CHELSEA/land

“Stamford Bridge Grounds , Fulham Road, London SW6 1HS” : The Only Place To Be Every Other Saturday.

Photographs that I have taken at various moments over the years which illustrate the changes to Chelsea’s historic and much-loved stadium.

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August 1983. A London bobby guarding the entrance on opening day. I always remember setting eyes on the vastness of the gargantuan East Stand in October 1974 for the first time as I set foot inside the forecourt with my parents and being overwhelmed by its size. Growing up as a young Chelsea supporter, I was almost as excited about our plans to make the stadium the best in Europe as I was the players. And here was stage one completed. It simply took my breath away.

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February 1985. The gates used to open at 1.30pm for a 3pm and I would often head straight in and read my programme on the West Stand Benches and meet some pals. When I watched from The Shed, more often than not my spot was midway between the last two posts, right above the walkway, right in line with the West Stand touchline.

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February 1985. In these days, I used to walk up to the top of the large terrace as it met up with the seated West Stand and showed my membership card which allowed me to transfer to the sacred Benches for an extra £1. I’d then walk down those deep steps cut into the terrace and pass through more turnstiles – a strange feature really – and then head along the wide walkway to our favourite, unreserved, area which was usually the back row on the halfway line.

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February 1985. The Darbourne & Darke East Stand in all its brutal glory. It towered over the rest of Stamford Bridge. I used to think that it was on a scale with the steel structure which held the rockets at Cape Canaveral in Florida prior to lift-off. There was certainly a futuristic, space-age feel to our mammoth stand.

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May 1985. The turnstiles which lead to the steps up the West Stand were where my parents and I would have walked on Saturday 16 March 1974 for my very first game. To this day, I can remember the feeling of ascending those steps. My life would never be the same.

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May 1985. Another early shot from inside The Shed, taken just above the entrance from the Bovril Gate. This was one of the most advantageous viewing positions in the whole of The Shed, as there was nobody in front to spoil the view. In the distance, there is the base of one of the six floodlights which once rose high over the stadium.

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January 1986. A photograph chosen to illustrate the fading beauty of the advertisements on the back of the buildings on the Fulham Road. I used to love those. A link to the past, when advertisements appeared everywhere at Stamford Bridge. A horrible killjoy decided to paint over them with white paint a few years later. This photo also shows the closed section of The Shed, and also the disabled shelter which was run on match days by Breda Lee and Mary Bumstead. And note the famous cars too. Space was always an issue at Stamford Bridge.

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May 1987. A view of the sweep of The Shed from the lofty heights of the East Upper which shows the entrance up in to The Shed from the Bovril Gate – the “Tea Bar” area – and also the West Stand Benches. Note the deep canyon between the terraces and the Seats. I was always amazed how high that rising terrace went back though I rarely watched from that position.

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May 1988. An infamous play-off game and a day when the club, shamefully, put profit before safety and allowed fans to enter a section of the Shed which was closed under the Safety of Sports Grounds Act. Note the now whitened walls of the Fulham Road buildings which used to be adorned with those lovely and evocative advertisements.

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August 1988. The terraces were closed due to disturbances at the play-off game. Ironically, a few fans can be seen watching in the “closed” section. Note the famous “Whitewall” section of The Shed.

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March 1989. A view from the lower part of The Shed, a rare viewing spot for me. Note the empty spaces of the North Stand, the sight of many a battle in the two previous decades. Also note the iconic Stamford Bridge goal frames, with the deep stanchions and the slight vertical section at the base. They were unique, and I loved them to bits.

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February 1991. The Benches – now concrete slabs, with its northern end closed – and the “no mans land” of the north terrace. The iconic Empress State Building is in the distance, a constant presence at Chelsea since 1961, when it was momentarily the tallest building in London. Note the distance of the spectators to the pitch.

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May 1991. A panoramic shot from high up in the West Stand seats, which hints at the scale of the footprint of the old stadium. The cars are easily visible in this photo.

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October 1991. A relatively packed north terrace, full of away fans. The remnants of the idiosyncratic North Stand can be seen to the right. The away end used to have four pens by this stage and not many clubs filled all four. I never ever made it on to this infamous terrace. For many years, Chelsea fans would keep silent as they queued up alongside away fans at the turnstiles behind the West Stand before introducing themselves later.

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December 1991. The entrance to The Shed. After watching games with my parents in the East Lower in the mid-‘seventies, I would often race up the steps after the game and just stand – completely mesmerised – by the sight of the huge Stamford Bridge stadium in front of me. Note the towering floodlights. Hard to believe that those small portakabins served so many full bladders for years and years.

