Evolution of a football fan has rapidly progressed with the business of modern day football, with the cash flash of the Premier League seeing Chelsea grow from mid table combatants to having a stronghold on the domestic scene, and now possessing a stranglehold on all competitive fronts.
Through this story there has followed an army of impassioned blue followers supporting the cause of Chelsea, enduring the evasion of the doldrums of English football, whilst chanting their way through the mediocrity until the Russian revolution impeded all misfortune.
Some are too young to have an emotional connection with the gruelling depressing eras, and others only old enough to bespoke boyhood heroes of Dimitri Kharine or Gavin Peacock. Whatever the dynamics and demographics of the attendance at the bridge over the past years, one point remains central, and that is the focal point of the team, yet the conferred consensus is along with the team the supporters on match days have also undergone a revolutionary change.
The Russian billionaire’s introduction evoked esteem and confidence swarming the stadium, provoking a heightened expectation. Fifteen years ago facing the likes of Man United or Liverpool were an event, because of playing a bigger team, but now lies an expectation to defeat every team regardless of history and stature.
This expectation escalated slowly, endowed by Abramovich and sharply compounded by the arrival of Jose Mourinho. All fans now continue to commit to their match day ritual, with addition of the expectation to win on approach to football grounds.
Consistency of winning has allowed the past to be forgotten, the dark days are remotely reminisced by those who fondly remember, but the better days are now ahead and the fans are riding along.
Like all successful clubs comes baggage. Chelsea has now become one of the most envied clubs in the country, along with opposition fans aiming abuse at the Chelsea favourites. But the baggage can also be self inflicting and detrimental to the club, and the transition of a new fan base replacing the old has aided.
With Chelsea’s growing success comes an ever increasing reputation both domestically and globally. Preseason campaigns in Asia and America has promoted a growing fan base, with a world wide following now identifying the blue of Stamford Bridge.
On match days throughout the years followers flooding the Stamford Bridge gates has also transgressed from a boisterous atmosphere to a gentle quietness. The character and personality of the match day atmosphere has taken a turn over the years. The common analysis is the old school hardcore fans have been priced out to attend a game in place of those who can afford. But in all corners of debate the change of fan base has arise with the overall prolonged success of the club.
With this success comes expectation set by the fans which is noticeable. Long gone are those days when you arrived at a match not expecting to win, singing along, and often being the entertainment because the football performed before is passable. Now the responsibility to maintain a rejuvenated atmosphere falls largely with the Shed End and the Matthew Harding Lower. Sections around the ground tentatively are involved, but the general consensus is an existing expectation not only to win but to be entertained.
The success of the Premier League and Chelsea has escalated to an inflation of ticket prices, to subsidise the monetary challenges of the club. There is an ever long argument of fans paying steep unattainable prices that drive out the working class fans. It is not corporate responsibility to generate an atmosphere, nor is it fair to locate the blame for debilitating the match day vibe, because they are credited for cultivating the realms of modern day football. The cause is the responsibility of the collection of individuals who pass through the turnstiles on a Saturday.
The rise of the Blues collation of mass followers has grown with expectation. What affects the atmosphere is the turnout expecting to be entertained without needing to participate, feeling they are owed the right just for paying the £50. There have been two matches in recent memory that exploit the potential of a Chelsea atmosphere and the defeat to corporatism.
Two seasons ago amidst the Bridge/Terry saga, Chelsea’s floodgates opened. It wasn’t the leaky defence that conceded to a 4-2 defeat, but the outpouring of fans heading for the exit finding the defeat unbearable, prompting the remaining attendees to swoop in to a full song for the remainder of the match, providing one of the better atmospheres in recent times, ironically with an emptier stadium.
Last years home fixture against Liverpool had all the undertones for a raucous atmosphere, only to serve a jaded impotence, in tow with the game’s highlights. This was the platform for Chelsea fans to get behind the team, after Liverpool had their heart ripped out with the Blues January marquee signing, Fernando Torres.
Instead both the momentum and hysteria before the game ended in deflation and subservience to corporatism, wondering why they failed to peak, the stadium was filtered with corporate clientele.
Yet the Chelsea support, the away fans remain the hardcore of old, the people that defy rising ticket prices and wave the flag of the pride of Chelsea. It is the away fans who continue their expedition of support, not always expecting to win, or waiting to be entertained, but being that twelfth man, singing, chanting and supporting, just being Chelsea. So next time you hit the Bridge, don’t just sit there waiting for something to happen or expecting to win. Just come along, come along, come along and sing this song …