Ray’s Chelsea Story

When the skies of West London were stormy and grey,
And our hearts sank a little with each passing day,
When we feared that our club would no longer be there,
And fans left the Bridge in a glut of despair,
Our man, Eddie Mac put his faith in the young,
And soon a new superstar’s name would be sung.

As kid became captain, and boy became man,
Then fast turned to hero for many a fan,
He led our Blue Army with passion and pride,
He played with great skill as he skippered our side.
And all the girls swooned as they chanted his name,
We were Butch Wilkins’ Babes when we watched every game.

A gentleman, good guy, the nicest you’d find,
Polite and articulate, one of a kind.
He made many friends in his great long career,
And three times returned to the club he loved dear,
To coach and to nurture, to give us more joy.
To encourage the skills that he’d learnt as a boy.

It’s hard to imagine we won’t see his face
Around, on a match day, in his favourite place.
And yet he’ll be with us in every fan’s eyes,
In the grass, in the stands, in the Chelsea-blue skies.
For Butch was a legend we’ll never forget,
And we’ll pass on his story to fans not born yet.

Today as I honour this heart throb of mine,
At the club I’ve supported since I was just nine,
I’ll be fifteen again and his image I’ll spy
With some memories fond and a tear in my eye.
You brought us some good times and, Butch, we’re so proud.
Lots of love, rest in peace,
From your very own crowd.

© Carol Ann Wood
April 2018


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Plastic Clearout

Come listen up, you plastic fan,
We need to have a chat.
With your two-crest scarf around your neck,
And your fancy day-trip hat.

Welcome to the real world
Where you have no right to win.
Where things can go against the team,
And frustration settles in.

We older fans spent many years
In dark and dismal places.
But still we went, and kept our faith
With other loyal faces.

Welcome to the real world
Where defeat can be the norm.
But you don’t deserve the glory
If you cannot stick the storm.

Some fans of other clubs can only dream
Of all we’ve won.
They’ll never see those trophies
That the likes of us have done.

Support is not just temporary
But form can come and go.
It’s not a brand you pick and chose.
Your heart should tell you so.

You don’t deserve the sunshine
If you cannot stand the rain.
Success is not a guarantee
And sometimes, there’ll be pain.

You don’t deserve the next parade
If you cannot climb the hill.
Would you be there if we went down?
I know the ones who will.

Of course the loyal will have their moan,
We’ll mutter, curse and grumble.
As no-one likes their team to lose
And see the fortress crumble.

But if you cannot ride the waves,
Please go and watch Man City,
Or whoever wins the league in May,
If you only like it pretty.

Go take your selfies some place else,
And leave us loyal to sing.
Because we’ve walked this road before,
Through every single thing.

We want our ground to fill with fans
Who’re constant, loyal and true.
So, gather up your halve-and-halves,
As this won’t apply to you.

We will come good, just like before,
But we cannot name the day.
So please pick up your your plastic hearts
And stay the hell away.

And when we’re on our way back up,
Once more on winning track,
We’ll wave at you from your some place else,
Cos you won’t be welcome back.

© Carol Ann Wood
Sunday 1 November 2015


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Lazy Players Don’t Work Hard

In response to Paul Merson, who called David Luiz ‘lazy’

Lazy players don’t work hard, they languish on the bench,
Or gamble all their wealth away amid a media stench.
Lazy players don’t play through a barrier of pain.
Instead they drown their sorrows or perhaps they take cocaine.
Everyone deserves a second chance, I will agree,
But your attack on Geezer does not resonate with me.
Lazy words from a bitter man is how you come across.
So please cut out your nasty jibes, we’re sick of all your dross.
Dear God, Merse, you are laughable, so what, you won a lot?
But it doesn’t mean you’re justified to venom-spew. You’re not!
Geezer is a real man and a better one than you.
From in your cosy studio, you probably know that’s true.
You’ve clearly never watched our games, you cannot see his fight.
For every ball, for every pass, our warrior, in flight.
And yes, mistakes are sometimes made, he’s human, after all.
But at least his life is clean and good when he’s not playing football.
So think on, Merse, before you judge, and pick upon his flaws.
Our man Luiz defends the line, but you just snorted yours.

© Carol Ann Wood
October 2017


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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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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, a forthcoming book written from the point-of-view of one supporter – at times elated, at times frustrated.

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 at a future date.


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
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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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