Before even getting on the plane for London, my friend Jack Ison ensured my term abroad would have a rather exciting start. With an extra ticket in hand, Jack contacted me asking if I wanted to join him for Chelsea’s match against Burnley on Saturday the 11th. It was Thursday at the time and I immediately accepted as I was on the way to the airport in Boston, Massachusetts.
After arriving in London (and paying way too much for a taxi ride to the apartment I’d be staying at) I attempted to settle in, but was simply too excited. Part of it had to do with being out of the country for the first time, but most of it was the anticipation of attending my first Chelsea match.
I’ll admit I was quite nervous; were football matches in the United Kingdom a lot different than sporting events in the United States? Would I like the differences? I tried not to worry, and in the end, I loved every second of it.
So after a fun-filled Friday night (a bit too much), I took the tube to meet Jack at a pub of his choosing- the Bolton- which is where I am as write this piece. We had a few drinks, got to know each other (we’d only met online) and then headed to the stadium. I was incredibly thankful not only for Jack inviting me, but showing me around the grounds and the surrounding area. It was incredibly helpful and I would’ve been lost if left to my own devices.
Walking through a rather eerie cemetery to Stamford Bridge, everything began to feel incredibly real. I could see the stadium in the distance and was blown away. Gone were the days watching from my couch more than 3,000 miles away.
When we arrived at the grounds, Jack led the way to the proper gate and we entered the stadium quicker than I expected. After getting a pint, we took our seats and waited for the match to begin, my anticipation buzzing. We had the privilege of sitting in the upper West Stand, practically at midfield, and had an excellent view of the pitch.
For me, the game was a blur. It all went by incredibly fast and I tried my best to take it all in. Keep in mind, this was my first Premier League match, and practically everything amazed me about the entire experience, not just the game itself. Here are some of the things that I’ll remember for a lifetime.
Callum Hudson-Odoi + Reece James Partnership
Against Burnley, both Reece James and Callum Hudson-Odoi started. CHO as right wing and James at right back. Both players are practically teenagers, and yet, both boast tremendous potential.
James and CHO controlled the right flank, and finished the match with James bagging an assist and CHO his first career Premier-League goal. It was amazing to see the chemistry they created on the right flank, and they will undoubtedly be a joy to watch for years to come.
Jorginho was an absolute boss on the ball. It was impossible to take my eyes off the midfielder as he dictated play and maintained possession. He kept the game firmly in Chelsea’s control (especially in the midfield). Jorginho would go on to calmly slot home a penalty to open up the scoring for the Blues. A sensational performance for my pick for Chelsea Player of the Year.
Amid an array of unwarranted slander geared at the young English midfielder, Mason Mount left an impression on me. Mount was everywhere and his energy seemed unremitting. He was brilliant in the press, and I admired how he worked so tirelessly for a full, 90 minutes.
No Pulisic (sigh)
There were countless other players and happenings in the game that sparked my attention, but those four players truly were a joy to watch. As an American, I would’ve loved to see Christian Pulisic, but an injury sidelined the young forward. I also would’ve loved to see Mateo Kovacic and N’golo Kante, but neither played (Kante was injured and Kovacic was an unused substitute). That being said, it was quite uplifting to watch Ross Barkley have a successful game (barring a few bad turnovers) and he seemed to feed off Mount’s energy and Jorginho’s poise in the midfield.
A Special Thanks
In the end, I couldn’t complain. The Blues won 3-0 and the experience itself was absolutely incredible. Lastly, a huge thank you to Jack Ison for bringing me along. I encourage every Chelsea fan reading this to go check out his writing. You can follow him @isoncfc on twitter.
A Match to Remember
The experience itself was so impressive that I went on to buy a Chelsea membership; I want to ensure that I have the best chance to catch as many Chelsea games as possible before I head back to the states in April. There truly is nothing like a match at Stamford Bridge. And the match on January 11th against Burnley was one I will never forget. Up the God Damn Blues.