Every fan has their own special memories of supporting Chelsea FC, memories such as why we started following the club, the first match ever attended, visits to Stamford Bridge, watching our heroes like Jimmy Greaves, Bobby Tambling, Chopper Harris, Peter Osgood, Charlie Cooke, Alan Hudson, Ray Wilkins, Pat Nevin, Kerry Dixon, Steve Clarke, Dennis Wise, Luca Vialli, Franco Zola, John Terry, Frank Lampard et al, following the team abroad, what we were doing when so-and-so scored that goal, favourite moments, matches… the list is endless.
Compiling fans’ memories, stories and anecdotes into a blog post is something I’ve wanted to do for a while now. If you want to include yours, use the comments form or drop me an email. I will add the best of them (subject to editing for typos etc.) to this post (most recent at the top), which will expand over time into a resource readers can revisit again and again (the post will feature at the top of the home page whenever there’s a lull in Chelsea news, and will be available at any time via the Memories link in the navigation menu). There’s no time limit, minimum or maximum number of words, and you can add as many memories as you like.
I’m in the process of writing about a few of my own, I will add them in the coming days and weeks.
To kick things off, regular commenter Fiftee tells us how he got to be a Chelsea fan, and Blingo Starr, a former contributor to the blog (and author of one of my favourite posts, Can you beat Spurs too often?), writes about his favourite season (first published on the Who’s who page back in 2006).
How I got to be a Chelsea fan by Fiftee
Currently totalling 19-and-a-bit years, the length of my Chelsea memories seem to be somewhere in the middle ground of the comments I’ve read below.
It all began in the playground of a rural Norfolk village primary school (I know, you’re all asking yourselves, ‘Well, why wouldn’t it?’).
As any self respecting nine year-old will tell you, following the crowd and copying the popular kids is the only way to survive. So why I did the opposite and picked Chelsea and not Manchester United, Liverpool or Arsenal is still beyond me. Probably because, well, blue’s the best colour isn’t it? I will add, at this stage, that like every other boy (and maybe some girlies) in my school, the Canaries are my second team, but they were never quite cool enough to be first.
And so it began. To this day, I still own (and often reminisce with) a completed ‘Pro Set’ collectors card file – circa 1991. From memory, it was someone’s (Panini?) first foray into card collecting and not stickers in my lifetime. It cost me (well, Dad) an amount I doubt I want to consider, but it was well worth it when I finally opened a pack of cards – no doubt fresh off the school bus and just out of the newsagent’s – and there it was. The Gordon Durie card to complete the Chelsea team. The tens of pounds that were spent collecting the other 300-odd cards were almost irrelevant. Who cared about your Ian Ormondroyds, your Glyn Hysens, your Wallace brothers – it was all about completing the Chelsea team.
A few years later, my nan bought me the full, Commodore-sponsored, red and white diamond kit. The words ‘pig’ and ‘muck’ still apply. I was so happy, playing football for eight hours solid – only stopping for a bag of chips at lunch time – on a Saturday down the local park pretending I was the next Gavin Peacock. Some years later, I remember going shopping and getting my dad to buy me the blue home shirt sponsored by Coors that had some ridiculously hard to flatten down red material on the neck. I was going to pay him back about £3 a week for what seemed like an eternity, until I passed some exam or other (cycling proficiency / 20m freestyle / SATS – I don’t recall) and he wrote off the rest of the debt. It was all good.
I first saw Chelsea live on Wednesday 17th April 1991. They rolled into Carrow Road and won 3-1 and I was hooked. I have signed programme from that match, unfortunately it only contains 14 Norwich signatures, but still. I saw them a few more times at Norwich (mostly 1992-95) by which time I’d started playing football myself and so was looking out for the results on Saturday until Sky well and truly turned football on its head and now I can turn out in the rain on a Saturday at three o’clock safe in the knowledge I won’t miss Chelsea as they simply never kick off at the same time.
And so to the admission. I’ve seen Chelsea more times as an away team than I have at Stamford Bridge. I’ve made a few trips, but having been playing football for the same length of time I’ve been earning proper money, I’ve never had the chance to make weekend games, especially now that the newest member of the fan club has arrived. My first visit to the Bridge was on a Wednesday in November 1999 when we beat Hertha Berlin 2-0 in the Champions League, Didier D (that’s Deschamps, not Drogba) scoring. The past 10 years have seen me resigned to being an armchair fan, but the exposure we have on TV certainly helps. I was in Gran Canaria in 2002 when we won the last FA Cup at Wembley, watching in a bar on the beach with the now Mrs Fiftee (she had to put up with the football even then). Honeymoon in the States in 2005 was interrupted by a 2.30 a.m. alarm to visit the ESPN bar in the New York New York hotel in Vegas to watch us against someone I now can’t quite remember.
