The Transfer Troll Is King

It is the silly season and the meltdown’s in full swing.
It’s all going off in Twitter-land where the transfer troll is king.
The fanboys in their bedrooms are a-weeping and a-wailing.
They say our club is going bad, and at transfers we are failing.

The sky will soon fall in, they tweet, if we don’t hear some news.
They cannot stand this untold stress of following ‘da blues’.
The toys are falling out of prams, when a player joins a rival.
‘WE’LL FAIL!’  they write in capitals, ‘WE’LL BE FIGHTING FOR SURVIVAL!’

They tell the world what they would do, to them it’s such a breeze.
They play their Fifa 17 with skill and expertise.
It is the silly season and the fanboys feel the sting.
They’re hurt, affronted, wounded, and the transfer troll is king.

The clickbait-fodder swallow every story they devour.
The tales get taller, all the time, with every Twitter hour.
As ‘sources close’ have inside news about a ‘breaking deal’
And the fanboys wet their beds again and tell us how they feel.

‘Announce! Announce! Announce!’ they say, as they tweet their chosen star.
‘Come join us, bro,’ they tell a man who knows not who they are.
The rest of us just roll our eyes – we’ve heard it all before.
The silly season’s full of shit and likely there’ll be more.

Supporters have no power, no say, in who we sell or buy.
The board won’t listen to a word, so cry you fanboys, cry.
In ninety minutes of each game, we can chant, and shout, and sing.
But, in the silly season, it’s the transfer troll who’s king.

© Carol Ann Wood
July 2017


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Half a chance?

Why Chelsea’s branding of their name might not mean an end to the much-scorned half-and-half ‘friendship’ scarf

Ask most regular football match attendees about the half-and-half scarf and you’ll likely be met with a grimaced expression and a few choice words in response. Us ‘football purists’ – you know, the sort who grumble about increasingly bizarre kick off times, unreasonable Luddites that we are – have made no secret of the fact that we’ve long-hated the sight of people wearing the name of our club and that of the opponent, together with fixture date, around their necks. ‘It’s really for the kids,’ some of the traders who sell these scarves have argued. In my young days – and yes, I am aware that this renders me an old biddy – we were content with a match programme which we took proudly to school on Monday mornings, perhaps with a player signature or two on it. (Unless we’d lost, of course, and then we might just file it away and hope that the next one could be waved around the playground in triumph.) Yes, times have moved on, but with camera phones having been the norm for over a decade, you don’t need a replica scarf which, let’s face it, you aren’t going to wear ever again, as a reminder, or proof, that you attended a particular match. The game is still essentially tribal. Other clubs are our competitors and our rivals, some more than others. Most of us have good friends who support other clubs, but they would no more want to be adorned with our club’s name than we would theirs.

It has just been announced, to the delight of many, that Chelsea FC are to ban the half-and-half scarf being sold by independent stallholders around the ground. The club have won a court decision to trademark the word ‘Chelsea’ on clothing items.

The word ‘Chelsea’ is now trademarked in Class 25 – which covers clothing, replica football kits and headgear – but in a letter to traders Hammersmith and Fulham council specified scarves being sold outside Stamford Bridge would fall under the ruling. [getwestlondon, 11 Aug 2016, by Ryan O’Donovan]

(Caution: this link to the getwestlondon article will display two photographs of half-and-half scarves, which some readers may find offensive.)

The club’s official crest has, of course, been a licensed product for a long time, but the half-and-half scarves use the word ‘Chelsea’ on a blue-background half with (e g) ‘United’ on a red-background half, each bordered with a generic shirt.

On first hearing this news, it’s understandable to think, ‘Hurrah, no more half-and-half scarves, brilliant!’ That was my first reaction. Maybe the club have actually taken the opinions of the die-hard supporters into account. Maybe they’ve listened. Unfortunately though, the likelihood of this is on a par with the chances of Arsène Wenger admitting he’s seen an incident. I dislike the concept of brand altogether, but sadly, it’s a component of the modern club’s marketing strategy. They are a brand, we are customers. (Another of my pet hates!)

