Tales From The Rear Of The Milton End

Portsmouth vs. Chelsea : 3 March 2009.

This game almost snuck under the radar.

My head has been full-to-bursting with all of this Juventus / Chelsea stuff going on and we all have the excitement of a first-ever visit to Coventry’s new stadium for the FA Cup game at the weekend. Of course, I visited Fratton Park back in September for the League Cup game – another midweek fixture. With all of these things together, Portsmouth away didn’t really fill me with much joie de vivre, so to speak.

As I set off from work at 4pm, with a black cloud on the horizon, my lack of enthusiasm hit me and I found it quite shocking to be honest. This game definitely had a “heads down, just show up, get in, get out” feel to it. I am usually excited by away games, but as I headed east along the M4 with the rain increasing, the drive to Pompey just seemed to be too much of a tiresome task. The weather was rotten the entire trip. I headed south at Newbury on the A34 and passed through undulating countryside, silver birch trees each side of me. Throughout the trip, and especially near Southampton, gorse bushes seemed to be everywhere. I was playing Morrissey’s new album on the CD player and I had a feeling that this would be the trip that would stick in my mind every time I’d hear the album in the future. Funny how that happens…”Eden” by Everything But the Girl takes me back to travelling through France in 1985, “Treasure” by the Cocteau Twins reminds me of a walk back to South Kensington tube after a game at Chelsea in December 1984 ( see my avatar! ) and there are many other examples of me tieing in albums with places. “Years of Refusal” will remind me of thunderous skies on the way to Pompey I am sure.

I had chatted to Cathy and Lovejoy, while at work, who both had spares for the game. I had tried to entice Farmer John ( mgoblue06 ) along but he had just got back from France, where he had been throwing his arms around Paris…he couldn’t make it, unfortunately.

I was feeling pretty tired as I drove the last twenty miles from Southampton to Portsmouth. I had forgotten to take some coffee, the car heaters were on full tilt to keep the windscreen clear and the rain was teeming down outside. I was feeling tired and weary. My mate Daryl had been visiting his daughter, who is a fresher at Portsmouth University, but was already in “The Good Companion” at 6pm. Daryl used to run a New York Yankees fanzine and it was a full year after our first correspondence that we realised we were both Chelsea fans. I turned off on the approach to Pompey but was then stuck in very slow-moving traffic. As I mentioned in my September match report, Portsmouth flows into Southsea on Portsea Island and the traffic was horrendous. I drove past a large pub to my left – the first one in the city – and who should be out on the porch, phone in hand, but Lovejoy. It was as if he was welcoming us all to the city

Ever the gentleman, Daryl sent me a text –

“Text me when you are 2 mins away, will get you a beer.”

I replied –

“I’m 10 away, can you get me 5?”

I found somewhere to park along a side road and made my entrance in the boozer at 6.30pm, some 100 miles from my Chippenham departure point. It’s a good pub and the clientele was half and half. Gulped down a pint of Becks Vier. Soon spotted Chopper from NYC but he went off to chat to Cathy and Dog, plus Jim and Jane, who I vaguely know from Chicago 2006. Tim from Bristol, with his daughter Georgie, soon arrived…funny, Tim had been working a mile away from me in Chippenham all day. We spoke about our plans for Turin. I went off to get more beers and bumped into my Pompey mate Rick…I did wonder if he had been lurking to see when I was on the way to the bar! He’s a mate from schooldays, but lives a mere mile from the ground now. A bit of chat about a few things, mainly football. Go figure. Just before we gathered enough courage to leave the pub, Chopper reappeared and bellowed out

“The New York Blues are full of booze
The New York Blues are full of booze.
We’ll shag your beer and drink your women –
The New York Blues are full of booze.”

I had played my first eleven-a-side game for ages on Sunday, but had hurt my right knee ligaments again…I think I made a pitiful spectacle as I hobbled my way to Fratton Park, the rain absolutely lashing down. Rick disappeared off into the home stand and I joined Alan and Gary behind the goal. We were three rows from the rear, right next to the home fans. Unfortunately, there was a gap in the stand wall just behind us and the rain seemed to head straight for us. More rain! It never stopped, coming in from the south in massive swirls.

We were somewhat surprised to see Malouda and not Anelka starting. Anelka has been impressing me more of late – his ball retention if nothing else. Malouda started brightly but soon resorted to type.

Chelsea and Pompey exchanged blows in the first quarter, but we then became stronger in the first period. The game was of note for the two or three spills by the Portsmouth ‘keeper. David James – you were good in your time, but I think your days are numbered. The shots reigned in on James, as we got rained on, but our shooting was really woeful in that first half.

It was an average game really. Daryl – who had been getting soaked near another exit – joined us for the second half. The plus points? Frank’s energy, Cech’s amazing saves…Mikel was steady. However, Drogba had a pretty quiet game and appeared disinterested. Ballack and Malouda pretty poor, as always. Kalou began well but drifted. JT made a few errors and had Big Pete to thank when Nugent shot tamely at our great ‘keeper after a JT error. We heard that the Micky Mousers were 1-0 up and we hated it. I expected a few Liverpool texts coming my way.

Our support was alright – nothing special.

The addition of Quaresma lifted us. I can’t say he changed the game, but he did well. I’d like to see him and Stoch used ahead of Kalou and Malouda. But you knew that, right? Into the last part of the game and we looked a bit tired. Thank heavens, then, for that fine drilled shot from Drogba which won us the game and kept us in second place. Our end erupted.

“You are my Chelsea
My only Chelsea
You make me happy, when skies are grey
You’ll never notice how much we love you
Until you’ve taken my Chelsea away



Until you’ve taken my Chelsea away



Until you’ve taken my Chelsea away.”

At the final whistle, I quickly excused myself and headed out of the stadium. I noticed an elderly Chelsea pensioner, in red tunic, being lead out of the Chelsea section and I had a sudden rush of pride.

I walked back to the car and got more soaked. As I opened the car door and manically took my drenched coat off, the rain turned to hailstones. Great timing! It took a long time to eventually get out of the traffic jam. I was on the M27 at 10.30pm, though. I listened to Danny Baker on “606” and slowly made my way home. I was feeling tired and so stopped for an espresso and a biscotti ( thinking of Turin ) at 11pm.

The loneliness of a long-distance football fan, eh? It’s no problem, I’m OK by myself.

Eventually reached home at 12.15am and the rain hadn’t bloody stopped all afternoon and evening.



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