15 years ago today, a Chelsea side that had been trophyless for 26 years, stepped out at Wembley and won us the F.A Cup, kick starting an amazing period in the clubs history. The two goal scorers that day, now lead us to South Germany this weekend, for the biggest, or at least the joint biggest game in the club’s history. It is funny how things turn out!
Collecting sticker books in the mid-nineties, the silverware shown on the clubs history page was scant. It read:
1955 – 1st Division
1965 – League Cup
1970 – F.A Cup
1971 – Cup Winners-Cup
This was for 92 years of history! I was never given any choice in supporting Chelsea, it was forced on me by my Dad. We were never a small club, but the playground was full of Man Utd shirts. Me and my brothers were the only Chelsea supporters in the whole of my Junior school! Junior schools are now full of kids running about in Chelsea shirts. I still think to myself, when I see an 8 year old with the latest Chelsea strip on, where were you when we were shit? In reality, we haven’t been shit for years, supporting Chelsea hasn’t been difficult for me – my Dad is always there to remind me how bad it could be and has been in the past.
Since that day in 1997, Chelsea have won 13 trophies (forgetting the Super cup in 1998) and this is only bettered by Man United’s 15! Take away Terry’s slip in Moscow and we would have achieved exactly the same number of honours since 1997. This was unthinkable back then!
We have been spoiled on many occasions, because our club have become accustomed to not only reaching finals, but winning them. In the 13 finals we have played in since 1997, we have won 10 from the 13 – this is an amazing record!
Things have become so good for us fans that seasons such as this one, where we have finished 6th in the league, won the F.A Cup and made a Champions league final, are still seen as a bit of a disappointment overall. This will certainly not be the case if we fly back from Munich on Sunday clutching the one trophy that has eluded us.
Whatever happens on Saturday, I will walk away from Munich happy. Just to be watching my team playing in the biggest game in domestic football is massive and even though we are up against it, having to play the German powerhouses in their own backyard, this side has shown that it has the strength, belief and experience to beat any team in any place at any time.
I cannot help but feel a bit hard done by with regard to the decision to play the game in a team’s stadium that have a genuine chance of making the final. I would be very confident if we were playing this final at a neutral stadium. As it is, playing the biggest side in Germany, in Germany is never easy and if there is one nation who can handle pressure and expectation, it is the Germans!
Both sides have been given 17,500 tickets, which would suggest that at least the fan base will be neutral, but in reality, how many Bayern Munich fans will be among the 30,000 of the tickets that were given to the ‘football family’? My guess is a lot more than Chelsea!
Home advantage is real in football, every league in the world is testament to that. This situation begs the question, what constitutes home advantage? Is it a purely psychological advantage? Is it the friendly, encouraging home crowd? The lack of travelling? The familiarity of the pitch and surroundings? To be honest, I think it is a combination of all of these factors and without a doubt, Bayern Munich have a massive advantage over us this weekend.
However, this label of underdogs has served us well this season and I am happy to go to Munich with no-one expecting a Chelsea victory. Munich are definitely not a superior side to us and their defence can be got at. Do not forget that this Chelsea side is very, very experienced and has a winning mentality. The fact that we are right up against it in Munich will just add to the occasion if we can bring the European Cup home.
For all of us travelling to Munich and watching from home, let’s never forget how lucky we are!