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:


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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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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
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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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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:
About the author
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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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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:
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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Love Letters From The Stand 

Forthcoming book for the 2016-2017 Season

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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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


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From The Hearts Of The Fans

Dear Chelsea First Team Squad,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours sincerely,

Carol aka Pinky.
© Carol Ann Wood
December 2015


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