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By ESPN Staff

Kenyon pushing the Chelsea brand


There used to be a football club down at Stamford Bridge.

The team wore blue shirts, rarely challenged for trophies other than those dreamed up by eccentric and departed chairman, Ken Bates, and always had ambitions way above their station. They were called Chelsea FC and even though they were located in one of the richest spots on England's property map, they were always among the poor men of London football.

Big clubs likes Tottenham and Arsenal generally pinched any of their best players and those who opted to support the good ship Chelsea did so in the knowledge that their days of glory would be few and far between.

Quite what those genuine Chelsea fans make of occasions such as this FA Cup third round tie is open to question. The stadium may have been full for the visit of Macclesfield Town, but you got the feeling that the majority of those present had never before set foot inside a major football ground.

This was the day when Peter Kenyon, Chelsea's shrewd if cynical chief executive, saw a glimpse of the club he is desperate to build. With the average age of most supporters appearing to be around six, the confusion many displayed as they tried to work out which train took them towards Fulham Broadway station confirmed that this is a breed of supporter who have not been to this stadium too many times in the past.

Sporting the Chelsea shirts Santa Claus was kind enough to leave under their Christmas tree a couple of weeks ago, this was an excited bunch of kids who are fortunate to have picked out a team to support who lack the fan base to fill their 40,000-plus stadium each week, meaning tickets can be snapped up with relative ease.

Kenyon and his marketing men have targeted the army of kids who will support any team that are winning, in the desperate hope that they may develop into genuine Chelsea fans in years to come. It may well be a winning policy in terms of shifting warehouse loads of merchandise, but those few hardy fans who have been here for many a year must feel as if the club they fell in love with has been taken away from them.

Swallowed up by a Russian billionaire, Chelsea is now a club overrun by fans whose loyalties are liable to switch as quickly as they were developed. The soul of this club has been wrenched away by a bunch of screaming tots who could easily be asking Santa for a Manchester United shirt a year from now if the Premiership title is residing at Old Trafford come May.

Some may view my critique as that of a cynical hack who is growing old a little too quickly, as this most cherished of days in the English football calendar is always a little different to the rest. FA Cup third round Saturday has long been established as one of the highlights of the season and a bulk of the 4,500 Macclesfield fans on hand were arguably as raw to the prospect of live football as the majority of the Chelsea fans in attendance.

Those of us who have not been sucked in by Kenyon's master plan came to Stamford Bridge dreaming of a cup upset to beat them all, but a glance at the Chelsea team sheet appeared to burst those ambitions before a ball was kicked.

Rumours that manager Jose Mourinho would rest the likes of Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Andriy Shevchenko proved groundless, much to the delight of the thousands who had merely come to see some of the heroes from their computer games in real life action, ensuring the task facing Paul Ince's underdogs would be little short of monumental.

They fell behind after just 16 minutes as poor defending allowed Frank Lampard to open the scoring with a close range shot and with Macclesfield employing tactics that amounted to a flat back 10, an avalanche seemed inevitable. With that in mind, the sight of Macclesfield's John Murphy picking up on Ricardo Carvalho's mistake in the box and blasting home a stunning equaliser five minutes before the break was more than unexpected, yet it proved to be a mere fleeting moment of glory.

Lampard restored Chelsea's lead less than a minute later and when keeper Tommy Lee was sent off for his foul on Shevchenko seconds after the re-start, the game was well and truly over. Lampard completed his hat-trick from the spot kick that followed and with defender David Morley taking his place in goal, a rout seemed inevitable.

The ineffective Shaun Wright-Phillips covered up his flaws with a 66th minutes goal and Mikel John-Obi did the same with his long range screamer late on and while Ricardo Carvalho's late sixth gave the score line a more crushing look, Macclesfield could feel content that they had given their all.

The most alarming aspect of this game must be Shevchenko's pathetic performance. Yet to find any kind of form in a Chelsea shirt, he was incapable of beating a part-time goalkeeper when clean through on goal in the second half and Mourinho struggled to defend his £30.8m man.

'He tried hard,' was Mourinho's defence for his marksman. 'In some games, I have not been able to say that he tried his best, but he did that in this game and I have to see it as a small step forward. In the past, he has given up without a fight, but not this time. Still, to score six goals and for Sheva not to get one is disappointing.'

The ever entertaining Mourinho also took the opportunity to have a swipe at his growing band of doubters. 'I have to laugh at these people who say I am in the darkest days of my managerial career after three draws,' he barked. 'I'm second in the Premiership, in the last 16 of the Champions League and still in both domestic cups and they say it is a dark hour.

'These people don't make me angry, they just make me laugh. They have even been writing this stuff back home in Portugal, but I am very confident about the position I'm in and it's only because my career is so successful that they write I'm in a dark hour.'

The 20,000 kids who attended this game in their spanking new blue shirts will cuddle their teddies in bed tonight content that they made the right choice when they decided to support Chelsea last week.

Andriy Shevchenko may not be so convinced that pinning his colours to the Stamford Bridge mast was his wisest move.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Frank Lampard: The Chelsea captain turned in a silky display that blew the minnows of Macclesfield away and the ease with which he completed his hat-trick confirmed his brilliance.

FOOD WATCH: The chicken korma on offer went down a treat as the Chelsea catering team delivered the goods once again.

LAMPARD CALL-UP: Mourinho revealed that Chelsea's match-winner should have started this game on the bench, only for Lassana Diarra to miss a pre-match team meeting and lose his starting place in the process.

INCE NO SHOW: The Macclesfield boss has clearly learned something from former boss Sir Alex Ferguson as he ducked out of his press conference duties.

SHEVCHENKO WATCH: This was a woeful performance from a striker who looks lost in Chelsea colours. The desperate nature of his last minute shot highlighted his stunning lack of self belief and it may be best for all concerned if he ends his Stamford Bridge demise.

CHELSEA VERDICT: Their conversion from a football club to a marketing brand aimed at the under-10s is complete. May the old Chelsea FC rest in peace.

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