My first Chelsea game. February 1987. My Dad took me as a birthday treat to see us play
against Manchester United at Stamford Bridge. We drew 1-1 and Micky Hazard scored. United
managed to hit the post and the bar in one shot. A visiting player fell over about an hour after
he had been tackled. Cue boos and jeers from the Chelsea fans. I cried when we scored such
was the euphoria that surrounded me. Never had I heard human noise in unison before in my
The late 80s was an era from when footballers had proper footballing names. Kerry Dixon.
Micky Hazard. Joe McLaughlin. David Speedie. Gordon Durie. Pat Nevin. Kevin Wilson. Clive
These were my heroes and always will be. Older supporters will always see Osgood as their
hero; Dixon was mine. A superb striker, great when meeting fans, a Chelsea legend. I regularly
read Roy of the Rovers, and he resembled the Chelsea striker to a tee. When Shearer scored,
he raises one hand in the air. When Dixon scored, he raised both his and I copied this in the
playground if I had toe punted the tennis ball in between the school bags representing
goalposts at break time. When I heard the news that Arsenal were trying to sign him, I was
devastated. Luckily he stayed. It was tough to adjust when the team changed and new faces
were brought in, so when Dixon ended his career it felt like a part of Chelsea had died. It was
akin to getting dumped by your first girlfriend. But after a while your heart hardens and you
accept that players move on and will never realistically stay at one club.
We had a few youngsters coming through who showed promise and hope. Jason Cundy,
Graham Stuart, Graeme Le Saux, Andy Myers, Eddie Newton, Damian Matthew, David Lee. I
even chose my middle name as Damian during my second Communion because he was the
only Chelsea player who had a name that was the same in Polish as English. Unfortunately
Chelsea have rarely had youngsters break through to become world class players in the
modern era apart from John Terry. Selling Jason Cundy was always a sore point - there was
graffiti on the bridge outside the East stand exit proclaiming, "Bring Cundy back!". He scored a
brilliantly fluky goal for Spurs from the halfway line before his career sadly ended due to injury.
One of the few players who we genuinely loved despite him joining our North London rivals. I
never really detested Spurs and loved Gazza.
It was not until the next season that I began to go more regularly. My second match was a
thriller. Chelsea played Nottingham Forest and having been 3-1 down at half time, fought back
to win 4-3 in August 1987. My love for Chelsea was cemented.
Football matches were the first place where I had heard so much swearing and it soon rubbed
off on me. Against Everton I shouted at Southall, calling him a fat bastard. I swear he looked in
my direction, probably incredulous that a 10 year old had such a filthy mouth!
The Wimbledon away game that season was my first ever away game. Plough Lane was a
funny little ground, but at least it had some character in a packed out away end. It is
disgraceful what has happened to them since and hope it never happens again to any club.
The relocation of Wimbledon to Milton Keynes showed one of the many things that is wrong
with the game as was them missing out on Europe because of the behaviour of Liverpool fans.
We were 2-0 down in this game and the mightily moustachioed Northern Ireland striker Kevin
Wilson scored two goals to earn us a point. He struck up a great partnership with Dixon and
regularly scored at least ten goals per season for us.
Oxford at home will stick in my memory as it was where Eddie Niedzwiecki's career was ended
by a terrible injury.
I witnessed a great Liverpool team secure the league with a 1-1 draw at the Bridge. Dalglish,
Rush and co. John Barnes scored a magnificent free kick against us.
The season ended terribly as I stood in the Shed crying havin seen us relegated. Chelsea fans
invaded the pitch and rushed towards the Boro fans. And it wasn't to try to shake their hands
and congratulate them. It was because of Chelsea fans' behaviour that my Dad had limited the
away matches he went to, and was sceptical of following Chelsea away.
Since that relegation I have had a season ticket for around 20 of the last 25 seasons. To date
(November 2015) I estimate that I have attended close to a thousand Chelsea games and
been to a hundred grounds following club and country.
Being a Chelsea fan has never been easy. I never dreamt we would win anything of note. I saw
some pretty awful games although looking back now I feel more sorry for the fans who had to
watch the Blues in the late 70s and early 80s. However, there was nothing like being at a
Chelsea game. We would lose to Scunthorpe in the League Cup but always seemed to get
results against the better clubs. You just never knew!
Many Chelsea fans look at the times when we were poor as being the best times to be a
supporter. Chelsea took loads away and at each match we had the hardcore fanbase which we
see less and less of each year as genuine fans who now have domestic responsibilities are
priced out of the market. It almost seems like Chelsea wishes to gentrify our support which is
unrealistic when you have a game that is unsurpassed in terms of excitement, emotion and
controversy. We bow down to the Football Association and media. At a recent match I could
not hang up a banner in support of our manager as it would block part of our Tokyo
Supporters Club's banner.
