Tales From One Billy Gilmour And One Decent Scouser

Chelsea vs. Liverpool : 3 March 2020.

In the pubs beforehand, there was not one Chelsea fan that I spoke to who thought that we would be victorious in the game with Liverpool.

“They’re so far ahead in the league that they can afford to play their first team, rather than rest players.”

“They’re light years ahead of us.”

“We’ll be lucky to get naught.”

“Expectation level is nine below zero.”

“Could be another Bayern.”

But complete and total negativity was not the order of the evening.

There were a couple of pluses.

In “The Goose”, Parky, PD and I chatted to some of the lads from our home area. Does anyone recollect the story of Sir Les, and a few others, getting stuck in a lift before a home game before Christmas? They were stuck in there for virtually the entire first-half. Well, I am pleased to report that Chelsea rewarded these fans with a corporate style package for the Everton home game which is coming up in Sunday.

Well done Chelsea Football Club.

There was also some good work from the club regarding the pricing of this FA Cup fifth round tie with Liverpool. Initially, as with previous seasons, it was announced that all FA Cup ties would be priced at £30. When Liverpool came out of the hat, the club decided to up the tickets to £40. There was an immediate uproar and the Chelsea Supporters Trust, alongside the original Supporters Club I believe, soon petitioned the club to re-think. Within twenty-four hours, there was a statement to the effect of the club getting it wrong and the price returning to the £30 level.

Well done again Chelsea Football Club.

We made our way down to Simmons to chat with the others. It wasn’t as busy as I had expected. As I waited for friends to arrive, I spotted that the 1970 replay – often a favourite at “Simmons” – was being replayed on the TV screens. It is still the fifth most viewed TV programme in the UK, ever.

That’s right. Ever.

During the few days leading up to the evening’s game, it dawned on me that the last time we played Liverpool at home in the cup was the famous 1997 game. Many of my generation mention the 1978 third round win – 4-2 – when an average Chelsea side surprisingly defeated the then European Champions. I was not at that game, but can remember the joy of hearing about our win as the news came through on the TV. Next up, in the story of games in the cup at Stamford Bridge between the two teams, was the equally memorable 2-0 win in 1982. Chelsea were a Second Division team that season, and Liverpool were again European Champions. I was at that one. And I have detailed that game on here before. It was seismic. What an afternoon.

Next up was a fourth round tie in 1985/86 that we lost 2-1 which is probably best remembered for Kerry Dixon injuring himself and, probably, not quite being the same player ever again.

It’s worth noting that we haven’t played at Anfield in the FA Cup for decades.

The last time was in 1966.

Then came the fourth round tie on Sunday 26 January 1997.

It is a game that evokes wonderful memories among most Chelsea supporters; it was a real “coming of age” moment for club, team and fans alike. Chelsea, under new manager Ruud Gullit, were still finding our collective feet under the talisman and Dutch legend. During the league in 1996/97, we had lost 5-1 at Anfield in the autumn but a Roberto di Matteo strike gave us a deserved 1-0 on New Year’s Day. In October we had suffered the sadness of the loss of Matthew Harding. We were winning more than we were losing, but by no great margin. Liverpool were a better team than us in 1996/97. They would go on to finish fourth, we were to finish sixth. We had easily defeated First Division West Brom at home in the third round.

We – Glenn, my mate Russ and little old me – watched the Liverpool game unfold from the last few rows of the Matthew Harding Lower. It was a terrible view to be honest, the overhang meant that we watched the game through a letterbox.

Chelsea started with Gianfranco Zola and Gianluca Vialli up front. We played with Scott Minto and Dan Petrescu as wing backs. Liverpool fielded players such as David James, Jamie Redknapp, John Barnes, Steve McManaman, Robbie Fowler and Stan Collymore. They were a tough team. But, with us having the home advantage, it was evenly matched. Or so we thought. With Liverpool attacking the temporary seats in The Shed in the first-half they soon galloped to a 2-0 lead after just twenty-one minutes. I think it was McManaman who missed an easy chance to make it 3-0. Chelsea were out of it, and the atmosphere in Stamford Bridge had quietened severely after the early promise.

It was as flat as I had ever experienced.

At half-time, Gullit replaced Scott Minto with Mark Hughes, went to a 4/3/3 formation, and Sparky proved to be the catalyst that sparked a revolution. He turned and smashed a long range effort in on fifty-minutes.

“Game on.”

