The Chelsea Family

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As yesterday was Father’s Day, I got thinking about my Dad. He, like me, is a dyed-in-the-wool Blue Blood, and Chelsea has been the bond between us since I was about six years old. In these dark, dark days of diving, betting scandals, matchfixing, violence, and Liverpool winning things, its very comforting to note the role Football plays in people’s families – it can be a destructive thing for sure, but isn`t it wonderful when you are there at the game surrounded by your family? I think this has become more pronounced since the dilution of the intoxicating Chelsea family with a dash of tourist, a double shot of corporate, and a twist of gloryhunter. The Chelsea family has never been as fragmented as it is now, so it is nice to have your real family there.

I remember the first game I ever went to. It was a shocking nil-nil draw at home to Norwich City. We sat in the West Stand, and I was freezing. I was about six, maybe seven. I kept asking when they were going to score a goal, and it never quite materialised. I was fairly uninspired by it all, but went again a couple of times, wore the colours, sang the songs, drank the Bovril, and generally had a good time. We went away to Palace for my first away game in about 1987 or 88. I never really got bitten by the bug, never really became a truly rabid Chelsea fan until we started standing in the Shed. This was about 1990-92 onwards, and I remember one cracker of a high-scoring game against QPR in the blazing sunshine and suddenly feeling part of the Chelsea faithful. From that moment on I was Chelsea with a capital C, and following the boys over land and sea, through good times and some awful times has given me so much over the years. Fulham in the Cup and me getting arrested, and my Dad staying up there to get me out of the cells. I still laugh about that – we`ve had some amazing times. I`ll never forget them! I have only got my Dad to thank for that. I think without him, I`d probably be one of these ale-sipping, ruddy-faced rugby fans, going off to see London Irish or Wasps and socialising with lots of people called Leo, Cuthbert, Harry, and Jonathan etc. Thank f**k for that.

I think the defining moment of not just my Chelsea support, but probably my life so far, the point where I became my own man, and opened up the world was that wonderful, wonderful day in May 1997. Despite the vast quantities of beer consumed that day, I remember every detail. Standing outside The Globe pub opposite Baker Street bellowing songs to the Smoggies across the road. The deafening cheers as the team came past on the coach. Dodging pint glasses lobbed across the road, and singing louder. A bellyful of fry-up soaking up the beer, and the sun giving a ferocious thirst. Six pack on the tube, rammed in so tight, the warm beer never tasted so good. Someone farting on the tube and everyone laughing about it. The walk up the Wembley way. The belief that Juninho and Ravanelli aside we could really do it. This was our day, and knowing it was, even before a ball had been kicked. Sitting down. Standing up. Getting thrown down a row and going absolutely delirious when Robbie Di Matteo skipped past Emerson and cracked that wonderful dipping, 30 yard volley past the ‘Boro keeper. Singing ‘Blue Day’ non stop for about five hours. Lifting the trophy and shedding a solitary, secretive tear before launching into Blue Day again. Leaving the ground singing non-stop. Somehow finding our way to the Fulham Road, which was closed off and rammed with Chelsea all completely over the moon. Random Chelsea-top wearing birds coming up and giving us all a little kiss. The Blue Spice. Vindaloo and relentless beers. Brandies. A second wind. John-The-Taxi-Driver taking us all to The Dodgiest Pub In London, after hours and getting us in round the back. Two birds scrapping by the door as we come in. More beer. Extremely drunk but too proud and happy to start going all incoherent. Still singing Blue Day. What a day. All the while my Dad and Pete there alongside, singing along, getting the beers in, downing the brandies, and grinning from ear to ear.

So a little note to my Dad. Thanks for everything mate, may there be many more. Chelsea is my life as much as it is his, and although I just can`t afford to go now as often as I used to when I had a season ticket, when we do go, with my little Brothers, who are as Chelsea mad as I ever was, it`s a special thing, and non-footie fans just don`t get it.

Sometimes you should stop to think about the closest part of your Chelsea family – they are the ones that make it so special.

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