I was a Butch Wilkins Babe

When the untimely death of Ray Wilkins was announced I, like many other supporters, was instantly transported back to my youth. We mourn the loss of all Chelsea greats, but Ray’s playing time at Chelsea is reminiscent of a remarkable and turbulent time in the club’s history. It’s hard to put into words what I feel about that era, but I’m going to try.

I was one of the incoming supporters of 1970. April 11th that year marked the formal announcement to my family that I was a Blue. My parents laughed, thinking that I’d forget about Chelsea after a week or so. Little did they know that they’d given birth to a die-hard. And, pretty soon, I was going to learn, in the harshest possible way, about what what being a football supporter really meant. 

My first heroes were Peter Bonetti, Peter Osgood and the rest of the great team that won that FA Cup, following up with the Cup Winner’s Cup in 1971. It was pretty good being Chelsea then. I’d rope my school friends into playtime imaginary match scenarios where we’d thrash Leeds, Gary Sprake letting in about ten goals, and Billy Bremner being sent off. But then Chelsea slid into decline on the pitch and into financial crisis off it. My support never wavered, though. The club had captured my heart and, despite their relegation and near-liquidation, I ignored the taunts from supporters of other teams. Chelsea was for life.

Then, out of the turbulence, came the fresh young kids under the guidance of manager and former player Eddie McCreadie. Ray ‘Butch’ Wilkins was centre stage. Captain at 18, he showed remarkable maturity as well as an abundance of talent. What was different for me, was that I was now a teenager. You know, hormones and all that. Ray was a pin-up, my first heart-throb. Like countless other young Chelsea girls, I swooned over him with his dark, soulful eyes and his trendy clothes. 

My favourite girls’ magazines would regularly feature a poster of Ray. But I wasn’t content with just one on my bedroom wall; I would swap sweets with my friends in exchange for their duplicate posters. Mostly, these friends weren’t into football, so the arrangement worked very well. Nowadays, I suppose, I might have been described as a wag wannabe. Except, it wasn’t quite like that back then. I was fifteen, but didn’t have access to the type of makeovers that fifteen year olds have today. I had no clue how to apply make up, and I had spots which I covered with orange-tinted Clearasil. I sported a boyish haircut that definitely didn’t make me look chic. I was also a realist, knowing that I didn’t have a hope in hell of marrying Butch Wilkins, but I could still adore him. 

Carol Bedroom copy

Back in the mid-seventies, there was little chance of post-match photographs with players – film was expensive, and we didn’t bring cameras to every game. I was, however, often to be found pitch-side with my autograph book, there being no replica shirts to get signed. And players rarely gave their own shirts away. One shirt had to last, rather than having two per game as is the norm now. The club was on its knees financially – even the subs bench didn’t have a roof. Young supporters are always incredulous when I recount how substitutes sat huddled in sleeping bags when it rained.

I expressed my own adoration of Butch with a homemade badge displaying his photo, and a satin scarf proclaiming ‘I’m A Butch Wilkins Babe’. The scarf was bought from the temporary club shop, which was actually a caravan, accessible by only five supporters at a time. But, oh, the inventiveness of the memorabilia back then! So much better than the bland, unimaginative, over priced tat of today’s Megastore. 

My excitement knew no bounds, when my dad promised to take me to Chelsea’s Mitcham training ground during the Easter school holidays in 1976. I bored my friends silly with the talk of meeting Ray properly, and yes, getting a photo. I had a Chelsea pen friend by then. A girl of around my age, whom I got to know via Fab 208 magazine. (Sally Harlow, from Witham, Essex, if you’re out there, I mean you!) I told Sally that we were going to Mitcham, and she arranged to meet us there with two of her friends.

Of course, meeting Ray was as wonderful as we’d imagined, and even my mother developed a middle-aged crush on him, because he was so articulate and charming. Footballers didn’t always have a great reputation, but he was a model professional. I even took my cassette recorder to the training ground, and taped snatches of the conversation that we had with Ray, and his brothers, Graham and Steve, as they returned to Graham’s car – a Cortina, I think. How I wish I still had that tape.

I do still have the treasured photo of me and Ray. It’s a bit blurry because my dad wasn’t a great photographer and basic cameras weren’t very sophisticated. Oceans of water have passed under Stamford Bridge since then, of course. It broke my teenage heart when Ray was transferred to Manchester United, but I tried to understand, because the club was in a precarious position and we had to sell our best assets. Little did I know then that we would see him return three times in a coaching role, the favourite period of which has to be as assistant to Ancelotti.

Carol & Ray Wilkins

Ray had his demons and his tough times, but I’m not going to dwell on that. I didn’t always agree with his match analysis of late, but it doesn’t mean that I didn’t respect his opinions. He was honest and spoke eloquently. Moreover, he always spoke as one of us, a supporter who loved the club as we do. Even when you have a shared passion and ultimately desire the same outcome, you won’t agree on every point.