But being unable to use the word ‘Chelsea’ could cause problems for the indies on the Fulham Road. I still believe there is room for both the official products and the stall-holders’ unofficial merchandise. You aren’t ever going to see a tee-shirt on sale in the megastore with our song about Willian emblazoned on it. Well, not that bit of it. But a lot of supporters want to wear it. I have friends who produce some imaginative, good quality unofficial products, but they’re what the real fans ask for. And no, they’re not always vulgar, nor displaying derogatory slogans aimed at rival clubs. And here’s the other advantage: they are affordable. In the last few years, the Chelsea megastore has become bland and drab, even in decor. The recent ‘makeover’ has rendered it not dissimilar to a Sports Direct warehouse. All black and metal. You walk around and what do you see? Row upon row of replica shirts. I’m not anti replica shirt. I wear one with a personalised nickname on the back, but it’s obvious that the club’s merchandising department are mainly interested in shirt sales, because they provide the most lucrative return. Most of the other products are aimed at the tourists and what we refer to as day-trippers, the once-a-season match goers. There is insufficient imagination going into the official merchandise, and the few items which do appeal are overpriced.

If you go back to the early noughties, immediately prior to Roman Abramovich’s takeover, you could walk around the megastore to find a reasonable range of clothing and accessories. It wasn’t quite the good old days of the infamous satin scarves, but it was palatable. People who know me will remember how euphoric I was at all the pink tee-shirts, toiletry bags, scarves and jackets in the ladies’ range. Not everyone’s taste, granted, but it gave rise to my nickname. One day, I was cornered by Ken Bates outside the store, and virtually put on display so he could show me off to some cronies he was entertaining. ‘This ladies’ range is very popular for our growing female fan base,’ he told them, squeezing my shoulder energetically, as was his way, almost flooring me. Well, I was hardly a newbie, but I understood what he was saying. And roguish as he may have been, he did wander around, watching and listening, talking. He asked me what I liked about these new goods. He was a far-from-perfect owner, and he didn’t always endear himself to the supporters, but still, credit where credit’s due.

Whilst I do abhor the half-and-half scarf, I wouldn’t want to see the demise of the independent traders either. They have long been part of the match-day experience, from the bygone days of the rosettes to the current comic tee-shirts and bibs with ‘I’m a Chelsea baby’ on. These traders are entitled to make their money, and, half-and-half scarves aside, they largely do that by being imaginative and providing supporters with what they really want at affordable prices. Chelsea FC have quite simply ‘cottoned on’ to the fact that the day-trippers have been spending more of their money outside of the megastore than in and, unfortunately, a sizeable proportion of it has been on the half-and-half scarves. Call me cynical (you cannot be a Chelsea die-hard for 46 years without an element of cynicism) but don’t rule out the appearance in the megastore of official club ‘friendship’ scarves sometime soon. And, in this instance, nothing would give me more pleasure than being wrong.

© Carol Ann Wood
August 2016


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NOT Just Saying: Carol’s comments on feminism, fashion, food and folly
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Rhyme and Treason

Chelsea 2015-2016 A Season in Verse


FrontI came up with the idea of writing a poem per game for one Chelsea season, just before the 2015/16 campaign. Why not, I thought; we’d just won the premier league, and everything seemed pretty rosy. A few games into the new season and I wondered what I’d been thinking of. Everything was unravelling. Fast. There was drama off the field, and alarmingly bad results on it. But I’m a die-hard supporter, and there was nothing for it but to plough on, my raw emotions spilling out as I, like most other supporters, became increasingly frustrated and bewildered.

BackMark Worrall, a Chelsea friend, author, and proprietor of Gate 17 publications, approached me after I tweeted one of my poems which had attracted considerable attention. I elaborated on my planned project, and so this season-long collection was born. It reflects my feelings as I was navigating through what was an unpredicted drop from glory to despair. But football supporters are made of tough stuff, and regardless of what team you support, you will identify with the sentiments expressed. Not always rational. Not always unbiased. But always passionate.

If you appreciate the writing on this blog, take a look at Rhyme and Treason: Chelsea 2015-2016 a season in verse.

Click to view


Love Letters From The Stand


If you’ve enjoyed this season’s book, take a preview of Love Letters From The Stand, the forthcoming book for Chelsea’s 2016-2017 season.

The preface will be available throughout the season here.

You can preview selected chapters here, here, here and here, each for a limited time.

The collected letters will be available in print and ebook formats after the season ends.


Index of Posts:


Links:
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 ErinsboroughCarol’s fun look at the lives and loves of the characters from the Australian soapNeighbours


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Till Death Do Us Part ….