Then Gianfranco Zola slammed in an equaliser eight minutes later.

The atmosphere was red hot by then.

Despite the gate being just 27,950, the place was booming.

Gianluca Vialli scored on sixty-three and seventy-six minutes – euphoria – and we ended up as 4-2 winners. Liverpool, their fans all along the East Lower in those days, did not know what had hit them.

I would later watch that second-half on grainy VHS again and again and again.

Up until that point, my two favourite Chelsea games – out of the then total of two hundred and sixty-five – were the FA Cup games in 1982 and 1997.

Lovely memories.

That win over Liverpool in 1997 gave us confidence and with further games against Leicester City at home (I went), Pompey away (I couldn’t get tickets) and Wimbledon in the semi-final at Highbury (I was there) we marched triumphantly towards Wembley for the 1997 FA Cup Final with Middlesbrough. And through it all, Matthew Harding’s presence was with us all.

Heady and emotional moments?

You bet.

My friend John, a lecturer at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, arrived at about 6.30pm. I last saw him at Ann Arbor for the Real Madrid game in 2016. He was visiting London, Liverpool and Manchester for a few days with some students who were on a “Soccer: Media, Art & Society” course that would go towards their various degrees.

“Soccer: Media, Art & Society.”

Yeah, I know. What a course. Where can I sign up? It sure beat the “Cultural Geography” and “Transport Geography” sub-courses I took at North Staffs Poly from 1984 to 1987.

John was keen for me to talk to his six students – three lads, three lasses – for a few minutes about football, its heady sub-culture, its fads and fancies. I enjoyed it, though I can’t see myself as a lecturer in the near future, not without a bit more practice anyway, and not without a script.

I briefly mentioned the story of my grandfather attending a match at Stamford Bridge, and how I genuinely think it could well have been the 1920 FA Cup Final, one hundred years ago this year.

I hoped that the atmosphere would be good for them on this night in SW6. I always remember a League Cup semi-final in 2015 between the two teams and the noise was sensational all night. I hoped for a repeat. Apart from John, who comes over every season, this was the students’ first ever game at The Bridge.

At about 7.15pm, I downed the last of my two small bottles of “Staropramen” and headed off to Stamford Bridge.

There were six thousand Scousers in the area, though I was yet to see one of them. I guess they were doing their drinking in the West End and Earl’s Court.

Alan and I soon realised that the place was taking an age to fill up. There were yawning gaps everywhere. Even with ten minutes to go, we wondered if the paranoia over the Corona Virus had deterred many from travelling into The Smoke.

“Chelsea will be the death of me.”

The team news came through.


Azpilicueta – Rudiger – Zouma – Alonso

Gilmour – Kovacic – Barkley

Willian – Giroud – Pedro

So, Kepa back in, an enforced change in personnel, a rather aged front three, and a start for young Billy Gilmour.

Like the 1997 game, this was live on BBC1.

I spoke to a few friends close by in that period before the pre-match rituals kick in and, again, nobody was hopeful.


Within the last few minutes, the place suddenly filled to capacity.

There was more 2020-style pre-match nonsense. The lights dimmed, almost darkness, fireworks, the teams appeared.

Blues vs. Reds.

South vs. North.

Chelsea vs. Liverpool.

(In the slightly off-kilter parlance of the modern day: “Chels vs. Red Scouse.”)

As the floodlights returned to full strength, I spotted white socks. As the tracksuit tops were taken off, I spotted the dogs’ dinner of the normal 2019/20 kit. Where was the promised 1970 kit, the beautifully understated blue with yellow trim?

Where the fuck was it?

My heart sank.

It seems that Chelsea Football Club – two steps forward, one step back – had been less than truthful about our 1970 kit.

Who thought that we would be wearing it throughout this season’s FA Cup campaign?


Yeah, thought so.

What a fucking disgrace.

So, this season – three kits, and one kit to be worn just once.

I only bought the shorts, and I am yet to wear them, but I felt for those significant others who bought the range. They shot off the shelves, didn’t they?

And, the sad thing is, I was really looking forward to seeing us in that kit once again.

I vented on “Facebook.”

And here are a few responses :

Michelle : So wrong I’m sure it was marketed as an FA Cup kit ! The club have taken the fans for mugs yet again,

Lottinho : Absolute joke. Pathetic on the club. Strictly for £££.

Karn : It’s bollocks. Still, glad I bought it though – lovely shirt.