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September 1992. Just a classic shot of The Shed. It curved and it undulated and it was magical to be part of it. A link to 1905, and the heart of the club.

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March 1993. The grandeur of the East Stand, but only two-thirds full for a London derby. Note the angled end screen which allowed all spectators to see the Shed End goal. Once the pitch moved north, it was realigned.

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March 1994. The north terrace disappeared in late 1993, and the footings for the new stand are visible here.

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March 1994. The north terrace was no more, and the away fans were in the East Upper. At last, the building of the new Stamford Bridge was being continued after an enforced break of some twenty years. Even in 1994, the East Stand was called the “new stand” without a hint of irony.

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March 1994. Not the last day of The Shed, but its last swansong, with 29,000 inside Stamford Bridge for an FA Cup quarter final. This is from the West Stand seats. It truly is a picture.

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May 1994. A midweek game, and the North Stand starts to peer over the blue wall behind the pitch. My initial thoughts were that the stand would not be as high as I had hoped. Still, in 1994, the new planned capacity of around 42,000 seemed more than adequate.

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May 1994. The last day of The Shed, and with the threat of rain, we decided to keep dry in the East Upper, a decision that I soon regretted. I really should have stood on the famous south terrace one final time. At least it allowed me a final lasting shot of The Shed, those bloody cars, and the last ever appearance of those beautifully designed goal posts, which dated from the ‘forties.

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August 1994. The opening day of the new season gave me a chance to see how the new North Stand was looking. I was impressed, though still thought that the new stand was not as high as it ought to be. It was smaller than the new North Bank at Highbury, for example, and that annoyed me. I was a little sad to see the goals now had the generic design with nets held without the need of stanchions. A little part of my Stamford Bridge had disappeared.

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August 1994. Here is an illustrative photograph of the new stand. I liked the lightness of the roof, and the way the roof was suspended. But I was unsure of how it would look with that awkward gap between the new stand and the East Stand.

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August 1994. We had seats in the temporary stand which now stood so close to the pitch at the southern end. At last the pitch had moved north so that the tunnel lined up with the half-way line. It seemed amazing to be so close to the action, but also so near to the West Stand. I simply loved it. The match atmosphere seemed to immediately improve. I was ecstatic.

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November 1994. The first game inside the new North Stand – with a reduced capacity for one game only – and it felt magnificent to watch the match from such a wonderful vantage point. We were near the rear of the upper, and I was pleased with how high up we were after all. I am sure that I spent a few moments looking down to the area of the Benches where I watched my first game in 1974.

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April 1995. A panoramic view of a changing Stamford Bridge. The Shed Wall remained, and a last section of the terrace. On the pitch, there was change too, and our growing stature mirrored the off-field developments at our beloved home. Everything seemed to be moving as one. It was a time to start dreaming.

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May 1995. With the North Stand creeping up, and along towards the West Stand, I began to visualise how it would all look once completed. I soon counted sixteen rows in the upper tier, and began – obsessively – comparing tiers of other stadia around England to extrapolate how the new tiers would look.

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May 1995. This shows a mixture of things. The sad remains of The Shed, a peep at the retaining wall behind, the tea-bar, the Bovril Gate, and the movement of the pitch around ten yards to the north. I liked that temporary stand. Despite a lack of cover, there was a wide area in front which allowed the lucky supporters in the front row to celebrate wildly.

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May 1995. The view of a changing Stamford Bridge from the steps which lead us out of the East Stand. The rapidity of development was amazing.

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August 1995. A pre-season friendly and the disappearance, for a few summer months, of the temporary stand.

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August 1995. The void between the old West Stand and the new seats of the North Stand.

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August 1995. The home-opener and a panoramic view behind the temporary stand, now re-assembled, and the two “new” stands with twenty years between their appearance.

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September 1995. The East Stand, with the Earl’s Court exhibition building behind. Ken Bates’ office in the void below the large Coors sign is yet to be built.

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December 1995. The North Stand, absolutely packed, in all its glory in the winter sun.

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March 1996. Behind the scenes of the new wraparound from the new North Stand towards the West Stand. This would increase the capacity of the North Stand to around 11,000. Little did I know it, but it would house my season ticket for over twenty seasons.

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April 1996. The North Stand extension from the top tier of the East Stand.

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May 1996. The last game of the season and the last day of the temporary stand at the Shed End. The wraparound in the north-west corner takes shape.

