The referential term ‘legend’ is so hackneyed in modern vocabulary that the impact of its usage, particularly in football parlance, has become somewhat diluted. In order to emphasise the achievements of an individual we now find ourselves referring to them as a ‘genuine legend or ‘true legend’. Peter Osgood, Kerry Dixon, Gianfranco Zola, John Terry and Frank Lampard are examples of true Chelsea legends, players whose feats on the pitch, kiss-the-badge loyalty and love for the Club have earned them the respect of true Blue supporters everywhere.
The world of music is no different although there seem to be more categories available for those who want to deify their heroes. There are a multitude of ‘rock gods’ and ‘soul legends’, but within the comparatively new genre of dance music there are only a handful of true icons and Chelsea fan Paul Oakenfold is without doubt one of them.
Not content with redefining the role of the DJ in the mid 1980s and helping to shape rave culture, Oakie has produced and re-mixed some of the biggest artists on planet earth. His innovative, unit-shifting, work with the Happy Mondays, U2, New Order, Madonna and the Stone Roses brought a wider audience to his own prolific output most notably the global hit Starry Eyed Surprise which was famously used in the Diet Coke TV commercial. Paul was also the man behind the theme music for Big Brother. Early in his career, whilst working as an A&R man, Oakenfold discovered Will Smith and Salt ‘n’ Pepa, and he also promoted the Beastie Boys and Run DMC. Add being boss of his own record label, Perfecto, and scoring music for movies to an already impressive looking CV and you begin to wonder how Paul, who now lives in Los Angeles, has ever found the time to sleep, let alone follow the fortunes of Chelsea Football Club, the team he has supported since childhood.
It’s a long way from LA to Fulham Broadway.
Yeah! I’ve lived in LA for seven years, but fortunately there is a Chelsea scene here. There’s a supporters club, the Pacific Coast Blues. They started out in San Diego I think. Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols, he’s well into it. I speak to Jonesy all the time. It’s funny when I lived in the UK, I used to plan all my DJ gigs around Chelsea games. So when the team played away at Leicester let’s say, then I’d be playing out in Leicester the night before and go to the match the next day. I’d always have my eye in the fixture list when I was planning gigs and tours. I have Chelsea TV here so I can catch up on the games even if my work means I can’t see them live.
Your family originated from Highbury, how did you come to support Chelsea?
That’s right, the family home was a 15 minute walk from Arsenal’s ground. Every one was a Gooner, including my Dad. It’s strange. I was taken to a Chelsea game by my Dad because he couldn’t get tickets to see the Arsenal. With a lot of kids, the first game you get taken to, you pick one of the sides, and that becomes the team you support.
Who were the Blues playing?
Stoke City. I can’t remember exactly when or what the score was, I was too young. But that was it, it was Chelsea for me. I was sold on them from that day. I’d hate to be a Gooner. What I remember about it wasn’t necessarily the match (laughs) but the whole thing that came with it. Going to that game was a big eye-opener for me. We moved to Thornton Heath when I was still quite young so I grew up in south London. Thornton Heath is Crystal Palace territory, and I got beaten up a few times by Palace fans.
Who were your first Chelsea heroes?
When I was going with my Dad it was Peter Osgood. I liked the glamour associated with going to Chelsea as well. I remember our old house had an outside toilet, it wasn’t really somewhere that you’d be proud to be living, so coming down to see Chelsea, the FA Cup winners, the kings of the King’s Road, well it was a different world. I was really attracted to all that. Yeah! Peter Osgood, David Webb, (starts singing) Ian Ian Hutchinson.
Who was your favourite Chelsea player in your youth?
When I got a bit older I started going to the Bridge on my own and doing the away matches. Bristol City, Leeds United, Newcastle. Chelsea travelled, I travelled. That’s when I really got into it and started watching how the players played the game. My Mum and Dad didn’t even know I was going to the away games. I would just go out and then get in at maybe 10-o-clock at night and not tell them that I’d gone to a match. They would’ve probably stopped me if they’d found out. It was about this time Ray Wilkins got into the team. Ray really stood out for me. He played a different style of football, you could see he had real talent. Wilkins’ running off the ball, movement and passing were amazing. It was a shame the Chelsea side he came into was in decline and ended up getting relegated. I was disappointed when he eventually left for Manchester United, but I still followed his career. Shame his brother Graham wasn’t much good though. (laughs) The best and worst I’ve seen in the Blue of Chelsea, and they’re brothers.
