No, this is not about the 12 bar kind of blues, but the ones from Stamford Bridge, in West London who play the majestic game of Association Football – Chelsea Football Club. It was almost 50 years ago, on 20th May 1967 that I began supporting Chelsea, whilst watching the F.A. Cup Final against Tottenham Hotspur on T.V.; the first all London final.
The rest of my family, my Mum, Dad and and sister Janet, were all supporting Spurs that day, Mum’s family hails from that part of London, so it was a natural choice for them. However, I think as a 9 year old lad, I wanted to be a little rebellious, a little different, so I chose to shout for Chelsea.
Chelsea actually lost that day, 2 – 1, but I was hooked. I have followed the club ever since, through thick and thin, and trust me, despite the successes of recent years, there have been some very thin times. These include 3 spells in the old second division, although on each occasion, Chelsea proved that what goes down must come back up.
But back to my boyhood, and my first visit to the hallowed ground of Stamford Bridge – it was on 7th September, 1968; my dear Dad (a Millwall supporter) took me to watch my heroes battle it out against Everton; the game ended 1 – 1, and although I don’t remember much about the game, I do remember we had seats in the old East Stand. Dad wasn’t a fan of standing (of course there were terraces at all grounds in those days), so seats were the order of the day.
The second game though went somewhat differently; later that same season on 15th March 1969, he took me to watch Chelsea play Manchester United; a United team that were Champions of Europe, and included the great George Best and Denis Law, although sadly Bobby Charlton was out injured. Seats were impossible to get, so we went into the terraces, in fact into the notorious ‘Shed’. It was packed, totally jam packed, 60,436 supporters making the most almighty noise.
I remember being quite scared, as there was just no room to move, and I couldn’t see a thing, then when Chelsea scored, after some 7 minutes, the whole ‘Shed’ pushed forward in unison, and I was carried down quite a few tiers of the terraces, my anxious father trying his best to keep hold of me. I lost a shoe, and it took quite a few minutes to somehow recover it, and by then Dad was so concerned that he decided that we should leave. It was a disappointing end, but looking back, I’m sure it was the right decision – and as for the game, Chelsea won 3 – 2.
In the years that followed, as I hit my teens, I was an occasional visitor to ‘The Bridge’, but mostly my support was from the comfort of the lounge room. My hero of those days was the late, great, Peter Osgood, and memorable moments included Chelsea’s first ever F.A. Cup Final win in 1970, followed in 1971 by lifting the European Cup Winners Cup. Those victories aside, Chelsea were quite an ordinary side through the following years right up to the mid 90’s.
It was not until 1997 that The Blues lifted another trophy, this time it was the F.A. Cup again, in a 2 – 0 victory over Middlesborough, at Wembley. However, that game will always stand out in my memory because of the first goal that Chelsea scored; Roberto Di Matteo scoring after only 43 seconds. I was watching on TV at home, with my youngest son, playing quietly on the floor quite near me, he was 6 at the time, so not particularly interested in the game. However, as Di Matteo’s shot hit the back of the net, I leapt up shouting and screaming, and my poor son decided to scream with me, although his reasons were very different, he was totally scared, he’d never seen or heard his Dad do that before!
With the new millennium, Chelsea started to turn into the force that they are today – their new Russian owner, some great players, and a certain ‘Special One’ finally won the prized Premier League in 2005, the first time the club had been crowned champions of England since 1955, so it was the first time in my life time. I have fond memories of the game which assured the title would be heading to Chelsea, I was living in Eindhoven, in The Netherlands, and it was ‘Queens Day’ – Holland’s national day, when the entire country turns orange, and holds the biggest country-wide party. I watched this game, an away match against Blackburn, in a pub in the centre of the city, and it was just wild. The excitement of finally winning ‘The League’ combined with the craziness of Queens Day, it was a very special experience.
Being an Expat, I rarely get to see The Blues live these days, but they regularly feature on T.V. so I do watch many of their games from afar. In fact the last time I saw them live was a very special night in 2013, when they played in the Europa League Final, in Amsterdam against Portuguese side Benfica. The previous year, they had won the Champions League, and that was a really great night, shared with my Chelsea supporting elder son, and non-Chelsea supporting younger son, but to witness The Blues play in a major final ‘in the flesh’ was something very special. It was just a stroke of luck that the match was being played in Amsterdam, at the stadium of the great Dutch club Ajax, as I was living and working in the city, so managed to get a ticket. The game ended in a dramatic 2 – 1 win for Chelsea, and I hugged some Russian guy who was sitting next to me, happy days!
So, this brings us to the present season, and at the time of writing, Chelsea are doing pretty well, with a good chance of winning both the Premier League and the F.A. Cup, but the next few weeks will tell. However, one interesting coincidence (and perhaps the inspiration for these memories) is that Chelsea will play Tottenham this coming weekend in the F.A. Cup Semi Final. Prior to the draw, I was really hoping they would avoid each other, so that they could perhaps meet in the final, wouldn’t that have been special, exactly 50 years after that first F.A. Cup Final meeting; but it was not to be, so they must battle it out in the semis – one of them however will get to play in the Final, 50 years on.