Anyone who knows me will agree that I am having an affair with my football club. For me, it’s a bit like those tee shirts that were produced a few years back, which stated ‘Chelsea is life, the rest is mere detail.’ Given the circumstances, one might imagine I was a fairly unlikely candidate for becoming a fanatical Chelsea supporter. Firstly, not one family member had ever shown an interest in football. Secondly, I was a girl. (Actually, I still am, albeit an older girl these days.) Thirdly, I was raised in rural Norfolk. I don’t think I need to expand on that one.

Then one day in April 1970 when I was nine years old, some girls in my school playground had cottoned on to the fact that if you wanted to impress the boys, you had to be ‘supporting’ one or other of the football teams in the forthcoming FA Cup Final. To join the girls’ skipping game, thus being with the ‘in crowd’ and impressing the boys, you were supposed to say you supported Leeds. They were were apparently the more popular, and most of the boys were going with them. So I lied. Yea, ok I’m sorry, but I wanted to impress Peter Butterworth, and Barry Broad. The guilt of that lie will stay with me for life. However, even at that stage, I knew deep down I was really meant to be Chelsea. And by the date of the Cup Final replay, I had ‘come out’ and declared my support of the Blues, by which time of course, the other girls had lost interest altogether, and my torrid and passionate affair was only just beginning.

I announced in a serious manner to my parents and older brother that I had become a Chelsea supporter. They laughed. Well it was 1970, and in their world, girls did not become football fans. It wasn’t as if I was even sporty, given my dyspraxic tendencies, meaning I was always last to get picked for any team games, and I dreaded PE. (Just a shame for England that David James didn’t realise he was dyspraxic.) My parents thought Chelsea was a phase I would grow out of, but once I had insisted on swapping my weekly Twinkle comic for Shoot, they realised their mistake. Amongst the girls at school I began to be considered something of an oddity. While my peers were dreaming of Donny Osmond, I thought I was going to marry Peter Osgood. I took great delight in hating Leeds, and annoying all the boys who ‘supported them’ (after all Leeds were the Man United of the day, and I had gone off Peter Butterworth and Barry Broad!) A hatred of Leeds mostly involved making up rude songs about Billy Bremner and Gary Sprake, or defacing their posters with felt tip pens in my copy of Shoot and passing them round the class.

I tried to persuade other girls to join my ‘Stamford Bridge Gang’ and the prerequisite for membership was to answer questions about Chelsea around the packed lunch table. Members also had to swear an oath of allegiance and we held regular meetings in a disused hen house in the field behind my home. I don’t think for a minute that these girls were remotely interested in Chelsea’s latest results, let alone what Peter Bonetti’s favourite cereal was, or where Charlie Cooke went for his holidays. I think they only went along with the whole thing because my mother had a reputation for making great flap jacks.

From then onwards, Saturdays became a bit of a battle ground. My parents had this ritual whereby my father went for a lunch time drink with his friends, was late home, and tried to appease my stony faced mother by suggesting a shopping trip to King’s Lynn. So I had to go too. Naturally I wanted to stay at home with the transistor radio and the television. Saturday afternoon sport on TV consisted of wrestling followed by the football results on the teleprinter. Women could be seen tapping away at their typewriters in the background, wearing what looked like nylon overalls, and that was as sophisticated as it got back then.

Instead, I had to trail around the shops, complaining as my mother picked out yet more hideous crimplene dresses for me, and all the time I would be fretting about Ossie’s groin strain. When the time got to twenty minutes to five – remember when matches were actually finished by then – I would insist on rushing up King’s Lynn high street to the nearest TV shop, to mingle with a crowd of like minded men and find out how we had done. Believe me, I probably could have held the world record for being chucked out of TV shops. Sometimes there was such a crowd gathered that the shop manager came along and switched all the TV sets off in a fit of pique. Those occasions were agony, because I had to hold my crackly transistor radio up to the car window on the way home in order to get the results. More often than not I would lose the reception altogether just as Chelsea’s score was coming through. My father was duly cursed for daring to drive past a building at that very moment.

