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


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


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


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Older Fans Matter

Carol Ann Wood
Cambridge
CB1 KTBFFH
Friday 30 December 2016

Mr Roman Abramovic
C/o Chelsea Football Club
Stamford Bridge
Fulham Road
London
SW6 1HS

 

Dear Roman,

I don’t really have a lot to complain about, currently. So this isn’t a letter of complaint. It’s more a few words for you to reflect on. We know how much you love our club. We know that you are not the man that many predicted – namely the sort who would get bored after a few years and sell up. You are a supporter too, passionate about winning, just like the rest of us.

I would like you to think about your staff at Chelsea TV, Roman. Whilst I understand we are seen as a global brand, we are also a club with older supporters who have lived and breathed Chelsea for many years. They have tales to tell. Interesting tales. The past wasn’t all about violence, Roman. You don’t have to feel worried that if Chelsea TV speaks to older supporters, they are all going to reveal things that would damage the club’s image. Many of them have amusing and emotional stories about their journeys following Chelsea.

I went to the megastore recently to meet Michy and N’Golo. I don’t often get the opportunity to do this kind of thing, but a friend alerted me to the fact they were appearing, and I was free that day. So off I went, feeling especially upbeat, given that it was shortly following the Spurs game at the end of which I was the happy recipient of David Luiz’s shirt. What an exciting week, I thought. I purchased my obligatory photos of the signees, then joined the growing queue outside the megastore. Hot chocolate was dispensed to us, as it was a freezing cold day. (Thanks for that, by the way. A nice gesture.) Chelsea TV people came along to speak to some of the fans in the queue. Now, let me make it clear that I am not against foreign supporters. That would be hypocritical of me on every level. But I will say this: The first ten people in the queue ahead of me were asked if they wanted to say why they were there. (Wasn’t the answer a bit bleeding obvious?)

Roman, none of the first ten people in the queue could speak enough English to participate in an interview. They had less English than Diego Costa, if that’s even possible. (Although I think Diego understands more than he lets on, but he’s perhaps not confident enough to speak in front of the cameras.) The TV people then walked along the line, completely ignoring me – a little old lady, if the Daily Mail are to be believed. Just ignored me. Now, I am not normally one to push myself forward. I don’t seek the limelight, but to be honest, I thought blimey, this is going to look embarrassing if they don’t find anyone with enough command of English to interview. And as I had something nice to report, namely getting David’s shirt, I actually called to one of them that I would be happy to speak. I hate the camera! Whilst I get that a pretty face is more appealing to the wider audience, surely someone who has something to say makes for interesting TV?

I think your TV people seem to look for the prettiest face rather than the old-timers like me who have had their mugs ravaged by the worry lines Chelsea helped put there in the first place. I feel like we are being written out of history to an extent, in the same way that some of the ex-players have remarked upon. Not all the older fans will put themselves forward like the fan-girls who hang around the East Stand vying for attention. (Some of whom are seeking fame, a free ticket or possibly access to Pedro’s pants.) Older fans have memories and knowledge of the club that should be celebrated. Such as the stalwarts who go to midweek away games. I can’t always go to them myself, unless I can get home by public transport, but I have one friend who survived on two to three of hours sleep after the Sunderland game, before going to work the following day. She does that because she loves the club. I have two friends who were once involved in a car accident en route to a game. Thankfully, they were not badly injured, although their car was a write-off. Guess what? Another Chelsea friend turned back on their journey and picked them up so they could still get to the game. Tell your TV staff to seek out those sort of supporters, Roman. They won’t be coming forward voluntarily, as they are not courting fame. But they are important to our club and they need to be celebrated as such. It’s too late when someone passes away and they get a little obituary in the match day programme. Speak to them while they’re still alive.

