For me, there’s nothing better than a matchday at the Bridge. Being back after six days is something I cannot take for granted, having seen an excellent 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest last weekend. On Saturday, it was back to league duties with the testing visit of Burnley.
My day started a bit earlier than usual, meeting friends for some pre-match food. One a seasoned Chelsea fan like myself, the other a first timer in SW6. My pre-match routine is definitely a highlight of my games: getting off the Tube at Fulham Broadway and putting on my scarf as I step onto the platform is when I know I’m back where I belong.
Walking down Fulham Road, some chips quench my hunger for the next couple of hours. My first-timer friend spending £5 on a hotdog is how he knows he’s in west London. The walk round the Shed Wall and towards the East Stand is one I know too well, that sound of the turnstiles one I’ve heard many times before.
Getting in and seeing Stamford Bridge in all its glory is nothing new for me, but my friend is in awe. Although he’s not a blue at heart it doesn’t matter, his face in sheer admiration and his eyes gleaming at the sight of the Bridge. A smile comes across my face. Seeing his reaction brings memories flooding back to me of when I had that moment.
Do you remember that feeling when you first walked up the stairs on a matchday and saw your team’s stadium? I do, and however many years ago that was it still resonates deeply with me. Seeing his reaction made me remember that, and reminded me how lucky I am to be here time after time.
Arriving at our seats, I’m ready. Parklife blares out, the unnecessary fireworks are blazing, and the Liquidator hits its first note. Watching the teams walk out as I cry “CHELSEA!” at the top of my lungs is another one of those moments I cherish, and finally it’s time for the main event.
Burnley start the game well, but so do Chelsea. Reece James and Callum Hudson-Odoi are on fire, an explosive duo on the right which tantalises Sean Dyche’s side. It’s not long before Chelsea are rewarded for their strong start, when Willian is brought down inside the box. I knew it was a penalty, with the perfect view as I scream down the referee. Penalty Chelsea.
Amid the tourists’ phones I fix my eyes firmly on Jorginho, with all my trust in the Italian maestro. With a hop, skip and a jump he scores, sending Tom Pope the wrong way. Was it ever in doubt? 1-0 Chelsea. Jubilation in the East Stand Lower. The Blues strike first in south-west London.
Not long after Chelsea strike again, Tammy Abraham heading home to give the hosts a firm advantage. Embracing my friends, I couldn’t be happier. It’s a shame that isn’t the case for the man behind me, who tells me, “Will you sit down?”. “But nothing’s happening?”, I reply, as a Burnley player is down receiving treatment with the ball out of play.
Into the second half and the moment of the match has arrived: Hudson-Odoi scores his first Premier League goal. Sheer joy as I turn to my friend and shout, “Callum!” A moment as fantastic for the fans as it is for the 19-year-old, a remarkable achievement for a remarkable young man. I’m delighted for him, so happy to see him scoring again.
By now my voice is starting to go, having chanted all game long. At every opportunity and every moment of silence I’m there singing, supporting the team, singing my heart out. Everyone stares at me, but I don’t care, I love it. Chanting at the top of my lungs, running out of breath on some occasions. This is football, this is what it’s about.
The Shed decides to let the travelling Burnley fans know what their team is like, and naturally I join in. “You’re f***ing s***!”, I jeer, but not for long. “Mind your language, there are kids here!”, “Mind your language!” and “Sit down!” are the cries I here towards me.
I apologise and get a bit embarrassed, before I start to just laugh. Mind your language? Welcome to football! I’m later told that as I was laughing, the man behind me scoffed. Clearly not a fan of me then. Funny how supporting my team can annoy so many people, with fans giving me dirty looks, glaring stares and snappy comments.
My support becomes more child-friendly now, but I’m still singing non-stop until the final whistle. The game goes on, and Chelsea cruise to a convincing win. Needless to say I’m delighted that we’ve won again, and can head home a happy man. Another day, another win for Frank Lampard’s Chelsea, and another fantastic day in SW6.
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