Rugby heroes show what Blues are missing

John Inverdale
WHAT part Chris Robshaw played in England's dissection and devouring of the All Blacks on Saturday is open to debate. As captain, he had a good game, and expertly rallied the troops when briefly it looked as though the Red Rose would wilt.

But was he any better a captain this weekend than last, when his tactical ability was called into question? Probably not. He happened to have 14 men alongside him who were strong of character, defiant of spirit, and resolute in their belief that the unthinkable could be achieved. With collective will, anything is possible. If everyone is a leader, then captaincy is a whole lot easier.

Just as England were kicking off at Twickenham, Chelsea were trudging off at Upton Park after a hammering from West Ham. If Robshaw had SAS-mentality troops to follow him over the top, Rafa Benitez has a ramshackle bunch of misfits and young guns lacking leadership, whose dearth of spirit in the past 10 days has been bewildering. Weak of character. Heads down. Abrogating responsibility.

So it’s missing the point for fans to berate Benitez because, like or loathe him, his antics on the touchline are those of a man who cares. The players? It’s as though the old ones have done their bit by winning the Champions League and the young ones are just glad to be there. Who is to inspire them to recapture that glorious carefree spirit of six weeks ago?

A banner at Stamford Bridge proclaims John Terry’s virtues as a captain and leader, but he isn’t fit. Benitez could do worse than ask Robshaw for a rousing team-talk before Wednesday’s match. Or maybe Lawrence Dallaglio, a lifelong Chelsea fan.

Perhaps the solution is more topical. Send for Andrew Flintoff. They need a captain, and he’s been that. They need a fighter; he did that on Friday night. But most of all they need an inspirational leader. Someone to make them care and scrap and work together for a collective goal, and tell Fernando Torres to grow up because he’s behaving like a 14-year-old who’s sent to bed without food. Before every match make them watch England’s win over the All Blacks, and maybe play Freddie up front with Manu Tuilagi as surrogate Didier Drogbas. Radical, but desperate situations require desperate measures. If Chelsea look and learn from events barely eight miles away down the A316, all is not yet lost.