Alex : As predictable as it is disappointing

Kelvin : So cynical how Chelsea avoided making that clear when they were marketing it.

Jake :  All about the money, mate. That was a class kit

Lee : Utter bastards

The game began.

Liverpool were an instant reminder of another team in all red from last Tuesday. I silently shuddered. The away team, with a heady handful of familiar players but also a couple of unfamiliar ones, began the livelier and moved the ball in and around our defence. There was an early, relatively easy, save from Kepa following a strike from Sadio Mane. But at the other end, The Shed, Willian drove at the defence and forced a good save from Adrian in front of the Liverpool hordes.

They had their usual assortment of flags, including one of Bill Shankly who – I cannot lie – I used to love to hear talk about football was I was a mere sprog.

The game heated up.

A Willian corner from our left was glanced on my Dave, and the ball spun wide. Only on the TV replay were we able to see how close both Olivier Giroud and Antonio Rudiger got to adding a decisive touch.

Liverpool, despite their large numbers, were relatively quiet and it surprised me.

We enjoyed a great little spell. Ross Barkley thumped centrally at goal, but Adrian saved.

A lovely flowing move, instigated by the poise of young Billy Gilmour, cruising through a pack of red shirts before coolly releasing Pedro, resulted in a fierce shot from Willian, but Adrian was again able to save well.

“Gilmour. Excellent there, Al.”

This was turning, early, into some game. It had all of our full and undivided attention. I wondered what John was making of it in the West Upper.

After twelve minutes, I leaned over towards PD.

“Open game, innit?”

There was a reassuring nod of agreement from him and also Alan alongside me.

Barely after me commenting, the game stepped up a gear. Attempting to play the ball out of defence, we put pressure on the wall of red. Barkley forced a slip and the ball fell to Willian. His optimistic shot flew at Adrian, but whereas just thirty seconds before he had saved well, this time the ball bounced off him, and flew into the goal.


Willian danced away and in front of the livid Liverpudlians.

Livid Liverpudlians. Is there any other type?

Stamford Bridge was bouncing. What joy.

Alan : “They’ll have to come at us now, like.”

Chris : “Come on my little diamonds, la.”

Could we make it three out of three in the FA Cup against reigning European Champions?

1978, 1982 and 2020?

We were going to give it our best shot by the looks of it.

The game continued to thrill, and we could – ever so slightly – begin to enjoy it all with that slender lead.

Gilmour, getting into it, tackling hard, kept the ball alive and helped win a free-kick after a foul on Ross Barkley. A fine effort from Marcos Alonso sailed narrowly wide.

On around twenty minutes, pure pinball in the Chelsea box as shot after shot tested Kepa. A double save, a save, another save. All within a few seconds. It was dramatic and glorious stuff, though in the light of day two of the shots were hit straight at him.

What a game.

Mane, the biggest Liverpool threat by some margin, wriggled through our defence like a little eel and forced another excellent save from Kepa who was, dramatically, the centre of attention. Williams made a poor effort to connect with the rebounded shot. We had survived another scare.

A lot of the standard Chelsea and Liverpool songs were getting aired towards the end of the first-period and it absolutely added to the occasion.

“Fuck off Chelsea FC, you ain’t got no history.”

“Steve Gerrard Gerrard, he slipped on his fucking arse.”

There was gutsy defending from our players, and this was turning into a rather old-fashioned game of football with a lovely balance of cut and thrust, raw energy and honest attacks. Pedro was as involved as anyone, and after a few early miss-fires, was causing all sorts of problems. Giroud was a one man battling-ram. But the undoubted star of the first-half was young Billy Gilmour. Billy the kid was everywhere. An absolutely stunning performance.

Mateo Kovacic was injured, to be replaced on forty-two minutes by the fresh legs of Mason Mount.

Liverpool, after a string start, were visibly starting to become less of a threat.

As the first-half came to a close, I had a question for Alan.

“Wasn’t Lalana in the Teletubbies”?

At the break, all was well with the world. Previously worried faces had changed. There was a lovely buzz in the air.

On Saturday 24 April 1920, on this very same site, if not this very same stadium – but certainly one which was in situ for the 1982 game, those lovely packed terraces – my grandfather stood on the great slug of the West terrace with his old school friend Ted Knapton alongside him. It was half-time, and the score between the two teams – Aston Villa, who he favoured, and Huddersfield Town – was 0-0. It had been an exhilarating game of football for my grandfather, though the spectacle of seeing fifty-thousand spectators in one sports ground had proved to be the one abiding memory that he would take away with him.

