Tales From The Halfway Point

Chelsea vs. West Bromwich Albion : 26 December 2008.

So, nineteen games down, nineteen to go.

There is always something really lovely about a Boxing Day game at Chelsea. There’s just something in the air.

The Frome Five set off at 8.30am…a crisp, sunny, winter day…blue skies overhead, no clouds to be seen. Just perfect. Mixed fortunes on the employment front – work still scarce for Big Dave, but PD now has a new job to go to in January. We updated each other with Christmas Day tales on the drive up. Unfortunately, Glenn’s daughter Amelia has chicken pox. I had a quiet Christmas day really.

Karen made great time and we parked-up at 10.20am…actually, there were four cars from Frome on this occasion…a good turnout! Twelve of us all told. We weren’t prepared for the biting wind that met us as we got out of the cars…The Goose wasn’t open until midday and so we decamped to the Lillie Langtry…we defrosted ourselves and waited for the troops to arrive. Daryl and Ed were joined by Daryl’s Mum, his brother Neil and his fiancee Joy…Alan arrived…we were all together, drinking, happy.

Arranged to drive up with Cookie ( a lad I have known since school days in Frome – a good footballer in his time ) for the Fulham away game.

Glenn, PD and myself were the last to leave the pub. As we approached the area behind the Matthew Harding – not our usual approach at all – eveything was still…everything was quiet. I had to pinch myself to remember we were in the heart of London. Bought the latest CFCUK and the programme.

Without wishing to be disrespectful or sacreligious, I texted a few CIAers with the message “Jesus was born on Christmas Day so Chelsea can play on Boxing Day.”

It was bitterly cold, but with brilliant sunshine. I noticed a few empty seats around me – Boxing Day can be a difficult game for many fans to get to, with very limited public transport on offer. Noticed many empty seats in the away section.

We got off to a great start – a lovely deep cross from Joe and a big strong header from Drogba. We were buzzing in that first period and surely more goals would come. After a few half-chances, though, our play reverted to type and it seemed no more goals would follow until the second period. West Brom were offering nowt up front. With virtually the last move of the half, Frank walked the ball in and we were happy again.

My – it was freezing. I noticed an article about Mickey Thomas in the programme ( he has a column in CFCUK, too ) with a photo from 1983-84.

Ah yes – Twenty Five Years ago…let’s have a recap. By the middle of December, I had been to four Chelsea games…wins versus Derby County, Cardiff City and Newcastle United, plus a horrible defeat to Manchester City. On Boxing Day 1983, if memory serves, we won at Shrewsbury…a game, of course, I didn’t go to. I was on the dole and was limiting myself to a game each month. My Xmas game would be on December 27th against Portsmouth. That’s right – two games in successive days. I’ll go to town about that encounter later.

However, it was at around this time that I was getting clued-up about the sub-culture existing in football at the time…my mate Glenn had mentioned to me that he was talking to some Chelsea fans who spoke to him about all of the expensive gear that the cockneys were wearing. This was news to us…we were oblivious to all this, living in a small Somerset town, miles – and some might say – years away from London. I remember an article which must have appeared in The Mail On Sunday magazine ( which I still have – I must hook it out one day this season ) around December 1983 in which the reporter went into a great degree of depth about football fans from the main cities eschewing the stereotypical jeans / Dr Martins / skinhead look of the days of old in favour of a wide range of labels and styles.

I remember one photo, taken on an Inter-City train, of four spotty Scousers wearing Lacoste, Lyle & Scott, Benetton, Sergio Tacchini and Fila.

A whole new world was about to open up for me.

It would begin – for real, in full colour – at the Pompey home game.

Twenty five years on, I still adhere to the lessons learnt in December 1983. For the Chelsea versus West Brom game at Xmas 2008, I was wearing Nike trainers, Boss jeans, a Lacoste top, a Schott jacket and an Enrico Coveri scarf.

If it matters (…and it so obviously does. )

The second-half flew past, with a succession of chances being missed. I tried to keep warm, but failed miserably. Only our fourth home league win of the season…more to follow?

The Shed, previously quiet, got lively towards the end, with a little battle between The Middle and the West Side…you probably heard this on TV.

Sleep on the way home – back to Frome at 5.30pm.

The troops will be reassembling at The Duke’s Head in Putney for the sojourn to Fulham…the story of 2008, plus 1983, to be continued.


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