Tales From The Duke Of York

Chelsea vs. Manchester United : 9 August 2009.

Yet another lovely day out in London and – start counting – our second piece of silverware of the season.

Now, I don’t remember being too excited about the most recent Community Shield games in 2005, 2006 and 2007 – not sure why. However, I was chomping at the bit this time around. I couldn’t wait to see what team Carlo would decide to put out. Of course, I was also keen to see if we were a match for United, now that a certain playboy was no longer in their ranks.

The Frome Fun Boy Five were down to just two for the trip to London – Big Dave and myself – plus Lord Parky from Trowbridge. We set off at just after 8.15am, the sun shining, the chat constant with football banter and the occasional update on how we have all been coping over the close-season. Our route takes us up and over Salisbury Plain, past Stonehenge and onto the A303, the M3 and eventually the A316 into South west London. It’s a route well-travelled. We were parked up at Chelsea at 10.15am and we caught the tube from West Brompton to Marble Arch. I noted that the Imperial Arms opposite the Lillie Langtry was serving beer and brekkies at 10.30am – we may start off there next week against Hull.

The meet was arranged for The Tyburn at 11am. We arrived bang on time, but a few others were already there. Handshakes with Daryl, Ed, Alan and Rob – soon to be augmented by Gary. Daryl, Ed and Rob are from Essex, Alan and Gary from Sarf London. What better a way to begin the domestic season than with a £4.49 breakfast blowout?

Bacon, sausages, eggs, baked beans, tomato, hash browns, toast and butter and HP sauce. Thank you very much nurse – I feel a lot better.

We then sped on to The Duke Of York on Harrowby Street. We were last all together at this old-fashioned pub after May’s Cup Final and we love it. It didn’t seem real that we were last there ten weeks ago…how the time flies. We spent two hours there, sat outside in the sun. They have a nice range of draught ales and I got stuck into five pints of Staropramen at £3.50 a pop. A few others arrived – Andy, Ronnie, Fiona and their Torino supporting mate Roberto. With me being a Juve fan, I said to him, with a smile

“Well, it’s good to meet you but you know we’ll never be friends.”

I chatted a bit about the trip to America, Gary moaned about the England cricket team, Parky told us how he contracted swine flu, Daryl chatted to me about the Yankees, Rob spoke about his holiday in Spain ( accumulating brownie points with his other half ahead of European travels this season ) and Alan made us laugh with his impersonations.

The usual stuff – lots of micky-taking.

Lacoste Watch

Porky – Lime green
Daryl – Navy
Rob – Mid Brown
Ed – Dark Brown

The only concession to the world of adidas and Samsung amongst about twenty of us were Daryl’s shorts and one of Ronnie’s Rangers mates’ shirt. I was wearing a pale green Henri Lloyd polo shirt and Parky and myself looked like two peas in a pod. We saw no United fans walk by. Good.

We caught a train from Marylebone up to Wembley Stadium and who should be in the same compartment but Cathy and Dog. The train was full of Chelsea and we joined in a few songs, setting the tone nicely. There was a lot more venom than in America and I was back in the groove. As we reached the top of the steps to exit the station, former Formula One team owner Eddie Jordan was standing by. I shook his hand – as did many more – and I wondered why he wasn’t already inside the corporate areas. Anyway, despite his Irish leanings, he’s Chelsea. We got inside the stadium with about ten minutes to spare I guess – a slight improvement than the FA Cup Final.

Most people I have spoken to have mixed opinions about new Wembley. I’ll make a couple of points. Once inside, the concourses are roomy, but there are no photos, signs, displays or hints as to where you actually are. As a comparison, in new Yankee Stadium, there are untold images of former players and games, banners and features built into the bricks and mortar. Wembley is just an expensive shell. Why can’t there be displays from England’s famous games, photos of Cup Finals, themed food courts and themed bars? There might be in the corporate areas, but for the common fan, it’s all very stark and joyless. We couldn’t buy any programmes before the game and were told to call back at half-time. We did so – but there were none available. We were told there would be some outside at the end of the game. There weren’t. Pathetic. There were massive lines for the toilets at half time.

Our seats were high up in row 35 on the north upper tier – the same side as the royal box. Another moan – I wish the FA had chosen a more neutral colour for the seats. Red is just too noisy. A cool cream or light green, maybe a light grey would have been a lot more subtle.

The teams walked onto the pitch and stood in the centre while the 85,000 spent a minute acknowledging the life and career of the late Sir Bobby Robson. He will be missed, that is for sure.

Our team contained few surprises and we began well. My first ten minutes was spent taking photographs, texting a few people, looking out at the stadium to see how the support was looking and sorting out the formations. It’s always the same – I need ten minutes to settle. Unfortunately, it was possibly our brightest spell of the entire game and I missed chunks of it. The beer was leaving me light-headed too.

Concentrate – concentrate!

Rob made a comment about closing Nani down as “he always cuts in and shoots.” Lo and behold – he did, and put United 1-0 up. This was not on the cards and United, with Rooney buzzing around relentlessly, gained control.

Anelka seemed to be unwilling to close players down. We seemed to be off the pace. At half-time, some fool was muttering about Ancelotti being “Scolari in disguise.” Good work mate – you have formed an opinion after only 45 minutes. Sometimes the views of fellow fans leave me so puzzled.

We equalised with a cool finish from Riccy, rather against the run of play. I noted less fans getting “up” in the corporate level for our goal than United’s. So be it. However, there were noticeably more empty seats amongst United’s “half” than our “half” and that was a nice sign. I remember the shame of Cardiff 2006 when only around 20,000 Chelsea showed up in Cardiff against Liverpool.

Generally speaking, the support was rather subdued all game. Not just us, but United too. Blame it on the warm weather.

After our equaliser, we bossed the rest of the second half, I thought. Another cool finish from Super Frank, albeit with Evra lying on the floor after that challenge from Herr Ballack. I thought Ballack and Deco played OK to be fair, stroking the ball around nicely. It was a bit of a choker to see Rooney equalise so late on. He had been United’s best player by far. I still don’t know what people see in the languid ( ie – lazy ) play of Dimitar Berbatov ( or Ray Reardon, as Gary called him…)

I captured most of the penalties on film – and was chuffed that I clicked just at the time Petr Cech grasped United’s first penalty.

We won 4-1 on penalties and we were loving it. It doesn’t make up for Moscow – a hundred Community Shield wins wouldn’t – but it was still good to see.

We are now 2-2 against Manchester United in the Shield…losses in 1997 and 2007, wins in 2000 and 2009.

Straight back to The Duke Of York for two more pints. Good times. It actually felt like an end-of-season game, but I think this was more to do with the location as it reminded us all of our post-FA Cup Final celebrations in May. On the tube, we spotted a bearded passenger who bore an uncanny resemblance to New Order base player Peter Hook. We serenaded him, while humming the riff to “Blue Monday.”

More like a Blue Sunday.

We got back to West Brompton at 8pm and I was starving. Only one thing for it – a large doner kebab.

I have been on a diet since the end of last season.

Now, after one game into the new season ( a fry up, seven beers and a kebab ), I fear for my health!

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