Chelsea vs. Fulham : 28 December 2009.
Another beautiful suuny drive amidst the Winter landscapes of Southern England and the three of us ( Glenn, Parky and myself ) were jammed in The Yadana Cafe on Lillie Road by 11.15am. Despite the cold temperatures, which maybe helped keep the roads relatively clear of traffic, we were buzzing as we chatted about the season so far and the game ahead.
Rob was already in The Goose as we strode in at 11.45am. I sat next to the radiator in the far corner, attempted to thaw out and waited for the troops to arrive. I chatted to Daryl about the “state of the nation” and spoke about the mumbles and grumbles from the away support up in Birmingham a couple of days previous. It was reassuring to hear that he shared my view that now is the time for the Chelsea support to get together and rally behind the boys. OK, the team aren’t playing well, but now is the time to dig deep, stick together, get back to our basics of supporting Chelsea…it certainly isn’t the first time the team is going through a comparatively rough spell – and it certainly won’t be the last.
If anyone wants to get off the ride now – please go ahead.
And here’s the thing. Going into the game against in-form Fulham, we were top.
Top of the pile.
Back in the dark days of my youth, I would have given my right arm, my right leg and my right side of my brain to be “in the mix” for the league title at Christmas.
The beers went down well, the banter was great ( “Gromit” / Kev was the brunt of some friendly-Mickey taking ), and it was wonderful to be amongst like-minded souls. It’s nice to know that wherever we go with Chelsea, there are always a few Goose regulars not too far away. After a while, the Three Texans joined us and I enjoyed chatting…it would be Jed’s first-ever game at HQ.
We got into our seats in good time and we had already heard that Jose would be back at The Bridge for the first time since September 2007. He was shown on the Shed TV screen and I soon located him via my camera and snapped a few for old times sake. He was watching from the West Middle – one of the many unused Millenium Suites – with Rui Farria. He had a grey overcoat on.
I was surprised that only one “Jose Mourinho” chant sounded throughout the day…but pleased too. We needed to get behind the current incumbent.
I spotted two new supporters club banners…”Chelsea Swindon” and “New York Blues.” again, Kev, Jed, Wes and Jeff had tickets together…in the Shed Lower this time and my telephoto lens soon spotted them.
The Fulham 3,000 were making a fair din in the SE corner and they were soon jumping around like maniacs when Zoltan Gera put them 1-0 up. What terrible defending…first Paolo on walkabout leaving the entire right flank exposed and then the oh-so common foul up in the middle.
We didn’t play well in the first period. Our approach was so laboured…touch, touch, touch, pass, pass, pass…it anoyed me we didn’t change our attacking policy. Why not hit Drogba early once in a while? Why not test their defence, without Hangeland, and put them under pressure? Our corners were woeful…do we bother taking any during the week at Cobham? I hear myself say the same thing ever week…It was so annoying to see Drogba writhing around in apparent agony three times in the first-half. Every time he does it, I like him less. Which is not the way it should be. The lack of confidence which Carlo has spoken was evident with players reticent to move for each other. I noted that the Shed Lower were standing throughout the first-half and this was good to see. The support tried it’s best, but there were the inevitable boos at the break.
Top of the league and Chelsea fans booing.
I mentioned my sadness about this to a few folk at the break, including SF Pete and Becky who I met in the MHU concourses. We had a right old moan, but hoped for a change in our fortunes in the second period.
We played better of course in the second 45. But it still took an age to get on the scoresheet. Our crossing had been particularly poor and so it was with a great deal of frustration that I pleaded with sub Ivanovic to “loft the effing thing.” Thankfully, the resultant deep cross was headed home with aplomb by an perfectly placed Drogba. The place erupted. I punched the air and bellowed. The boys around me were bouncing with relief.
Within two minutes, the two wide players Kalou and Sturridge were involved as – guess what? – we scored a second. I was impressed that Schwartzer palmed away Sturridge’s angled shot, then found it hard to believe that the Fulham lad had put the ball in.
From the Matthew Harding, it was difficult to see what had happened.
I am confident that from the Shed Lower, Kev and The Texans had no such problem.
At long long last, the crowd upped the volume and the place was echoing to the sound of our support. I had to think to myself “about time.”
This was a hot-and-cold performance, no more so than from Didier Drogba. Again it was sad to see Petr Cech getting a few decisions wrong…as Alan observed, “Cech doesn’t know whether to stick or twist.”
In the last few minutes, Salomon Kalou rattled the bar with a thunderous shot. Fulham had chased and harried us all day, but we had so much of the ball…I’m just glad that we eked out a win in a game that we all said we just had to win.
Back in the car in Chesson Road, we were cold but happy. A coffee soon warmed me up, as did the memories of those two goals which had given us those all-important three points…
Let’s keep it going.