MAH: Hi mate, first of all how are you? And what’s it been like running the Byline Podcast in Frank’s first season in charge?
Alex: I’m good, man. Tired, but good. And yeah, one of the reasons why I’m tired is because this season has been emotionally exhausting. But more so in a good way than a negative way. It’s just that I feel more connected w/ this team, and part of that is because of the relationships I’ve been lucky enough to build in the last year or so, and take some of those relationships onto the podcast. I’ve really had a blast covering Chelsea on The Byline this season, but obviously it’s much easier to do an episode after a win. Yet I even find that these Chelsea Twitter round-tables I’ve been doing lately help me work out my frustration after a bad result. So overall it’s definitely been a lot of fun.
MAH: I can definitely see why so many feel more connected to this team, heck many of them sat in front of me at games as ball boys not so long ago! Has the guests you’ve interviewed given you a different or altered perspective on the game?
Alex: No question. Probably most of all when I spoke to Howard Webb. We forget so often that these guys are humans, too, and they make mistakes. We all think that every ref is out to get our team, but we forget that all fanbases feel like that about every referee. But yes, overall whether it’s a player, coach, commentator, journalist or whomever, it definitely makes me view the game from a different angle. Which I love.
MAH: The man certainly commands respect, always felt like English Tribalism kicks in mainly when it comes to butting heads with referees. To wrap up on people you’ve interviewed, who would you say gave you that jaw-dropping, star stuck type feeling to conversate with?
Alex: Luckily that’s a tough one, as I’ve been fortunate to have a number of them already that I’ve doubted if it was even real, but I think I would have to say Martin Tyler, just because of how iconic he is within football. I always wanted to be a sports commentator growing up, so even though Peter Drury is my personal favorite, Martin Tyler is almost God like to me.
MAH: I could write a book of iconic moments created by Martin Tyler, he always adds to the occasion. Onto your fandom of Chelsea, which moment do you feel marinated you with the club crest?
Alex: Well I always say that the moment I fell in love w/ Chelsea was in the 2007-2008 season, when Frank Lampard hit a long shot and for some reason I was just instantly in love w/ him, the team & the idea of being able to strike a ball like him. So I truly became a Chelsea fan right then and there, but perhaps I didn’t realize just how serious my love for the club was until Ramires chipped Barça in our CL winning campaign. I felt a type of happiness that I hadn’t really felt yet viewing the sport. From then my obsession became borderline unhealthy.
MAH: Hahaha, it’s incredible how a sport can change the mood of an entire day. Our most recent games disappointments against Newcastle and Arsenal legit ruined my week. Would you say there was a particular player/moment from the past decade that will live long in your memory?
Alex: I suppose I could use that Ramires answer again, but since Eden Hazard was/is my favorite player, I would have to say his wonder-solo-goal vs Arsenal. I was insanely sick that weekend, like really, really sick. May have gone through 4 tissue boxes just that Saturday. But when he scored that it all went away. I probably watched it over 30 times later that day, too, just to keep the pain away.
MAH: So, I guess that gives us a clue to our next answer but I’ll ask anyway. If you could pick one former player to of extended their duration at the club to the present day who would that be?
Alex: Hazard. But of course not against his will, so I would somehow magically have to change his childhood dream of playing for Real Madrid, to dreaming of staying with Chelsea for over a decade and retiring w/ the club. (Or maybe allowing him to spend his very last season w/ Lille)
MAH: Onto the season we’re having, which Cobham phenomenon has impressed you most in their Debut Chelsea season?
Alex: I won’t say Reece James, because I’m not surprised at all w/ how good he’s been. I would say Tammy. I’ve always believed in him and definitely advocated for him to get his shot, but he’s impressed me w/ the variety of different types of goals he’s scored so far. It’s not like he’s just been poaching. And his hold-up play has also been better than I thought it would be in his first season w/ the club. Sure, he may have had the goals dry up recently, but it’s also been impressive how much he’s played and been depended on.
MAH: I’d personally go with Tomori, but it’s close for sure. I’ve just been so surprised with how composed he’s been back there. The way he covered Alonso against Liverpool and managed Salah was truly exceptional. So, which areas of Lampard’s management tenure so far do you feel could be improved upon going forward?
Alex: Consistency. I believe he’s a very smart man, and has a lot of good ideas, but sometimes I think he overthinks things, especially personnel & formations. I know he prides himself on being able to adapt game to game based on the opponent, which is great, but sometimes I wish he would just stick w/ the same personnel (for example a CB pairing) and the same formation, and make the opponent adapt to him instead. But I definitely think he will iron that out. In a way it feels like he’s trying to experiment at times for the long term benefit, to see what he likes and what he definitely doesn’t like.
MAH: Couldn’t agree more, I feel like there’s a top manager in there. With January coming to a close if you could select one position to strengthen what would that be?
Alex: I’m going to take the easy way out here. Because January is a really tough time to find the right player for now AND the future. So my answer is someone who can help Chelsea NOW score more goals off all the chances they’re creating. So if that’s a striker, fine, perhaps it’s a playmaker who is a winger or an attacking midfielder, but I would just say ideally, it’s someone who can help w/ goals NOW, but that also doesn’t hurt more long term moves, like a Sancho. Aka… it’s very difficult for me to answer. I will add that I view LB as a huge need, but I’m resigned to the idea that it won’t be able to be addressed till the summer.
MAH: And Finally if forced to choose between UCL qualification or a 1970s FA Cup remake win at Wembley for Frank and the squad in the classical kit, which would it be?
Alex: Wow. What a cruel question. My motto is definitely trophies over everything, but what makes it sooooooo difficult is, CL qualification is extra important this year, as it could REALLY help Chelsea pull in some big summer targets, after losing Hazard and not being able to replace him last summer. But, I will have to say the FA Cup win, because I’d absolutely love for Lampard to win a trophy in his first season w/ the club, and for all these young players to start like that as well. And yes, maybe an FA Cup win wouldn’t have the same pull/appeal for transfer targets as CL qualification would, but it would add a positive feeling to the first season under this new regime, and I do believe this “project” happening at Chelsea is already somewhat appealing to some players out there on other teams. So it would only add to that. But trust me, this wasn’t easy to answer, and I’ll probably go back & forth on it in my head now.