Tales From The Blank Saturday

Chelsea vs. Newcastle United : 22 November 2008

Well, that was a strange one, eh? The weekend that never was.

I have a feeling this won’t be a very extensive match report.

Glenn had to work, Karen had to oversee some builders at her new house, so the Frome Gang Of Five had been clipped to just three – Dave, who drove, PD and me. For someone who doesn’t particularly like driving, Dave made light work of the 110 miles. We were parked up at 11.15am. I shot off down to “Lloyds” in order to meet Beth and Jamie. “Lloyds” is the large bar at the top of the escalators at the Fulham Broadway complex…we used to go there a few years ago…but it gets too busy after 1pm. I’m tempted to use the old Yogi Berra ( or was it Casey Stengel? ) catchphrase…”nobody goes there anymore because it’s too crowded.”

I ordered a pint and a £4 breakfast. Jamie was the first to arrive – she had just got back from the Germany vs. England game in Berlin…had enjoyed Berlin, but was glad to be back in an English-speaking city. This was her last game of her stay in London. Beth arrived at about midday…great to see her again. I gave her my Bordeaux ticket. I’m not going, but Beth will be in good company as Alan and Gary are going. Seems that virtually everyone is going on the Eurostar. It will be like a Chelsea Special. Beth and myself are going to the annual Chelsea Pitch Owners Lunch on Friday – this will be the first ( and possibly only ) official Chelsea function I have attended. I can’t wait – it will be a great day I am sure. Beth passed over a couple of items from the Presidential election for me…one badge had the phrase “Yes We Can” and I did wonder how bizarre it was that Obama had pilfered a Bob The Builder catchphrase. Wasn’t there a Joe the Plumber involved in the election campaign too? Anyone care to explain to me what it all means?

We spoke a little about the presidential campaign, but I felt my eyes glazing over…I bade a fond farewell to Jamie and told Beth I’d see her on Friday.

After calling in on Andy at “The Jolly Maltsters” to pass over Glenn’s ticket to one of his mates, I made it back to The Goose for 1.15pm. It was well-packed and so ordered two pints at the bar. Just as I headed over to join the boys, Mike from NYC was on his way to the bar too. He had flown in for the game – had arrived Heathrow at 9.30am and was going back on Sunday afternoon. Great to see him again. I surely should be on a commission the amount of US trade I drum up for The Goose. Chatted mainly to Mike and my mate Rob, who mentioned that he is thinking about making it over to NY / NJ should Chelsea confirm plans for the American Tour in 2009. The more the merrier.

Rob is a chap I only have got to know over the last year…he lives out past East London and mentioned he tries to go and see as many of the youth games as he can. We spoke about what the club means to us and I understood completely when Rob said that he doesn’t really care about who is or isn’t in the team or who we are meant to be after in the transfer market. He’s Chelsea regardless of any of the on-field stuff. It’s something which goes deep. I’m sure Rob will be at The Bridge forever and a day.

Proper Chelsea.

More ridiculous queues at the turnstiles, so I got in five minutes late. Yes, a very odd game. There is a part of me that thinks that I should say that it was “just one of those games” where we just couldn’t score, despite embarrassingly high possession. But that wouldn’t tell the whole story. I’m writing this after having had the benefit of having read the Sunday paper and so I need to agree with the match reporter…we don’t seem to have a Plan B, especially prevalent at home these days. I don’t understand why Scolari only made two substitutions. I don’t know why Ballack was only given ten minutes. Without Drogba ( who offers a vivid variation to our slow build-up play ) we seem to want to pass pass pass forever. We clearly lack width. Apart from one great run when he came through the middle, Malouda was again poor. And Deco seems to get worse with every passing game.

The Geordies were singing “The Blaydon Races” in their corner. Our noise levels weren’t great. At half-time, former player Chris Garland was introduced to the crowd by Neil Barnett. Garland played in the very first game I ever saw – against Newcastle United in March 1974. He has suffered with Parkinsons in the past and I think he isn’t too bad now. Apart from Liverpool, I think I have seen Newcastle play more times than any other team – we couldn’t even escape each other when we dropped down into the old second division. Our last home league defeat against them was way back in 1986…we have a great record against them.

If we were on top in the first-half, the story of the second-half was really amazing. I think I’d struggle to remember a more one-sided 45 minutes of football. Alan and myself were celebrating “the goal that wasn’t” for what seemed like ages before we realised Joe was offside. Pah. At that point we should have realised it wasn’t to be our day.

As the chances came and went, I stood up, leaning against my seat back – always a sure sign I am not pleased! As always, Alan and myself tried to entice our fellow fans to get behind the team, but The Sleepy Hollow were deathly silent. One passage of play was met with moans, groans and boos and made me very annoyed. In the second-half, a rare Geordie attack was broken up by Anelka ( of all people ) who intercepted the ball, controlled it and laid it off to a defender. This was met with howls of derision…presumably because in the eyes of the fans Anelka shouldn’t be back defending. Some players just can’t win, eh?

I stood up and shouted “don’t have a go at him – he’s back defending – FFS! He’s done well there. You lot make more noise when we do something wrong than when we are playing well.”

I was told to calm down by a bloke. I smiled. But seriously – at times at Chelsea, we hardly applaud a corner, but the boos echo around when a player does something wrong. It’s pathetic. Whereas in around 2000, the West Lower was a bastion of noise, these days they watch in silence. Do I sound like a broken record?

Well, we heard that The Goons had lost and then, as we exited down the stairs we were told Liverpool had only drew. So a tangible bit of relief there.

Villa grabbed a point off United as we sped back home. Thank heavens.

At least it didn’t rain.


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