Chelsea vs. Everton : 12 December 2009.
Just the three of us from the East Somerset / West Wiltshire Chapter travelled up for the Everton game. I left home at 8.30am and the weather was cold and grey. I drove up on the A4 for half the way and then hopped on the M4 at Hungerford. This mirrored the route taken by my father in my youth and works a treat. My father was a shop-keeper in Frome and found it difficult to take too many Saturdays off. However, from 1974 to 1980, Dad would religiously take me to two Chelsea home games each season – once in October / November and once in February / March. Back in those days, driving on the motorways was quite rare and I was reminded of the exhilaration I felt as a young Chelsea fan on match days as we entered the M4 at junction 14. My Dad was never a fast driver, but it meant that London and Chelsea would be but two hours away.
Looking back, I lived for those Chelsea trips as a kid. “Priceless” is a word I would to describe them. I remember I had to dip out of a school football game in the 1977-78 season as I was Chelsea-bound and my games master was far from pleased ( “Bloody hell” he said…and this really tickled my parents when I told them this ) but I knew that even at that age, given the choice, Chelsea would always come first.
Big Dave, Parky and me sat ourselves down for a mega fry-up at 11am and Daryl soon joined us. By then, the skies were blue and the winter sun was a fine sight. Daryl was resplendent in a circa 1973 away scarf, the classic Hungarian red, white and green, much beloved by the Shed End at the time.
We spent from 11.45am to 2.15pm in the boozer. “Pops” from NYC showed up at around 1.45pm and joined us for a chat. We spoke about a few battle-royales against Tottenham in the late-seventies and I remember thinking “Danny would be enjoying this.” Daryl mentioned that the last three Chelsea vs. Everton games have been draws…
We got into the ground nice and early for a change, “Pops” sitting alongside me at The Bridge for the first time ever. I pointed out the gaggle of Supporters Clubs banners in the East Stand and he told me that there would soon be a New York Blues one there too.
In the programme, for the second successive match, there was a lovely article by Ric Glanville about old Stamford Bridge. This time, it detailed the use of Stamford Bridge for the three cup finals in 1920, 1921 and 1922, the ones immediately before Wembley was used. How I love reading about our history and I especially enjoy any shots of the crowd back in the past. It is such a shame that the individual stories of all of these fans are lost in the mists of time. My grandfather once travelled up to The Bridge as a young man and it is unfortunate that he was never able to remember which game exactly. As he favoured Villa and Newcastle, I always like to think he was at the 1920 FA Cup Final when his Villa played Huddersfield. There was a photo from that game in the match programme and Ric Glanville made the point that the 50,000 crowd was a huge disappointment as the stadium held over 75,000 at the time. He guessed that the expensive ticket prices ( three times that of normal Chelsea games ) was the reason. There was also an article detailing Tommy Langley’s first ever game for the first team, some 35 years ago. He is still the third youngest-ever Chelsea player. I remember him coming into the team. Hell – that means I must be getting old.
As kick-off approached, I contacted my mate Chris who was joining up with a few other Chelsea at the meet in Alexandria, Virginia.
Everton brought 1,500 fans and they didn’t make much noise.
I unfortunately captured the JT slight touch which lead to the Cech OG on film. This was the first league goal we had conceded at home since the Hull game on the opening day. If only we knew what was to happen over the next hour or so. To be fair, we got back at Everton straight away. A lovely interception by Riccy, followed by a bustling run at the heart of the Everton defence found Frank. He set up Drogba who stroked the ball goalwards. It was a lovely strike and I was able to perfectly follow its curving trajectory into the net. Soon after, more Chelsea pressure and the ball was played out to Anelka – snap! – and I caught that goal on film too. At this stage, all was well with the world. However, the ground was eerily silent. I had to remind myself that we were top of the league.
Poor defending – JT the main culprit in my mind – gifted Everton with an equaliser just before half-time. That was a crushing blow and was met with grumbles all around us. I looked up at the East Middle and commented to “Pops” that a huge number of the corporate seats were empty – they had obviously decided to get in early for the half-time nibbles. Hey ho. I was far from impressed with a few boos emanating from the home seats as the teams trudged off at the break.
Chris sent me a great photo from the VA meet-up. There was Beth right in the middle! She’s here, she’s there – she’s…you know the rest.
The rest of the game was a bit of a blur. We struggled to put any sustained pressure on the Everton goal, but a lovely Ivanovic cross found Drogba who coolly slotted home. He came over to our corner to celebrate but I noted that he, and Frank, was very subdued. It was if they knew we weren’t playing well. Again the midfield were poor in my mind.
Then, an Everton free-kick thirty yards out and I said this to “Pops.”
“They’ll loft it into the box, what for us to F up and then score.”
Imagine the groan when this is what happened. But – what bad luck for Drogba, usually so strong on defensive headers. The indecision in our defence needs to be sorted out.
The last final chance, after a pinball session in the Everton box, fell to Ballack who strode purposefully at the ball. I held my breath – “your big chance for redemption, mate” – but was stunned when he drilled it wide.
So – two points dropped and much frustration. Alan restated how unlucky we were with two of the goals, but we knew we hadn’t played well. At the final whistle, despite us being top of The Premiership, boos rang down from the MHU. “Pops” was dismayed –
My views on this are well known and I’m so bored with talking about this.
On the slow drive home, we heard that Villa had gone 1-0 up at Old Trafford. We didn’t celebrate as we knew that United were bound to at least equalise. As the miles past and as the minutes ticked by, we listened with growing tension…Villa had not won at in the league since 1983…the signs were not good.
At 7.25pm, the three of us yelped with pleasure at the final whistle.
What a weird day.