Eventually, I wore my father’s resistance down and he had to take me to see Chelsea play. He had ‘decided’ at some point hence, that he was a Leeds fan. Funny, that. But I digress. We used to watch Chelsea play at Norwich each season, although for reasons which were best known to him, he made us stand with the home fans. Now I guess I must have looked rather out of place. A young child, wearing a blue and white hand knitted scarf and with a giant Chelsea rosette the size of a dinner plate pinned on to her anorak. You think that was just for match days? Get real, I wore that rosette on my anorak day in, day out. And I was not the sort of child who was going to keep quiet, or feel intimidated by a load of yellow and green canaries. Oh no, I shouted. I gave the home fans some decent stick, especially when they refused on one occasion to return the ball to Peter Bonetti. I hope he’s proud of me! My dad was a bit embarrassed though.

By the time I was finally taken to see Chelsea at the Bridge, the new East Stand was in place, and sadly, I never got to experience the delights of the original Shed. That’s one of my biggest regrets. My dad said it was ‘too rough’ for me. Actually I think he thought it was too rough for him. Because despite my small stature, I could, and still can, look after myself. I may have been watching from the East Stand and not the Shed, but I made my presence felt. Let’s just say that the linesmen, away supporters and opposing substitutes knew I was there! They still do, now that I sit in the Matthew Harding Lower by the corner flag!

So there you have it. Everyone has their own story to tell about how they got hooked on Chelsea. I always hoped that any children I might produce would share my passion, but I’m afraid to say my daughter supports Tottenham. You may be wondering how on earth this happened. I’d like to say that whilst I was spark out after her birth, she was kidnapped by aliens from the Seven Sisters. Unfortunately I have to admit that it’s because her father – my ex – is a Tottenham fan. He isn’t buried under the patio but in recent seasons it has been so much more fun to see him suffer the living hell of being beaten time and time again by Chelsea than to wish him any harm.

Then in 1985 my son Chris came along, and fortunately chose the sensible path. He’s 19 now, and likes to say that he became a Blue whilst still in the womb. He is what I would describe as a natural. I didn’t even have to tell him stuff about the history, the passion and past results. He just seemed to soak up information like a sponge. Maybe his theory is right, and it really is genetic. Anyway I can rest in the knowledge that once I am gone from this earth, the love of Chelsea lives on in Chris. Now there may come a point when I am old and eat cat food, and one of my biggest fears is that I go ‘ga ga’ and think I’m a Gooner. I made Chris promise that he would campaign for legalising Euthanasia if this happens. Growing old and eating cat food is one thing, but believing myself to be a Gooner would be beyond redemption!

As for personal relationships, well over the years I made a bit of a mess of them, I’m afraid. You see, Peter Osgood and Peter Bonetti declined my proposals of marriage – probably best, as I was only ten at the time of writing the letters – and the likes of Garry Stanley never noticed me. Too late now, I’m old enough to be the mother of most of the first team! Instead I’ve found myself involved either with men who supported another club (like the Tottenham fan whom I divorced on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour) or men who are not the least bit interested in football at all. My second husband falls into the latter category. I am actually living with someone who thinks Zola was a French philosopher. He has never understood about the celery, still believing it to be a strange choice of half time snack, and when I once happened to mention the FA Vase, I had to click on google to get him to believe that I wasn’t winding him up!

© Carol Ann Wood, 2004


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NOT Just Saying: Carol’s comments on feminism, fashion, food and folly
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The Day A Dream Came True

There are a lot of genuine, die hard Chelsea supporters out there who can’t get to many games, but whose emotions are just as strong as the real supporters attending every match. There are also a lot of hangers on, plastic fans and armchair people, who will claim to be supporters but who are simply glory hunters. I suppose now we’ve won the cup with the big ears, we’ll have even more glory hunters, but for now I am not concerned with them. I am speaking to those of you who, for whatever reason, were unable to be in Munich for the final. Maybe you didn’t have enough points, or maybe if UEFA reserved more tickets for fans and fewer for corporates, you might have been eligible. Maybe you live and work too far away. Maybe your health isn’t great, or maybe you have got financial and/or family constraints. So, this is for all of you – read and enjoy.

Because I am dyspraxic and get lost easily, and because I am not rich and hadn’t even budgeted for Munich, the best option for me was the very long coach journey with Thomas Cook who deposit you at the stadium and pick you up straight afterwards. I would be travelling on my own, and Mr Non Footy would worry less about me this way! I didn’t know anyone else personally on my coach but that didn’t matter. We were all feeling the same way, dreaming the same dreams, singing from the same song sheet. Banter began quickly, and as one of the drivers turned out to be a gooner, it came thick and fast, just as thick as the dust in their trophy cabinet. I imagine that if they tried to open the door, the hinges would probably need oiling first! As dusk fell and we pottered across the French countryside towards the German border, someone swore they saw a lion on the road. This was hotly disputed and others suggested it was a cow. But how much does a lion resemble a cow? A lion, I thought. Was this a sign?