Fifty thousand people.

And virtually all were men, and so many had fought in the Great War.

My grandfather was twenty-five years old. He silently gazed out at the main stand on the far side, the open terraces behind each goal, and looked behind him at row after row of fellows in caps and hats, some with the colourful favours of the two competing teams. A claret and blue rosette here. A light blue hat there.

Fifty-thousand men.

It struck home.

My grandfather had just that week spotted a local girl, a few years younger than him, who was beginning work in the manor house of his home village. She was a young cook, with a lovely smile, and had caught his eye.

My grandfather was a rather quiet man. He looked out at all those faces. He did not speak to his friend Ted, but he – at Stamford Bridge on Cup Final day 1920 – had decided that the stadium, indeed the whole of England was full of men, and the thought of one of them asking the young cook out before he had a chance to utter a shy “hello” ate away at him.

He had survived the Great War. He lived in a great village and now this great spectacle had stirred him in a way that he had not expected.

“You had better get your act together, Ted Draper. On Monday at lunch time, I think I will ask Blanche if she would like to accompany her to next weekend’s village dance. I can’t be second in that race.”

Almost one hundred years later, the players of Chelsea and Liverpool reappeared on the pitch. Could our lively form continue into the second-half? We bloody hoped so, but there was another enforced change early on. Willian, injured – oh our bloody injury list – was replaced by Jorginho, and there was a shift of Mason Mount out wide.

The game continued with the same noisy support cascading down from the stands. The Matthew Harding seemed particularly up for it, no doubt aided by some interlopers from The Shed who had been displaced by the northern hordes. The game had lost little of its attraction in the first half. On the hour, a fine cross field ball from Dave opened up the Liverpool defence but Mount was scythed down. I honestly thought that the position of the resulting free-kick would be too central, too flat. But to my surprise, Mason dug one out. Sadly, the fine effort bounced on top of Adrian’s bar.

So close.

On the hour, too, a loud and beautiful chant was aired for the very first time.

“One Billy Gilmour. There’s only one Billy Gilmour.”

Just three minutes later, with Chelsea defending, Pedro – bless him – nipped in to win the ball and Giroud jumped so well to move it on. The ball fell at the feet of Ross Barkley, still in his own half. I reached for my camera.

“Here we go.”

I sensed a huge chance.

Barkley ran on, and on, and with Pedro in acres to his right, I half-expected a slide rule pass. But he kept running, despite being chased by two defenders, and with one recovering defender goal side. He kept going. A shimmy, a shot – CLICK.

Adrian was beaten.

A goal.

Oh get in you bastard.

I was full of smiles, but clicked away. I had only recently mentioned to Alan that “I bet Barkley would love to score tonight.”

His slide was euphoric.

Up the fucking Toffees, up the fucking Chelsea.

Chelsea 2 Liverpool 0.

Just beautiful. The goal had come at just the right time. Liverpool had been clawing their way back into it a little.

Another lovely chant was bellowed from the lungs of the Matthew Harding Lower.

“One decent Scouser. There’s only one decent Scouser. One decent Scouser.”


Incredibly, from a Liverpool corner, Rudiger headed strongly out and Pedro – bless him – picked up the pieces, and his little legs went into overdrive. I reached for my camera once more.

“Here we go.”

His legs pumped away, but as he ate up the ground I sensed he was tiring. His shot, after a long run, lacked placement and Adrian easily saved.

In the last segment of the match, with Liverpool fading, Giroud capped a very fine performance indeed by forcing himself to reach a lovely pass from Dave, strongly fighting off challenges, but Adrian was able to touch the effort onto the bar and down.

Liverpool were chasing a lost cause now. Late substitutions Firmino and Salah added nothing.

It was Chelsea who finished the stronger, with shots from Mount and Giroud continuing to test Adrian. Gilmour had a quieter second-half, but one dribble late on made us all so happy.

“One Billy Gilmour.”


Reece James replaced the fantastic Giroud in the final few minutes.

The final whistle signalled the end.

“One Step Beyond.”

It had been a game for the ages.

As we bundled down the steps, and onto the Fulham Road, everything was fine in our world.

Into the last eight we went.

Yet another FA Cup appearance? It’s a possibility.

In 1920, the FA Cup Final stayed at 0-0, and Aston Villa – much to my grandfather’s approval – won 1-0 in extra-time with a goal from Billy Kirton.

