Tales From Ian Britton’s Homecoming

Chelsea vs. Sunderland : 16 January 2010.

With no game last weekend, I was chomping at the bit for the league game with Sunderland. I drove up with Parky and Steve. The snow has almost completely disappeared now. However, instead, I had heavy rain to contend with, which is always tiring.

I was soon parked up at 11.45am and we headed straight into The Goose, which was already getting busy. The rain meant that the beer garden was a no-go area, so we stood, densely-packed inside. The usual suspects, chatting away, the usual designer threads on show.

Proper Chelsea.

It got busier and busier. I limited myself to two pints, though craved more. I chatted to a chap – name unknown – who I occasionally see at Chelsea, about the Liverpool debacle. It’s such a gorgeous thing to watch from afar, isn’t it? The Stoke vs. Liverpool game was on the pub TV and it looked a dire game. If Liverpool lose these days…great…if they win…Rafa stays. We can’t lose.

I had to meet Wes outside The So Bar to hand over his match ticket, so I left the cosy ( very cosy ) confines of The Goose at 2.15pm.

Unfortunately, Wes was running late.

Oh dear.

I waited for Wes to arrive and took in the scene. I take so many photographs of games and I am always looking for new subjects and angles. I took a few quick snaps of the street scene outside The So Bar…police on horseback, programme sellers, the deluge of on-rushing fans, the tourists with their megastore bags, the veterans in heavy jackets and baseball caps. The souvenir stall by the West Stand seemed to be doing a good trade. I bought a programme and a copy of CFCUK. A text came through from Andy Wray in SF that Stoke had grabbed an equaliser against Liverpool…our former defender Robert Huth to thank. A good sign.

Thankfully, Wes ( huffing and puffing ) arrived at 2.45pm and it just allowed me enough time to line up at the turnstiles and get in for kick-off. Wes would be watching from Dave’s ST seat in the Shed Upper.

The rain had thankfully stopped, but it was overcast…

I saw the team and I wondered if it would be a Jose-style 4-3-3 or Carlo 4-3-2-1.

Within a minute, Joey Cole was set up nicely by a Malouda header ( a what? ) but he fluffed his lines. Within three minutes, a lovely cross from Ivanovic was headed wide by Ashley. It was a bright start and things looked promising. I noted four flags of St.George draped over the Sunderland balcony as Frank Lampard took a corner. The Sunderland fans booed him. I wonder if they will be booing him when he plays for St. George in South Africa in June.

Soon into the game, both ends of the stadium began singing…

“We want you to stay, we want you to stay…”

…and I wondered who they were talking about. I soon found out.

“Rafa Benitez –We want you to stay.”

A beautifully deft and disguised through-ball from Michael Ballack set up “Doves” who calmly slotted home. He went to the corner and waited for his team mates to join him, just in front of Wes.

Click, click, click.

It was a fantastic ball from Ballack…a ball which made my heart purr…a ball which defied the laws of trigonometry. If had I had played a similar ball in five-a-side, people would think I mis-hit it.

Next up was a great goal from Malouda, now in the inside-right channel. He won the ball and advanced. There were general murmurings of discontent as he advanced…we simply had no faith in him chosing the right option. A step-over, a shimmy and a shot despatched with great precision into the far corner of the goal and we all celebrated wildly. Well done sir! Despite the passages of poor play, Malouda does show the occasional glimpse of pure skill. How infuriating he is.

After Ballack’s sublime touch for the opener, Alan had noted he was back to his usual self…poor passes and such-like. What followed was the line of the season –

“Ballack is just like Adolf Hitler. One good ball and he thinks he can rule the World.”

Oh boy – that had me in stitches. Alan is full of these droll comments. I have known him for 26 years and it is a pleasure to watch a game with him.

The next goal ( who’s keeping count? ) was the best of the day and possibly the season thus far. A launch from JT into the path of Ashley. A first touch from heaven, a dummy ( see you later, send me a postcard ) and a flick with the outside of the foot into the goal.

What a goal. We love Ashley and his name was sung with gusto.

Ashley then “dug out” a great cross for Frank to toe-poke home. Blimey. When was the last time we were 4-0 up at half-time?

I disappeared off for a steak and ale pie ( I’m still an addict ), thus missing the introduction of Ian Britton at half-time. When Ossie left in 1974, Ian Britton became my favourite player…industrious, pacy, a hive of activity. The last time I saw him ( I think, without checking ) was in October 1981 against Wrexham…Beth’s first-ever game infact. I watched him trot down towards The Shed. He now lives in Burnley. Great to see him again.

I quickly scanned the programme…there was mention of the amazing 2-3 and 7-1 games against Tromso in 1997…the home game still remains my highest ever Chelsea win in over 750 matches attended. I wondered if we would beat it. In CFCUK, many contributors were moaning about the booing against Fulham.

Quite right too.

A re-cap of the Chelsea supporters’ banners now adorning the balcony of the East…from north to south…Waterford, Swindon, New York, Cork, Hastings, Bermuda, Sweden, Lincolnshire.

Soon into the second-half, a rocket from Anelka was touched onto the bar by Fulop. Soon after, an inch-perfect cross from Joe found Ballack. An easy header, but an emphatic one. Get in.

Zenden made it 5-1. Big deal.

Then Anelka made it 6-1…a tap in. Thoughts of Tromso…

A header from Joe hit the post…still we attacked. After an Anelka miss, we got the required seven via a nice Lampard header…it was a lovely feeling to see the players so happy down below me. I almost expected Ian Britton to sneak onto the pitch and grab a goal.

Then Sunderland made it 7-2. Drat! However, a new record for me…I had never seen nine goals in the same game before. I had been texting a few friends in California and I could taste their elation from 6,000 miles away. Everyone together, everyone happy. It was the perfect end to a lovely week for me as I had received some great news about my current contract at work.

Happy Days.

I drove home, with thoughts of imminent visits to Tom Finney’s Preston and Ian Britton’s Burnley coming up. Fantastic times.

I watched “MOTD” later in the evening. Alan Hansen was gushing in his praise, especially of our Ash, who he said was “the best left-back in the World, bar none.” Music to my ears.

One thing did surprise me…even at 5-0, 6-1 and 7-1, The Bridge seemed stunningly quiet.

We need to sort that out. Let’s get the place rocking against Birmingham City and Arsenal.

TEW05876899_00130

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