We arrived at the stadium ahead of schedule at 10.30 and I had to make my way to the main station to meet my son. He hadn’t got a ticket, but as it was his birthday that day, wanted to be there. He’s been Chelsea from birth but is a student and can’t get to many games currently, hence no ticket. When I got to the station the Bayern fans were already in very loud voice. I was worried that they might be a bit intimidating. If they were like this at 10.30 am, what would they be like by kick off? No, my son Chris reassured me, they were great. He’d been there all the previous day and had been drinking with them, bantering with them and having photos taken with them. We spent a lovely day, in the basking sun, outside a bar with a few friends, including quite a number who sit around me at home games. The Matthew Harding corner flag crew! This was interspersed with Chris hijacking even more Bayern fans, with much hand shaking and back slapping taking place. I’m only sorry I didn’t have time to buy my Mr Non Footy a pair of those lederhosen that some of their fans sported. I’m sure he would look good in them – or maybe not!

I left for the ground at around 6.30 pm, and Chris for the English Gardens with the big screen, having watched West Ham on TV getting promoted back to the Premiership. Oh great, no weekend to Blackpool then, and last time it took me about two hours to get out of the Eastenders film set, and I thought I would be eating jellied eels for supper. At that point, I hoped we would be able to upstage the Hammer’s little party in London the next day with a much bigger one of our own.

The Germans are renowned for efficiency. Well not on the train to the stadium. Chaos ensued, as more and more people tried to cram their way into the carriages. No train guards to stop them, and I was lifted off my feet into the train and started to feel a bit scared. Seriously, a horrible accident could have happened. I was mighty glad to be out of there and so by the time I got to the ground I was a bit of a wreck. (Nothing to do with the alcohol you understand!) All sorts of stuff was going through my mind walking towards the ground. Was I seriously going in to see a Champion’s League final? Could I ever have imagined that happening three months ago when I felt so down about the season? I think we all know the answer to that one!

When the familiar music started, I felt shivery and excited and nervous all at once. I thought of all the people who would dearly love to be there, whose hearts were there, and I thought of all the people we’ve loved and lost. Proper Chelsea who had never experienced this occasion. My friend Mandy, who died in May last year. Kevan whom we lost two years ago at Xmas. Well, you will all have someone of your own who isn’t with you any more, so you know what I mean. And all the stars we’ve worshipped, Ossie, Hutch, Houseman, taken too soon, how they would have loved it. And of course, dear Matthew, without whom this new era wouldn’t have happened.

Strangely this match, for me at least, seemed to go very fast for a final. Then came the horrid moment when Bayern scored. Everyone around was still noisy, still loud and proud, but we all feared that Robbie had left it too late to bring Torres on to boost us up front. Would this be a big regret and would we be left wondering what might have been? Drogs had other ideas though didn’t he. And that was the very point I started to think maybe our name really was on that cup. For us to get there the way we did and to lose it now would be awful. Even when the Bayern-awarded penalty in extra time came, there was a little voice saying to me that Cech would save it. I often get a ‘feeling’ for penalties, and the cheer that went up for the save was as loud as the one for Drogba’s equaliser. Bayern were, I think, a bit rattled. They’d had so many chances, so many corners. Maybe their belief began to diminish just a little when Chelsea’s didn’t.

However, after the whistle had blown my heart began to sink again. Penalties, again. This time against a German team. Please, not heartache, again. And I knew that Bayern would win the toss. I just knew. How hard was this going to be taking spot kicks in front of the home fans? Most people around me had their hands clasped tightly, or in front of their mouths, all thinking the same thing but hardly daring to speak of it. For reasons best known to myself, I put my parka on at that point. I’d been wearing it every day for the last few weeks, initially for practical reasons such as the fact it had rained every day, but when I wore it to the FA Cup semi final against Spurs and we won, I secretly vowed to wear it every day until the end of the season. Mr Non Footy had been puzzled and probably a little exasperated (I didn’t tell him about the football related reason) as even when the weather temporarily warmed up, I was still in what he calls my Eskimo coat. Oh the illogical mind of a superstitious football supporter!

