Chelsea vs. Bordeaux : 16 September 2008.
A few of my closest Chelsea mates were having a good old debate during the afternoon about the “manufactured” atmosphere that the club seems to be promoting again this season. We had heard that, instead of Chelsea flags, old style blue and white bar scarves would be given to all fans at the game. I commented that while I like the impact of these “visuals”, I was dead against the Fulham-style noise-makers ( first observed by me at Anaheim in 2002 I seem to remember )…if at any time in the near future, we were handed those on our entrance into the MHU, I think a little part of me would die a little.
Regarding flags, my last comment to the boys was “if the fans were able to bring them in themselves, a la Ultras, I could find it more palatable.I think it’s the club enforcing these things on us which is the key to our disdain.”
And so I set off. I left work at 4.15pm.
I work in the Wiltshire town of Chippenham. It’s a pretty sleepy town, famous for only one thing really…or rather, infamous…a mere 800 yards away from where I work, rock and roll legend Eddie Cochrane was killed in a car crash, back in around 1960.
I made good time until I reached the outskirts of West London – in the first hour, I covered 70 miles, but then the traffic slowed up. In the second hour I only did 25 miles. Drove into London on the M4, with Windsor Castle visible to my right ( Peter Osgood was born in Windsor ) and the much lampooned Slough to my left.
Since the ‘seventies, when my parents drove me up the M4 to games at Chelsea, the landmarks I spot from the M4 have become iconic for me. I’m travelling a well worn path on this road, believe me.
As I drove up and over the elevated section of the M4, I glimpsed the majestic arch of Wembley on the horizon to the north, the skyscrapers at Canary Wharf right ahead of me and I got what I will call from now on “the Brentford Buzz” – the sudden realisation that I was now in London Town and only three miles away from Stamford Bridge. The Killers CD was turned up a few notches…a nice feeling of exhilaration.
Parked-up at 6.15pm, straight into The Goose and a pint of Carling, me darling. Out into the quiet beer garden and a few “hiya boys” to Alan, Daryl, Rob, Daryl and his son Ed, Simon and his son Milo. Oh – another chap was present…a chap called Glenn ( or “Parky” ) who I used to work with in Trowbridge. He was on crutches after a knee op and had come up by train, but had no way of getting home…so I said I’d take him back. We had a good old laugh, mainly at Parky’s expense – bit of a character! Daryl and Simon were glowing in praise of the recent Stevie Wonder concert they had seen at The Dome.
We laughed at the image of one of our friends at Chelsea ( the legend that is Lovejoy ) being spotted on “Match Of The Day” during the City game and being likened to Chris De Burgh by Adrian Chiles of the BBC. He won’t live that one down!
A mild evening, we walked to the ground and I picked up a copy of CFCUK at the stall…Mark Worrall was there and we said “hi.” He has been pestering me to do a few recollections of “Arsenal 184” for his next book, so I said I’d crack on with that.
Parky bought a Chelsea / Bordeaux scarf for a fiver. I bought a programme and into the stadium.
Yep, there was a scarf draped on the back of my seat – I was surprised nobody had pinched it. As the teams came onto the pitch, quite a few fans began twirling them. I was more concerned in demolishing the steak and ale pie I had just forked out £3 on.
I didn’t think that the visual impact of the scarves was as good as the flags to be honest. The sight of all four stands featuring fans with the blue and white scarves draped around their necks looked rather surreal…like a Subutteo stadium from the ‘seventies, or maybe a Hollywood version of how English football fans should look.
The game was an absolute breeze. Did Bordeaux play well? Neaux!
A snappy couple of goals from Frank and Joe gave us a deserved lead at half-time…out came the scarves-a-twirling! It was all too easy, though. I lost patience with the team in the second-half…from Big Phil’s comments, it seems I was not the only one…I felt we didn’t move the ball in the right way. It was all a bit laboured. Deco, especially, was off the pace and then gave away a really silly foul which earned him a deserved yellow. Good to see Ballack back – he tried to open up the defence a few times, but as the game moved on, I was sure it would end 2-0.
Two late goals gave us a really comfortable win…lovely finish from Malouda. A fearsome strike from Belletti rattled the crossbar at The Shed End ( Parky was sat right behind it! ) and Anelka poked home. Anelka did OK actually.
Couldn’t help but note the atmosphere wasn’t great at all…a few sections tried to get things going to no avail. For a big club, Bordeaux’ away following of only 300 was pitiful. Parky reckoned the Shed were singing “where were you at Agincourt?” to them!
The match was sold-out, apart from one key area…noticed that there were quite a few gaps in the middle of The Shed ( Gate 4 ). I have noticed this many times before…I have a feeling this is where the club puts people on complimentary tickets or on hotel packages. But why right behind the goal? Right in the middle of what should be the singing section? Answers on a postcard please.
Walking past the tube station, I noted the Chelsea / Bordeaux scarves were now down to £3!
While waiting for Parky to get back to the car, I popped into The Goose and was pleased to hear that the boozer will be open at 10am again on Sunday.
Left Old London Town at 10pm, dropped Parky off at 11.45pm and I reached home at 12.15am, my sore throat from Manchester City ever so slightly worse.
United – you are next.
Now, where did I put my noisemaker?