One of the great joys of this writing lark is that occasionally you get the chance to chat to one of your heroes in the name of work. So, as a true devotee of talkSPORT’s Hawksbee and Jacobs afternoon show, the chance to request an audience with Andy Jacobs ahead of tomorrow’s FA Cup Third Round was too great to resist. Thankfully he agreed…
Cheers for agreeing to do this Andy. Before we get onto the FA Cup and Saturday’s game, a quick one about your own Chelsea journey. Did you pick the Blues, or did they pick you?
Was a pretty traditional beginning really. It started when by dad took me in 1959 when I was five years old. He was a Chelsea fan, not as serious as me, but he took me and that was it. I’ve inflicted it on my boys, and I’m about to inflict it on my grandson too.
Similar route for me… Dad took me to Norwich before I’d even started school and that was it. I’ve successfully inflicted it on my son but had rather less joy with my daughter!
So… Chelsea’s season to date. Underwhelming?
No, not at all. They’ve played some pretty nice football at times and if they win tonight [v Arsenal on Wednesday] they’ll go up to second in the Premier League. I wouldn’t call that underwhelming.
‘Underwhelming’ was just a prod btw 🙂
Conte is a genius, especially when you consider the club haven’t backed him in any of the transfer windows – certainly not in the summer one. What they did was quite clever actually; four went out, four came in and it gave him enough decent players to challenge but not really win anything – certainly not enough to compete with [Man] City and Barca and co in the Champions League. And that’s the problem. Some people say it’s because he’s saving his money to build this unbelievable new stadium, others are just saying that’s how they are with their managers; when a manager wins the league for Chelsea they often don’t back him the following season. It happened to Mourinho twice, to Ancelotti and to Di Matteo. It’s just what they do.
With that in mind, do you think Conte will be there next season?
It’s impossible to say. In August I didn’t think he would even last to the end of this season. Yet, for a reason that’s not clear Conte himself appears more content now. This window will be very telling, especially if they back him and he gets a couple of the players he wants. Last summer he desperately wanted Llorente from Swansea. He’s unconvinced by Batshuayi, he knew he already had Morata and he wanted Llorente – ten years older than Morata but a similar type player – to come off the bench and make an impact late on in games. You can see why he wanted him, he’s a terrific player. But they messed around, made a poor offer because they didn’t think anyone else was interested and Spurs came in, said ‘here’s £12 million’ and got him! It was a gift for Pochettino.
But we’ll see. If something like that happens this month it’ll be a sign that they’re not really backing him again but, for example, we’re in for Vidal from Bayern Munich, and if we buy him it’ll tell me that Conte will be here next season. If we don’t he won’t. It really is as simple as that.
He definitely appears happier in himself though and more settled than he did early on in the season during which time we had some poor results – losing at home to Burnley for example, which was a disgrace all-round. And they’ve had some funny results which, looking ahead to Saturday, gives Norwich hope. The games where they’ve not been good this season are the games where they have been expected to win – Burnley, Crystal Palace, West Ham. We’ve lost just four games overall (the other one was against [Man] City, which can happen to anyone because they’re wonderful).
You’re offering us a chink of light here?
Well these cup games are so hard to call because, from a Norwich point of view, will Farke rest players? Is there a midweek game coming up that’s more important? It’s just so hard to call how they will approach it and so you just don’t know what you are going to get.
From Chelsea’s perspective I expect Conte to pick a reasonably strong team but he will play some youngsters (we’ve got some great kids), and we’ll definitely see Ampadu. Tell you what, I’ll give you a prediction of the side, see how accurate I am…
Ampadu / Cahill / Rüdiger
Zappacosta / Fabregas / Drinkwater / Bakayoko / Kenedy
Willian or Pedro / Batshuayi
We’ll be giving you marks out of eleven…
Looking back to this stage of the FA Cup last season the likes of Begovic, Terry, Chalobah and Loftus-Cheek all were given a run out against Peterborough, so the 5/6 changes you’ve predicted appear consistent with how Conte tends to operate. Still a formidable line up.
Yep, still a pretty decent Chelsea side but, to be fair, you’ve got a decent record against Chelsea at Carrow Road.
Hhmm… well we did get a 0-0 draw with you a few seasons ago [in 2012!]
Norwich is never an easy place to go though. Long journey, this time of the year, the cup, fans will be up for it. It won’t be an easy one for Chelsea. For Norwich there is nothing to lose – it’s a free hit.
True. I must admit to being fearful of the place being half empty, except for a full away section. Of late, the club have failed to gauge correctly the appetite of fans for cup games, making it un-affordable for some and a good excuse for a protest for others. But the fact they’ve priced it sensibly (£15 for an adult I believe) should produce a reasonable crowd and hopefully a decent atmosphere.