However, as my dear grandfather Ted Draper travelled back by train with his pal that evening, back to beautiful and bucolic Somerset, he had another match on his mind.

On the Monday, he met with his new love, and nervously chatted.

He would later marry Blanche in the summer of 1925. My mother Esme would arrive in 1930, and the rest, as they say in Liverpool, is history.

Tales From A Heavyweight Fight

Chelsea vs. Liverpool : 29 December 2013.

So, the final game of 2013. We had started the year with a depressing home defeat at the hands of Queens Park Rangers when we were all mired under the dark cloud of Rafa Benitez, unrest in the stands and an uncertain future. Almost twelve months on, our circumstances have improved in so many ways, yet there was no doubt that I was rather fearful of our match with Liverpool.

I was suffering with all too many recent memories of The Shed End at Chelsea rocking to the chants and anthems from the Liverpool fans as they plundered points. Fernando Torres’ first game for us in February 2011 was particularly painful. I still contend that if Nando had scored when he was one on one against Reyna in the first-half of that game, his Chelsea career would have been a lot more successful.

We last defeated Liverpool at home in the league during our double season. Since then, three games, two defeats and one draw. They also turned us over in the League Cup at Stamford Bridge in 2011-2012. We struggled to get past Swansea City on Boxing Day while our visitors were embroiled in an apparently fine game of football at Manchester City. Liverpool lost that one 2-1 of course. Another defeat might take some of the wind out of their sails. However, I was wary of Luis Suarez. Who wasn’t? It was another game to concentrate our minds.

After the storms and gales of the previous few days, I had to contend with icy roads – and a couple of slow-moving horse-boxes – on the short trip to collect Lord Parky.

The trip to London went well. There were perfect blue skies and there was dazzling winter sun. Whereas my mind was muddied with negative thoughts of our potential performance against the unloved Scousers, at least the skies were crystal clear. During the last section…Heathrow, Brentford, Chiswick, Hammersmith, Fulham…Parky slapped on a Slade CD. It is pretty ironic that although Slade were the archetypal “boot boys” band of the early to mid-‘seventies Glam Rock era, it has taken until 2013 for one of their songs – “Cum On Feel The Noize” – to make it onto the terraces of England. I always remember travelling back from that fantastic 5-0 annihilation of Leeds United in 1984 and the car rocking to some of Slade’s finest chart hits, heading back through Marlborough and Devizes before a celebratory pint of lager in a pub in Westbury Market Place.

“I’ve seen the morning in the mountains of Alaska.
I’ve seen the sunset in the East and in the West.
I’ve sang the glory that was Rome and passed the ‘Hound Dog’ singer’s home.
It still seems for the best.
And I’m far, far a-way
With my head up in the clouds.
And I’m far, far a-way
With my feet down in the crowds.
Letting loose around the world
But the call of home is loud
Still as loud.”

A simple song can send me travelling back through time.

This would be my thirty-eighth Chelsea vs. Liverpool match at Stamford Bridge. Only seven Liverpool wins though; overall, we have enjoyed a good record against them over the time of my support. My own little personal run got off to a fine start with three wins out of three games, back when the Liverpool team were Champions of Europe, on all three occasions in fact.

The first of these took place in March 1978. Liverpool had beaten Borussia Monchengladbach in Rome in 1977 to become European Cup holders for the first time. By the time they came to Stamford Bridge the following season, they were still smarting from a shock 4-2 defeat at the hands of Chelsea in the FA Cup in January. I travelled up to London with my parents and watched as Chelsea again defeated the reigning league champions, this time by a score of 3-1. I’m always annoyed when the 4-2 cup win always gets the attention from that season; for me, because I was there damn it, the 3-1 league win was just as magnificent.  Those two Liverpool victories were easily the manager Ken Shellito’s finest moments at the helm. On that sunny day almost forty years ago, Steve Finnieston grabbed two goals and Tommy Langley the other. I walked tall at school on the Monday for sure.

The next occasion took place in February 1982. Liverpool had beaten Real Madrid in Paris in 1981 the previous season. Chelsea were mid-table in the Second Division. To my utter elation, we defeated the European champions 2-0 with two famous goals from Peter Rhoades-Brown and Colin Lee. The Bridge, packed to a 42,000 capacity, was buzzing that afternoon. I was again walking tall, in the sixth-form now, on the Monday.