I didn’t know whether to watch the penalties or not. In the end I did, sort of. When we were at the point of being 3-1 behind, I was preparing myself for heartache. But still that little voice was saying ‘Often, the team who are winning the shoot out at first are not the team to win it overall.’ I’m no Statto but the thought wouldn’t go away. When it came to Drog’s turn, that was when I had to look elsewhere, to the sky, to my feet, to anywhere. All you could hear in the stadium was what you would have heard on the TV. Just the Bayern fans whistling. At our end, it was as if the world had stood still when he walked up to the spot. We were collectively holding our breath. I still can’t quite describe it adequately. And then came the biggest roar I have ever been part of in a stadium. I know it would have been equally so at Barca away but I wasn’t at that game. People were crying, with relief, with joy, with sheer exhaustion. Me with blue mascara running down my cheeks. I honestly think, despite the fact that this was Bayern’s home ground, we were Chelsea’s twelfth man that night. Or maybe it was Ossie, or Matthew, or all the fans no longer with us, willing our players on. Whatever it was, this was our time. The way we got to this final and the effort of the last three months under Robbie hinted that this was meant to be. There is a poem, author unknown, which goes ‘Football battles can sometimes go to the stronger and faster man. But sooner or later, the man who wins is the man who thinks he can.’ How true. Belief as much as skill carried our team through these frantic few weeks. Or was it my coat, or the ‘lion’ on the road? 🙂

So I know how lucky, nay, privileged I am, to have been inside that stadium to witness the biggest game of our history so far. I understand that all the other games and the other eras have mattered too. For instance, I know that when Clive Walker scored to stop us sliding into the old third division, it was crucial. I would never dismiss moments like that, because they are all part of what happened in Munich, in a way. All part of the journey that real supporters have been on, and this is why all of you whom I have written this for are the ones who have the right to be proud and happy, because you’ve seen the bad times and deserve the good. When my son was born, I told him that he would be a proper Chelsea lad for life. I told him that at times it would be hard, but that if we kept believing, one day we might win some big trophies. Well, we’ve won a few since then haven’t we! But when I held my little baby boy in my arms, I don’t think I could have ever imagined that 27 years on to the day of his birth, we’d be watching our team lift the European Cup. Good old Chelsea, unpredictable as ever!

© Carol Ann Wood
May 2012


Index of Posts:


Links:
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NOT Just Saying: Carol’s comments on feminism, fashion, food and folly
Only in ErinsboroughCarol’s fun look at the lives and loves of the characters from the Australian soapNeighbours


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Back To The Future

Thwack. Biff. Splot. Smack. People are asking me if I’m alright. I am. I’m fine, the ball has hit me on the side of my head. But I’m fine. Just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean I’m weak. Someone says Butch Wilkins is on the bench. I don’t know why he wasn’t playing today. He must have got an injury. We’re playing Aston Villa. But something’s different. All the players on the pitch are wearing really long, old fashioned shorts. And they’ve got writing on the front of their shirts, and names on the back. It must be a new thing they’ve brought in. I can’t have read the papers properly this week. Maybe Mum used yesterday’s sports section to put on the floor to clean out the budgie’s cage, instead of using an older copy.

One thing is the same though. We’re playing crap. Probably missing Butch. But I think we must be playing some of the younger players as I don’t recognise any of the names. Most of them are foreign names. That’s odd. Foreign players? The defence is very shaky. We’ve never won the league since I’ve been alive, and winning that is something we can only dream about. I don’t think we’ll even win another major trophy like the FA cup or the league cup at this rate. Someone just said we’re 17th in the table.That’s typical for this time in the season. I hope we won’t be relegated but you get used to working out goal average on your calculator every April to see if we are safe.

Fans are singing some chants I’ve not heard before, but then someone starts We All Follow The Chelsea. I like that one. I like hearing Liquidator, too, before the game starts. I can see the Match Of The Day cameras which is exciting because we don’t get on the telly very much. They always choose Liverpool and if not them, Man United or Leeds. They’re so biased, although I do like Motty, and he’ll be commentating on this game.

I hope there won’t be any trouble on the tube going back to Liverpool Street. I know some people think it’s fun but they scare other passengers with their punch ups. Oh! Wow! We’ve scored! Hang on, there are some Villa fans in part of the Shed. I can see their colours. Villa, taking the Shed? Come one Chelsea boys, don’t let them away with that! I know I said I don’t like the fighting but they don’t come here and walk all over our patch.