On Boxing Day, I happened to be killing time after visiting the megastore, waiting to see which pub my friends were going to. I watched the Chelsea TV crew walking around the ground. I wasn’t seeking an interview, but it was noteworthy that I wasn’t approached to speak about the forthcoming game, whereas a much younger overseas visitor was. I believe that this is as a result of unintentional bias. Again, nothing wrong with overseas supporters if they’re genuinely passionate about Chelsea. However, while it’s important to have an ethnic mix of people featured, it is also important to have a wide age demographic. Speak to the older guys and gals who have been knocking around for a few years. Make them feel that they are still of worth. Because, whilst a large proportion of the once-a-season/once-a-lifetime attendees were having an online hissy fit during the awful days of last season, the stalwarts were resolute. We didn’t like what was happening but we’d seen worse, so we gritted our teeth and carried on.

Roman, there is a lot that you have done for the travelling fans, and I praise you for your introduction of discounted club coaches and trains. It’s something I can’t often take advantage of, living 55 miles out of London, but many of my friends use it regularly and it’s appreciated. It goes some way to compensate for the fact that the TV companies don’t give much thought to supporters who attend games, preferring to concentrate on their global audiences for ‘Super Saturdays’. Somehow, that analogy reminds me of 1970s kids TV. I half-expect Chris Tarrant to appear and shove a custard pie in Jamie Carragher’s face. (Actually, that might not be a bad idea.)

If you could just take a look at what Chelsea TV are doing on match days, who they’re speaking to, and why, many of us would be very grateful. All supporters are of value, wherever we are from, provided we are genuine and here for the long-haul. Of course the younger supporters are crucial, because one day, the oldies amongst us won’t be around. But before we pop off, we’d really like to to pass on our love of the club, our knowledge, our special memories. People (well, a few whinging scousers to be exact) say we haven’t got any history. We have. Some of us are part of it and we’d like to share it, if that’s ok.

Yours sincerely,

pinky-sig-1a

Carol Ann Wood

PS Would you like to hear about the time I missed the train home from Manchester when we’d won the league in 2005, and had to spend the night on a railway bench with a transvestite scouser who’d been working in a fetish club?

PPS Or maybe you’d like to hear about my overnight coach trip to Munich when someone swore they’d seen a lion at the side of the road? Those are the sort of tales that you couldn’t make up. And they need to be told widely.


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


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


Bradley Lowery’s Goal

Carol Ann Wood
Cambridge
CB1 KTBFFH
Friday 16 December 2016

Bradley Lowery
C/o Sunderland AFC
Stadium Of Light
SUNDERLAND
SR5 1SU

Sunderland 0-1 Chelsea
(But, also: Sunderland 1-0 Chelsea Goalscorer for Sunderland Bradley Lowery)

Dear Bradley,

I have never met you, but during the last week, I got to hear all about you. I learnt about your story via some Chelsea friends, and also John Terry, who posted it on social media. You are five years old and you have a horrible illness. The treatment for this illness has made you very tired and poorly. You are crazy about Sunderland, and it was your dream to score a goal for them.
I understand all about being crazy for your football team. I feel the same about Chelsea, and have done ever since I was a little girl. (Which was a very long time ago!) Despite your horrible illness, you have grown to live and breathe every moment of every game, and to feel that you are kicking every ball with your team. Like all football fans, you will feel sad when they lose, and happy when they win. You love wearing your team’s replica shirt, and you love shouting and cheering in the crowd.

I couldn’t go the the Sunderland versus Chelsea game on Wednesday, Bradley. I live in the city of Cambridge, over 200 miles from the Stadium Of Light, and it would have been impossible to get back home again on the same night. But many of my Chelsea friends were there. They are talking about the banner that some of them made especially for you and your family. They are talking about how everyone sang your name on five minutes. They are talking about your special moment when you stepped up and scored a goal against Asmir Begović. He dived for the ball, but he dived the wrong way, so it was a well-taken penalty. I think you fooled him there! I saw the footage of you as a mascot, leading your team out, and I saw Diego Costa paying you special attention before kick-off. He looks like a fierce man when he’s playing, but as I’m sure you and your family will have seen, he is really a very kind man. There are a lot of kind people in football, and Wednesday night brought that home to supporters everywhere.

You won’t know how much good you have already done for the football community in your short life. You have touched more people’s lives than even your family will be able to take in right now, as they take care of you and try to make your Christmas really magical. The most important thing that you have done is to remind a lot of grown-up people that football is a game. We all love that game, and we all want our teams to be champions. But it’s a game and sometimes we don’t win. It’s not as important as being well, and having people in our lives who love us.

