Chelsea V Everton and Beyond

Sunday was a special match for me, I got the tickets for my Grandad’s birthday but he wasn’t feeling well so for the first time I went to a football match with my Mum. She enjoyed the day, although I learned it wasn’t her first visit to Stamford Bridge, something she kept quiet!

The game was all it needed to be in the end.  A win that was ground out by some leggy players with half an eye on a rest over the summer before starting again next season.  Well after they finish the end of season tour of America that is.  Something I think would be fair to say most supporters don’t agree with.

I can understand the club wanting to tap into the American market and promote us over there before other teams claim the supporters but after what has already been a mammoth season for our players was another 2 games really necessary?  Especially seeing as they are against Man City, a team we have already played and lost to enough this season!  At least play some American teams.

With the team heading off for a pre-season tournament to Indonesia the footballing world is beginning to become a smaller place for the big teams in the premiership.  Far flung markets are being looked to for potential supporters and the income for the club sponsorship deals with local advertisers could bring.  This is all part of today’s football.

Chelsea are limited by their gate receipts as we can no longer develop our ground above what we already have.  In order to bring in the type of players we all want to see you need to be able to offer a bigger financial incentive than your rivals, although thankfully some players will still move for the potential trophy winning capabilities and not just the ridiculous wages.

I might be slightly biased but Chelsea has a wonderful atmosphere about it.  Just watch the You Tube clip of the ex-players watching the Champions League penalty shoot out for Chelsea TV to see how much this club gets under your skin.  When Drogba scores they celebrate as if it is them on the pitch winning.  By and large most of our ex-players would be welcome through the door at any time, and would get a hug from the supporters on the way.

There wasn’t always the highs that we are lucky enough to experience now.  I first stood on the Shed End as an impressionable 10 year old.  That impression lives with me even now, if I close my eyes I can still see the stadium appearing in front of me as I climb the stairs and feel the tingle down my spine.  I was hooked.

Having previously been to Fulham and many non-league grounds I had never experienced a ground so big.   Craven Cottage is lovely but it wasn’t on the same scale as the old Stamford Bridge, it had its own charms.  The old Wembley Stadium was the only other place I experienced a similar feeling of nervousness and anticipation together with excitement.

From that first day standing on the Shed End I knew Chelsea was the team for me.  Luckily in my time as a supporter the club has gone from strength to strength and we now have supporters clubs from all over the world displaying flags around the ground.  Every year the Chelsea Family gets a little bigger as people start to realise the lure of the blue shirt and how strong it can be once it takes its hold.

This season was a transitional one.  We started on a high, Champions of Europe and after loosing a manager and several silverware opportunities we ended the season as Double Champions of Europe.  A first, no other club has held both the Champions League and Europa League trophy at the same time, this is largely to do with when the finals are played!

We secured our 3rd place in the league, something that looked beyond us at certain points this season as we dropped points to teams such as QPR at home, something I will never forgive the team for, they’ve been warned!

All in all I came out top over the season on the bragging rights in my office and that is the important thing.  The matches might be won and lost on the field of play but for us supporters that is only where they begin.  For us the matches continue on text messages, phone calls, facebook, twitter, the internet, newspapers, in the office and in the arguments down the pub.  We defend our team to the death, even though we might agree with the argument deep down, if someone is attacking your club, you stand up for it.

Mostly this is in the form of light-hearted banter, something which adds to the atmosphere of the games.  Occasionally this leads to people who have had one to many beverages swinging punches at each other until someone ends up in a police cell but each to their own.

I’m sure as a supporter I have little idea what the average player has to go through week in week out to earn their often over inflated wages and provide us with a bit of entertainment.

I wonder as a player if they have any idea what we go through to spend our time watching matches.  If they did they might understand the frustrations that come from the stands a little more.  It’s hard to empathize with someone earning more in a week than I do in a couple of years when they look like they were too tired or just couldn’t be bothered to play.

You might be the one missing out on a family holiday to go and watch your team play a foreign match and when you get there its freezing, your hotel is shit and the team play badly or even worse lose.  You queue up for your cattle class flight home or even worse numerous train journey or a long car drive whilst the players are all sprawled out on the beds in first class dreaming of their latest WAG girlfriend or their next fast car.

This season the appointment of a manager unpopular with the supporters after the sacking of a club hero stretched the loyalty a lot of supporters had for the club to its maximum.  Although everyone seemed to bed in eventually and it was more a case of tolerance for the manager than acceptance or even support. I often wondered what the players truly felt about the whole situation, other than the soundbites they were allowed to give the media.  It’s times like that I would love to have an inside line and find out the real stories!

At times it felt as though the club was sticking two fingers up to the supporters and their feelings, a dangerous thing to do when a clubs survival relies in part on those people willing to travel the world for a chance to support their club.  It is the long-term supporters that seal the fate of the clubs, people like my Grandad, who has been going to Chelsea for 70 odd years.  He has introduced numerous members of our family to Stamford Bridge over the years.  This is something that is replicated all over the ground, families of people travelling week in week out to Stamford Bridge.  People united in a cause are a worrying thing, lose their allegiance and chaos descends, history tells us that!

For me money and football have always been interlinked.  The more I can afford to do it the more matches I will go to.  This has meant picking and choosing between football and other things I like to do such as seeing concerts, theatre, holidays etc.  Maybe one day I won’t have to worry about where the money is coming from for my next football fix and I’ll be able to attend every match in a season as has long been my dream since first standing on the Shed End Terrace and announcing I was “Chelsea Till I Die!”

Until that time my expensive hobby will have to tick along with the rest of them.  But one things for sure there was never a dull moment as a Chelsea supporter in all the years I have been one, and long may that continue!

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