Tales From A Litmus Test

Manchester City vs. Chelsea : 16 August 2015.

It was around 8.30am. Parky and I were briefly summarising our start to the season, and our hopes for our game at Manchester later in the day. I was being truthful when I told him that I wasn’t looking forward to the day as I ought to be. There was no specific reason, but I suspect that the fear of defeat was breathing heavily down my neck. Was there anything else, more sinister perhaps, to be the reason for my melancholy about another trip north? I honestly wasn’t sure. I know that I have often spoken about the thoughts that I have regarding my level of support for Chelsea Football Club and the – whisper it – inevitably that it might start to wane. As I entered the M4 on the slip road a few miles to the north of Chippenham, I admitted to Parky “that moment will come.”

Like King Canute and the incoming tide, once that moment strikes, there will be little I will be able to do to stop it. As I headed north, with the weather turning sunny one moment and cloudy the next, I wondered if the day, and the key encounter with one of our biggest title challengers, might prove to be some sort of litmus test for my support over the coming season.

I was ready to be tested.

Of course the football season of 2015/2016 was only in its infancy, but there were already thoughts about the madness of modern football, with all of its associated nonsense. At Chelsea, of course, in addition to the dropping of – shock horror – home points against Swansea City, we had to endure the fall out of the “Eva-Gate” revelations during the rest of that first week. Sometimes, I just have to shake my head at the antics of those connected with football. Sometimes I wish it really was “only a game.” As the week unfolded, with respective factions taking pot shots across the bows, I watched from behind my sofa, through my fingers held up to my face, just as many children of my generation apparently did when “Doctor Who” was shown on TV. Oh to be a psychiatrist with Jose Mourinho as a patient, trying to understand his complex personality. Is everything that he does stage managed to perfection? Is everything part of some grand Machiavellian plan? Does he have an “edge” on everyone? Is this desire to lay blame elsewhere a natural or manufactured trait?

In an email to some pals on the Friday, I jested that I would ensure that I was given a parking ticket in Manchester on the Sunday, so that it would give Mourinho something to get the media talking about rather than the inadequacies of his players during a possible defeat against City.

Yes, it had been a crazy first week of the season alright. There had been some daft knee-jerk reactions from parts of the media – lauding Claudio Ranieri after two wins, castigating Dick Advocat after just two losses, even niggling away at Louis Van Gaal after just three shots on goal – but the media’s obsession with Eva Carneiro just about tipped me over the edge. Thankfully, acting as a lovely balance against the madness of modern football and its obsession with the cult of personality, I watched my local non-league team Frome Town eke out a creditable 1-1 draw with a very impressive Merthyr Town side on a lovely Wednesday evening. It stirred my spirits and I almost enjoyed it as much as the Chelsea game against another Welsh side, Swansea City, a few days before.

As an aside, it irritated me that Carneiro was erroneously portrayed as a club physio on at least one BBC news report. The corporation should know better.

Additionally, I have never been able to fathom the hold that Carneiro has on some of our support. Have these people never seen a woman before?

Back to the football.

The trip north – oh so familiar over the past ten years – was going well, but I was still not getting that match day tingle. We drove past The Hawthorns, scene of our last domestic away game in May, and a three-nil defeat which meant little. Up on to the M6 and the traffic was fine. We spotted a Manchester City car, boasting a sticker for the Weymouth Blues. The skies cleared and I ate up the miles. It was a familiar drive in to the city of Manchester and one which has almost become automatic for me; the Manchester Orbital, past Old Trafford, past Salford Quays, past the Salford Lads Club, right in to the city centre.

I parked up at midday, four hours after collecting Parky.

Out in to the bright Mancunian sun, surrounded by the familiar red brick, I suddenly got the kick that I was hoping for.

Chelsea away in a northern city, four hours to kick-off, boom.

The buzz was back.