I get in a bad mood sometimes when Chelsea lose. I go about in a grump, and blame the referee if we don’t get decisions awarded. I often blame a particular player for missing a chance, or an opposition player, for committing a bad foul and getting away with it. But after I’ve calmed down, I start to look forward to the next game. On Wednesday night, you were the perfect example to grown men and women who often come out of stadiums saying lots of bad words. Some of them even wish horrible things to happen to the players they are angry with. That’s not nice at all, is it. All clubs have those sort of supporters, who don’t think carefully about what they are saying when their team have lost. I hope that now, they will do so. The world of football has seen you, one brave little boy, smiling through your horrible illness, showing your pure delight at your special evening. Okay, so we know that really, Chelsea won that game 1-0. I know you’ll understand that I am happy about our result. But really, you were the winner on Wednesday, Bradley. You won people’s hearts, and I hope, their minds. I hope that by your family and Sunderland AFC telling your story, you have reminded people of what’s important. Well done Bradley, you are a star, and on Wednesday night, you scored a winning goal that all of Sunderland and the wider football world will never forget.

Much love,
pinky-sig-1a
Carol Ann Wood

PS When I was a little girl, Sunderland won an FA Cup Final against Leeds, of which I am sure your family have lots of memories. But I think your goal was even more important than that winner a long time ago.

PPS A lot of my Chelsea friends have said that if they have a bad day at the football or at work, they will try much harder not to grumble about it, and that they will think of how brave you are instead. I will do the same.


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 Erinsborough Carol Ann’s fun look at the lives and loves of the characters from the Australian soapNeighbours


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


Dear Lady Brady,

Carol Ann Wood
Cambridge
CB1 KTBFFH
Thursday 27 October 2016

Lady Brady
C/o Taxpayer’s Stadium
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
London E20 2ST

West Ham United 2 – 1 Chelsea EFL Cup round 4

Dear Lady Brady,

I’m not impressed, to put it mildly. I therefore want to impart what an unpleasant experience I had at the Taxpayer’s Stadium, West Ham United’s new rented home, last night. I want you, for once, to try and empathise with the real supporters who weren’t out looking for any Eastender’s-style argy bargy. We are not all like Shirley or Phil. I want to you to acknowledge exactly what it was like and take proper measures to ‘sort it’ rather than sitting in your taxpayer’s boardroom making pseudo sympathetic noises, saying ‘those sort of people’ aren’t welcome ther. No shit, Sherlock.

I had been well versed in the troubles at the Taxpayer’s Stadium. My window-cleaner is a West Ham season ticket holder and he advised me in August to think very carefully about whether or not to attend the league game. I thought I’d have plenty of time to decide, but then came the draw for the EFL Cup. And you see, Lady Brady, I am a bit of a stubborn old gal. I don’t let anyone or anything put me off going to watch my Chelsea, if possible. So, agreeing to meet with a friend and her dad for the journeys there and back, to appease a rather concerned Mr Non-Footy, I set off into the unknown. Your club had made noises about having put better measures in place. Fool that I am, I almost believed you. They turned out to be just pretty bubbles in the air.

We were one of the lucky lot who managed to access the stadium with no problems. There were others who didn’t get in till half time. Why was this? Did you and your board members actually analyse the transport system, and the logistics of providing just eight turnstiles for over five thousand away supporters? Especially on a week night when some of them would have come straight from work?

Have you ever actually walked round the Taxpayer’s Stadium, Lady Brady? Did you have any discussions with a Health and Safety officer to assess whether the segregation and stewarding was adequate? How come there has been crowd trouble for every game you’ve hosted at your rented manor to date? Did you really think you had ‘sorted it’ for this cup game between two teams whose sets of fans are notorious for their dislike of one another? I mean, I like my window cleaner, he’s a a very nice young man. But if we spotted one another in the crowd, we’d probably chant less than kind things about one another’s clubs at each other. The thing is, not everyone stops at tribal chants. Testosterone and alcohol is a heady mix and there was an abundance of both on display last night. It’s nothing unusual, but I’ve been going to this fixture for years, and I never once felt unsafe inside the Boleyn. I did have an encounter on a bus once, whereupon a woman with claret and blue hair and a demeanour like the Kray twins stared menacingly at me for the entire journey. No fisticuffs or coin throwing took place, though. I suspect that if she’d tried it, Dot Cotton would have sprung from nowhere and admonished her with, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Matthew 22 verse 39 and Mark 12 verse 31.”

