are questioning whether this aging teams’ best days are behind us. If I were to move on, I had to focus on one of our two major recent purchases as the potential core of our future: Fernando Torres and David Luiz. Many fans already invested heavily in Torres as soon as he joined Chelsea in January. But so far he has struggled in blue. He made his reputation at Liverpool and for Spain wearing red. For me, the jury is still out on a blue Torres shirt. So, really it came down to switching to David Luiz or sticking with Lampard.
David Luiz has quickly become a fan favorite at Chelsea. His big floppy ‘fro reminds me of my hairdo from high school and college. (If anyone out there has an old picture of me, post it as a comment and everyone will see the resemblance). Many fans have taken to wearing David Luiz wigs. He is an aggressive and colorful player. Unfortunately, last week in our biggest game of the season against Manchester United at Old Trafford, he was beaten badly and had to be replaced at half time.
Standing there at the Chelsea Megastore last week, I was truly torn. But in the end, there is only one Frankie Lampard. I’m not ready to move on. But I bought a David Luiz wig just in case.