Parky and myself spent an hour or so enjoying a couple of bottles of beer apiece in the bar of The Lowry Hotel, right in the heart of the city, overlooking a narrow “cut” of The River Erwell as it winds its way out to Salford and beyond. We had visited this hotel before our famous win at City in the 2013/2014 season – one of the best away days of recent memory – and I suppose it was the superstitious part of me that made me want to revisit. Just as we were about to leave, I spotted the black and gold of an Ellison coach pull up outside the main entrance. This was a sure sign that Chelsea, as I had hoped, had been staying in the hotel. We loitered around for a while, despite the overzealous questioning of a few hotel staff, and were able to wish the players well as they quietly walked through the lobby in their white Adidas tracksuits and on to the waiting coach.

Chris : “Good luck, Eden.”

Parky : “Score two for me today, Eden.”

There was no response, no eye-contact, from him, nor the others. They looked, as you probably might expect on such an important day, focussed and serious. From another direction, came the suited Mourinho, again deadly serious. He looked straight ahead as I wished him well. A gaggle of fans, no more than ten, were waiting outside and only John Terry and Diego Costa had stopped to sign and pose for photographs.

Back at the city centre car park – no word of a lie – a young attendant was sheepishly waiting by my car and handed me a £25 parking ticket.

“I blame Mourinho and his bloody team talk Parky.”


“Is that a bad omen, Parky? Shall we bugger off home now?”

We were caught in a little traffic, but were parked up in our usual place – a £5 spot at a car wash on the Ashton New Road – only ten minutes from the stadium.

Since the last visit of almost twelve months ago, another Sunday afternoon game, Manchester City’s stadium had been enlarged by a further seven thousand seats, with a high third tier now sitting on top of the south stand. The San Siro style exit ramps still exist at the sides, but the new stand has an encased look, with dull grey cladding at the bottom and windows above. It hardly adds to the aesthetic appeal of The Etihad. Down below, many familiar Chelsea faces were milling around. I met up with Alan and Gary. Alan handed me my match ticket, plus the one for West Brom the following Sunday. It was just after three o’clock. There were handshakes and a few grimaces.

“Take a draw today, son.”

More than one acquaintance admitted that Mourinho had been “a bit of a tit” regarding his outburst against Carneiro and Fearn.

There was ample time for a meet and greet with a few more friends in the bar area of the concourse of the middle tier. Inside the stadium, I was immediately met with the sight of five huge banners, held aloft by helium balloons, yet tethered by some folks at pitch level, announcing the new tier on the south stand. There was quite a festive feel. The new structure would bring the capacity up to around 55,000.

Two things to note.

City have been quite crafty in allowing away supporters into the new top tier too. The support, three thousand strong (at £58 a ticket, no less), was now split in to three tiers, thus making it rather difficult for all of us to synchronise the singing. I always thought that slicing our away section in to two at City resulted in a sub-standard noise level. With three thin sections, piled high upon each other, it would be even more difficult to get our support together.

As I have said before, I have always linked City and Chelsea historically; loyal, yet undervalued support, a sprinkling of trophies over many years, now powerhouses in the new order, with foreign investment bringing new levels of success and expectation. I will watch with great interest to see if City manage to fill those extra 7,000 seats on a weekly basis, what with our new stadium plans taking shape at the moment. It’s a litmus test for City, and maybe one for us too.

The team was announced.

Begovic – Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, Azpilicueta – Matic, Fabregas – Willian, Hazard, Ramires – Diego Costa.

The loud PA stoked up the home support, with various players featuring on the TV screens – “I play for you” – interspersed with the faces of fans – “I sing for you.”

“I play for you.”

“I sing for you.”

“I play for you.”

“I sing for you.”

“I play for you.”

“I sing for you.”

I remember commenting on something similar last season.

As the teams entered the pitch, the banners moved infield, and streamers cascaded down on to the pitch from the excited Citizens in the new tier above. With so many sky blue and white streamers filling the air, it reminded me of Argentina 1978.

Alan, Gary and I were in the middle of the middle tier, but right next to the home support.


The Chelsea support stood the entire game, which is nothing new.

From the whistle – Diego Costa to Willian – I was in to it.

Reports of my demise had been exaggerated.

Sadly, we lost possession straight away and a sublime ball from David Silva reached the run of Sergio Aguero. We held our breath, but Asmir Begovic saved well.

