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Kerry Dixon: Torres will prove his worth for Chelsea

Chelsea goalscoring legend Kerry Dixon is still the club's second top goalscorer of all time, a feat that may never be surpassed.

He talked to Total Football's James Barrett about the Blues' title hopes, a stolen hat-trick ball at Doncaster during his playing days, and why he believes Fernando Torres will prove to be a good signing.

To football fans of a certain generation the name Kerry Dixon represents the archetypal centre forward; brave, tenacious and scores bags full of goals. His blond hair and strong physique drew comparisons with Roy Race, the main protagonist in the Roy of the Rovers comic strips, but Dixon’s career wasn’t a work of fiction.

He scored 193 goals in almost a decade as a Chelsea player and experienced the highs and lows of a club that, while never failing to enthral fans in victory or defeat, didn't quite manage to win any major honours.

Dixon (pictured) won eight caps and scored four goals for England and surely would have made more international appearances if it wasn’t for a combination of injury and competing for places alongside the likes of Gary Lineker, Peter Beardsley and Mark Hateley. 

He is still involved with Chelsea, helping with match day hospitality and providing co-commentary on Chelsea TV, so he gets to see the Blues play regularly.

“I think the team is moving in the right direction under Villas-Boas, but there is still room for improvement,” he said. “At a lot of the games this season, particularly the match at Old Trafford, Chelsea have tried to play attractive football. I felt we gave a great account of ourselves against Manchester United and, on a different day, we could have won the game.”

Attacking stance 

Some pundits thought it naïve of Chelsea to take such an attacking stance against the current champions, but Dixon doesn’t agree. “If you go to a place like Old Trafford, play defensive and nick the game 1-0 then everyone pats you on the back. However, if you defend for 90 minutes and lose 1-0 thanks to a poor refereeing decision or one piece of bad luck, everyone will say you got what you deserved.

“I know the Chelsea fans would prefer to see the Blues give it a go and lose 5-4 than to see them play cagey every match, but as long as we don’t lose every time of course!”

The ideal balance for Chelsea could be the defensive solidity of the Jose Mourinho era coupled with the fresh attacking slant Villas-Boas is adopting, and Dixon feels that has to be the management team’s aim.

“That’s what we have to achieve and if we concede a goal or two along the way, we need to make sure we can score two or three to achieve victory. The club will want wins first and foremost, but I feel part of Villas-Boas’ brief is to ‘do it in style’.”

And to win the Premier League this season, Dixon says the odd loss against a so-called ‘top four’ side isn’t the biggest setback in the long run. “So many teams in this league have their own unique attributes that, while beating title rivals is important, everyone will be taking points from each other. I think this season is a top three in any case, with Arsenal fighting alongside Liverpool and Tottenham to secure that fourth spot.”

Red card 

Chelsea’s current blond-haired number nine, Fernando Torres, had just started to hit a bit of form when his red card against Swansea resulted in him being banned for three league matches. “It’s a real shame that happened at this time, but it was a reckless challenge,” said Dixon. “It’s another set back for him, but I firmly believe Torres will prove to be a good signing for Chelsea in the long run.”

Dixon himself suffered barren goalscoring patches, but he believes that if you are in a team that keeps creating chances then the situation doesn’t last long. “The goals do come again, you just have to keep going and not be afraid to miss chances to eventually break the cycle".

Before signing for Chelsea in 1983, Dixon had no trouble hitting the back - and a game for Reading at Doncaster was a case in point. The Royals lost the game 7-5 and Dixon scored four of Reading's goals, but when he went to claim the match ball it was missing.

“Ah yes, I remember that well,” he said. “On that day a young Doncaster lad called Ian Snodin also scored a hat-trick and he had taken the ball from the referee while we were getting a dressing down from our manager. By the time I found him, he had already had it signed by all of his team-mates!

“He is a good lad though and whenever he reminds me that he still has that ball I just tell him its ok, I’ve got plenty of those back at home.” And that hat-trick was the only one of Snodin’s career.

"Done wonders for Doncaster" 

Dixon and Snodin went on to manage Doncaster later in their careers - and Dixon is backing newly-appointed Rovers boss Dean Saunders.

“I hope he does well there and manages to galvanise the players. Chairman John Ryan is a great man and has done wonders for Doncaster since his appointment. I hope together they can consolidate Rovers’ position as a Championship club this season."

Dixon has also had managerial experience at the lower end of the football ladder, notably with spells at Boreham Wood and Hitchin Town, but he insists he is done with that side of the game for the foreseeable future.

“My brief managerial career was more than enough for me personally. I found non-league a difficult place to settle in. But if a person takes to it well and proves themselves, like Saunders did at Wrexham before Doncaster took him, it can be used as a successful stepping stone to forward careers."

Dixon believes Chelsea have a fighting chance to win the elusive Champions League trophy this season, but doesn’t think the media’s attention on ‘Abramovich’s holy grail’ is warranted.

“The newspapers make hay with that line of thought, but it’s not necessarily a millstone around the club’s neck,” he said. “No-one can come into any football club, say to the manager ‘You must win the Champions League’ and expect it to happen. In my eyes, if Chelsea win the Premier League or any of the cups this season, then that’s a great start for Villas-Boas regardless.

“Of course Villas-Boas’ brief would have been discussed with the owner and the board, but the Champions League is full of top teams and managers all fighting for the same thing,” he concludes. “We’ll have to utilise our squad fully and I think some of the younger lads will get more chances to play, but we are in every competition to win them all – that’s the nature of our game!”

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