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June 1996. The old Bovril entrance, where I used to enter once they made the turnstiles “members only” to speed things along a little. The blue of the new stand seats can just be seen through the entrance up on to The Shed terrace.

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June 1996. A charity match and a very odd selection of vehicles on show at The Shed End. The temporary stand lasted two seasons, and the ground works for the new Shed Stand, the underground car park and both the hotel and apartment block were starting.

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August 1996. A pre-season friendly and a view of the awkward north-east corner from the West Stand seats.

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August 1996. The Shed terrace had now disappeared completely, while the West Stand was truncated, with a section of seats at the southern end missing and the roof reduced.

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September 1996 : The big sky above the Fulham Road.

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October 1996. This building site was where the Shed End goalposts once stood.

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October 1996. The old East Stand box office in the main forecourt, where I spent many any hour waiting for the gates to open, on a day when Matthew Harding was remembered.

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October 1996. The extension to the North Stand – soon to be renamed the Matthew Harding Stand after the tragic death of our former director – was now open.

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December 1996. This view from the rear of the Matthew Harding Stand provided an amazing view of the gasometers and of course the steady advancement in the building of the developments at the Shed End.

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January 1997. The two differing footprints of the old and new stadia can be seen here. The scaffolding between the two stands housed a temporary TV studio and also the stadium security team.

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January 1997. A view from above, from the new wraparound, of the West Stand in its last ever season. Note the temporary metal steps between the seats and the benches.

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February 1997. My last-ever visit to the seats in the West Stand for a match as the girders of the new Shed End start to form the shape of the upper tier.

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April 1997. The Shed End Stand, and the hotel, was now taking shape, but if I am honest I was unhappy that the new structure was not larger and higher.

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May 1997. The last game of the season and another view of The Shed. I took my place on The Benches in around the same place as I had done for my very first game in 1974.

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May 1997. The last day of the West Stand. This was taken at half-time and it looks like I was allowed onto the area by the pitch. After the match, we all clambered up into the main seats and took away a seat and seat back apiece. I always remember walking down the Fulham Road after the game and one fan  was spotted with a wooden toilet seat from the West Stand toilets around his neck.

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July 1997. The last remnants of the old stadium before their eventual removal. This photograph brings a lump to my throat as I would have walked through these gates before my very first game in 1974. This was known as the Britannia Entrance in the ‘seventies after the nearby public house.

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July 1997. The West Stand was no more. Instead, cranes start to aid the building of the mammoth new West Stand. The Oswald Stoll Mansions, initially provided by the philanthropist for World War One veterans, can be clearly seen beyond the stadium boundary.

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August 1997. The new Shed End Stand made its first appearance for the first home game of the season. The initial placing of the scoreboard meant that the last few rows of the Upper Tier had obscured views of the pitch. In the early days, there were executive boxes at the rear of the Lower Tier.

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September 1997. The middle section of the new West Stand was now open, bringing the capacity up to 31,500.

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September 1997. All change on the walk to the Matthew Harding Stand, as the West Stand starts to rise.

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October 1997. The lower tier of the West Stand was now fully populated, bringing the capacity up to around 35,000, the highest for around four seasons.

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December 1997.  Another view of the Shed End, with the darkened glass of the Lower Tier executive boxes clearly visible.

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December 1997. Continued building work behind the lower tier of the West Stand hinted at the size of the new structure.

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March 1998. A night game from the my first visit to the Upper Tier of The Shed End and much of the West Lower is in complete darkness.

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March 1999. The apartments at the Shed End, including one owned by chairman Ken Bates.

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March 1999. A pre-match shot of the West Lower, horribly adorned with “Chelsea Chelsea”, as if we didn’t know where we were. A complete tier of royal blue would have looked cleaner and classier.

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November 1999. A colourful panorama of the new main entrance, showing the main Chelsea hotel, the annex and some new buildings on Fulham Road.

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August 2000. The opening day of the season, and changes on the Fulham Road in addition to Stamford Bridge, with cranes still heavily involved in the finishing touches to the West Stand, which seemed to take forever to complete.

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October 2000. The upper tiers of the West Stand finally appear, some three years after the lower tier arrived.

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October 2000. My first game in the lower tier of the West Stand afforded a fine full-length view of the East Stand.

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December 2000. The West Stand roof and tons and tons of scaffolding, plus the two temporary floodlights.

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January 2001. The size of the West Stand, as high as the East Stand but bulkier, surprised me. But I was never a fan of the facade. Compare this with the May 1985 photograph from virtually the same position. So much change, but such a long time between the two photos.