Basking in the afterglow of another Premiership title i thought I'd rattle off just a few reasons why i love Chelsea. It might not gain me many friends but in the words of the song...."Fuck 'em all! Fuck 'em all! United, West Ham, Liverpool......".
- My old man and my older brother. I had no choice did i? I was brought up on tales of Ossie and his goals, Hutch and his mammoth throw-ins, Chopper and his bone crunching tackles and Charlie Cooke and his mind bending dribbles. The way they described this gang of piss heads, dandy's and hard men was enough for me. After hearing that i was never going to follow a team as ordinary and small time as QPR or Fulham was i?
- The kit. The first one i ever had bought for me was the 1978 home kit resplendent in royal blue with white Umbro diamonds down it's long sleeves and long white pointy collars. I looked a million dollars amongst the other kids on the Heathcote Way estate in Yiewsley in their scratchy Liverpool and Arsenal shirts. I used to love donning that shirt, going over the green with my red and white League Cup leather ball and pretending to be Clive Walker smashing the ball in from all angles and getting caked in mud practising bicycle kicks on my own in the pouring rain.
- Fulham Broadway. When i was six or seven i started to go to games with my older brother. My first game was a meaningless end of season affair in 1980 against Bolton but as far as i was concerned it could have been the world cup final! I still remember the sights and smells that hit me as we crossed the North End Rd traffic lights from Dawes Rd where we'd parked the car. It was a mixture of petrol fumes, sweaty old burgers that used to sit in brine until the next ravenous piss head came along to play Russian Roulette with listeria and the stench of horseshit. Then there was the supporters. Maybe time has clouded my memory but I'm pretty sure every bloke who went to Chelsea in those days sported a number one crop, a Fred Perry underneath a green flight jacket, red braces hanging round his backside and a pair of oxblood DM's. To a young aspiring skinhead who had been brought up on his older brothers reggae and ska collection this was it. I'd arrived!
- 1983/84. Niedzwiecki, Lee, Pates, McLaughlin, Jones, Bumstead, Spackman, Speedie, Dixon, Thomas, Nevin and honorable mentions to Cannoville, Hollins, Jasper, McNeil and Neal. If you're a Chelsea supporter and didn't witness this season then you don't know what you missed. If you were there......has it ever really been bettered since?
- Fashion. My interest in clothes was sparked by those early visits to Chelsea. In my early days of following Chelsea it was DM's or Tassled Loafers with a green Alpha flight jacket and a pair of bleached jeans or even Adidas boxing boots and i was even known once or twice to wear a pair of suede moccasins to football! It then evolved into Sergio Tachini tracksuits, Diadora Borg Elites or Adidas Gazelles, sky blue chunky Lois Cords (frayed at the hem and split at the seams), Pringle or Lyle and Scott golf sweaters with a Pierre Cardin roll neck underneath all topped off with a chunky gold belcher chain worn on the outside. For the classier amongst us an Aquascutum mac topped off the look just right.
Then it progressed for me into flared Chipie and NafNaf jeans (and even dungarees YES DUNGAREES!), Chevignon sweatshirts, Clarks suede Wallabies and long hair as every man and his dog seemed to discover Ecstasy and house music at the same time. It did nothing for the atmosphere on the terraces either. At an age where we should have been kicking lumps out of eachother most blokes were too off their tits or on friendly terms from clubbing together to be bothered with all that. After that we progressed onto Stone Island, CP Clothing, Burberry, Armani, Paul & Shark and a fair few lads are still subscribing to this particular style bible to this day. Me? I'm happy pinching a bit from everything that has gone before and I'll be found in a pair of Adidas Forest Hills or Desert Boots, Fred Perry polo or Ben Sherman underneath a Harrington jacket these days. As they say clothes maketh the man and i have Chelsea to thank for that.
- Stamford Bridge. Yes, it was a shit hole, but it was our shit hole. From the decrepit ramshackle old Shed, to the concrete Benches in front of the West Stand that would cause piles in the winter, to the dog track around the edge of the pitch, to the white elephant of the brand new East Stand that nearly crippled the club, i don't think there's another ground quite like it. Call me nostalgic but i actually preferred the old girl in those days as opposed to the fairly dull and soulless uniform stadium they redeveloped her into. Chelsea fans loved the fact that it was intimidating to visit and away fans hated coming there. To this day if i close my eyes i can still picture a younger version of me sitting on the crash barrier above the Bovril Gate at the Shed End watching Pat Nevin terrorising visiting defenders.
- Mates. I don't go as much as i used to these days, probably only half a dozen or so games a season now but massive kudos to those blokes that do still go home and away every week. I've grown up and have other responsibilities but even so i still enjoy the day out and everything that goes with it when i do manage to score myself a (overpriced) ticket. The dozen or so of us from West Drayton that used to go home and away every week have slowly dwindled away for different reasons including emigration to Australia, marriage, kids, work etc.. but i know still that every single one of us from those days still loves Chelsea just as much and are still as passionate about their club even after all this time. One day there'll be a reunion and the stories and banter will still be the same then as it was all those years ago. I think my favourite thing about growing up following Chelsea is the fact that the bonds formed with your like minded mates are more or less everlasting. Ask any of them about the trips on Gary's coaches to the far flung corners of this country or a certain 24 hours in Stockholm or a certain someone getting a kick in the balls outside Filbert St and i reckon you could write a book from the stories that would be told.......oh, hang on a minute! I've just had an idea!
- We're not.....(and i thank God every day for this) Yids, Leeds, Utd, West Ham, Arsenal, Scousers, QPR (who barely deserve a mention) or Fulham. Because as the song goes...... "We are the Chelsea and we are the best, we are the Chelsea so fuck all the rest!"