From The Hearts Of The Fans

Dear Chelsea First Team Squad,

You don’t know me by name but I know all of you. I see you close-up from my front row seat in the Matthew Harding Lower stand, at the Bridge, behind the goal. If any of you should momentarily glance over when the ball is out of play, I’m the blonde with the big blue glasses, and can normally be heard shouting encouragement along with my friends, if we get free kicks and corners. If we’re defending, I’ll be clenching my fist as a sign of strength and to show solidarity. I’m still there at the end of the games, and I’ve never left a match, home or away, before the final whistle, ever. No matter what the score, I always clap you off, even if the game’s been poor, and even if I am gutted to the pit of my stomach. Which has happened a little more than usual, this season. But I don’t need to tell you that.

I couldn’t make the match at Leicester the other night. I live in Cambridge and I don’t drive. My husband is not a football supporter and so I travel to most matches alone. There was no way of getting back home on a Monday night. A lot of my friends were there, though. They tell me that precisely three players came over to applaud the travelling fans. And they tell me that if Branna hadn’t shouted, it would only have been him. You may have your reasons for not bothering. You had a pretty bad game, and probably felt angry, either with yourselves, or one another. It would mean yet another post-mortem on a match we’d lost. There had already been eight defeats before then, and it’s not what most of you are used to.

However, we are hurting too. Even those of us who have lived through the most awful Chelsea seasons back in the late 1970s and early 1980s . Back then, it wasn’t just the results that kept us awake at night. Because the financial situation was so precarious, we were perilously close to not having a club to support at all. We kept on going, though. We kept supporting, singing, and believing that things would get better. You probably know the rest. And since Roman’s era began, we’ve (largely) been spoilt. Winning started to become a way of life and, aside from a few heart-wrenching moments, some of which were beyond our control, we’ve had it good. But most of us don’t take success and winning as a given. Most of us understand that a team can have a bad period, and no matter what they do, things just go against them. Again, we still go. We still cheer, and we still get behind the team, whoever pulls that blue shirt on. It’s all well and good sending a collective message to us via the match programme, saying you appreciate our support. But we have to feel that you mean it, and you have to show it.

How many seconds does it take to walk over to the away fans after a match before you go off down the tunnel for your showers and your journey back to your smart homes? How long do you think it takes some of our supporters to get back to their homes, and how much do you think it hits their pockets? And most of the fans have to get up for work the next day too, not just you. The majority of us are not rich. We work hard to afford our match tickets and season tickets. People juggle work and family commitments for this club. We’re appreciative that Roman subsidises travel and match tickets for some away games, because it does at least show an understanding of what lengths we go to, in order to follow the club we love.

You first team players are a new breed of footballer. We get that. It’s not going to be like the old days when Ossie and co drank with the fans in a pub, post-match. That will never happen again. Besides, you are athletes and modern athletes need to look after their bodies, playing at the pace you do now, and with increasingly congested fixture lists. We know that you are encouraged to do a lot for certain charities, and that this is not always publicised outside of the club. We see photos of you visiting hospitals in the match programmes, and you make appearances in the megastore at designated times. But it wasn’t so long ago that the ordinary fans could see the great – but very humble – Gianfranco Zola, wandering into the club shop and chatting. This happened when I was in there in there once. I was thrilled, naturally. We saw Carlo Cuddicini the morning after we’d won the FA Cup, just mingling with the crowd after the victory parade. We felt close to that squad. But now – and this is not all your fault – we can’t get close to you. We are separated from you by your megastar status, and the new type of club management which decrees that training sessions are private, aside from invited media. But the club that pays your handsome salaries is our club too. We don’t own it financially, we have little control over it, but we care about it more than I can even put into words. If we feel that you don’t acknowledge how much Chelsea means to us, it hurts, and we feel angry.

I am still near to you in one sense, and I watch your body language when you defend and when you attack. I can often predict from that body language when things are going to go well, and when they won’t. I’m so close to the pitch that I could count the hairs on Thibaut’s legs. I see your facial expressions that the camera doesn’t always pick up on. I know more about you than you realise. I can tell when you genuinely care and when your spirits are low and you’ve given up. You are less opaque than you think. I don’t need to be a fly on the wall in the dressing room to predict what your individual moods will be after a game. And it’s not always about the result, but maybe a tactical misunderstanding between two or three of you which will need thrashing out and putting behind you, so you can concentrate on the next match.

Would it be too much of an imposition to show your thanks after a game, even when things are tough? It’s very easy to celebrate with us, like we did for several home games after we’d won the league last season. It was like one great long party, and the photo I took which is now my phone cover captures that feeling. My view, my moment. And, for most of you, yours, too. You need to show your faces after a game, no matter how you’re feeling. When we’re standing there after the final whistle, wondering what on earth can be done to turn things around, you should be acknowledging each stand with our fans in, and letting us know you value that support. Because, largely, we have got behind you in defeat. But we’ve been left wondering whether you care, because as soon as the whistle goes, you’re off. Remember, we see your photos on Twitter, and whilst you are entitled to personal and social lives, if we see you out having fun after a bad performance and you didn’t bother to thank us for turning up, what are we supposed to deduce from it?

Some of you might be familiar with the lyrics to ‘Blue Day’ – the Chelsea anthem sung by Suggs in 1997: Our blood is blue and we will leave you never. But when we make it, it will be together. I know that we’ll be here long after you’ve all moved on, and I’ll be shouting for a completely new first team at some point. But in the meantime, while you are still here, you are part of our club and you have a responsibility to remember that football isn’t just about the people who sit at home and watch on TV. It’s about those of us who scrape money together to watch from the stands, because we’re die-hards. We love the camaraderie, the match day banter and the drinks with the many friends we’ve made over the years, and we love standing in the wind and rain and feeling that we are part of it all. Winning, losing, laughing, crying. When you put that shirt on next Saturday, please remember that.

Yours sincerely,

Carol aka Pinky.
© Carol Ann Wood
December 2015


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4 thoughts on “From The Hearts Of The Fans”

  1. Without one swear word involved you have shown a true dedicated view of a fan with the RIGHT feelings and echo the voices of many of us (me included) that have been through some very worrying tough times .
    Well said and I sincerely hope that somewhere along its journey somebody in the position to influence hierarchy and Mr Ambramovich sees it for himself .
    Mick Hurley supporter since 1952 .

    Like

    1. Thanks, Mick. Yes, it would be nice if some of the hierarchy did get to read it. I have tweeted it to the club but they must get so much correspondence so it may not be seen. However, I will have a sign about my person on Saturday, with a heartfelt plea to those players to remember to thank the fans. Hopefully that will get picked up by the cameras 🙂

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  2. Well said, enjoyed reading that and fully agree with you , thought it strange myself that only three came across to applaud us , plus there was a ten mile tail back south bound on m1 from leic long journey home.

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