At the other end, Diego Costa fell in the box but I was unsighted. Down in front of us, City were coming at us at will, but Begovic saved magnificently on two separate occasions from the tormentor in chief Aguero. Our possession always looked like it would soon be coming to an end. A rare Matic header was our only effort which caused Hart to save. City were in the ascendency. Another Aguero chance went begging and as I looked across at the baying City fans, one chap was signalling “it could be 4-0.”

I silently agreed.

Just after the half-hour, the ball found Aguero yet again and he edged himself past Gary Cahill to fire City in front, the ball agonisingly coming off the inside of the far post.

We threatened momentarily, but City had dominated the first period. Our play was laboured and slow. Hazard was quiet. Fabregas, save for a couple of rare tackles, woeful. There were few positives.

Then, in the closing minutes, pure comedy.

An injured Gary Cahill needed attention in the goal mouth down below.

“Oh no.”

On came two unknown Chelsea assistants, scurrying like mad, and attended to our defender. The home sections of the stadium erupted in mirth.

“Sacked in the morning, you’re getting sacked in the morning.”

Only the hardest of Chelsea souls could not find that just a little amusing. I caught Alan having a little smirk to himself. In the lower tier to my right, the City fans were singing “Eva, Eva, Eva.”

After us singing Frank Lampard’s name last season and City singing Eva Carneiro’s name this season, this was getting pretty surreal.

What next?

Chelsea singing the praises of Eddie Large?

Next to receive attention was Diego Costa, clumped by a City defender, but away in the other half. Again, I was unsighted. As he walked off, head bandaged, he seemed to be overly agitated and Ivanovic – I think – had to steer him away from a City player.

At the break, there was the grim realisation that it could have been 4-0 to City. There were long faces everywhere I looked. After dismissing City as a main threat for our title before the season, I was having to re-evaluate, but yet a little voice inside my head kept saying “this is only the second game, don’t judge just yet.”

At the start of the second period, it was announced that Kurt Zouma was coming on as a substitute. My immediate thought was that Mourinho was looking to strengthen the midfield and maybe take off Ramires, put Zouma alongside Matic, and move Fabregas forward.

No. I got that wrong.

Kurt Zouma replaced John Terry.


I had to think back to see if JT had received a knock. That was Gary Cahill injured before the break, surely. I just couldn’t compute that John Terry had been substituted.

Thankfully, much to our surprise, we enjoyed an upturn during the first part of the second-half. The increase in aggression and passion quickly inspired the away contingent to rally. We did our best to support the boys.

A break found Fabregas down below us in the inside-left channel and his lofted pass found Ramires, who controlled the ball and stabbed the ball past Hart. There was an instant roar of approval, but then the gnawing realisation that a linesman had flagged for offside. The City fans alongside us became animated and agitated. They mocked us for our false joy. I just looked across at them and mocked them similarly.

“Alright, calm down for fuck sake.”

Our play had improved since the first-half. Our chances on goal were rare, but we had definitely stepped up a gear.

Mourinho then replaced Ramires, one of the biggest improvements in my mind, with the much-maligned Juan Cuadrado. I am sure that there was a communal shake of the head among the Chelsea supporters inside the stadium and out. Our winger was much-heralded when he signed for us in February for around £24M. Since then, he has disappointed in nearly all of his subsequent games. There is a little part of me who thinks that Mourinho sees him as the 2015 version of Tal Ben Haim, a player so suspiciously “un-Chelsea like” in quality as to warrant the view that Mourinho only bought him, and kept picking him, as a mark of bitterness towards the lack of funds afforded him by the board.

Or is that me being too cynical?

With twenty minutes remaining, and the game delicately poised, a fine move – our best of the match – involving Eden Hazard and Diego Costa almost brought dividends. Diego lost his marker and played in Hazard, who made space well with a typical body shake, but Hart saved well.

We groaned a million “fackinells.”

Radamel Falcao, booed by City for his past season in Salford, entered the fray, replacing Willian, who had begun to tire. There were calls, tongue in cheek, for Falcao to replace Cuadrado. I was always told that it is not advisable to make substitutions before defending a corner. Falcao’s first three seconds of match action resulted in Kompany rising high above Ivanovic.



No way back now.

Insult was added to injury in the last five minutes when Fernandinho fired home from an angle. The home fans exploded in untold glee.



