The most capped English cricketer of all time in both Test Matches and One Day Internationals, Alec Stewart OBE enjoyed a prolific career as an aggressive opening batsman and wicketkeeper for both his county team Surrey and the England national team. With his playing days behind him, Alec now divides his time between coaching, player representation, mentoring and of course following the boys in Blue over land and sea. In this exclusive interview for CFCnet, Alec talks to Chelsea author Mark Worrall about his lifelong passion for the Blues.
You’re a familiar face at Blues matches these days, where does your love for Chelsea stem from?
It goes back to 1969, I was a young lad, six years old or so and my dad (Micky Stewart OBE represented Surrey and England at cricket and was also a useful footballer, playing outside-right for Charlton Athletic, Wimbledon and Corinthian Casuals) used to take my brother and me to Stamford Bridge one week and Craven Cottage the next. Chelsea of course were a bigger club than Fulham, and in beating Leeds United in the final of the FA Cup in 1970 they’d made a huge impression on me.
Who was your favourite Chelsea player as a kid?
I remember around the time Chelsea won the FA Cup, when dad was still playing, they had a charity benefit day for Geoff Arnold at the Oval and Surrey took on the Blues at both football and cricket. I can’t remember exactly who won, but I do remember meeting Dave Sexton and all that Chelsea team which included John Hollins who was my footballing hero. I’ve no idea why as a young boy I’d chosen John as most people idolised Peter Osgood or Charlie Cooke but he was my favourite and I have to say that when they introduced shirt numbers into international cricket I opted for number 4 in his honour!
Which Chelsea player has impressed you most during the period you have supported the Club?
Zola! No hesitation at all. He was on a different level. His style of play, the way he conducted himself, his ability, talent, and the way he came across in the media; a true professional. He had it all, and not only that he would be the one man on a football pitch who could change the course of a game.
What about the flip-side of that particular coin?
To be honest with you, maybe it’s because I’ve been a professional sportsman, but I won’t knock a fellow player. The belief is that as a paid professional you always give it your very best, so I won’t boo a player just because he makes the odd mistake. Where I do have an issue sometimes is if a player appears not to be giving it his all, there can be no excuses for that really.
You’ve been known to turn out occasionally for Chelsea Old Boys, how good a footballer were you in your youth?
By choice I would have played football, dad played professionally for Charlton Athletic, and as a youngster I played non-league with Corinthian Casuals and was in the Wimbledon youth team. At Mitcham Royals, I was in the same side as Mike Fillery and Timmy Elms who both ended up at Chelsea. The thing is, looking back, I would never have achieved in football what I achieved in cricket, having said that, football was definitely my first love and, given the choice, I will always opt to watch a game of football over a game of cricket.
What is your happiest Chelsea related memory?
Winning the Premiership for the first time and then of course winning the titles back-to-back. To tell you the truth, any moment when Chelsea win a trophy is special for me, but winning the title for the first time in my lifetime with Mourinho as manager was simply the best.
In the second and final part of the interview, Alec comments on the controversial fixture versus Barcelona and tells us who he would like to see as the next Chelsea manager. Alec also looks ahead to the FA Cup final.
Mark Worrall is the author of cult terrace classics ‘Over Land and Sea’ and ‘Blue Murder … Chelsea till I die’, his new book ‘One Man Went to Mow’ is out now. Copies are available to buy with a discount of up to 30% and free postage within the UK at www.overlandandsea.net