Plastic fans? How about JCLs, prawn sandwich brigade, glory hunters, silent watchers and now, bizarrely, opera lovers. You name it, we’ve had it all chucked in our faces over the years.
It gets worse for cup ties. Hordes of day trippers coming down to London to meet their footballing doom. Some resplendent in jesters hats and balloons. The cries of “Where were you when you were . . . ” coming from one end of the ground. Don’t you just love it – they have no idea where we were. Never mind the fact that most of these “fans” wouldn’t be at their own ground for the next home game, let alone in years gone by. Oh well, Chelsea fan-bashing (the verbal kind) is big news these days, and it’s so easy to jump on the bandwagon.
Supporting this great club gives you a thick skin because without it you might never survive. Being frequently goaded by your work or school mates, most of whom have never been to see the team they are supposed to follow just isn’t much fun. Especially so if the media have whipped them up on any given day. It makes you want to seek solace from within, although up until recently that has been hard as well because under previous regimes, Chelsea has hardly been a family club, has it?
Batesy did so many good things for us, but unless supper clubs were your thing, the average fan hardly felt part of the action. That, in my opinion, is a bad thing, and perhaps a whole generation of Chelsea fans have missed out on something special. We had it in the 70s and 80s because we made it happen and there were fewer obstructions around to belonging to the huge Chelsea community.
It can never be like that again but the good news is that times could be changing. Yes, we’re all “customers” now and we may feel so distant from our mega-rich heroes on the park (especially ones who seemingly only play for managers, not the shirt), but the feeling of belonging is returning, due to the supporters’ efforts and the club who are listening to the fans.
This article is about drumming up further support for the trip to Wigan on 3 November, but it’s so much more than that.
On the face of it, going to this away game is a no brainer if you are able to attend. A Saturday 3pm kick off, not on the telly, cheap match ticket, subsidised travel if you go by official means, loads of space to park if going privately, the best pies in the land and a massive away support like we had in the old days. All for a match in November in the frozen north when the media think the Chelsea bubble is about to burst, just because Jose is no longer around and others are thinking of jumping ship.
Well, it ain’t. Not from where I am standing and I’ll tell you why.
I am lucky enough to be at the forefront of these supporters’ campaigns into boosting atmosphere and generally making it more of a buzz at matches.
One of the things that used to be wrong with the club was that they didn’t listen, and certainly didn’t appear to want to help. The “missing generation” I spoke about may never return, and the club is worse off for it. However, you can’t look back all the time so it’s we, the fans, who need to make a difference NOW. If the club didn’t want to help, then that still shouldn’t stop us. Major progress doesn’t happen overnight, so we have to stick at it and take our initiatives as far as we can. As it happens, the club ARE helping us, and helping bigstyle.
What does it all mean? Well, we are starting to feel a sense of belonging again. There are hundreds of members now registered with Club Shed (you don’t have to sit in the Shed to do so). A community of Chelsea fans who care about the club at least as much as I do, if not more. Club Shed members make up part of the 2,000 or so ST holders now in the Shed end. Who knows if this would have come about had the “Return to the Shed” campaign not got off the ground last February? It’s all snowballing, and the sense of belonging to something worthwhile at last is very real. We have guys from CFCnet, cfcuk, CSG, BAWA, Vital Football and the old CSR forum 2 (theshedend) all pulling together on this. Who’d have thought it possible? The community is growing again. We’re ALL Chelsea.
This free to join community can only flourish from here and a major factor is the club. I’m not paid to say any of this but from small things like getting the Liquidator played when the lads come out to the Hull train for a tenner – the club has to be applauded for listening to us and doing their bit. There are still loads more initiatives on the go, but most of them need YOU, the match-going fan, to join in and make them happen. We have no input into how the club manages its coaching staff, players and PR, but we certainly do when it comes to getting behind those who do want to play for us.
That’s why the Wigan away-day is so important and means much more than just another fixture. It is the fans coming up with ideas like this and not just talking the talk. Ideas like this taken on by the reps amongst the supporters groups and taking them to the club. The club then listening and helping wherever possible. There you go, a club in a real sense, at last.
Players and coaches will come and go, the club will make good and bad decisions along the way but you know what the constant factor is? That’s right, YOU, and the rest of the Chelsea community out there.
With two weeks to go, we are already taking more fans to Wigan than we can to Old Trafford, The Emirates and Anfield. Let’s not stop now. Show the players and your fellow fans that you care by coming along and help us sell out. Join the community of supporters who are at last making such a difference to OUR club. Hey, you might even want to come again to help out the magnificent support the regular away fans give us.