I’m running a little late, apologies. Not just with this article but to the game! Chelsea vs Nottingham Forest. Two clubs draped in history, a chance to see the blossoming youth and give Pedro the sendoff he deserves… wouldn’t miss it for the world. The FA Cup. The most prestigious cup competition in World football.
So, as I said I’m running late. Dragging my luggage from Stansted Airport to Stamford Bridge, kick-off is something I hated missing as a child. Blue flags flying high, The Liquidator at full flow, was never the one to hang around in the pub too long. If my Dad had me waiting in a queue in the pouring rain when that whistle blew, I’d turn to him and scowl. District line suspended? Of course, but we made it there in the end.
Nothing beats the crowd like I do, rushing past families and tipsy men to the main road, the Willian banner is in sight. ‘Only a pound’ I can hear, I’m home. Security procedures aside, I’m in the ground and dashing past the expensive meal deals. No time. Jorginho is already leading the team out. As I squeeze myself into seat 141 in the Mathew Harding Lower end, I greet my larger than life fellow Chelsea fans and glue my eyes to the boots of Hudson Odoi. He was my focus, what I came to see. No distractions, I was now in the zone.
The game kicked off and after a few solid touches from Hudson Odoi, I knew today would be his day. A direct view of him and Reece James in a tango that would last all game. The two danced together all afternoon, I’d be dancing with them before too long. 1-0 Hudson Odoi on his left foot. Normal service resumes, Up the Chels! Sandwiched between a beer belly and uncontrollable joy, the Mathew Harding End was in full flow. Can the real West Stand up and give us a song? They did. I know right? I was just as shocked as you are.
VAR had to get involved at some point, it has in so many games this season that I’ve attended so my heart was well accustomed to it at this stage. With the crowd on edge and Nottingham Forest fans cheering in their corner of Stamford Bridge. The penalty was overturned! The Mathew Harding end shouting “You’re not singing anymore.” Not a cough or word said in the away end, Chelsea still on top. Chelsea fans still running the show.
Eves dropping on nearby conversations, the 70s FA Cup-winning kit was getting wonderful feedback, everyone around me in aura of the blue and yellow colour combination. Big number printing and no names, sponsor in the background, Chelsea history in the foreground. It was beautiful, expensive, but beautiful. Back to the game and I must say Barkley had me on edge, giving away possession in the first half numerous times, the crowd frustrated around me and for good reason. If this was the performance to place himself on the shop market. Well, close the shop. A conversation on the potential of Tomori and handshake in agreement.
Hudson Odoi continued to dance with Reece James on the right-hand side, a tap in for Barkley was created. Relief at 2-0 and some breathing space. Not literally, I’m sandwiched again in the Mathew Harding Lower, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Stand up if you hate Tottenham. Stay sitting at your peril. With the first half ending and Odoi limping off with a minor injury, I was ready for my half time match meal. Oh, wait, the extortionate prices. I sat back down.
Members of the FA Cup-winning 1970 team came out at halftime, a lovely tribute although I couldn’t help but miss Neil Barnett at times like these. Brilliant for occasions like this. Bring back the spy I say. I’m sure many would agree. With the 2nd half kicking off, time flew by if I’m honest. Hudson Odoi moved to the left-hand side, was a muter figure. Any beautiful artwork Reece James continued to create on the right-hand side was quicker wasted by Batshuayi. ‘Criminal Costa’ Sky Sports used to say, this here was illegal. An opportunity to stat pad fading, along with my attention. The game winding down to a close.
Pedro. The reception I hoped he’d receive and more, Stamford Bridge was on their feet for the ultimate professional who had the most glistening career. Iconic screamers against Tottenham and Everton, I almost cheered louder than I did for the goals. Memories of Fabregas leaving the pitch on the very same day last year against the very same opposition. Two Spanish heroes, Barcelona make beauties. La Masia. A flashback to the brilliance of Reece James escaping two players with breathtaking skill and the game was all but over. A comfortable win in the end with VAR on our side, job done. As the crowd descends, I make my way out the ground with them. With the District line still partly suspended it’s a long way home. I’ll be back next week, you better be too..