Other memories include a formula one car spraying fans in the Shed with pebbles as it drove
around the dog track (and ammunition thrown back) and Boy George singing at half time (not
appreciated by the fans for some reason) among them.
You would see the same scratchcard seller with his jumper woven out of Chelsea scarves
outside the East Stand before the game. We always used to seem to have the same songs
blaring out over the tannoy: Alexander O'Neal's Criticize; Harry J All Stars' The Liquidator; Van
Halen's Jump. We began to play songs for when the team came out to motivate them. Among
those I recall was Europe's "The Final Countdown", and later, quite ironically in my view at the
time, played Tina Turner's "Simply The Best" which the opposition fans tended to dance and
sing to instead of us.
Despite some Chelsea fans nowadays being dismissive of rugby, which in my opinion is the
second best sport in the world after football, we sang "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" if England
had won a game in the old five nations as the full-time result would be known well before the
end of our match.
There was aggro at virtually every home match at the time which we tended to ignore (and my
Dad always made me focus on the game). There would be pockets of fighting everywhere but
English hooliganism was close to its end. It is now being mimicked elsewhere and the only
battles that take place are at some away matches on the continent. Fans know that they are
the stars of CCTV and can have their lives ruined because of one moment of stupidity. There
is more flight than fight.
The first trophy I saw us win was the 2nd division title. It felt good to win so many games having
been used to so few.
Upon promotion we somehow finished 5th the next season. We beat Sheffield Wednesday 4-0
at home in our second home game of the season. "He's big, he's fat, he's gonna get the sack,
Charlton away was a sickener and was played at Selhurst Park. We lost 3-0 and Paul Mortimer
scored a hat trick. Amazing to think that I witnessed three different sides playing their home
games there with Wimbledon also ground sharing at one stage. A large number of our
stewards are Palace fans too.
Everton was my first away game outside of London at the age of 11. Chelsea won 1-0 and
Steve Clarke scored in off the post. Martin Keown did a back pass to Southall from the half way
line that went off for a corner. Myself and my Dad were in the Everton end having blagged
seats in the away end from the now defunct "Room 2000". When Chelsea scored, we were the
only fans in the stand to jump up and go bonkers as our hosts shook their heads wondering if
we would get kicked out. The Chelsea fans in the away end went bonkers and I thought, "so
that's how we look when we score away!". It was utter pandemonium. After the game I got to
meet my heroes while everyone else dined. Players like Dixon, Beasant, Monkou and even Pat
Nevin who had joined the home side a year earlier. He had the most beautiful autograph ever.
That was the last time we were top of the league for a long time. Typical Chelsea, we did not
win any of our next 11 games which included a run of losing 5-2, 4-2, 5-2. Amongst those was
a draw 2-2 draw against Palace at Selhurst Park where the Chelsea fans disgracefully
chanted, "the referee's a paki". My grandfather, who attended many Chelsea matches straight
after the Second World War after moving to England from Poland (he ran a deli on the North
End Road) was so incensed by the antics of the fans that we left with 10 minutes to go. Of
course, Le Saux scored in the last minute to equalise. Let's not pretend that there is no racism
at football but at least it is not as bad as it used to be.
Chelsea 0 Norwich 0 that season was one of the worst matches I had ever seen. In the next
match programme you could see me as a podgy kid in the background of a picture in the East
Lower family section. Surprisingly this was the only moment in the match when I actually
watching play, as the match was so tedious. These were times when people regularly sang,
"what a waste of money" when they had paid to see such dross. But we would also sing Monty
Python's "always look on the bright side of life" when we were losing and these day's it is Bob
Marley's "Three Little Birds". We were one of the few supporters who still had a sense of
humour when things were bad - and we still do.
We won a cup at the end of the season that felt like being on a par with the Champions
League trophy: yes - the Zenith Data Systems Cup. Dorigo beating Boro with a marvellous free
kick. And not the first time we would beat the club that relegated us in a Cup Final either! I did
not attend. My dad had not told me about it as it was close to exam time and I found it difficult
to forgive him believing we would never win a trophy again in my lifetime.
The Chelsea club shop sold T-shirts with slogans on them such as, "Chelsea Hooligans on
tour in Italy" that year for Italia 90.
The next couple of seasons were a blur. Beating Spurs away 3-0 in the League Cup in 1991
was a highlight. Even t-shirts were sold saying "Blue Murder - 3-0". There was also a fantastic
game at Derby with the final score being 6-4 despite talk at the time of widening goal posts to
make the game more exciting! Chelsea were annihilated in the League Cup semis by Sheffield
Wednesday. That was the closest Chelsea had come to a major final for a long time.
The season ended in typical Chelsea style. We lost 7-0 - yes 7-0 - to Forest away. I was at a
school friend's birthday party, and when I looked on teletext I thought there had been a typo.
