For weeks the excitement had been building to Drogba’s return and I can’t help but feel it was a bit disappointing in the end. As is so often the case with the things you look forward to the most.
I headed to the ground especially early so I could watch the teams warming up before the game and get some photo’s of the heroes return. Hearing the roar of the crowd as Drogba made his way out onto the pitch I felt we would be in for a good evening.
The Gala fans were sitting in the corner by us and were vocally supporting Drogba with him going over to salute the fans during the warm up.
I have been to a few matches where the away supporters unfortunately out sung the home support and last night was no exception for me at least. The Matthew Harding stand were making noise but for us it was drowned out by the away supporters. There seemed to be a futile attempt at getting the West Stand to sing at one point too.
Throughout the match my eye was drawn in the quiet moments to the supporters standing on the railing of the Shed End Upper, jumping up and down as they orchestrated the supporters with the up most precision.
On entering the ground we found plastic flags on our seats to wave before the game and I have to say it made a pretty sight as the game started.
I also enjoyed the flags of the Europa League and Champions League Trophies that were unraveled over the Matthew Harding Lower reminding everyone of our history. There was a flag of Drogba with ‘Always in our Hearts on it in the corner which was mounted at the back of the Matthew Harding Upper once the match kicked off.
In the first half we scored a quick goal with Eto’o making the most of his chance breaking through. Unfortunately Eto’o then followed that up by diving twice in the first half. The second time was particularly embarrassing right in front of us leaving us with 10 men whilst Gala went on the attack which tainted my view of his performance.
Cahill’s goal right before half time should have silenced the Gala fans but they made their presence even more known as we all turned to cheer the goal.
It was then I noticed a few Gala fans pointing at Chelsea supporters below and motioning a cut throat action and pointing outside, which for me is wholly inappropriate. The East Stand Lower is the family area and there were small children sitting near us. I fully appreciate that people get worked up watching football, I myself get very emotional but the worst I ever do is swear. To motion cutting someones throat is just ridiculous and completely unnecessary.
The Gala fans sung throughout the warm up and match up until about 15 minutes to go when they went strangely quiet. I just wish they had a larger repertoire of songs, they seemed to have 3 on repeat. I am convinced one of them was about Andy Cole as that was what it sounded like they were singing.
There were 3 guys standing on the edge of the Shed End upper throughout the warm up and match. Not once did they look at the game, they were purely there to orchestrate the crowd. It did make me wonder if they do this every week at all the grounds. Have they ever seen the team they support actually play? If not would they still support them if they did? Do they take it in turns to orchestrate on a rota so that they all get chance to watch a match? It seems a lot of effort and expense to travel to an away game only to face the wrong way throughout.
The second half for me was very forgettable. I remember a couple of free kicks hitting the Drogba Legend sign on the Matthew Harding upper and a Gala player rivaling Eto’o for worst dive of the match in the penalty area.
So what of Drogba’s return? In the end it was all a bit disappointing. Save picking up a trophy from Ron Gourlay before the match I don’t recall seeing anything that worried me. He was pretty non-existent, perhaps testimony to the players who played with him for years marking him out the game.
I was disappointed with Gala in general. I had seen people talk about them on the internet and thought them to be a better side. Over the two legs I saw nothing to worry me. They seem content with bullying tactics and bad tackling, pushing in the back and not really threatening much in the way of an attack.
I was excited to see Schneider play as he was once the toast of Europe with Chelsea looking to sign him, I saw nothing to make me think we missed out on that particular signature.
Chelsea were by no means at their best. They played well and delivered the result but didn’t create the kind of chances we have in previous matches. The final passes are still wasteful at times and although the free kicks and corners were better last night I feel there is still room for improvement and consistency.
All in all I enjoyed the game. Waking with the customary post match sore throat from shouting and a slight ringing in my ears from all the noise. A sign of a good night out I always think.