In the dying embers, Diego Costa hit the post.

The City fans were in their element.

“Champions of England, you’re having a laugh.”

At the final whistle, a couple of the lads in front of me reached over to shake hands with the City supporters with whom they had been enjoying some good old-fashioned banter throughout the game. It was good to see. Despite a gut-wrenching defeat, I was deeply proud that not many Chelsea fans left before the end of the game.

I met up with Parky outside.

“That’s our second successive 3-0 away league defeat, Parky.”

Parky was with Kev, from Edinburgh, who last featured in these tales on our trip to wonderful Lisbon last autumn. I had managed to get a ticket for Kev before the game, and despite the loss, was full of thanks. Parky, maybe getting a little carried away, was looking forward to relegation and games against Bristol City and Cardiff City.

“Steady on, Parky, it’s not that bad mate.”

Our walk back to the car was alongside joyous sky-blue clothed locals. It was a strange feeling, to be honest. Despite the shifting sands of club rivalries, I still find it hard to genuinely hate City.

I ask you. If Chelsea fall short this season, would you rather that Arsenal, United, Liverpool or Tottenham won it?


I wondered what Frank Lampard, in New York, thought about it all.

As with many trips to Manchester, music was in my thoughts throughout the trip. I had opened up the day on Facebook with a few lines from New Order :

“I feel so extraordinary.
Something’s got a hold on me.
I get this feeling I’m in motion.
A sudden sense of liberty.”

After a painful defeat, with home more than five hours away, I quickly decided upon a new update.

On this particular Sunday, it was now time to quote another Manchester son :

“Trudging back over pebbles and sand.”

On the drive south, with parts of the Chelsea supporter base no doubt going in to meltdown, Parky and myself were soon relaxing, enjoying each other’s company and looking forward to the next few games. As we sped past The Hawthorns, we made plans for our pre-match next Sunday. As Parky drank his ciders, I sang along – badly – to some music from the grim old ‘eighties.

I ate up the miles.

I was my usual philosophical self. It had been a tough game, but I was just so proud to be part of it. Hats off to those who continue to travel, to support, to keep the faith. I was so relieved that I had enjoyed the match day experience. I need not have been worried. Maybe the players had failed their test, but at least I had passed my own personal litmus test. I was happy for that at least.

After setting off for Manchester at 7.30am, I reached home at 11pm. It had been a long, tiring day.

Thankfully, I just missed our game on “Match Of The Day 2.”

Next Sunday, a Chelsea goal at West Bromwich Albion will be roared like a goal from our ne’er do well past. The noise will be deafening and the earth will shake.

See you there.


Tales From Blue Monday

Manchester City vs. Chelsea : 3 February 2014.

As our unbeaten run over Christmas continued into 2014, the away game at Manchester City loomed heavily in the distance. Despite the unexpected, and unsettling, presence of Arsenal at the top of the table, this encounter between the two English heavyweights always had the feel of a title decider. The league positions alone – them second, us third, both teams just behind Arsenal – justified that claim.

It would be a massive test. It would be the toughest game of the season thus far.

In the closing words of my previous match report, in which I documented out failings against a resolute West Ham United, I closed with the words –

“Manchester City next.


Just in case anyone was in doubt, the last of these words was laden with sarcasm.

In my mind, this would be a very onerous task.

Since our fine 3-1 victory in 2008-2009, an away game at Manchester City…the City of Manchester Stadium, Eastlands, The Etihad, call it what you will…has been as barren as it gets.

2009-2010: Manchester City 2 Chelsea 1

2010-2011: Manchester City 1 Chelsea 0

2011-2012: Manchester City 2 Chelsea 1

2012-2013: Manchester City 2 Chelsea 0

A few of these games have morphed into one. I found it difficult to remember too much about last season’s game. At least Carlos bloody Tevez wouldn’t be playing this time.

Yes, we defeated City 2-1 at Stamford Bridge back in October in a fine contest. At the time, City were a Jekyll & Hyde team; swashbuckling at home, fragile away. Our win confirmed the dual-personality of early-season City. Since then, their away form has tightened-up and they have continued to rack up cricket scores – or maybe rugby scores – at home. Eleven league games at their fortress and eleven wins.