Then, December 1984. Liverpool had beaten Roma on their own turf in the European Cup Final, but came to Chelsea the following season and were well beaten 3-1, with goals from Kerry Dixon, Joe McLaughlin and David Speedie. We were newly-promoted from the Second Division, but a vibrant crowd roared us on. At college in Stoke, I was walking tall once more.

Three Chelsea versus Liverpool games, three Chelsea victories.


In many ways, the pre-match was a case of “Kelly & Mitch Go Mad In London Part Two.” We met up with the two visitors from California outside the hotel, and soon arranged for photographs with Ron Harris, Peter Bonetti and John Hollins. Back when I was growing up in the ‘seventies, these three players were the three leading appearance makers in the history of the club. I explained to Mitch that Ron Harris and John Hollins played in the very first Chelsea game that I ever saw. I mentioned to Holly that I had seen one of his previous teams – he was manager at Weymouth for a short period in 2008 – the previous day against Frome Town, my local team.

From there, we walked over to West Brompton. We passed more familiar Chelsea landmarks…”The Fulham Dray, now The Lazy Fox, The Harwood Arms, The Atlas, The Lillee Langtry, The Prince Of Wales, The Imperial.”

OK – you’ve sussed this. When I said landmarks, I really meant pubs.

We settled in at The Imperial so that Mitch and Kelly could meet a few mutual friends. Parky and I then back-tracked to The Goose to meet the usual suspects. We heard that Samuel Eto’o was to lead the line, rather than Fernando Torres. Big surprise. David Luiz holding. Another big surprise. We watched as Arsenal eked out an important away win at Newcastle. Like an unpleasant smell, they just won’t go away will they?

On the walk down to The Bridge, I did my best to try and spot any away fans. Apart from a few divs with half-and-half scarves, Liverpool colours were hidden.

Inside Stamford Bridge, unlike on so many occasions, there was an expectant atmosphere. The sky was still cloudless. The away fans were assembled in the far corner, but behind just one solitary Liverpool flag.

It dawned on me, as the two teams entered the pitch and slowly walked over to the anointed positions for the handshakes and pre-game rituals – for the TV viewers, I always feel – that Chelsea are almost alone in walking across the pitch in order to do this. At all other top flight stadia, teams line up right next to the tunnel, or at least on the same side as the tunnel. The only other ground where teams walk across the pitch before the game for the line-ups? Fulham. It must be a SW6 thing.

Anyway, I approve. It heightens the drama. It adds to the sense of occasion, especially on European nights. Top marks Chelsea.

So – the team.

Petr, Brana, JT, Gary, Dave, Luiz, Lamps, Oscar, Hazard, Willian, Eto’o.

It was John Terry’s 600th game for Chelsea.

1. Ron Harris 795.

2. Peter Bonetti 725.

3. Frank Lampard 634.

4. John Terry 600.

Still no place for Juan Mata. That hurts.

Despite my niggling doubts about us getting a result, I scanned the Liverpool team and highlighted maybe only Suarez who would walk into our starting eleven.

Within the first ninety seconds, a foul by Eto’o on Jordan Henderson caused an immediate delay of a couple of minutes. Maybe the pause in action caused us to lapse into lethargy, but the resulting free-kick, whipped in with spin towards the near post, proved to be difficult to defend. Bodies lunged at the ball, but the ball spun free for Martin Skeletor to prod home. The Liverpool players celebrated right down below us.

I looked up to catch the away fans leaping around wildly.


Within a few moments, the Scousers were in full voice.

“Stevie Highway on the wing, we had dreams and songs to sing.”

Another ugh.

Not to worry. Chelsea did not retire into a shell of self-doubt. Instead, chances came in rapid succession and the Chelsea fans played their part in rallying behind the boys. We were soon to be rewarded. A move through the middle broke down, the ball hitting a Liverpool defender, but the ball fell at the feet of Eden Hazard. Without adjusting, he methodically but yet intuitively struck the ball with pace and a little curve past the outstretched claws of Mignolet.

The Bridge roared.

“Game on, boys.”

Hazard, to be fair, had begun on the right, but such is the fluidity of our team this season, had just swapped with Willian. How lucky that the ball broke to him on the left, where his right foot is so dangerous.

Soon after, we roundly applauded as a sublime last-ditch tackle from Gary Cahill kept the teams level. Then, on the half-hour, Ivanovic was replaced by Ashley Cole after twisting his ankle. A simple change; Ash to left-back and Dave to right.

