Past, Present & Future?
It's been a while since I put anything together for this website. Credit goes to those who c...
It's been a while since I put anything together for this website. Credit goes to those who contribute far more regularly than I do. I guess I had been partially waiting for us to turn, what Jason Cundy recently referred to as 'the longest corner in world football'.
Yet again, I dared to believe that we had done so after the recent trilogy of clean sheets against the might of Norwich and Maccabi Tel Aviv, and the more creditible draw at (for those of us old enough to remember) what used to be known as '3 point Lane'. But as the old adage goes, just when you thought that the future looked bright, 'the lads responded magnificently' at home to Bournemouth, and we again found ourselves looking over our shoulders and staring into the abyss that is relegation to the Championship.
Incidentally, when hearing Jose talk about knowing where we are heading and that he had been convinced that we were going to have a good December, I was troubled by the emergence of past traumas and reminded of the late 80's when the squad containing the likes of Dixon, Nevin, Durie and (the original) Hazard, deemed 'too good to go down', 'responded magnificently' again to end up falling through the trap-door that was the play-offs (it still rankles to this day that we actually avoided automatic relegation, but that we still managed to achieve that feat, losing to Middlesbrough over 2 legs in the play off final). I hear the terrible chimes of complacency in Jose's thoughts about a good December, with every game now seeming like a major challenge. It couldn't happen could it? Don't ever think that it's a given we'll come good and all will be well - I've got the scars to prove that it's not so!
Which brings me back to Bournemouth again (ouch!). Its a bit difficult for me not to come back to Bournemouth as it happens to be where I live. Not ideal after our most recent catastrophe, but clearly I have no choice. Work colleagues who I had never been worried about previously in terms of football banter, suddenly represented a big threat. Take the rough with the smooth I suppose.
Just a week earlier, I had been very kindly lent a season ticket for Bournemouth by a local friend here, to see the Everton game. This turned out to be an unexpected pleasure, given Bournemouth's magnificent recovery to draw 3-3, especially as when I have, on occasion, been able to attend a game there for the same reason, it's often been a shocker. Quite something when you consider how well they have done in recent years.
But the whole experience got me thinking......The atmosphere was, well, 'electric', not just because of Bournemouth's heroics on the day, but because I detected something that I used to know well when I was able to go to the Bridge more regularly (in the days when I had more money, less commitments, lived closer and wouldn't be staring at a week of pot noodles if I ventured to pay the entrance fee). The fans who were present were clearly all hardcore Cherries fans, had been with the club through thick and thin, were fully and vociferously behind their team, and were passionate to a man (and woman). It reminded me of how it used to be supporting Chelsea. Seeing the same people where I used to stand, getting to know them as we shared the ups and downs of supporting our beloved Blues.
Sadly, those days are gone, as personal situations and lives change, but also because of the well documented changes in the demographic of people who attend the Bridge on match days. My bank balance allows me and my two boys to attend a game about 2-3 times per season, assuming the virtual waiting room deems me loyal enough to have the privilege of spending a large chunk of my well earned cash on 3 tickets. But something is missing from the match day experience.
It was never the case in my day that we had someone trying to get a cheer out of the 4 sides of the stadium; actually, that's not quite true. I remember the charismatic Joey Jones whipping up a storm when he came out for the warm up, giving a prolonged fist pumping to each section of the home crowd, but that was altogether more inspiring, spontaneous and didn't happen because of the nagging concerns about the lack of atmosphere.
My younger son attended yesterday's game at Bournemouth as they overcame a poor Man United 2-1 (a result I would have celebrated had it not meant that the Cherries again leap-frogged over us once more). He said to me something akin to the following - 'Dad, I love Chelsea, but that was the best match I have ever been to and the atmosphere was amazing'. I knew what he meant. And no, I'm not about to defect to the nearest Premiership club to my house; Chelsea is in the heart and that is that. But I do fear for the future. I am not qualified to articulate the many factors that have altered that demographic at the Bridge, but money is obviously a major factor.
With players across the ages earning ridiculous amounts of cash and with the shocking realisation that there will only be 750 new season tickets when the new Cathedral of Stamford Bridge is built (yet considerably more hospitality packages), it's not difficult to conclude where the club's priorities lie.
Where is the soul of the club? It's with the fans; and it's also a glorious and dynamic fusion of players and fans united around a common cause. I saw it at Bournemouth, and it reminded me of a bygone era at Chelsea. Disturbingly I see the club and it's real fans growing further apart and it's frightening.
No, I don't want to go back to the days when I saw us lose 4-0 at home to West Ham, and 6-0 to QPR in the space of 3 days. But I do want a return to the fantastic support the the club experienced during those times and which I can remember so vividly even now. Will it happen? Don't hold your breath......