To the ‘now’. I do remember some not exactly great times as a Chelsea fan, but (fortunately for me) nothing near what some of the seasoned bloggers experienced. I remember the gut-wrenching heart-ache of the 1994 cup final; the disappointment that all our European exploits were almost unwatchable on Five as they struggled with the pictures from some obscure Scandinavian region (but, my god, still infinitely better than ITV’s current mess); the pure mockery of the whole Winston Bogarde situation; M-O-S-C-O-W. But, as with most things, the good times outweigh the bad.
The sheer uniqueness of the FA Cup wins (last winners at the old Wembley, first winners at the new Wembley); the league titles; Jimmy and Eidur forging the sort of partnership on the field that we can only dream of; Jody Morris / Neil Shipperley / Damien Matthew all destined to be the next big thing. Maybe. Roman ‘rescuing’ us and giving us a taste of ‘how the other half live’. JT being the last of a dying ‘heart on sleeve, body on the line’ breed; Frank being so good everyone else is just jealous. And who can forget the goal posts. The ‘super-size’ 5-a-side goals we used to have at the Bridge were, to this day, still the best I can remember. Oh, and this result: Chelsea 5-0 Manchester United. One that’s lived long in the memory. Obviously.
Regardless of current form, these are good times people. Cherish them.
My favourite season by Blingo Starr
My favourite season is the 1988/89 campaign spent in the old Second Division. Given some of the alternatives – our first Premier League title, Gullit’s sexy football, Vialli’s epic cup winning team – this may seem an odd choice, especially as we began by losing 2-1 at home to Blackburn Rovers in front of 8,722 bemused fans. In fact, we wouldn’t win any of our first six games, and we had heartbreakingly sold our best player, the mesmerising Pat Nevin, to Everton in the summer.
Players and fans alike were still horribly traumatised by relegation, despite us finishing fourth from bottom of Division One. For the first and only time there was a play-off, involving three teams from the Second Division and one (us) from the first. We murdered Blackburn in the semi-final, Nevin scoring his final goal for Chelsea. The final was less pleasant, we lost 2-0 away to a pumped up Middlesbrough. Then, despite having 40,000 packed into Stamford Bridge, we played timidly and only managed to scrape a 1-0 win, the 2-1 defeat on aggregate condemning us to the dreaded drop.
The outlook was bleak, the club had massive financial problems, our support was noted only for violence and extinction was a real, daily possibility. However, that 1988/89 season turned into a memorable one, and I was lucky enough to attend just about every game. Despite our poor home support, we regularly took many thousands to away games, and it was these that provided the real highlights: an unlikely 2-0 victory away at Leeds, our first win of the season; a 7-0 spanking of Walsall, in which Gordon Durie scored five; a fantastic, breathtaking 3-2 win at Maine Road against Manchester City, with whom we were contesting the title.
Then almost exactly 17 years ago as I write this, on April 15th, 1989, our 28 game unbeaten run came to an end at Leicester City. That day will not be remembered for Chelsea’s 2-0 defeat however. All afternoon the legion of Chelsea fans at Filbert Street had been tuned to their portable radios. Something was happening at Hillsborough, where Liverpool were playing Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup semi-final. Eighty-nine fans died that day, on terraces I had stood on only a few seasons before. No one who was there will forget the sombre, silent mood in and outside the ground. A black day for football fans everywhere.
I think we sealed promotion the following week, beating Leeds 1-0 at home in front of 30,000 ecstatic fans, and we went on to post a jaw-dropping 99 points. It was a world away from today’s Chelsea. You could turn up five minutes before kick-off and get in. You could buy a ticket with a handful of change. You could stand. You never saw any highlights on television. And Richard Keys had yet to be discovered roaming in a Borneo jungle. Of course, the title winning season of 2004/05 runs it close, but for me that 1988/89 season will always be extra special. It epitomised triumphing in the face of adversity. There were no Roman roubles in those days.
In our first game back in the top flight, in August 1989, we played Wimbledon at Plough Lane. Welcome back to the big time!