So there we were, me and PhotoMonkey on New Year’s Eve at Stamford Bridge watching Chelsea versus Aston Villa.
My pal of over 40 years and fellow season ticket holder was unavailable due to his daughter getting married (priorities all wrong there ?!!). So, enter my future son-in-law, now temporarily in London, to join me. As we waited for the football gladiators to emerge from the tunnel to entertain us he asked me the question I’ve heard many times before; usually by people who can’t understand one man’s fixation which has lasted almost 50 years and that is “why do I support Chelsea?”
Having a father that had no interest in sport it was therefore peculiar that my elder brother and I were football mad and at the age of around nine or ten I nagged him into taking me to see a proper professional team. Our nearest team was Brentford who languished in the lower divisions and were decidedly average. After a couple of visits to Griffin Park, home of ‘The Bees’, I apparently turned to him and asked if there were any other teams around “’cos this lot are rubbish!”
What it was that converted me a couple of years later into a dyed in the wool blues forever supporter I don’t really know. It could have been those first magical night games when, as a young boy, I marveled at the crowds, the noise, the smells, the camaraderie and the atmosphere generated by the floodlights. Whatever it was, it turned me into a Chelsea supporter.
By the age of 12 I had started my lone regular visits to The Bridge. This would be the 1963/4 season and the team had just been promoted to the first division (now Premier League) and the helter skelter ride of being a Blues supporter had begun in earnest.
Now there’s a line of thought in football that current Chelsea supporters only became so in the late 1990s when a certain Russian oligarch became the owner and spent ridiculous amounts of money to win the big trophies consistently since that time, but I feel I have earned the right to bask in these glories having suffered with the club through the lows and the very lows of the mid seventies and eighties when the faithful few thousand turned up to a grotty ground in the rain and saw our hopes dashed time and time again.
When my interested started, winning ‘the double’ (both league and cup titles) was something I’d never dreamed I would see, for this was football’s Everest only achieved by the footballing gods and this summit only reached by four teams in the previous 100 years. And now we are the fifth. We had done it. This has given me the new-found ability to appreciate not only our world-class stars, but to marvel at the individual skills of our opponents and applaud loudly when they breach our defenses and score a wonderful goal…..
….But only if we win in the end.