17 May 1997, what a fantastic day that was. The sun shone relentlessly, an early rendition of One Man Went to Mow by 40,000 Blues fans was climaxed by Robbie’s 42-second wonder strike, and Chelsea won their first major trophy for 26 years. During the hour-long post-match celebrations, surely the longest Wembley has ever seen, the outpouring of joy and emotion from the Blues fans told its own story: the dark years were over and we were back.
As Wisey and Co. ran, danced and slid around the pitch until nigh on 6pm, they received something from the long suffering supporters which was tangible: gratitude. Many of those fans had stuck with the Blues through thin and thinner since the early-70s triumphs of Sexton’s boys. Now, as we wallowed in the glory of victory once again, there was a feeling that Rotherham, Wigan and all those other ignominious defeats over the past quarter of a century had been worth it. We’d seen and lived through the bad times and they had made the taste of success all the sweeter.
Quite what some of the modern day supporters would have made of the late-70s/early-80s Chelsea is anyone’s guess, although I think we can hazard a pretty good one. Would they have turned their noses up at the ramshackle stadium, crumbling terraces and health hazard toilet blocks? I think so. Would they have been prepared to run the gauntlet at West Ham, Millwall or Leeds just to cheer on their heroes for ninety minutes? Doubt it. Would they have been able to stomach the latest Graham Wilkins own-goal, John McNaught mistimed tackle or Alan Mayes missed sitter? What do you think?
It’s impossible to pinpoint exactly when the demographic of our support changed, but changed it has. I suspect it happened sometime between winning our first Premier League title under Mourinho in 2005 and repeating the feat a year later. Whatever, the fact is our supporters have become spoilt.
I’m told by somebody with close links to the club that the manager was very unhappy about the booing at the West Brom game, as well he might given that it was his first game in charge at the Bridge. Yes, we’re not playing with the same confidence and swagger of days gone by, but no amount of booing is going to change that. Let’s get behind the team like the fans of yesteryear generally did and see if that helps. If it doesn’t, I’m fairly certain the powers that be won’t be slow to step in and make their feelings known to AVB.
Transfer deadline day isn’t what it once was. When I think back to the old transfer deadline, it was always a Thursday in late March and was generally a low-key affair. Now it is almost an industry in itself, owned by Sky Sports News and managed enthusiastically by the indefatigable Jim White. Where the old transfer deadline once brought us the news that Chelsea had signed Clive Wilson but loaned him straight back to Manchester City to aid the Sky Blues in their fight against relegation, it now has ex-players tweeting the news that City have offered £200m and a maniac to the world’s best team for the world’s best player. Chris Kamara later revealed that he was on a wind-up, but it says much for the change in football’s world order that some of us took it seriously, albeit safe in the knowledge that Barcelona would no more want to gain Balotelli than lose Messi.
Obviously, Sp*rs, either as a result of talking themselves into a corner or a genuine desire to retain a key player, did not accept the ridiculous money on offer for Luka Modric, so the Blues moved instead for Raul Meireles, who will presumably become the latest player to be admonished by all and sundry for daring to leave Anfield for another club. He’s scored one winner at the Bridge already, let’s hope there are plenty more to come.
One of the positives about giving up my season ticket in the summer was the opportunity to sit in other parts of the ground, particularly as my previous seat in the Family Section was relatively close to the away fans. So you can imagine my frustration when my son and I took our seats for the Norwich game, only to discover that we were within spitting distance of Norfolk’s finest. To be fair to the travelling Canaries, they seemed reasonably good humoured and far less obnoxious than most, but their dress sense was absolutely shocking! I initially thought they had turned up in 70s themed fancy dress, but eventually realised that this was no party. Bernard Matthews’ boys were here in Primark chic, and they meant business. I will be asking CFCnet’s Peter Sampson, a Chelsea loyalist despite living in Reepham in Norfolk, to make contact with his Norwich counterparts and have a quiet word. It simply wasn’t acceptable, particularly with so many children in close proximity.
The day after the Norwich game, I kept good my promise to go shopping with my wife despite subsequently discovering I would have to miss two attractive looking live games on TV. You know your luck is out when you’re being dragged around shops, looking for school uniform, as Sp*rs are shipping five at home and Arsenal are suffering their biggest defeat since the 19th century. With North London capitulating so readily to Manchester, it seems there really is only one team in London.
Come on you Blues.