Anelka a genuine class act
Nicolas Anelka has been judged by plenty who do not know him - so now is the time to trust the judgement of those who do.
Let's start with Jamie Carragher. Not a man to suffer fools, especially if they are team-mates, he recently reflected on Gerard Houllier's decision not to sign Anelka after a six-month loan spell at Liverpool eight years ago.
"I think it's a bit strong to say it was one of the worst decisions ever, but it's fair to say it was a mistake," he said. Especially when the mistake is compounded to the extent of ditching the notion of signing Anelka and shipping in El-Hadji Diouf instead. Now that is a mistake.
And then there is Chelsea assistant coach Ray Wilkins. He works on a daily basis with the striker endlessly stereotyped as "Le Sulk" and was perfectly placed to deliver his verdict after Anelka's Rolls Royce display in Saturday's FA Cup fourth round win at Preston.
Anelka scored 25 goals last season for Chelsea
Anelka, as he has for so long now, performed with intelligence on and off the ball, worked selflessly for Chelsea and chipped in with the crucial opening goal in an ominously comfortable 2-0 win. Clever movement coupled with a cutting edge.
So Wilkins was only too happy to talk when I asked him if Anelka had ever been more settled, or as good, as he is now.
"You'd have to ask Nico how settled he is, but from our point of view he is playing some outstanding football," Wilkins said. "He is a joy to have around the place and he looks an outstanding player at the moment."
Seemingly forever tainted by his acrimonious departure from Arsenal to Real Madrid as a youngster, and subsequent nomadic tendencies, now is the time to revisit Anelka and ensure his career is painted in a more charitable light.
Carragher's strident view is supported by a hefty weight of evidence to suggest that among a series of poor policy decisions by Liverpool over many years, the decision to set Anelka free to join Manchester City was down with the worst, with Houllier now readily admitting his mistake.
Chelsea are feeling the full benefit of a player reaching maturity at 30, a quality operator whose ability is still celebrated at former clubs Manchester City and Bolton. They may call him the odd unflattering name - although he was warmly received back at The Reebok - but they never, ever call him a bad player.
Poorly handled by Avram Grant after his arrival from Bolton, Anelka showed great resolve to come back from missing the last penalty in the Champions League final defeat to Manchester United in 2008 to score 25 goals last season.
Guus Hiddink and Carlo Ancelotti have been good for Anelka, and he has been good for them and Chelsea.
He was at it again on Saturday, leading the way as Chelsea punctured any hopes new Preston manager Darren Ferguson had of marking his first game at Deepdale by producing an FA Cup shock.
Chelsea have not got a romantic bone in their body when it comes to the sort of occasion we enjoyed at Deepdale, a fog-shrouded Lancashire day heavy on proud Preston optimism as supporters poured along Sir Tom Finney Way.
Wilkins showed a nice line in self-mockery when he strode in to meet the media as Carlo Ancelotti's understudy and announced: "Sorry, guys. You've got the B team." Not at all, Ray.
And while Ancelotti tinkered around the edges, Chelsea did not send their B Team into battle either. A tank stands on the lawn of a Territorial Army barracks in Deepdale's shadow, and Chelsea provided the Premier League equivalent as Preston were rolled over with relative ease.
Preston explored several routes, none of them successful. They tried the physical approach and Chelsea ploughed through it - and any attempts to outplay Ancelotti's side were always destined to fail.
If there was one missed opportunity, it was the open goal missed by Darren Carter minutes after Anelka put Chelsea ahead. It was a pivotal moment, but Chelsea exuded the authority of a side that would always better what Preston could produce, with Daniel Sturridge adding the second to make the game safe. No shocks here.
Sturridge has scored three goals in his last two games
Chelsea were just too good. No shame in that for Preston or Ferguson and he had every right to be impressed by his new team's refusal to throw the towel in. He can now approach the business of improvement in the Championship with a calendar uncluttered by thoughts of the cup.
It will be some task to take the FA Cup off the holders, and Wilkins signalled their intent when he said: "Putting out such a strong side shows how much we think of the FA Cup. We are the holders, we respect the competition and we want to retain the trophy."
And Anelka has made himself a central figure in that quest - a class act forcing past critics to reassess their verdicts on one of the game's most enigmatic figures.