What about more recently?
Zola. Zola was a Plan B player. He made things happen. A man of his word, what a shame he’d already pledged his future to Cagliari when Abramovich arrived. Chelsea might have won the league in Roman’s first season.
Were you there when Wise went up to lift the FA Cup in 1997?
Yeah! The Middlesboro game. There’s a funny story to this. We all met up at Stamford Bridge for a few drinks and then got a coach up to Wembley. There was about forty of us, we were well up for it. I thought I’d better go to the toilet before kick off, but I got held up in a queue. You know what happened next don’t you? After waiting all those years to have something to cheer about, I missed Di Matteo’s goal. So when people ask me about that game, I always say we only won 1-0.
What do you make of the problems at Chelsea last season?
Scolari! (laughs) All I can say about Scolari is that when Stevie Clarke left Chelsea for West Ham, things took a turn for the worse. He didn’t know what to do. I don’t really know yet how good a manager Zola is, but Clarke proved himself as a coach over a long period of time at Chelsea and he’ll be a big part of the reason West Ham are doing well again. He should never have been allowed to leave. Maybe he’ll come back one day. Maybe with Zola, but I’d like Mourinho to come back to Stamford Bridge if Hiddink doesn’t stay. Scolari might have won the World Cup but he didn’t know how to manage in the Premier League.
Were you a big fan of Jose Mourinho?
Jose Mourinho was the best. I really started to enjoy everything about Chelsea again when he came to Stamford Bridge. It was electric, I don’t care what some people say, Chelsea were so exciting to watch. The team, the players, the belief. I loved every minute of it.
What’s the most memorable Chelsea game you have attended?
That’s a tough one. There are two games that really stick out in my memory. When we done Barcelona 4-2 in the Champions League in March 2005 at Stamford Bridge and knocked them out on aggregate, that was special. Chelsea looked unbeatable under Mourinho at that time. When John Terry got our last goal with a header the place went mental. What a night! The other one has to be the FA Cup tie with Liverpool at the Bridge back in 1997. There’s been a few dramatic games with Liverpool that I’ve seen, but that one was amazing. 2-0 down at half time, we were on our way out. I dunno what Ruud Gullit said at half-time but it worked. 4-2 we won. Zola’s goal, our second, was one of the best I’ve ever seen. I knew we’d win the cup after that performance.
Is there anything you miss about the old days?
No not really. We won fcuk all in the old days. As a kid I remember standing on the Shed having done most of my pocket money getting in and then being asked to put money in a bucket to save the Club. What I will say is that I think it’s a great shame that a lot of the people who used to come to Chelsea when I first started going have been priced out of the game. They never got the payback when it all came good.
Chelsea Village plc!
Yeah! I’d been a season ticket for ten or twelve years by then. We were in the West Stand I think. There were quite a few people from the music business. Alan McGee from Creation Records, people like that. But then they started promoting the corporate side of it in that area. We didn’t like it. We asked to move, and we got told that if we let our seats go then we would have to go on the waiting list the same as everyone else. Fair enough, but there was no trade off. When I moved to LA, that was it, there was no point paying out all that money to sit somewhere I didn’t want to sit when I did have the chance to come over for a game.
Is there any player you would have liked Chelsea to sign?
Well I can tell you where I think we went wrong this season, and it’s a shame really because the other players were in place, but if we’d got Robinho things might have worked out differently for Scolari. Having said that, it still doesn’t mean he would have had a Plan B. There’s a lesson to be learned there though. We need people at Chelsea who can make transfers like that happen, especially as there are other clubs with wealthy owners who are willing to pay big money to get the players they want. I do understand Abramovich not wanting to spend more money or overspend without getting a return. At the end of the day he’s running a business.
How would you sum up your love for the Blues?
I flew from Los Angeles to Moscow for a game of football, it cost me thousands and thousands of dollars and of course like the old days I’d planned my work around watching Chelsea. That’s love isn’t it?
Paul was interviewed by Mark Worrall, who is one of the authors of “Chelsea There Chelsea Here”. Copies pre-signed by cover star and Blues legend Kerry Dixon are available to order at http://www.overlandandsea.net/ postage is FREE to all UK customers.