Chelsea win was good for England

WHAT a defining game Chelsea's Champions' League win over Arsenal was on Tuesday night.Not only does it confirm that Chelsea are true challengers at the top of the Premiership but it gave heart to our national team.

WHAT a defining game Chelsea's Champions' League win over Arsenal was on Tuesday night.

Not only does it confirm that Chelsea are true challengers at the top of the Premiership but it gave heart to our national team.

As a patriot and lover of England I went to bed really excited at the performances of our English players on show and in particular Frank Lampard.

Team him up in central midfield with Stephen Gerrard with David Beckham doing his thing on the right and they will boss the middle against any team.

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Lampard is one of those rare things - a son who is even better than the dad. I played against Frank Lampard senior when he was at West Ham and he was a terrific player, a very good full back but Frank junior has emulated him.

He seems to have three lungs, wins the ball, can pass and can score. I would have him ahead of any other English midfielder right now alongside Gerrard.

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We can also take heart from John Terry, who has made big strides in his claim for the centre-back role, and we have Wayne Bridge challenging Ashley Cole at full back.

If they can take this on to the next level - the international stage - then we have a lot to be excited about.

The reaction of Claudio Ranieri on the sidelines at the whistle showed what it meant to him and it seems the only person in the whole country who doubts his ability is at Stamford Bridge, though I hear a whisper that his future has been sorted out already.

The Tinkerman did not tinker too much but when he did make changes at half-time it made the difference.

I have seen more perfect games, with more perfect goals, but I can rarely remember seeing a more powerful performance by a team.

As I say, for me it was a defining game and a game where Chelsea came of age.

Arsenal are still a great side but we have always wondered what they would be like without a fit Thierry Henry, and he was clearly struggling. If the hamstring injury is serious then it will be interesting where the cutting edge comes from.

After so much talk of them going unbeaten through the season they have now lost twice in a week and you wonder how that will affect them with Liverpool and Newcastle coming up in the league over Easter.

All of a sudden the four-point lead they have over Chelsea doesn't look so frightening and we are in for an exciting finish to the season.

DATES have never been my strong point and I have not thought too much about my birthdays for some years now. I was also a little taken aback when it was pointed out to me this week that after Saturday's game I will be 20 short of 1,000 matches as a manager.

That would be a fabulous milestone and I would love to pass it in the Premiership with Ipswich Town.

That was the aim when I came here and while the conditions may have changed the ambition has not.

There is no great plan and when I do decide to go it will probably be an instant decision. I will just wake up one day, think I've had enough and go. I have said before in this column that I would love Ipswich to be my last club but I have no idea when I will retire. The area is lovely, I'm totally happy here and it is a terrific club. The fans are great. There is a different desire here, they are no less fervent but perhaps more sporting than those of Liverpool or Manchester.

I'm proud of my CV, three promotions, a couple of cup semi-finals, and won the FA Cup, now hopefully I can add something to Ipswich's list.

The 22 years I have been a manager have been fantastic, during which time there have been some amazing highs and lows.

I'm proud of my record, starting with the 12 years at Oldham where we were tilting at windmills. We won the old Second Division title and reached two semi-finals when I was there.

We had some great footballers there and played some outstanding football but they still didn't get the recognition they deserved. People talked about the plastic pitch but so many of those players went on to play in the top flight for a long time. Ian Marshall, Andy Ritchie, Denis Irwin - the list goes on.

Then there were two-and-a -half years at Everton where we won the cup and kept them up. At Manchester City we won successive promotions so it would be nice to add to that list another promotion.

FELLOW managers have often called me up for my predictions of where they will finish in a season but I gave up trying to work out Division One a long time ago.

It is not a lot easier deciding who is going to go down from the Premiership this season.

It is going to be hard for Wolves who will probably go down and I have said that all season. The more senior players are their biggest influence and each have all been at the top level and were great players of the last decade.

I would not like to see Leeds get relegated.

I have always liked them as a club and they have had the fright of their lives financially. The new owners have taken a calculated risk and I'm sure they have catered for relegation should it happen

That is not to say I would like to see anyone else go down either.

Manchester City have perhaps got good enough players not to go down, but it would have been interesting to see where they would be had they not beaten United.

Leicester, Portsmouth and Blackburn are all scrapping and Rovers are on something of a glass mountain. Invariably people say certain clubs are too good to go down but we have heard that before and seen what happens.

Once you go down it is very difficult to come back up. I know what it is like after going down with Oldham and at Manchester City and it is not easy.

You lose players, as I'm sure Leeds will find if they do go down. Mark Viduka and Alan Smith won't stay and every team wants to beat you and thrives on the big stadium feel.

But I hope that doesn't happen and Leeds do stay up.

ONCE again we have seen footballers hit the front pages rather than the back with the David Beckham 'revelations'.

It is sadly the case that the game is sometimes a caricature of itself, although I doubt it is anything like Footballers' Wives.

Of course I have never seen it but Mrs Royle tells me it is complete nonsense, nothing like the reality, but compulsive viewing nonetheless.

The difference between players of now and those of my playing days was brought home again when I heard about a Middlesbrough squad player crashing in his Ferrari when it aquaplaned on a motorway.

I once had a similar experience in a 10-year-old mini that only had three gears and a ball joint went so the wheel fell off.

Not quite the same as writing off a Ferrari though.

I can remember my first car was a Vauxhall and the car park at Everton was filled with those and Hillmans, certainly English cars.

These days the German manufactures seem to have taken over the world when it comes to footballers' cars.

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