This, make no mistake, would be Jose Mourinho’s biggest test of the season.

Even though the pay masters at Sky had deemed this game necessitated a change from a standard Saturday to a Monday night, a full three thousand Chelsea loyalists would be in attendance for this one. To make things easier, I had booked two days holiday for this away game; I simply didn’t fancy showing up at work on the Tuesday after just four hours’ sleep. In the circumstances, this allowed me plenty of time to pay a visit to my mother at hospital in Bath during Monday lunchtime. Again, Parky met me at the hospital. Mum seemed a little weaker compared to previous visits; I left the hospital in a rather subdued frame of mind.

For the first hour or so, there was rather less frenetic chat than is the norm.

“Tell you what, Parky. Why don’t you slap on some music? What have you got for me in your ruc-sac, mate?”

“Electronic ‘eighties. How about that?”


As we headed north on the M5 through Gloucestershire – the skies grey, the winter landscape dull, the River Avon flooded, the Malverns looming like Manchester City – Parky fumbled around in his bag, picked the requisite CD and popped it in.

The first tune?

“Blue Monday.”

How apt.

“That’ll do mate, Blue Monday on Blue Monday.”

The familiar beats from over thirty summers resonated as I drove north.

“How does it feel? To treat me like you do? When you’ve laid your hands upon me and told me who you are?”

I stopped for McCoffee at Strensham and at Sandbach. Both service areas were quiet; only one City fan at the former, no Chelsea at either. How different to a Saturday when both would’ve been crawling with football fans of every hue. I was deep in conversation with His Lordship and missed the usual turning for Manchester, so was forced into the city from the west rather than the south. I didn’t mind; although I was caught up in a little rush-hour traffic, at least I was afforded the lovely view of the red brick and the green signage of the iconic Salford Lads Club as I trundled slowly past.

I drove right through the heart of the city – Deansgate, more impressive red brick – and then parked up relatively close to Victoria Station. There were gleaming modern offices everywhere. The grim Manchester of the ‘eighties were suddenly forgotten. I always get quite a kick driving through the city centre, although other areas of the city have not fared so well.  We had nigh on three hours to kill before kick-off. Underneath the railway arches, we spotted a pub called The Rovers Return. This was the real Manchester though; not a TV set. A hundred yards or so further on, I spotted The Lowry Hotel. I had driven past it, by chance, once before. This time, we were going in. I have always wanted to visit it; especially on match days. Let me explain.

Almost ten years ago, I sent out some letters to John Terry, Frank Lampard, Carlo Cudicini and Eidur Gudjohnson – my four favourite players at the time – and asked if there was any way they could find time to meet up with some friends from North Carolina during our visit to Pittsburgh for the Chelsea vs. Roma match in August 2004. One of my friends had just recovered from a cancer scare and I was hoping that the players might be able to meet her and her two daughters at the Chelsea hotel for a few minutes. As it happened, there was no official correspondence back from any of the players, but we met most of the team at The Hilton in any case. It was a wonderful twenty minutes.

Later, in September, I received an envelope stamped “The Lowry Hotel, Manchester” and opened it up to find that John Terry had sent me some signed 8” by 10” colour photographs of him. Evidently, he had been on England duty and The Lowry Hotel was used by the F.A. when England played home games at Old Trafford. What a lovely surprise for me and my friends. Since then, I have often wanted to see if Chelsea used the same hotel when in Manchester. This was falling in to place nicely…

“Maybe we’ll see the team get on the coach, Parky.”

Up in the hotel bar, we kicked back and relaxed. A couple of Peronis were quaffed. I had a bite to eat. There was a little banter with a gaggle of match-going Chelsea and City fans. Below, the cut of the River Irwell provided a contrast to the modern lines of the hotel. It was very pleasant.

At 6.30pm, we left the cosy confines of the bar. I joked with Parky “if we win tonight, I’m coming back next time.” There had been no sighting of Chelsea during the hour we spent at the hotel; some other time maybe.

I battled the Manchester evening traffic and pointed my car towards Eastlands. The neon blue of the stadium made navigation easy. By 7.20pm, I was parked-up at my usual – “superstitious”? – £5 parking spot.

