It seems that there is a bit of a game on this evening.
Having read some missives from Merseyside, there appears to be something of a North / South divide evident between us. So, just to clarify a few points that I’ve read about us Chelsea fans in recent days.
Yes, my real name is Tarquin. The chap I sit next to at Stamford Bridge has a double-barrelled name that sounds like a couple of small villages in the Lake District.
We both run hedge funds and heat our swimming pools by burning £50 notes. And stray members of the working classes (but only when we’re bored with shooting at them).
We will be leaving our offices early today (the resident Arsenal fan is looking after mine – well, what else does he have to do?) and asking the driver to head to a little hostelry near the stadium in order to quaff a few pre-match liveners.
(Cheapo Bollinger only unfortunately – wouldn’t pour it down the WC normally, but the blasted credit crunch has put the vintage Krug on ice and we’re reduced to flushing the turds away with plain old Perrier nowadays.)
Now, much has been made of the terrible din that the locals make in their ghastly little corner of the North where they eat rodents and make love to their relatives. But let me tell you, things can get pretty heated in SW6 when the occasion demands it.
Tomorrow night you’ll see 40,000 expectant fans, most of whom have been avid Blues since at least 2003, buoyant in the knowledge that a nice corporate jolly to Moscow is on the cards.
Copies of the Telegraph and the FT will be made into paper aeroplanes; we’ll wave our plastic flags vigorously and open our prawn sandwiches simultaneously. It creates quite an unholy racket, I can tell you. Swing low, you Chelsea blues!
Of course, none of the above is really true, but just a cheeky play on a few tired stereotypes.
I’m sure that the wags blogging on the Liverpool FC sites this week are being equally as sarcastic when they talk about their honest players that never dive or argue with referees, their fans who wouldn’t stoop as low as stealing or forging tickets for the game or indeed believe that they have some God given right to go to Moscow as it wouldn’t be a ‘proper’ final without them. I mean, you wouldn’t write that stuff seriously, would you?
Rewind for a moment. Saturday was, against general expectations, a cracking day. The sun came out. Avram put some superfine Egyptian cotton around his portly form. Rio made a twat of himself in front of Signor Capello and Ze German was smoother than Leslie Phillips seducing a pair of cashmere slippers.
Above all, it finally showed that despite a season of largely turgid, awful football we can still shine when the occasion demands.
So having successfully annoyed the ability to be a well-mannered and rational loser out of Fergie, we turn our attentions to dear old Rafa, whose face at the mere mention of Chelsea usually looks like Max Mosley’s arse after a night in the dungeon with a half a dozen whip-wielding Frauleins.
Without José to spar with, the Liverpool supremo seems lost and has taken to rambling on about all sorts of conspiratorial nonsense.
“In the last six games in Europe he has refereed, five times the local team have won and once they haven’t. That was Valencia against Chelsea – it’s very curious,” said Benitez of tonight’s match official.
Frankly, you could force feed Alan Green alphabet spaghetti and he’d shit a more coherent viewpoint. But there’s nothing like getting your excuses in early, I suppose. When you haven’t got a ‘famous Anfield European night’ to fall back on, you need to fire the troops up somehow.
Oh bollocks – enough already. I apologise for the frivolous nature of this post. You can read all the proper stats and stuff on the BBC website if that bakes your loaf. Laugh at the pilchards on Sky Sports News, watch Youtube clips of Riise’s spectacular strike in the first leg or Phil Thompson shouting “PENGUIN!” in frustration.
Just do whatever is necessary to get you through today. The truth is, I just need to take my mind off things. I am slightly more tense and uneasy than Ken Livingstone in a synagogue.
The last time we had a chance this good of getting near the big Euro vase, we watched in horror as Claudio Ranieri’s tactical masterplan unfolded (literally) before our eyes.
It was like watching General Custer trying to defend Little Big Horn with feather dusters and a packet of Tunnock’s caramel wafers. Pretty, it was not.
Our Euro heartaches since then have been almost exclusively at the hands of the fourth best team in the Premier League. Liverpool are undeniably in good form at present; this is what happens when you treat most of your games from February onwards like a series of friendlies after you’ve dropped out of the race for everything else. Again.
But tonight, all of that is irrelevant. Tonight is about Avram and the boys.
It matters not that we have often made holding onto a lead look more difficult than nailing bran flakes to a soapy ferret.
It matters even less that our manager occasionally resembles a man who has been covered in strong adhesive and pushed into a branch of Mister Byrite.
What matters tonight is how he and the boys deal with one of the biggest games we’ve ever played in.
Ten years ago, the thought of Chelsea reaching a European Cup final was the preserve of the mentally unstable. Tonight, we stand on the edge of history. Ninety minutes separate us from Moscow and the team that we beat at the weekend.
So roll on 7.45 this evening. Those of us attending, make the Bridge rock like it did on Saturday. Those on the pitch and in the dugout, you know what to do. Make us proud.