In the middle, David Luiz was covering a lot of ground. Being negative again, I wondered if his enthusiasm would eventually see him get a yellow or a red. This was turning into an absorbing game. It was so good to hear the home supporters roaring.

Then, the ball out on the right, Luiz finding Dave. Oscar then was able to play in a low ball towards the onrushing Samuel Eto’o inside the six-yard box. He appeared to be falling, but still managed to poke an outstretched foot at the ball. It almost reluctantly crawled over the line, off the far post.


Eto’o’s run towards the corner of the stadium housing Kelly and Mitch was full of joy. His arms were stretched down; clearly his trademark. His team mates were in quick pursuit and there was an almighty melee down in that noisy south-west corner. I think the American visitors enjoyed that.

Alan, Brooksidesque : “Dey’ll ‘ave ta cum at us now.”

Chris, Black Stuffesque : “K’hum on my little diiii’muns.”

The Chelsea fans roared on. The Liverpool fans soon fell silent and were hardly heard for the rest of the game.

I turned to Bournemouth Steve : “Cracking game of football, mate.”

Chelsea? I was impressed with them all. A special mention for the midfield three of Willian, Oscar and Hazard, all three full of verve and complete midfield performances. Oscar kept tracking back to tackle. Hazard always a threat. Willian effervescent and working hard. At the back, JT and Gary oozed calmness.

I spoke to Alan : “Sometimes a forced change can work out for the best. Who’s to say we’ll now go on a run with Ash at left-back, Cahill and Terry in the middle, Dave at right back, but with Luiz in the midfield? It might just drop in to place.”

At the break, a typical Mourinho substitution; Mikel for Lampard. Soon into the half, bookings for John Terry and – surprise, surprise – David Luiz. Howard Webb was soon getting it.

“Who’s the Scouser in the black?”

A rare threat on our goal and Sakho headed against the intersection of bar and post with a looping header.

Luiz set up Eto’o who blazed at Mignolet. Then chances for Liverpool. This really was a great game. I was so pleased to hear the home support urging the team on, just like in seasons of old, when the team appeared threatened or tired.

“Cam on Chowlsea, cam on Chowlsea, cam on Chowlsea.”

Big John was up to his old cheerleading tricks – minus pom poms, of course – of banging noisily on the advertising hoardings a few rows below. Good work, sir.

Eto’o wriggled inside but his shot was blocked.

The two teams traded punches.

Cahill was booked.

Mikel was as steady as a rock in front of the defence. Luiz kept us all on tenterhooks with some typically rash challenges but avoided a second yellow. I lost count of the times that I was able to capture the dribbling prowess of Eden Hazard on film. What a joy to be able to see this player perform like this; his season hasn’t been great, despite the goals, but his dribbling leaves me breathless. Such ease, such acceleration, such confidence. Sometimes he runs head first into trouble, but it’s always exciting to see him extricate himself from being heavily-shackled by a turn here or a feint there. Simply fantastic.

As the battle continued, I found myself clock-watching.

“Has that bloody clock stopped Alan?”

A big shout from the three thousand away fans as Suarez was sent sprawling. I was unsighted. So too, apparently, was Webb. We breathed again. To be fair, Suarez had been quiet for most of the game.

85 minutes.

“Come on you blue boys.”

Mourinho replaced Samuel Eto’o with Fernando Torres. After only a few moments, Nando set off on a strong dribble, drifting past defenders with ease. One final shimmy, the goal opened up for him.

We held our breath, but his weak left foot let him down, the ball hit right at Mignolet’s right leg. The Liverpool ‘keeper cleared.

If only.

If only.

The place would have erupted.

In four minutes of extra-time, there was a flare-up between Brazilian team mates Oscar and Lucas. I saw fists raised and so was surprised when only a yellow was given to Oscar.

All eyes were now on Howard Webb. I saw him bring his whistle to his mouth one final time.

I roared one final time, too.

“Bloody superb, boys.”

At the Weymouth game on Saturday, in one of the Frome pubs, I had admitted to a friend – a Liverpool fan, no less – that maybe, just maybe, I was starting to lose the desire to go to as many Chelsea games as before.

“Maybe I’ve seen us win too much mate. Maybe that desire is starting to fade.”

After a good old-fashioned “come from behind win” against one of our biggest rivals, with the home crowd roaring throughout, that desire had been re-ignited.