“Parky, I have to ask myself…if we’ve lost the last four times, why am I still parking here?”

All around us were City fans. Again, I pondered on how easy, or difficult, the move from south Manchester had been for these fans since 2003? Maine Road seemed to define City; maybe The Etihad defines them further? The new academy stadium over the road was coming on apace from last season’s visit. City are certainly making this once forgotten part of the city their own.

Outside the away turnstiles, there were familiar faces. There seemed to be a larger than usual police presence, though. There was a little more security. It felt odd.

Soon inside, I bumped into Alan and soon made our way in to the seating bowl of The Etihad. As I ascended the steps, a familiar song was playing.

“How does it feel? To treat me like you do? When you’ve laid your hands upon me and told me who you are?”

The superstitious fool that I am quickly decided that this was too good to be true.

“Blue Monday.”

Alan and I laughed.

Deep inside, I thought to myself…

“…mmm…it had better not be a Blue Moon Day.”

The Etihad is impressive as ever. There are plans afoot to add height to the end stands; a third tier to bring the capacity up to around 61,000 or so.

There was hardly any time to think. The stadium filled-up quickly. The teams entered the pitch. Chelsea in blue/blue/blue. I used to hate seeing us without white socks – superstition again – but ever since we won the league at Bolton wearing all blue, I have been less bothered. The home crowd sang “Blue Moon” and we retaliated with a ditty about the European Cup.

A quick scan of the team; no Oscar, a surprise, but I was pleased to see Matic playing. The surprise was seeing Ramires out wide. There was no time for much further contemplation. The whistle blew and we were away.

It was a familiar story during the first fifteen minutes. We seemed to be a little late out of the blocks and City were soon cutting into the heart of our defence. Without the injured Aguero, I was hoping that City would be disadvantaged. They still had Dzeko and Negredo, plus Silva and Navas of course. Chelsea scrambled to get in to position but the first few half-chances from the home team came to nothing. Chelsea began breaking away, though, and I was immediately impressed with Willian and Ramires as they charged down loose passes and broke.

The City fans down alongside us aimed a hostile chant at our manager.

“Jose Mourinho – Your Football Is Shite.”

Our reply was quick and to the point.

“Jose Mourinho – He’s Won More Than You.”

That shut them up.

I was unhappy with the amount of room that Yaya Toure – yes, him – was being given in the early part of the game. Nemanja Matic was finding his feet and I hoped that the game wouldn’t pass him by. I was reminded of an early outing for Ramires in 2010 when he was left chasing shadows at City against Toure. David Luiz was his usual enthusiastic self. I just hoped there would be no early bookings which might temper our aggression.

There was a little disquiet in our ranks…”come on Chelsea, get stuck in”…but I was happy with each passing milestone.

5 minutes.

10 minutes.

15 minutes.

20 minutes.

We were improving.

A shot from Silva went wide. We countered with a couple of efforts of our own. A Luiz free-kick is still in the air, travelling towards Oldham. Then, a rapid break down the Chelsea left but a tame shot from Ramires, with only Hart to beat, was followed up by a very ambitious bicycle kick from Willian on the rebound. The Chelsea fans were enthused and the City fans seemed worried.

30 minutes.

This was turning out to be a fine game of football. We were showing City little respect, were closing them down at will, and were breaking intelligently. This was great stuff. A move down our right allowed Hazard to play the ball in for Ramires. His initial shot was blocked by Hart, but the ball fell nicely for Branislav Ivanovic outside the box. He had no time to think. He struck the ball hard and low, returning it back past Hart and into the far corner.

The Chelsea supporters screamed heavenly.


Despite being jostled, I tried hard to get the run and slide of Ivanovic on film.

Click, click, click, click, click.

Three seconds later I was screaming delight again.

A look towards Alan and another Oasis moment.

“They’ll have to come sat us now / come on my little diamonds.”

To be truthful, I could hardly believe it. We had weathered the storm, but were now ahead. With each passing minute, we grew in confidence. Dennis Wise was spotted in the TV studio, his smile wide as he punched the air to the delight of the Chelsea fans in front.