I might get a new satin scarf from the club caravan on the way out of the ground, I think I’ve got just enough money. They’ve had some good things in lately. I got a blue leather wrist cuff at the last game, and I’m wearing my new badge Chelsea Run From No One. I even wear it to school when I can get away with it. Some of my friends get fed-up with me running on abut football but they put up with it and some of them even agree that Tommy Langley is sexy. I forgot to get his autograph today, but I’ve got it loads of times already. I say the same thing to him before the game if I can catch him pitch side. I say: ‘I hope you’re going to score today, Tommy.’ And he says ‘I’ll do my best, love.’ He even winked at me once. I was so happy. No one at school believed me though. I wish I’d brought my camera but I can’t afford the films for it all the time.

My head still feels a bit funny. We’ve had half time and I never saw the peanut seller. Some girls came round the pitch with some trophies, I think they’re from the local girls’ school and it was a special treat for them to parade round the pitch. Lucky them, getting to play football at school. We have to do hockey and I hate it. I wouldn’t be any good at football but at least I’d enjoy it. YEEEEESSSS! A goal at our end! 2-0, that will help us up the table and I can put our real position on the Shoot league ladder. Sometimes it gets too depressing so I put Leeds at the bottom and us at the top. My dad gets cross and says that it’s stupid but I have to cheer myself up somehow.

I’m feeling quite hungry. The man next to me is eating something called a S .. snickers? What a stupid name for a chocolate bar. It must be American or something. Just hang on, Chelsea, please. We need these two points. I’ll have to wait till I get home and see Match Of The Day for the other results unless anyone in the crowd has a transistor radio with them. We don’t pass a Curry’s. I hope Leeds have lost and then I can laugh at those boys at school who are always having a joke about Chelsea.

Someone is talking to me and saying I might need to be checked over. Look, I’m okay, honest. Unless they’re offering for me to be checked over by Tommy Langley and then I’m not okay, I’m in need of first aid.

Oh. What, you mean this is not the 1970s? Well, pardon me for thinking it was, but given the way we’ve been playing lately, surely I can be forgiven? Yes, yes, my mistake. I know it’s 2015 now. I was just a bit stunned by that ball hitting me on the head. The players? Oh, well, they’ve caught up a bit. They’ve probably reached the early noughties, today. Pre-Roman, late Bates era. Still a lot of work to be done.

© Carol Ann Wood
October 2015


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My Poetry, My Football Club

Feeling dejected after my team’s latest defeat on Saturday, as soon as I got home, I wrote a poem. Those people who know me, will recognise that this is not unusual. I’ve been writing poetry since I was five. I’ve been a performance poet throughout my adult life, and have had poetry published. Nor is football poetry is some bandwagon I’ve jumped on. In the 1970s I sent Chelsea FC a (handwritten) book of 42 poems dedicated to our players. But that was way before the internet, so the only ‘shares’, ’likes’ and ‘favourites’ were from my parents – and Chairman Brian Mears. Looking back, I doubt if the players ever read my poems, but I was thrilled to get a reply from the club, thanking me for my efforts.

On Sunday, I uploaded my latest poem, on the topic of the modern irritant – plastic fans – to Twitter and to Facebook. It’s not the first one I’ve penned on this theme, but I haven’t always shared them widely. This time, I thought it was a decent enough effort to risk provoking the trolls, as I regularly submit well-received work to the Football Poets website. My words seemed to resonate with many supporters, and not just supporters of Chelsea. True supporters of premiership clubs share the same contempt for the ‘plastics’. Alongside the numerous shares, re-tweets and positive comments on my verse, there was the inevitable rumble of discontent from certain males. What, a woman, coming into ‘our’ territory, thinking she can write? It’s akin to the chants that (yes, still) echo round grounds on a match day whenever they see a female official: ‘Get back in the kitchen.’ (Oh, except to Eva Carneiro, Chelsea’s former first-team doctor. Eva had to endure other suggestions. I won’t elaborate.)