I can have no complaints about the result, my team being second best all evening, but I dread to think what might have happened had we won the tie. As it was, some of your supporters weren’t satisfied enough with winning, and threw coins, seats and plastic bottles at us. When a coin narrowly missed me (others weren’t so lucky) I decided, with five minutes left on the clock, to retreat to the concourse to wait for my friend and her dad. I have never, ever, previously left a match before the whistle, in my life. I was actually frightened for my safety because there were supporters heading for one another over the claret tarpaulin with the stewards looking on haplessly. Why were the riot police not called in earlier? Why did you not have a radio system installed when you started renting the Taxpayer’s Stadium? Were you frightened that the taxpayers would take against you when they realised it would go on their bills? How were you even granted a stadium licence without this in place? Do you have any strategies for emergency evacuation should there be a security alert? I doubt it!

To say the stewards didn’t know what to do last night when it all went off is an understatement. How much are they being paid? What is their training? I spoke to three of them who shrugged their shoulders at me, despite the fact they could see I was upset at what I had witnessed. I’m getting on a bit now, Lady Brady. It happens to us all. I may have been wearing my Doc Martins but it doesn’t mean I want to mess with a Mitchell. And if you’ve ever been in a crowd when it’s all gone off, you’d know how easy it is to get inadvertently injured whilst trying to get out of the way.

The walk to the station was extremely hostile, with fights breaking out all the way. We didn’t even know which station we were gong to. Again, confusion and misinformation was the order of the night. It was such a relief to arrive at Stratford. And that’s when I discovered all the messages on my phone, encased with a neutral cover for the occasion instead of my usual Chelsea one. My son, daughter, various friends, they’d all heard about the trouble and were worried about me.

The whole experience was like being back in the late 1970s, and it’s not a time I want to revisit. But never mind, I suppose you are congratulating yourself on your fantastic bubble machines. How very modern. Who paid for those? Would the money not have been better spent on adequate safety measures?

I am now unsure as to whether I want to return to the Taxpayer’s Stadium for the league fixture. I’d like to think that this latest debacle will stir you and your board into action and that you really will ‘get it sorted’. But I won’t hold my breath. Should you draw say, Millwall, in the FA Cup later this season, would you be thinking, ooh, whoopee, a wonderful traditional derby?

I’ll be brutally honest, Lady Brady, and say that – to paraphrase Kevin Keegan – I would ‘just love it’ if your club were relegated. That’s very unlikely, as Mr Billic is doing a reasonable job. But I would, I’d love it.

Yours angrily,
pinky-sig-1a
Carol Ann Wood

PS Maybe you should spend a bit more time assessing your rented stadium’s safety issues and less on The Apprentice.

PPS Would you tell Mr Sullivan that I retrieved two pound coins from under my seat. I have donated them to the Women Against Pornography Group.


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


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


Dear Matthew Harding,

Carol Ann Wood
Cambridge
CB1 KTBFFH
Monday, 25th October 2016

The Late Mr Matthew Harding,
Blue Heaven

Chelsea 4-0 Man United

Dear Matthew,

Well, the day of commemorating you couldn’t have gone much better, could it! It seemed as if from the moment a new banner honouring you was unfurled, the result was written in the stars.

I don’t know if you have a lot of influence in Blue Heaven, Matthew, but I’d like to think that you empowered Pedro to score that first goal at your end of the ground, without Man U having touched the ball. I can hear you chuckling, actually. It’s a nice thought anyway.