“Oh Dennis Wise – Scoredafackingreatgoal…”

A chance for Hazard, a chance for Dzeko. It began to dawn on me that Demechelis wasn’t a very good player. He wasn’t a very good player at all in fact. Meanwhile, Eden Hazard was on fire. He fed Samuel Eto’o, who unleashed a thunderbolt from an angle which crashed against the bar. Elsewhere, the midfielders were still stifling the City’s attacking thrust. At the break, we were getting into our groove. I hoped and prayed that the interval wouldn’t halt our rising confidence and strength. To be honest, Petr Cech had been largely untroubled.

With Chelsea attacking the away support in the south stand in the second-half, we were able to witness the wonderful skills of Eden Hazard as he bamboozled one City defender after another. It was a joy to watch. Elsewhere, Matic was growing as the game passed. To emphasise this, he collected the ball forty yards out, went on a little run and hit a cracking drive. The ball ripped through the air, but with Hart beaten, the ball crashed against the outside of the post. What a shot though.

City created a few chances, but their finishing was quite woeful. I was truly amazed at the lack of participation and noise coming from the home supporters. All of a sudden, Manchester City looked normal and, whisper it, a little unsure of themselves. Still we carved out chances. A Willian corner was headed back towards goal by the excellent Gary Cahill, but – AGAIN! – the post saved City.

At the other end, an onslaught seemed on the cards. However, the defence was magnificent throughout. All four defenders showed poise strength, determination and did not grow tired as the game grew old. In lost count of the number of Cahill blocks, Terry headers, Ivanovic tackles and Azpilicueta covering sprints.

A David Silva free-kick appeared to be goal bound but Petr Cech flung himself to his left to save. To reemphasise our domination of clear goal-scoring chances, it was his first real save of the night.

70 minutes.

The nerves were starting to build.

Mourinho replaced Eto’o with Oscar. Hazard moved further forward. A half-chance for Ramires after a delightful through ball, but Hart sprinted out to gather.

The stats were displayed on the large TV screens and I was amazed that City were shown to have had 65% possession. It just seemed that we had been in control. I guess, our threats were mainly on the break. For all of City’s ball, our defence was rarely troubled. In the second-half, Matic became a man. He was simply superb. I think we have unearthed a giant.

Then, disgust. Oscar was fed the ball and he broke into the Manchester City half. Barely over the halfway line, Nastasic pulled him down. In my mind, Nastasic was the last man and he had to be shown the red card. When Mike Dean, instead, showed him a yellow, three thousand Chelsea voices turned the air royally blue.

85 minutes.

My nerves were being torn.

Two further City chances. Another fine save – such strong wrists – from Cech foiled Jovetic, and then Nastasic shot wildly in one of the last kicks of the game.

90 minutes.

…thinking…”come on ref…blow up…three minutes extra time…surely there can’t be long to go now…come on, mate…blow that bloody whistle…let’s watch him…let’s watch for that sweep of the arm…come on, blow up…please…YEEEEEES!”

I punched the air and my smile was wide.

…thinking…”that win is for you Mum.”

There were Chelsea fans wildly celebrating all around the away section. I watched as the players came – only halfway, sadly – to our end, but they were full of happiness too. Their joy was my joy. It was a sight to behold.

…thinking…”still only bloody third, though…how the hell can the best two teams in England serve up that treat and Arsenal still be bloody top…that’s bollocks…wait…we still have to play them at home…that’ll sort them out.”

I soon met up with Parky outside. Foxy took a photo of us outside the away end. The City fans, as they had been all night, were quiet.

I pulled out of Manchester at 10.30pm. Down onto the orbital M60, past the magnificent old mill building and the bridges at Stockport, then out past the airport onto the M6 and the road south. I called in at a thoroughly deserted Frankley Services at midnight and dunked my head into a bucket of cappuccino.

The music played on.

I dropped Parky off at 2am. I was home by 2.30am.

So, my fears were unfounded. Chelsea had negated City’s threat with a very polished performance, managed perfectly by Jose Mourinho. We had closed them down, defended as a unit, and attacked as a unit. Every single one of the Chelsea players had been simply superb.

Heroes one and all.

A Blue Monday for the record books.

“How does it feel?”

If felt bloody great.