Blue is the colour, football is the game, we’re all together and winning is our aim.
That might be the song that rings out around Stamford Bridge and will hopefully spur the team on this season under new ownership, but football isn’t the only game for some Chelsea players past and present.
Players must have an outlet, a way to relax away from the pitch. That might be video games, music, chilling with friends or another sport, but somehow they have to shake off the pressure of a Saturday afternoon (as it used to be before Sky ruined the game) and recharge the batteries. For some players, playing cards is the best way to do this.
Plenty of footballers have played cards over the years. In the good old days, teams would travel by coach to a match, and card schools sprang up. Nowadays, you see players immersed in the headphones, studying tablets with tactics and highlights on, but back in the day, it wasn’t unusual to see a round of cards being dealt. Teddy Sheringham said in his autobiography that he ended up playing professional poker because of his time playing cards on the Manchester United team bus.
We’re sure the same happened at Chelsea in the past, although few have spoken about it in their books. Still, there are a handful of Chelsea players, past and present, who still like a round of cards. Who are they? They’re not among the most famous players to represent the club, but two are club legends. Be prepared for a trip down memory lane (via Plough Lane) for the first one.
Wise is best described as hard school; a graduate of the Wimbledon Crazy Gang who came to Chelsea in the early 90s and won two FA Cups and a Cup Winner’s Cup. In all, he spent 11 seasons at Stamford Bridge and even played for England; his goal away in Turkey secured a 1-0 win in 1992 and ensured the team qualified for Euro 92; a draw in that game meant England’s hopes would have folded and Ireland would have gone instead.
Wise hasn’t done a Sheringham and gone on to play poker professionally, but he does like a game of cards. He was pictured at a charity tournament organised by his former Chelsea and Wimbledon teammate Vinnie Jones.
Unlike Wise, N’Golo Kante is very much a part of the current season’s squad. He’s played 260 times for the Blues and won the Premier League, FA Cup, Europa League and Champions League during his stay at Stamford Bridge, as well as the European
Super Cup and the World Club Cup. Kante is a winner who plays fair on the field. Apparently, that’s not the case off it.
He’s been jokingly accused of cheating at cards by his teammates in France while away on international duty. It’s unclear whether this is soft cheating, known in poker as an angle shoot, or whether he is a full-on ‘cards up the sleeve’ cheat. Either way, it seems he needs to steal a march on teammates off the field, unlike on the field where he effortlessly glides past his opponents.
Wayne Bridge kept one of the most famous poker faces of all time when he refused to acknowledge former teammate John Terry, and that came from his practice around the felt. Bridge is a skilled poker player; he won $50,000 for his chosen charity at the Stars Call for Action event in 2020. There’s no surprise; he’s reported to be a fan of playing poker, having also appeared at the PokerStars Festival Dublin.
Bridge is best remembered for his John Terry snub, but that devalues his Blues career. He spent six seasons at Stamford Bridge, making 142 appearances. Curiously, 27 of those came in the Champions League, whilst he only played 87 times in the Premier League.