The fixture list threw this one up in uncanny ways all round. You always loved this fixture, but it was made even more poignant by the fact of José being in the away dugout now. Oh, you would have loved José, although I think you might have clashed at times. But you’d never have fallen out completely. I’m happy to say, though, that once the match kicked off – and I know I speak for others too – I almost forgot that he was there. That’s not to disrespect him and what he did for our club. But the day was about you and your family. The current Chelsea boys, most of whom you never got to know, were pumped to the hilt. How you would have loved the way the game panned out.

Of course, you knew JT, albeit he was just a lad back then. And Jody, currently doing so well in his role with the youth team. It’s a shame in one way that JT didn’t play, because he would have wanted to honour you. But you can be sure that he did his job as club captain in telling the younger players exactly how much you meant to the club and the supporters. His programme notes spoke volumes.

It was a very emotional day for all of us. I will never forget the morning after the Bolton match, when the news came through on the radio about the crash. Then a little afterwards, confirmation of who was on board the helicopter. I sat in our comfy chair and bawled my eyes out. And I thought of your sister. She lived near to us in Downham Market, and your niece Maddie was in the class in which I worked as a classroom assistant. I wrote your sister a poem, to express my sadness. She came round a few days later and thanked me. I’ve always been glad that I was able to do that one small thing, as she said it did bring comfort to know how much you were loved by so many. Yesterday, I wrote another poem which I left at the main reception for your children to read. I hope that it reached them and that they enjoyed reading it.

Actually, I don’t know why I am telling you all this because I think you know already. That’s what I said in the poem, that you have been there in some way all along, in the last twenty years. Cheering, celebrating, getting angry and frustrated. But, oh, how you would have loved it all if you could have been with us physically. You started all this, Matthew. Good times were around the corner and you helped bring them our way.

I felt so proud yesterday, walking in to your stand, hearing the parents explain to their children how special the day was, and why. It’s strange to think that a whole generation of supporters never got to see your passion and enthusiasm for our beloved Blues first hand. But this was a perfect day to tell them about it. At the end of the game, I could just imagine you running to hug Mr Conte, the two of you grinning manically, you telling him the drinks were on you. You might have been vice-chairman but you were always a supporter first and foremost.

It wasn’t just yesterday that I have thought about you. It’s every time we play. Big games, smaller games, friendlies, Always, there is a thought for you and I wonder what you’d say about each particular game. All the players you never got to watch for us, they would have loved you too. Didier Drogba and Frankie Lampard in particular.

Well, we don’t know what’s going to happen next, Matthew, at this crazy club of ours. Football is still as unpredictable as ever, and the premier league gets tougher every season, it seems. But whatever it does bring, we will keep on singing and shouting, because that’s what you would tell us to do. You, and others like you who left us before the golden years. Your spirit is safe with us.

Much Love,
pinky-sig-1a
Carol Ann Wood

PS Please give my love to Ossie and all the other players and supporters you might see

PPS If you happen to bump into Billy Bremner, tell him I said boo 🙂


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


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


Love Letters From The Stand 

Pages from a forthcoming book

Preface

One Saturday, late May 2016

I’m mooching around, as one does when the football season has ended. Mr Non Footy has noticed the abrupt change in my behaviour. Namely that I am present and mooching, with no matches go to. Saturdays or Sundays in season usually consist of my absence, followed by my arriving home around 7.30 pm, elated, inebriated, miserable, soaked, cold, or a combination thereof, demanding a glass of wine and dinner.

There is no transfer news of any discernible quality. The fixture list hasn’t yet been announced for next season, so I can’t engage Mr Non Footy in a conversation about a romantic weekend in Hull. Well, I dress this proposal up a bit, you understand. Hull may be officially named as a City Of Culture but it still needs dressing up. Importantly to my Bradford-born husband, it’s in Yorkshire, albeit in the East Riding, so I might mention staying in Brid in due course. (You must say Brid, not Bridlington, apparently.)

