As we are painstakingly adding some of the old CFCnet content to this new web masterpiece we occasionally come across some articles that you probably never seen before and may even be relevant to recent events. Here’s one we received from Ian Camlett 7 years ago.
Greater love hath no man for his fellow man than the Chelsea supporter who is prepared to accept a Spurs win against the Blues for the sake of a friend, or something, says Ian Camlett.
Tony, a very good friend of mine, lays seriously ill in a London hospital. He is awaiting a bone marrow transplant and the prognosis is far from good. I have not actually seen him since I emigrated to Australia over twenty years ago, yet I think of him often. We grew up together in the same council flats in Manor Road, Stoke Newington, he a Spurs fanatic and me the only Chelsea supporter for miles. Though our rivalry never faltered, our friendship never wavered.
The Spurs team of 1961 was quite simply the best football side that I have ever seen. The Chelsea team of the same year was a music hall joke. We were about to lose Jimmy Greaves to Italy and without him our future was bleak. I watched his Spurs team play with the grim foreboding that must have been felt by the average Polish peasant watching the Panzers enter their country in 1939. You knew they were invincible yet you had no choice but to resist. It was futile yet magnificent at the same time. We were second best for years. The bastards even bought Jimmy Greaves the following year and destroyed all my notions of loyalty and trust. My hatred for them became pathological.
The Tommy Docherty team of the sixties gave me fresh hope, but the 1967 FA Cup Final put paid to that. I sat on the terraces of a near deserted Wembley Stadium, shattered and disillusioned. The team I hated had beaten the team I loved and deservedly so. I knew what to expect from Tony when I got back home, or at least I thought I did. He had daubed his first floor flat with streamers, flags and a banner draped over the first floor balcony. It read: “Spurs Supporters’ Club membership applications taken here – ex-Chelsea supporters welcome.”
I have not even had the pleasure of revenge following our record against Spurs in the nineties. How I wanted to laugh hysterically at him as yet another Spurs defeat followed with relentless predictability. But we lost touch for years until I heard from a mutual friend via e-mail about Tony’s plight. He gave me the telephone number of his ward and I called him. The nurse said he was sleeping but when I said I was an old friend calling from Australia, she put me through.
Time stood still. Two 52-year-olds resumed a rivalry that had been cut short decades before. His voice was weaker but his spirit was unbroken. We swam in memories and laughed like drains. The nurse cut the conversation short when his laughter triggered off a relentless coughing fit and he had to be medicated. We had been on the phone for about ninety minutes yet it seemed like seconds. I promised to call him again after we had kicked his mob out of the Worthington Cup.
When I got off the phone I had tears in my eyes. My family kept well away from me for the rest of the day as I wallowed in recollections of a time, many years ago, when we were both children playing in the same Sir Thomas Abney primary school team. He was Dave Mackay, strutting the field with his chest inflated like his hero, and I was Jimmy Greaves, with a silken touch and a deadly finish, while the rest were a motley collection of Gooners. The team played in orange, which was perfectly acceptable as there was not a Blackpool supporter within 200 miles. In fact, come to think of it, there were precious few in Blackpool. Tony was famous for commentating on himself as he played: “Mackay with the ball, Mackay evades one tackle, then two – GOALLLL!” We all found this hilarious but the opposition thought he was insane, and the referees, typically, saw no humour in it.
Some things transcend club rivalry and our friendship was one of them. I listened to the Chelsea Worthington Cup victory over Tottenham on Big Blue Radio over the internet and my joy was tempered with the realisation that Tony was probably the one most in need of cheering up. With absolute horror it dawned on me that, for the first time in my life, a Chelsea loss to Spurs might actually be acceptable. Thankfully this absurd notion was only fleeting, but the fact that it occurred at all was, in itself, testament to my love of the guy.
I hope and pray that Tony recovers. A rivalry like ours, now rekindled, must burn on at least until one of our sides wins the damn Premiership. It has been 47 years of waiting for me and 41 for him, so a few more decades will surely not matter. Those Gooners, Mickey Mousers and Scum really have no idea about genuine hunger. How can you feel starvation when your plate is regularly replenished? Tony and I licked ours clean long ago and, like Oliver Twist, our request for more has been fruitless.
During our last conversation I told Tony that it is my wish for him to live long enough to see Spurs win a Premiership. “You have to be kidding,” he said indignantly. “Someone once made the same wish for Methuselah and he lived to be 969 before he finally gave up the ghost.”