That’s good money to see a team of international players…
My grandad had a shop in Norwich by the way! I have a Norwich connection…
Note made for future reference!
Have you seen anything of Norwich this season? How up-to-speed are you on our Germanic revolution?
To be honest I’ve only seen Norwich once on TV this season and that was the Old Farm Derby, which I think they won.
You saw us at arguably our peak! The Ipswich game was the final game in an eight-match unbeaten run (a good one by our standards), which was followed by a very good performance at the Emirates in the last 16 of the Carabao Cup – a game we should have won but didn’t. What followed was horrible and until recently we all started to fear where the rotten run was going to end. Thankfully a couple of recent wins has steadied the ship but it’s been horrible at times.
It’s good to see the club trying something different though and there’s good logic in trying to follow the Huddersfield model. It’s worked out for them so why not for you.
We’ll see – but football supporters being football supporters, they still want to see results and signs of progress while the transition is taking place. Fans very quickly get disillusioned. That’s generally been the problem. Anyway, back to the cup….
The cup is funny; I always feel from the Chelsea point of view you’re better off going out in the third round if you’re not going to win it. If you’re going to win it, fine, but look at last season; all those extra games and you end up losing in the final to Arsenal! I’d honestly have preferred to have gone out in the third round to Peterborough than lose to that lot in the final, I really would. Honestly, they’d been rubbish all season, just had one game to get themselves up for, got a bit lucky, and ended up winning the cup. Was so annoying because we were so much the better side, yet it bought Wenger another two years in the job, which will look a bit daft because if they don’t beat Chelsea tonight [was a 2-2 draw] they are not going to finish in the top four. And that would obviously help Chelsea.
But you’ve accepted that [Man] City are going to win the Prem?
Oh yeah. To be honest I can’t see City not winning it until Guardiola has a burn out. I think they’ll win it every year until he goes. Let’s face it they’ve got more money than everybody else (apart from United maybe) and despite there obviously being a lot of it around everyone else has to think about how much money they spend. Everyone. Take Bernado Silva for example. City ask how much, Monaco say ‘€50 million’ and City just pay it. Everyone else would offer say €40/45 million and it would become a long, protracted saga but City don’t, they just pay it without even negotiating. We’re now playing a whole different ball game. Of course, Guardiola still has to get a tune out of them and they are great to watch but that they’re financially on a different planet is a massive advantage.
I guess that’s the benefit of being funded by a small, super-rich country! So, second place would be a result then?
Second would be excellent; I’d take top four right now to be honest.
And so, what would constitute a successful season overall then Andy?
Top four and they beat Barcelona in the next round of the Champions League (that’s not going to happen is it). I’d definitely take that.
Don’t write off your chances of upsetting Barca just yet. Stranger things and all that…
On a slightly different note, are you aware of the interview Delia and her husband Michael gave to Henry Winter for The Times last year? In said interview, which was done to commemorate their 20-year anniversary as majority shareholders, they portrayed a rather dim view of foreign ownership in English football and made crystal clear their intention of never selling their stake in Norwich City; instead handing it down, as part of his inheritance, to her nephew. The club is to be self-financing and basically that’s it.
Understandably, many Norwich fans were unhappy with their point-blank refusal to even consider external investment.
It’s entirely up to them isn’t it but I can understand the view of those Norwich fans. They don’t care where the money comes from. If Kim Jong-un wanted to buy Norwich and spend £400 million on new players, and buy some big-name, world class superstars then the fans wouldn’t object – that’s what football supporters are like – but it’s their club and therefore their decision.
True. In that regard we have to suck it up, but it just feels that while they obviously played a vital role in saving the club from financial ruin 20 years ago, they are now applying a handbrake on any future growth.
They might change their minds. If you get back to the Premier League [big if – Ed] then suddenly someone offers them a lot of money… they might think differently. Things change.
Guess so. We all appreciate the good things they’ve done. Just a shame it’s come to this.
Anyway, in keeping with tradition the final question will be asking for a prediction for Saturday. Go for it…
It’s very hard to predict because I don’t know what sort of side Norwich are going to put out. I don’t know how good they are, how up for it they are going to be. Logic will tell you Chelsea are going to win because they are the Premier League side and one of the best sides in Europe but it’s the FA Cup so don’t be surprised if Norwich turn Chelsea over.
Hhmm… have to confess, however hard I try, I most definitely would be surprised. But, as you say, it is the FA Cup.
Cheers to Andy for his time and for humouring the fawning sycophant on the other end of the phone. Here’s hoping for a humdinger of a cup tie