To emphasise the loss it had displayed, "7 (SEVEN)". It's when you remember games like this
that you should be grateful for the success Chelsea has now. It also keeps my feet on the
ground knowing that someday Chelsea will be a crap again. We won the next game against
Liverpool at Stamford Bridge 4-2. Chelsea was erratic at best.
Joe Allon was supposed to be Kerry Dixon's successor. We always laud our new strikers, and
in his first game against Wimbledon on the opening day of the season he scored the equaliser
having come off the bench with more or less his first touch. We had found our Messiah. Even
more so because he ran to the Shed End and celebrated as if he had scored the winning goal
in the World Cup. Unfortunately he did little more for Chelsea, but will always be remembered
fondly by Chelsea fans for that celebration.
Later that season we played Sunderland in the 6th round of the FA Cup. Kerry Dixon hit a shot
so bad that the referee gave Chelsea a corner kick believing there was no way someone could
have hit the ball that poorly. Chelsea scored from the resulting corner, and earned a replay at
Roker Park. Again we went behind only to equalise. With only a few minutes left it looked as if
Chelsea had earned a replay. Graham Stuart stood in front of the away fans and urged them
them to sing like a conductor. Of course, Sunderland scored and we were out yet again, 2-1
We sold Boyd and Allen soon after. Clive Allen had been a consistent goalscorer for us and we
sold him to West Ham. He scored a magnificent goal for them against us soon after, and many
Chelsea fans stood up to applaud (yes - Chelsea fans applauding a West Ham player!).
Luckily we won 2-1 against the Irons.
In the last home game of the season, Paul Merson scored to earn a point for Arsenal at
Stamford Bridge with one of the best goals ever against Chelsea - he hit the ball from the right
wing and it landed in the goal in front of the Shed.
At school it was tough being a Chelsea fan. In my first school in South East London there were
two Chelsea fans out of 1,000 kids. In my secondary school there were three out of a total of
1,400. Despite all the glory hunting kids purporting to support Spurs, Liverpool, Manchester
United, we were the only ones who regularly went to games out of the bigger clubs. The only
other fans who went regularly to see their team play were the Palace fans, and one Charlton
fan. You could not compete with other clubs' boasts. The only thing I could retort from any
banter was asking the perpetrator how many Manchester United games he had been to, and
why he supported them despite being a Londoner!
92-93 was a pretty nondescript season. The only memories were bad ones. The worst being
the loss to Crystal Palace in the league cup at Selhurst on a pitch so muddy that one of
Chelsea's efforts on goal stuck in the pitch about a yard from the line. This was one of many
Chelsea games that I went to where afterwards I found it difficult to sleep. It was also the game
where Le Saux threw his shirt to the ground upon being substituted. Another was the infamous
3-2 loss to Norwich at home. Norwich had arrived with just minutes to spare owing to heavy
traffic. For the first half they played like a team that hadn't been able to warm up and Chelsea
swiftly went into a 2-0 lead. Then disaster. Dave Beasant let in two goals that had comically
slipped through his fingers and eventually we lost the match 3-2. Beasant was another one of
the old Wimbledon boys we had brought in and in my eyes was a superb keeper. Ian
Porterfield was a disgrace. After that game he publicly humiliated Beasant by saying the
keeper should never play for Chelsea again. Beasant had the last laugh as Porterfield was
sacked before the end of the season. I recently met Dave and that game still rankles with him.
He was, and still is, the nicest person I have ever met and always had time to sign autographs
for the youngsters. For me, a Chelsea legend.
Suddenly things were changing. Glenn Hoddle joined as player manager. There is no doubt
that he was the catalyst for Chelsea's current success. He changed players diets; introduced a
more rigid and structured training regime; he instilled professionalism on the players.
In a pre season friendly in the Makita tournament Chelsea annihilated Spurs 4-0 in the final
with Cascarino scoring 3 and Peacock the other.
We were beginning to see a better standard of football and even reached the final of the FA
Cup for the first time since we had won it in 1970.
This also included a bizarre game where we played Barnet at Stamford Bridge despite it
originally being an away game. Glenn's brother, Carl played and we embarrassingly drew 0-0
"away" - a match we could have lost - then beat them 4-0 at "home". We had no difficult ties to
reach the final. Barnet, Oxford, Wolves, Sheffield Wednesday, Luton. Kerry Dixon returned to
play against Chelsea for Luton in the semi-final at Wembley and had his name chanted
throughout the game by the Chelsea fans.
Then came the final. It was a grey, drizzling day and one I shall never forget. Could we beat the
best team in the land? We had done the double over them in the league and things were
looking rosy as Peacock hit the bar with a shot. Then Chelsea's favourite referee, David
Elleray, awarded a dubious penalty to United and the floodgates opened. Eventually losing 4-0
we trudged home with my tears mixing with the rain as some Chelsea fans took turns to kick
some Manchester United fans up the bum. That was the team I wanted to emulate. Cantona,
McClair, Hughes. What a team that was.
The plus side was that we had qualified for the Cup Winners Cup!