I was very quick to voice my displeasure at the recent announcement of the Dolce & Gabbana tie up, with all its overtones of the modern sporting obsession with style over substance, building the brand, chasing the big buck and so on.
Then I looked at the upcoming fixtures and I saw that deep within the Chelsea organisation not everyone is jumping on this bandwagon. In a subtle, layered, finely textured approach to maintaining tradition, keeping the club centred and in touch with its origins, a person or persons is quietly signalling in almost imperceptible ways that football and we the fans are what really matter.
It follows therefore that here on Chelsea FC Blog we will be one of the first to take these messages and amplify them across the footballing world.
Now, I hesitated when I first became aware of the near subliminal signals I was receiving. If not careful I could expose myself to mockery and become a figure of fun. Like one of those people claiming to see the face of Jesus in a half eaten loaf of bread.
But worse than that. Just as when reaching out to hold a snowflake, the better to see its beauty, the heat of your hand will cause it to melt; by spelling out the meaning, I would help the Brandingmiesters within the club to search out and quietly close down the source.
But on balance I decided that they would want me to broadcast the truth.
So pause for a moment and step back from the work-a-day world around you. Close your eyes in a quiet moment of meditation and transport yourself to Fulham Broadway on match days.
Now many of the traditional pubs and eateries have gone replaced in the drive for gentrification by bars, gastro pubs and restaurants. But there is still that same sense of anticipation, the hubbub of voices, the chanting erupting from a watering hole as a door opens.
And yes the smells. The ever present traffic fug, the gaseous odour of fresh horse manure, on cold days the tang of a biting wind, on warm days the unfortunate whiff of human perspiration gone stale in the too tight away strip from three seasons ago.
But there on the breeze as you meander from the station, a pungent sweetness lingers. A grace note floating above the pre-match orchestral din. It has always been there, in the 30’s, in the 50’s, in the 70’s. Through the dark days, through the great years.
Frying onions. The unmistakeable smell of frying onions. Fans long dead, players long gone sniffed them in the air, just as we do today. Mears, Bates and Abramovich, they all recognise that unmistakeable aroma. It’s an unbroken footballing connection through the years. Sugary, acidic, with a tinge of acrid burning.
That smell emanates from hot dog stands and burger vans all around Stamford Bridge, indeed around grounds the country over.
And whoever drew up the pre-season fixture list was well aware that in the era of sponsorship, PR, corporate entertainment and pay per view, someone had to intimate to the fans that there are still those who value the relationship that lies at the heart of the game. The team and its supporters.
And so they arranged two back to back fixtures.
The addition of the suffix –er tells you everything you need to know.
It is surely no accident.
(I assume the proximity to the Charity Shield ruled out having a third fixture offering the Vegetarian Option.)