Tottenham Hotspur vs. Chelsea : 1 January 2015.
A game on New Year’s Day is a rather rare event for me. An away game on New Year’s Day is even rarer. In all of my one thousand-and-counting Chelsea games, ahead of the game in darkest North London, I have only ever attended one other such game; last year at Southampton. This figure surprised me. Why have I not attended more? Maybe there simply haven’t been too many more. Additionally, in years past I guess that I was unable to attend due to reasons of geography and financial constraints.
A match which never was sticks in my mind, and which would have been my first-ever away game on the first day of the year, was our game at Upton Park in 1986. I had attended the New Year’s Eve celebrations in Trafalgar Square – on one of the last occasions when you could take alcohol along, what a laugh – and was staying, as fate would have it, at a college mate’s digs in Tottenham. Feeling rather delicate, I ventured by tube to our game at West Ham (inevitably I think it was an 11am kick-off), but with a few underground stops to go, I heard – somehow – that the game had been postponed due to a hard pitch. I returned crestfallen back to North London. If only there were mobile phones in 1986; my mate Alan diverted, along with a hundred more Chelsea, to Highbury for the Arsenal vs. Tottenham derby. According to Alan, in a story that he has joyously recounted on many occasions, everyone split up while entering the Clock End, but then gathered together amid the away contingent. A loud “Chelsea” sent the Spurs fans scarpering. The Chelsea fans then had their own little section, cordoned-off by police, to enable them to watch the game.
Thinking back… Arsenal vs. Spurs and West Ham vs. Chelsea on the same day.
So, after this rather disappointing turn of events, I had to wait twenty-nine years for my first-ever London away game on New Year’s Day.
I drove up with Parky. It was a miserable grey day outside, but there was a noticeable buzz as we headed east. There were plans for him to connect with a ticket during the day; he had missed out, again, on an away ticket, but we had hopes for a positive conclusion. He had also missed out on a Swansea away ticket under excruciating circumstances.
He had entered the Chelsea website page at 7.02am, had the ticket in his “basket” yet there was an error which asked him to reconfirm his postcode. By the time he had re-entered the info, the away allocation for the game had sold out. How infuriating. He ‘phoned the club, but was met with empty platitudes.
What a load of bollocks.
So – if anyone has a spare for Swansea.
At just before 2.30pm, we strolled in to The Courtfield, an old-fashioned boozer, opposite Earl’s Court tube station where we met Mike from NYC and his family. The Courtfield seems to be where many away fans now “mob up” before games at The Bridge. A pint there, we then headed into town. With an hour to kill, I fancied visiting an old haunt, The Round Table, between Leicester Square and Covent Garden. After games in the 1988-1989 season, I often used to meet up with some non-Chelsea college mates in this snug little pub for some post-game revelry. It is where I celebrated our promotion after beating Leeds United in April 1989 with a few mates.
A couple of pints of Staropramen went down well and I was reveling in being able to do something different on a Chelsea match day. We spoke about a few games at White Hart Lane. Mike, Parky and I all went to the 1987 game and we spoke about our own memories of that match. We had begun the season with two straight wins and we took 10,000 to Tottenham that afternoon. It was a fantastic show of strength. Mike had not seen us play since 1981, having lived in the US in that time, and remembered being dumbfounded at the sight of policeman searching hardened Chelsea types for celery.
“Ah yes, celery…bet that was an odd thing to see. Ten thousand there, they kept opening new pens under The Shelf. Nico Bloody Claesen.”
Mike was now with his two young boys, Mikey and Matthew, having said “goodbye” to his wife at Earl’s Court. This would be the boys’first visit to Tottenham. At 4.15pm, we set off for Liverpool Street. At Holborn we passed twenty chaps on a platform as we changed trains. They chanted;
“We are Chelsea. We caught the wrong train.”
At Liverpool Street, we caught an over-ground train to White Hart Lane. A text came through to say that Frank Lampard had scored a winner for City.
Time was now pressing on. We rolled in to the station at 5.10pm. After a five minute yomp, we arrived outside the away turnstiles. A mob of Chelsea squeezed past a police escort. Sirens were wailing. Scuffles were heard, and then witnessed. The atmosphere was tense. Still no ticket for Parky. I bumped in to a few mates. Tottenham fans sauntered past.
It was 5.25pm.
Time to go in.
“Parky – see you back at Earl’s Court.”
There was a quick discussion by stewards about my camera.
“That should be handed in.”
“I’ve ran out of tags.”
Rush, rush, rush.
Up those damned stairs.
Bumped in to Joe from Chicago.
Familiar faces everywhere I looked.
I just missed kick-off, but by only a minute at the most.
