I have been at the Bridge every season since 1971. I grew up there. Albert Camus, Nobel-Prize-winning philosopher (and goalkeeper), asserted, “All that I know most surely about morality and obligations, I owe to football.” I would not place my debt quite that high, but I sure owe Chelsea a lot. The joys and exhilaration, the disappointment and despair, the friends and camaraderie, the saviour faire and street sense… hell, as we all know, there just ain’t many better feelings than being there for a great goal in a big game. Well, there isn’t a better feeling.
But i am a sad old git. Those days, which I thought would never end, unfortunately have. As Elvis once said, I didn’t agree at the time, but he did sum it up, ‘I don’t want to go to Chelsea.’ Stamford Bridge is not the place for me. Not interested. Forget it. You lot have it. I will still go once a year, as i have done for the last few now, only to keep up my record. And I still go away, at least ten away-days a season. But as for the Bridge, once a year is more than enough.
My old stomping ground has been losing it since the Scoucers’ rampage in Brussels and all seated stadiums. I pine for the Shed. That oddly-angled canopy where the pitch was so distant that we created our own entertainment. We started the only, as far as I am aware, choreographed song in football. Everyone had to get down in the middle, till 10 men; the white wall sometimes joined in, even the tea bar once or twice. Anyone remember Match of the Day’s picture of the Shed as the camera behind the goal swivelled back after we had equalised (I think) against Palace and Malcolm’s fedora?
Chris Evan’s Euro 96’ers brought the rot into Chelsea. All those people who knew nowt about football, other than it was supposedly coming somewhere, looked round for a team. We were bubbling under, had been to Wembley and Europe for first time in 20 odd years, the most fashionable team in London. Who else would they pick? And they lucked out, went to Wembley as winners the very next season (has any team stayed in the ground and sang so long as we did that day?) and then… the glory years.
Thing is, these people don’t know what singing at football is about. For me, and, I imagine, most 70’s and 80’s Shed boys (the ex-North Standers, well, they are a different story, remember when no one turned up, so they came and took the Shed instead?), the songs are as much of the game as boots on leather. We used to take the micky out of the Library and muppets at Old Trafford. Now, in turn, we deserve that abuse, in spades. Be careful what you wish for.
My one game at the Bridge this year was the Tottenham. Always a special day. I am still smarting from last year’s Carling Debacle. Forget the football, yeah, we were poor and Avram showed true colours by scratching his head under the glare of the world’s media as the team sorted itself for extra time. I don’t mind losing a Carling Cup. I hated our fans. With a passion. This was Tottenham. The team we sing about 20 times a game, no matter who we play. This was our first final with them since 67, the day, so i have been told, our enmity began. And, in 120 minutes, we don’t get one song, not one single song, going around our end. Not one. Pathetic!
I swore that day that I would never go to a final with these Chelsea ‘final fans’. My resolve was tested when we, at last, beat the Scousers – that ‘We’re going to Moscow, F*** your history, we’re going to… as we came down those bleeding endless stairs at Newcastle was a season highlight. Shame we cant sing that one any more. I was offered a free ticket – and met with incredulity when i turned it down. I was the one who bought a non-returnable flight to Istanbul the day we first drew the Scouse in the CL semis. But I stuck by it, no Moscow, I just wouldn’t go to a final with those fans.
I sang and sang in the Matthew Harding Upper last month against the Tottenham. As per usual. I looked around at my fellow fans. They sat, quiet. This is Tottenham. And it’s quiet? I sing and sing. I look at them, as the odd face looks over at me with a mixture of disbelief and disdain. You need to get behind the team, I urge them, and we have let the Tottenham back in this one. This lot have no idea of the concept, none at all. They have never even seen us lose. Get behind the team? The team are here to entertain us. As at any theatre.
I sing and sing. ‘Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea…’ Even they must know the words for this one. If you keep going long enough, it will take off. This is not the East Stand, not even the West Stand. Eventually one guy, two rows down, five seats along, a big, fat, lump of a thing, stands up, turns around and bellows at me, ‘Why don’t you just shut up?’
I am genuinely astonished. This is the first time I have ever been told not to sing by a Chelsea ‘fan’. There have been many who would have wanted to; I am a noisy bar steward. But no one has. I sing on. I slip, ‘Lardy’ into the end of one song. Lardy is furious.
‘Right, you,’ he looks like he is about to clamber over the seats to me. He points a finger at me,
‘I’m going to cut you up outside.’
You what? A Chelsea ‘fan’ threatens to knife another because he is singing? Now though I might be loud, I am not lary. I am a Shed boy, not North Stand. A fight over here, I am over there. Threatened with a cutting up for singing in the North Stand?
End of… You can stick your Stamford Bridge where the sun don’t shine mate.
A thank you to the cfcuk fanzine for the use of this article. If you wish to pick up a copy of the cfcuk fanzine why not visit their website or visit the stall which is located opposite Fulham Broadway each and every match day.