Torres stokes fire amid Terry rumours
The cloak of secrecy that owner Roman Abramovich drapes around his Chelsea empire ensures rumour and counter rumour have become part of the fabric at this club over the last decade. The latest suggests that the original 'Mr Chelsea' is emerging as a leading contender to take over as the club's new manager.
The gossip in the press room at Stamford Bridge prior to this FA Cup tie was that skipper John Terry is a viable option to take over as Chelsea's next permanent head coach from interim boss Roberto Di Matteo, in a coaching set-up that would include an experienced mentor to guide the novice player/manager as he finds his feet in a new job.
Club captain Terry, 31, stated in an interview several years ago that his long-term dream was to become Chelsea manager and as he barked out orders to his team-mates in the final minutes of last Wednesday's extraordinary Champions League triumph against Napoli, he looked the part.
Calling time on the 'old guard' of Terry, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and their fellow Chelsea icons will be no easy task for an outsider, so the suggestion that Abramovich is considering the option of letting one of that number take control of the club's future is both intriguing and unexpected.
If one of the standard bearers of the Chelsea's 'old guard' was placed in charge, maybe the unity required at this club could be found at last; with the FA Cup quarter-final win against Leicester summing up how important it is for this club to be led by the right man.
From the moment referee Lee Probert blew his whistle for the first time in the quarter-final tie against Championship side Leicester, a Chelsea team lacking the presence of Terry and six others from the side that started against Napoli looked desperate to build another brick in their end of season recovery, with the change in attitude of the players since Andre Villas-Boas left evident for all to see.
Early goals from Gary Cahill, his first in a Chelsea shirt, and a second from Salomon Kalou set the tone for the tie before we all sat through another afternoon of joy and despair in the company of Fernando Torres, who finally ended his scoring drought in what was a dramatically improved performance.
After missing a glorious chance to score when presented with a first half header eight yards from goal, Torres's eagerness to find the back of the net became more desperate with each passing minute, although the greediness of his strike partner Daniel Sturridge did little to help his cause.
Then, after 67 minutes, his moment came. Sturridge finally decided to give up on his one man mission to score as he passed to a team-mate in the build up to a move that ended with Torres scuffing a shot past keeper Kasper Schmeichel. Relief and joy combined; a weight was lifted from the shoulders of the Spanish striker.
Torres came within an inch of scoring again seconds later before he backed up a late headed goal with a neat assist for Raul Meireles' last minute strike, giving a hint that he is capable of rediscovering his form in the final phase of this season.
"I needed those goals obviously," Torres admitted to ESPN post-match. "You can see that this team are more committed than before in the last month and I think we show we are determined to finish the season well. The main thing is we are creating more chances that before and if we continue to do that, we can score more."
With a 100% record as stand-in boss, it seems a little harsh for Di Matteo to be hearing rumours of the untested Terry taking his place, but he does not seem to be the type to concern himself with such hyperbole as he delivered what is now becoming a familiarly deadpan press briefing.
"Winning is great for confidence and you can see that we have a bit more belief now," said Di Matteo. "Torres was terrific today and his goals will help him. We all have a lot of belief in him and when you work as hard as he does, the rewards will eventually come. Those rewards are coming for all the team now and we are very happy to be in the FA Cup semi-finals. I look to the next game, not what happens in the distant future."
Leicester deserved their late consolation goals from Jermaine Beckford and a superb 88th minute long range effort from young Ben Marshall and if Petr Cech was not at his best in producing a couple of fine saves, the visitors could have taken more than pride from this tie.
As for Chelsea, the prospect of appearances in the latter stages of the FA Cup and Champions League ensures the gloom that had been hovering over this stadium is quickly dispersing ahead of a summer when the next man in charged with reviving this club will be given his rationale by Abramovich.
There has been a banner hanging at Stamford Bridge for the last few years which may soon have an even more significant meaning. 'John Terry's Blue Army' - complete with sensational Spanish striker - may soon be sent into battle for real.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Fernando Torres. The unselfish Torres could have had five goals in this game if was not so willing to give his team mates chances to score. Chelsea fans can only hope this is the rebirth of their troubled hit-man.
CAHILL TRIBUTE: Chelsea's centre-back sent a personal message of support to the stricken Fabrice Muamba as he unveiled a shirt asking for prayers in the support of his former Bolton team-mate after his opening goal. All inside Stamford Bride echoed those sentiments.
FOXES HEROES: Leicester's 6,000 travelling supporters made up for the lack of noise being created by the Chelsea fans as they gave their side wonderful backing. The additional tickets on offer for visiting fans in this competition certainly gives it an additional spice.
CHELSEA VERDICT: Games against Manchester City and Tottenham in the next seven days will go a long way to deciding their fate in the Premier League, but it won't be long before the decision over who will be charged with leading this club into a bright new future. John Terry, Chelsea manager? Stranger things have happened.