As yet, we don’t know that Hull away isn’t on a Tuesday night in February. But it’s sod’s law that it will be. Ditto Bournemouth, although I enjoyed a virgin trip there with Mr Non Footy in April. And let’s face it, there wasn’t much to enjoy about the 2015-16 season as a Chelsea supporter. I spent most of it distraught, baffled and desperate. Most of these emotions were experienced during the course of each game, so bad was our defence of the previous season’s league title. Then there was the whole scenario of José’s second sacking, and as for his recent instalment at Man U, I’m trying not to think about it too much. Which isn’t easy when the media are determined to shove it in your face every five seconds with their José love-in. Funny how they can turn from hate to love so quickly.

‘I know there’s some competition type thing coming soon for you to look forward to, isn’t there?’ asks Mr Non-Footy. He’s eventually realised my eyes are glazing over as he recounts his latest shed reorganisation project. He has come to understand that there is only one sort of shed which holds my attention, and it isn’t in our garden.

‘It’s Euro 2016,’ I say, patiently. He’s only been married to me for nearly 24 years, so he still gets confused about competitions.

‘So, are Chelsea in it, then?’

‘Well, a lot of our players are,’ I explain.

‘But I thought they were out of Europe this season?’

See, it’s pretty hopeless.

Mr Non Footy offers to take me shopping as he knows that it might placate me. We go to a nearby town, and after separating so I can be let loose in New Look, we meet for lunch, as arranged. Walking to the pub, I spot someone with whom I need to engage in conversation.

‘Hold on, I just need to talk to that man over there,’ I say, handing Mr Non-Footy my shopping bag, ‘Won’t be a sec.’

I approach said man.

‘Hi!’ I say brightly, ‘do you remember me from that night four years ago? What a night it was! God, so exciting and, well, it was written in the stars really, wasn’t it. I can hardly put into words what it meant to me. I was shaking so much, and still think about it all time. I bet you do too!’

The man, wearing a Chelsea baseball cap, stares blankly at me, and the woman I have just noticed lurking beside him is giving me thunderous looks. Clearly the man doesn’t remember me from the emotional scenes in Munich when we won the Champions’ League in 2012. He had been standing behind me.

‘You were right behind me,’ I remind him, ‘and you said, ‘take that off now, now, darlin’ – this is the best night of our lives.’

Still a blank stare. Then I realise, to my horror, that I’m not visibly sporting a Chelsea logo. He hasn’t grasped the rather tenuous link to that great game, and his wife has clearly got the wrong end of the stick. I hastily elaborate, as he looks like he’s going to be dragged off by Mrs Angry, him explaining that I must have been recently released into the community from a nearby hospital.

‘Oh!’ the man appears much relieved, ‘Oh, yes, I think I do remember you. The lucky parka, eh.’ He looks like he wants to stop and reminisce, but his wife is sporting a scowl that makes Shirley from Eastenders look meek, so I don’t think I ought to linger. Mr Non Footy is pacing the pavement nearby.

‘Do you know him?’ he asks on my return, in a detached way that suggests he isn’t a bit interested in the answer.

‘Oh yes, and he remembered me eventually,’ I explain, ‘As, you see, he was the man who asked me why I’d put my parka on for the penalty shoot-out in Munich.’

‘And I,’ remarked Mr Non Footy, ‘am the man who asked you why the hell you were taking it with you in the first place when the temperature was 25 degrees celsius.’

‘I told you,’ I say, ‘it made a good pillow on the coach. Well, that’s what I said at the time. But of course, you probably guessed that it was a lucky parka which had already seen me through all the previous Champions’ League games, and the FA cup that we’d won. So it had to come with me.’

There’s a snort of derision from Mr Non-Footy. ‘Didn’t you wear it for most of last season? In which case, it hasn’t given you much luck lately then, has it?’

I am sure I can detect a hint of a smirk around his lips, and I’m not impressed.

‘Well, sometimes you have to change your routines as they don’t work forever,’ I explain.

Another snort. ‘Oh, and what will your routine be next season then? Wearing a kettle on your head to matches? Taking another twenty scarves with you and still finding reason to buy another?’

I don’t really have a good riposte to this, because he knows if I believed wearing a kettle on my head would help Chelsea win a trophy, I’d do it. And he knows my propensity towards buying scarves. Not the half-and-half variety, you understand. ‘Friendship’ scarves are for tourists and day trippers. Not part of my world. Mine are sometimes player scarves, and I also have a pink Chelsea scarf collection that wouldn’t look out of place in a Barbara Cartland museum.