The attitudes of some males to my writing is, regrettably, nothing unusual. These days, there should be no need for the Everyday Sexism project, but there still is, because even in 2015, sexism – overt and covert – is still rife. This is why, not too long ago, I wrote several pieces for a now-defunct football fanzine under a male by-line. I set up an e-mail address, with a male pseudonym, for the purpose of submitting my work, and watched with amusement as ‘top geezers’ read my light-hearted piss-take in the pubs, unaware that the author was not one of their ‘own kind’, but the forty-something woman wearing a pink Chelsea Megastore scarf trying to elbow her way past their beer-bellies to the bar. Thankfully, I can now openly submit pieces to the excellently-run infamous CFCUK fanzine under my own name. It’s progress!

For many years, there have been female football reporters, pundits and TV presenters, and plenty of women attend games as supporters, so I am nothing unusual. However, I can feel isolated. What sets me apart is that I exist outside of any boxes that people care to create, and it both perplexes and annoys certain supporters. My husband isn’t a football supporter, so I usually travel to matches alone, and I don’t fit any of your ‘footy-woman’ stereotypes.

No, I’m not a 1990s-style Ladette. Loud, bolshy, lager-swigging, one of the boys. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I do sing – loudly – and always have done. I’m a proper die-hard. I am often bolshy. Ask my Mr Non-Footy, or indeed, any Gooner who spies a lone Chelsea woman at King’s Cross and thinks it fun to mouth-off. But I prefer real ale to lager – and mostly, these days, two pints is my limit. I don’t wear trainers, and often don skirts rather than jeans. Sorry, and all that, but each to their own. Neither am I the woman-who-sometimes-goes-with-her-man. The woman who joins in all the match day jollies but, the rest of the week, doesn’t live and breathe football. She might feel a bit annoyed when her bloke’s team loses, but mostly it’s ‘just a game’ to her. Nope, not me. When I wake up in the middle of the night, I don’t fret about whether I’ve forgotten to put the dishwasher on. I think about who will start the next match. If I can’t get off to sleep again, I count Chelsea managers. The last decade’s-worth usually does the trick.

I probably shouldn’t be surprised that my ideas are still received with scorn by certain elements amongst my club’s male supporters. Here’s an example of how this works in a match day crowd. Last season, we were top of the league by a good few points until a festive slump culminated in a defeat on New Year’s Day at Tottenham away. Our lead was reduced to merely alphabetical. A chant, which had been going all season, involving much clapping, went something like: ‘We’re top of the league’ (repeated). Not one of our finest for wit, perhaps, but effective for making a noisy point to home fans. When the fact of our alphabetical ‘advantage’ became apparent, and our fans were still resolutely singing the chant, I thought of adding ‘We’re top of the league, we’re top of the league, alphabetically.’ Look, when you’re losing at Tottenham away, you get desperate. I took up the chant, loudly, and everyone around ignored it, so I shut up. Then, five minutes later, a bloke two rows back started singing it, and then, wow, everyone around him joined in and laughed at ‘his’ wit. Cos, well, he’s a funny bloke, right? See what I mean?

I’m not going to let the fact of a few sneering men stop me from doing what I do. I’m not going to go back into any place that they think I should be, because only I get to decide where that place is. If I want to share my football poetry on social media, I will, regardless of response. For every one person who sneers, I have two or more – men and women – who treat me as a fellow supporter, someone with similar views to their own about our beloved club. I’m not going to fit into anyone else’s neat boxes, because I prefer to be true to myself, even if that presents me with challenges along the way.

Furthermore, I am perfectly entitled to write about the club I have ardently followed for forty-five years. However I choose. My opinions and emotions will overlap with those of other true supporters. How I express myself is my prerogative. If people ‘like’ my work, and it puts someone else’s (male) nose out of joint, tough. Anyone who wants to share their perceived genius on social media is free to do so. I don’t claim to be a genius, or better than others. There are some fantastic Chelsea bloggers around, male and female. Whenever I read a good piece, I comment on how much I’ve enjoyed it. And, as with all good writing, football and otherwise, it inspires me to publish pieces with my own distinctive take on the subject. That was why I took my master’s degree in creative writing.

I’m not going away. Learn to live with it unreconstructed man, because writing about football is as much my entitlement as it is yours.

© Carol Ann Wood
November 2015


Index of Posts:

Links:
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 ErinsboroughCarol’s fun look at the lives and loves of the characters from the Australian soap, Neighbours


Please note that any advertisements which appear below my posts are not indicative of any endorsement by the author. They are placed there by a WordPress algorithm.