My ‘I’m A Butch Wilkins Babe’ scarf will be taken for its final outing at the Bridge on Sunday when we pay tribute to Ray. I noticed one in the Chelsea museum recently, and remarked on the fact that it was in such pristine condition compared to mine. Mine is much-faded, because it was clutched, waved, and cried on a lot during Ray’s Chelsea career. But memories don’t fade. This weekend, I will be fifteen again in my heart, and I will wave that scarf, on which tears will once more fall.

RIP Raymond Colin Wilkins

© Carol Ann Wood April 2018


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That Day Will Never Come

When the bars of Liquidator fail to move me,
When I care not for the pride that stirs the soul,
If I speak not of the future or the old days,
If my life without them wouldn’t leave a hole,
Then I’ll know it’s time to stop supporting Chelsea.
If that day should come, then yes, I’ll let you know.
But that day is never, ever going to happen.
Till my dying day I’ll always want to go.
For whatever all the troubles that befall them.
Then as long as I can move, I’ll give my heart.
Different players, different owners, different coaches.
But the club I love and I will never part.
If the chanting and singing should get boring,
If I cannot take defeat and then move on,
If I never wake with great anticipation,
Then I know that is the time that I’ll be gone.
If my heart no longer sings at Fulham Broadway,
If away trips do not give me nervous chills,
If I care not for the passion and for friendships,
If I don’t enjoy the the frequent thrills and spills,
Then I’ll know it’s time to stop supporting Chelsea.
Yet that day will never come, I know it’s true.
In the good times, in the bad and in between times,
I remain for all my life a Chelsea blue.

© Carol Ann Wood
February 2018


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Back To Basics:

Have we forgotten how to be supporters?

‘Something’s clearly not right.’

‘There’s tension, you can see it in their body language.’

‘They just didn’t look interested. Have they gone on strike?’

‘Something’s happening behind the scenes.’

I’m as guilty as the next person of over-analysis of the football psyche. The journalists and the pundits all do it. Now, it’s common place for supporters to proffer their amateur sports psychologist-speak as an answer to why their team aren’t playing well. I’m not knocking professional sports psychology. I think it has much to offer. But most of us haven’t studied sports psychology, so maybe we should get back to being supporters.

At Chelsea, our fans can probably be forgiven for going down the ‘something’s not right’ path every time our team has a bad run. We sometimes feel the club’s being run like a soap opera. Or a funfair. Roll up, roll up, all the fun of the managerial merry-go-round. It’s little wonder that when an ex-manager is spotted watching a game, the media go into overdrive. Chelsea have form in this respect. Our owner is infamous for pressing the ‘Sack’ button – sometimes a justifiable decision, at other times bafflingly so – at regular intervals. And, given the fiasco of two seasons ago when it did appear some players had stopped playing for Mourinho, we sort of expect it to happen again, and continually brace ourselves for the latest instalment.

I can’t help feel, though, that we supporters are feeding back into the perceived drama a bit too much. We tweet about every kick of the ball. We tweet about players as they come out of the tunnel. Do they look ‘up for it’? What was Cahill’s sniff of all about? Was it a sniff of contempt? Complacency? Clue: He could just have been suffering from a common cold. Or was it not a sniff, but a sneer? And then the tales get taller and taller.

Chinese whispers have always been a part of the beautiful game, but before the advent of social media, they were confined to print journalism and the two stalwarts chatting over a pint down the pub. One of them had a neighbour whose sister was tea-lady and she saw the manager and his centre forward have a brawl after the 4-0 drubbing. But contemporary football supporters are saturated with news, fake or real, any time of day or night that they care to peruse it.

It’s hard to get my head around the fact that in 2007 when Jose Mourinho was sacked in his first spell at Chelsea, I didn’t know till I heard the news on breakfast radio. No smart phones then, no Twitter to be perpetually connected to. Whilst things weren’t going so well early that season, the news was still a bit of a shock for those of us not party to The House Of Roman. In hindsight, I would probably have preferred a little forewarning. But I think it’s gone too much the other way since.

Being amateur sports psychologists, means we can’t have a single day where we don’t predict what’s going to happen, or fret about what already might be happening. Last summer, after winning the league but losing the FA Cup Final, the constant rumours spoilt the enjoyment of the season. I hardly had a day where I could revel in being being Champions of England. Conte had apparently had a rift with the board over frustration at the lack of signings. That may have been partly true, and given our current situation with injuries and a wafer-thin squad, it could prove to be our downfall during this campaign.

