London's Long Wait For A European Champion Goes On
Arsenal and Chelsea's defeats in the Champions League semi-finals highlighted once again that the capital city has still not provided a European champion club to match the efforts of Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and Nottingham.
The two clubs have come so close to breaking London's duck in recent years but they weren't the first capital club to tilt for Europe's top prize.
Chelsea should have got the chance in 1955 when the European Cup was inaugurated but the hidebound English FA declined to enter their champions. As a result, Tottenham got first crack in 1961 after their epic Double-winning season.
Spurs made a good fist of it too but not for the last time, London's challenge dipped out at the semi-final stage. There was no shame in going out to a Eusebio-inspired Benfica though, especially by a tight 4-3 aggregate margin.
After Spurs' initial effort it was Arsenal who took over. Bertie Mee's squad emulated Spurs with their own Double in 1971 but their first attempt on the crown was halted by the great Ajax side, who were in the second year of their hat-trick of wins. Arsenal had another chance in 1991 but only reached the second round when they were knocked out by Benfica.
A year later the Champions League concept came about and since then Arsenal and latterly Chelsea, have enjoyed multiple attempts to win the title. The Gunners have had 11 succesive appearances going back to 1999.
In that time they have lost one Final (2006), a semi-final and three quarter-finals.Chelsea's overall performance is better, though they too have made just one Final (2008, lost on penalties). To add to the heartbreak of the loss to Manchester United in Moscow, Chelsea have now lost 4 semi-finals and one quarter-final.
After the loss to Barcelona this week the Blues were talking of conspiracies against English teams but London sides seem to attract plain bad luck. In Chelsea's final they lost on penalties after John Terry slipped taking he kick that might have won it. Arsenal played most of their 2006 final with ten men.
Ironically Arsenal (twice), Chelsea (twice) and Spurs (three times) have all been winners in the other European trophies. West Ham also chipped in with a single Cup-Winners Cup victory.
Arsenal and Chelsea are back for another go next season. Spurs might conceivably join them in a three way assault one day but no one will be putting too much money on a London win. Perhaps one day two capital clubs will contest the final, just to make sure one of them breaks the jinx.