After we arrive home, a neighbour pops round with a parcel for me.

‘Oh, that will be my new shirt!’ I say excitedly, ‘The new home one!’

‘But you’ve got a home shirt, haven’t you?’ Mr Non Footy says. I can’t argue with that. He is the one who retrieves it from the washing machine after matches, and hangs it lovingly on a hanger. Lovingly because it’s mine, not because it’s a Chelsea shirt, you understand.

I’m probably not going to have much luck in explaining how wearing a shirt from last year’s disastrous season is not an option, because he is acutely aware that I have around ten season’s worth of home shirts hanging in the spare room wardrobe. Some of which are from highly successful seasons. I’m not even sure I like this season’s home shirt, to be honest. But it’s just something I buy. Maybe it makes me feel I’m part of the players’ world. Which is clearly a load of bollocks because most players today are about as far removed from the supporters as Sepp Blatter is from critical feminist thinking.

The summer goes on much like this. Me mooching, complaining that I can’t wait till the season starts, and Mr Non Footy pointing out how many times from August to May that I yelled ‘I’ll be so glad when this season is over!’ like a moody teenager. I snipe at Sky Sports and newspaper transfer rumours, making a heavy point about all the youth players that Chelsea have had out on loan.

‘I’ve a good mind to tell our new manager, Antonio Conte, just what the fans are thinking,’ I say, huffily. ‘He has to be the one to change this policy, it’s got way too out of hand. And I’ve a good mind to tell the board what the fans feel about a lot of things. And some of those players who went missing in action last season, they need to know just how much they have to improve this time around.’

Mr Non Footy looks at me for a minute, and then says: ‘So, do it.’

‘Eh? Do what?’ My attention has been diverted towards the breaking news bit at the bottom of the Sky Sports screen, in case I miss anything interesting. Accrington Stanley have been linked with someone called Si U. Sounds vaguely Chinese, which is indicative of how the modern game is shaping up. The game is growing in stature in China and wealthy Chinese people aspire to be Premier League club owners. Although I suppose Si U could be Glaswegian.

‘What you just said,’ Mr Non Footy answers.

‘Write to the club, to the whole lot of them. Tell them, not me, I can’t fix anything.’

‘I was joking,’ I sigh. ‘The club doesn’t even listen to the people in the supporters group half the time. It’s not the same club I supported when I was nine, like when I wrote to Peter Bonetti’s mother and she wrote back. They won’t listen to me.’

‘No, maybe not’ Mr Non Footy says, ‘But you should still do it. Tell the board, the manager, the players. You could even write to the match officials and the TV pundits you spend so much time moaning about. And what about the FA? You’re always saying they’re unfair with their sanctions. And if they don’t get to read the letters, the other supporters might appreciate them. It could even become a book.’

And so it began.


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NOT Just Saying: Carol’s comments on feminism, fashion, food and folly
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Dear TV People,

Look, I know Chelsea are not in Europe now. The players spoke and they voted out. They felt that they’d had enough of UEFA bossing them about and things needed a shake up. They wanted their football club back.

Roman was in agreement. He was fed up with Europe trying to tell him how many English players he needed, and having to adhere to silly financial fair play regulations. But it came as a shock when he realised that we were actually out. Really, really out. He had only meant to teach UEFA a lesson. And unfortunately there was no plan for if this happened. He thought the players would only play crap for a while, not for the whole season.

It’s very thoughtful of you to appease us by televising so many of our matches and we do appreciate the revenue so we can buy lots of overpriced European players who will make you want to televise even more games and give us even more money. Really, we do. But could you perhaps give some thought to not changing them all to evenings? We’ve accepted our #Chexit now. We know that we have to stop whinging and that the other teams won. They keep reminding us. But it won’t do us any good to pretend it’s the Champions’ League when it isn’t. It will just make it more painful. A bit like shopping in Asda and pretending you’re in Fortnum & Masons. It doesn’t work.

Yours faithfully,

Pinky Du Bois


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


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