Of course we all want – and are perfectly entitled – to voice our opinions on these issues. But I feel we’ve reached saturation point. Our brains can’t cope with the constant stream of rumour on social media. I can’t count how many amateur sports psychologists, would-be journalists and budding football managers I have had to block on Twitter, as they spread their opinions and ‘analysis’ from their bedrooms in Zachoalia. Or Upper Piddlington.

I would love to read good old fashioned match analysis and a bit of a grumble.

Well, we got three points but we’re still not on form. Bit crap at times. Defence is looking wobbly, needs sorting. Anyway, UTC. Buzzing for Bournemouth mate!

I’m a bit weary of : You can tell he’s not happy, he went straight down the tunnel after waving to the fans. Clue: He could have been desperate for a slash.

Or: He was smirking. His head’s not right. Did you see the way he pouted just then? Yea, definitely gone in January. Clue: If we were filmed continually during a game, how many different facial expressions do you think we’d have? I have seen screen shots of myself during matches. At times when we’ve been winning comfortably, I’ve looked decidedly angry. At times when we’ve been losing, I’ve looked as happy as Larry. I must be plastic, then!

As I said, I am as guilty as anyone of over-analysing. But I’m trying to do less of it. I don’t have any control over what happens during games anyway, other than getting behind the team as much as possible. Like, when we’re losing or playing badly, urging the team on, rather than bad mouthing individual players. Players can, and often do, respond positively to crowd encouragement. Now that’s real sports psychology!

© Carol Ann Wood
Sunday 22 October 2017


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The Night The League Was Won

The night the league was won, the Chelsea gathered in their blue.
At West Brom, where we hoped our boys knew what they had to do.
The Tottenham had been saying that they were coming for us soon.
We waited but they never did. Oh Tottenham, change your tune!
We Chelsea sang our hearts out and we urged our players on.
A Pullis team is stubborn but we roared our love in song.
And Michy stepped up to the task to bring us all such joy.
He’s not had many chances, but he is a lovely boy!
The night the league was won we were ecstatic and elated.
It felt so sweet, and most of us had not anticipated
The changes that Antonio would bring that club of ours.
Last season we had thunderstorms. This year, just hearts and flowers.
And sunshine, sunshine, all the way, from a man with such a passion.
He celebrates each goal as if they’re going out of fashion!
He’s charming and he’s dignified, endearing and a gent.
He’s taught his squad his methods and they’ve warmed to his intent.
The night the league was won, we laughed as Luiz danced and smiled.
He’s proved his critics wrong and driven all his geezers wild.
We watched as Victor Moses went from loan king to a star.
We watched as Kante bossed midfield by running near and far.
The night the league was won, we all remembered loved ones gone.
But they were with us still, we knew, to urge our blue boys on.
To win the title on the road, and on a Friday night,
It is a strange experience. To some, it’s not quite right.
And yet, we had to get it done, so we can celebrate
Back at the Bridge, our home sweet home.
The feeling’s simply great.
The night the league was won, we felt an era new was dawning.
Each day is blue and when we wake, each morn’s a Chelsea morning.
Let’s hail the great Antonio and seasons in the sun.
For we were WORTHY champions,
The night the league was won.

© Carol Ann Wood
May 2017


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A die-hard Chelsea Woman

A die-hard Chelsea woman doesn’t follow many teams.
She has our crest inside her head, one club is in her dreams.
A die-hard Chelsea woman doesn’t re-apply her gloss
When there is action on the pitch, and when the weather’s dross.
A die-hard Chelsea woman doesn’t care for camera’s gaze.
What matters is the team’s result, each game that Chelsea plays.
A die-hard Chelsea woman laughs when rain destroys her hair.
She doesn’t mind if she looks nuts, what matters is she’s there.
A die-hard Chelsea woman is the one who’ll never leave,
She just has Chelsea in her heart, her passion on her sleeve.
What matters are the friendships and the laughter down the years,
The wins, the comebacks and the joy, the heartache and the tears.
A die-hard Chelsea woman knows the offside rule and more.
She simply can’t be patronised, this woman knows the score.
A die-hard Chelsea woman may be tall, or may be short.
She may be large, she may be small, but die-hards can’t be bought.
A die-hard Chelsea woman won’t be judged by how she looks.
She’s not an It girl wannabe in magazines or books.
She’s smart, she’s clever, and she’s lived
Through many, many things.
She’s real, not plastic, just herself, she swears, she shouts, she sings.
A die-hard Chelsea woman comes from near or from afar.
What matters not is distance, but instead, how loyal you are.
She doesn’t need to preen or pout, she’s comfy in her skin.
It’s how she loves the Blues that counts, not what she’s covered in.
If you’re a die-hard Chelsea girl, young, old or in-between,
Be proud and loud when in that crowd.
Be vocal and be seen.
For glam may sell a TV show, but glam is quickly gone.
It’s us who are the backbone that the club relies upon.
It’s us the Chelsea die-hard girls who, when the going gets tough
Will stick around through stormy skies and still can’t get enough.
A die-hard Chelsea woman suffers fools not well nor gladly.
So cross her at your peril or you’ll find it could end badly.
Good Chelsea men all know our worth, beyond our arse and tits.
For plastic’s only temporary, but we’ve got proper bits.
We’re die-hard Chelsea women and we’re worth as much as you.
We love our this club, we’re here to stay,
We’re Chelsea through and through.

