I almost subconsciously started this article with the title ‘What does Mrs Thatcher mean to you?’ such is the reaction to her death – then again, that would have brought up images of some questionable football kits, questionable football, a tatty ground, fences and hooliganism. Such was life at Stamford Bridge in the 1980s that I’m sure Mrs T would’ve looked on approvingly at the consumer-led drive of the Chelsea Collection, before distancing herself from a seemingly competent team’s fall from grace – from sixth spot to relegation in three seasons – ouch.
Back to the original point of this article – what does Chelsea mean to you (other than shelling out £1000 plus per season, whinging about the board/manager/beer/new kit etc, etc).
- Hearing my dad moan about a Colin Lee shot hitting the post.
- Smelling burgers and cigarette smoke on the way to and from the ground.
- Seeing a massive Chelsea plate sitting on top of my grandparents’ telly (in retrospect – it was a cheap plastic thing!).
- Going to the old club shop outside the ground with my gran to buy the ’85 home kit (the bloke behind the counter tried to convince me to get a Spurs shirt – proof that Chelsea’s marketing department had some catching up to do!).
- Pretending I was Kerry Dixon at every opportunity in my back garden.
- Dancing/falling down about five steps when the third goal went in on the Shed’s final game as we relegated Sheffield United – and being convinced we’d win the Cup Final the following week.
- Pretending I was alright after losing the Cup Final in ’94 – and then trying to hold the lump in my throat for what seemed like an age.
- Being at the Liverpool Cup game in ’97 and being convinced we’d win the Cup after being 0-2 down – and then being convinced we never would win it if we didn’t win it that year.
- Finally seeing them win the Cup in ’97 on the most perfect footballing day imaginable.
- Hearing my granddad moan about ‘that ruddy team’ – it didn’t matter what the score was – Chelsea could never do any good in his eyes, despite him being a life-long fan.
- Being nudged in the ribs at six in the morning on the flight back from Stockholm after the Cup Winners’ Cup win by a bloke who wanted to know who I thought was better – Frank Sinclair or Andy Myers.
- Sitting in the middle of the Fulham Road singing Ten Men Went to Mow after winning the title in 2005 while my now wife stood 10 yards away looking at me with a mixture of pity and disbelief.
- Even now being convinced that wearing my Chelsea shirt when having a kickabout in the park with the office will somehow have an impact on how I play.
- Squatting on the floor of the Allianz Arena with a scarf wrapped round my head during the penalty shoot-out.
- Trying to convince my daughter she really does want her photo taken with the European Cup and FA Cup (to be fair – she was two at the time).
Deeply personal, and sentimental but all real. In retrospect the bad bits you look on with a sort of fondness, the good bits get better with time – but that’s what Chelsea means to me. What’s it mean to you?