We began well enough and I honestly thought that we dominated the first half-an hour. And the Chelsea crowd, bolstered by copious amounts of Carling, Fosters, Guinness, Stella, Fullers, Peroni, Carlsberg, San Miguel, Kronenburg, Staropramen, Becks, Amstel and Grolsch were in fine form.
A lively opening period saw chances for both teams but we took a deserved lead after around a quarter of an hour. A Tottenham corner was superbly claimed by Courtois, who then released the ball early. Eden Hazard attacked down the right. He twisted and turned deep inside the box before shooting low. The shot rebounded off the base of the far post straight towards Oscar. His shot was turned in from very close range by Diego Costa.
Diego Costa reeled away in front of the home support in the Paxton Road.
We enjoyed a lovely spell and had Spurs on the ropes. Their support quietened, while ours remained strong. An appeal for a handball on Vertonghen in the Spurs box was waved away. Oscar rolled a ball wide.
Then, out of nothing, Harry Kane worked an opening for himself and skipped past a few unconvincing challenges. His low shot swept past Courtois.
We were dumbfounded.
We tried to attack as we had been doing for the previous thirty minutes, but Tottenham suddenly found extra drive. Then, calamity. Two goals in the last two minutes of the half changed the game and we were left to scratch our heads at the break. Eriksen played in Chadli down below us and his low shot evaded Courtois. The ball slammed the far post, but Rose was on hand to score, with at least two Chelsea defenders ending up on the floor, embarrassed, in his wake.
Then a rash challenge by Gary Cahill on Kane left referee Dowd with no option but to signal a penalty. Townsend despatched it.
We were 3-1 down.
Happy New Year.
(Outside, in a parallel universe, Parky was told to move on. He popped into “The Corner Pin” and there were a few Chelsea present. They then made their way back to the station. Parky was enamoured with the rich display of fauna and flora on display in this delightful suburb of London, to say nothing of the varied nature of the area’s exemplary architecture. He met many interesting locals, who were simply enchanted that he was among a band of visiting Chelsea fans. Sad to leave this welcoming part of London’s cityscape, Parky reluctantly headed back in to town.)
The fact that we had dominated most of the first-period and yet found ourselves behind caused much comment at the break.
“We just need to be more clinical. The second goal is always a damned struggle at so many away games. Every team, playing at home, regardless of who they are, will get a ten minute spell. They will always get a chance. We need to kill teams off.”
Mourinho replaced the quiet Oscar with Ramires, pushing Fabregas further up-field.
We got behind the team from the first minute of the second-half and hoped for better things. Ramires was involved in a move which resulted, sadly, in a wild finish from Hazard. After only six minutes of play in the second-half, our night caved in. Chadli pushed the ball in to that man Kane, who struck another low shot past Courtois. I was right in line with the path of the ball.
Hate it when that happens.
A fair few Chelsea left at this stage. This match report is not dedicated to them.
Tottenham now appeared stronger and leaner and I had visions of more goals. To be fair, we kept plugging away and I roared when Hazard played a fine one-two with Fabregas before slamming past Loris.
I had visions of another 4-4, like in 2008.
Robbie Bloody Keane.
We fancied Drogba, or Remy, to partner Diego Costa, so it was with surprise when we saw the manager replace the poor Willian with Salah. This seemed very odd. However, we kept going. Sadly many Chelsea fans continued an exodus. We came close. I didn’t give up hope. I urged the team on.
“One more goal boys.”
Sadly the next goal, eerily similar to their previous goal, went to the home team on a rare attack. Another low shot past Thibaut, another one in at the far post, another one that I saw all the way.
More fans departed.
We still pushed on, with more efforts on their goal. We surely out-shot them throughout the night. It was our fragility at the back, unheard of in previous Mourinho campaigns, which allowed us to buckle.
It was a rotten night.
A John Terry goal, to make 5-3, was hardly celebrated.
It was a horrible walk back to the station. On the waiting train, there was a silent “thumbs up – you alright?” to a Chelsea friend. The Spurs fans were ecstatic.
Annoyingly, a Tottenham fan played a Cup Final song from 1982 on his phone.
Bloody Chas And Bloody Dave.
I overheard the same fan then have a conversation with his mate; he wasn’t sure who his team were playing in the FA Cup, just days away.
Back at Earl’s Court, I arrived at “Salvo’s” mere twenty seconds after Parky. In times of pain, there is always pizza. Mike and the boys arrived, annoyed with our performance, but equally fed up with the fans who had vacated the away end before the final whistle. The two boys were equally excited about a London derby and dismayed by a loss. I became suddenly sanguine and philosophical –
“We win together. We lose together.”
I was most heartened to hear Mikey repeat this back to me on two separate occasions, smiling, as if he had been taught a meaningful lesson. It made me happy.
We said our farewells.
At 10pm, we headed home.