© Carol Ann Wood

March 2017


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Breaking News on PieGate 

breaking-news

The FA have announced, in the light of the recent PieGate scandal involving Sutton United reserve goalkeeper Wayne Shaw, that they are to investigate a similar historical food-related incident. They are launching an enquiry into former Chelsea goalkeeper William ‘Fatty’ Foulke’s time at Chelsea, during the 1905-06 season, when it was reported that he ate the dinner intended for the entire first team squad, ahead of a competitive Boxing Day game.

A spokesman for the FA said ‘We cannot rule out the possibility that this was a stunt in association with a betting ring. Foulke was a notoriously eccentric character, but we cannot allow anyone to get away with a breach of the rules, even if he died in 1916. As we cannot interview Foulke himself, we will be contacting his descendants, and questioning both them and Chelsea Football Club regarding this matter.’

I asked the FA spokesperson exactly how they would go about collating evidence of foul play. They explained that they are working in conjunction with undercover reporters from The Sun on this matter. ‘The Sun newspaper are especially keen to rid the game of scandals such as this,’ the spokesperson explained. When I pointed out that The Sun appeared to be launching a campaign to get Wayne Shaw reinstated at Sutton United, the spokesperson retorted, ‘Ah, but Wayne was clearly a club legend, doing his best for his cash-strapped local side. Foulke played for Chelsea. They’re rich bastards. They deserve all they get.’ I reminded him that Foulke’s meal-eating feat allegedly took place in 1906, Chelsea’s second-only season of existence, and a long time from the Abramovich-era of ownership. He thought for a minute and said, ‘Yea, but breach of the rules is breach of the rules.’

I enquired of the FA spokesperson what they thought the outcome would be, were the FA rules found to have been broken. The spokesperson replied, ‘Well, there is the possibility of a hefty fine, or perhaps even a points deduction. If Chelsea football club have known about any betting incident and not declared it, then they must be punished accordingly.’ As the spokesperson walked away, they were heard to mumble, ‘There is a way of stopping these irritating ruiners of football from winning trophies. We won’t let them get away with it.’

© Carol Ann Wood
February 2017


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Links:
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Contact the author
Follow Carol Ann Wood on Twitter
NOT Just Saying: Carol’s comments on feminism, fashion, food and folly
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Chinese Puzzle

More unsettling news for Chelsea, according to SkySports sources. Antonio Conte has today sensationally axed the entire first team squad after lacklustre display against Leicester, excepting Diego Costa. More details below.

Conte was confronted earlier today by approximately 50,000 Chinese journalists, a man from the local restaurant and the chairperson of the Chinese Whispers Association, as he went to put Costa through his paces. Conte explained that there was no row with Diego. ‘He injured his back’ the Italian elaborated. ‘He was bending down to pick up fragments of a broken china cup that Bella the dog had knocked off the table with her tail. I was a bit frustrated about that. So I shouted ‘Mama Mia! Why do you go and get china? You have a lively dog, you should use more sturdy crockery! Diego cried a bit but he was fine after a cuddle and a chocolate biscuit, and promised to try and get to Ikea as soon as possible.’

Conte went on to say ‘As for the rest of the squad? They were awful on Saturday! We are so far behind United, City, Spurs, Arsenal and Liverpool that it is a joke. We have no chance of a trophy with this lazy lot. They didn’t look as if they wanted to bother during the game so I told them not to bother coming in for training. China can takeaway all they want.’

There was a stunned silence previously unheard of from journalists, followed by the sound of hot air escaping. Conte then smiled politely and said ‘may you live in interesting times.’ Mr Conte added that should the club miraculously manage to turn this season around and finish in the top half of the table, there would be a complimentary serving of Humble Pie provided for all sections of the media at the last press conference in May.

© Carol Ann Wood
January 2017


Index of Posts:


Links:
My bespoke poetry service, Diverse Verse
About the author
Contact the author
Follow Carol Ann Wood on Twitter
NOT Just Saying: Carol’s comments on feminism, fashion, food and folly
Only in Erinsborough Carol Ann’s fun look at the lives and loves of the characters from the Australian soapNeighbours


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