”The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”
L.P. Hartley,The Go-Between
It started in 1970 when accompanied by my dad, a police officer friend of his & an uncle I took my seat in the old (then new!) West Stand to see Chelsea throw away a 2 goal lead for the first time. It was an FA Cup tie against Burnley. I fell in love with Chelsea that day, & we went steady for the next 4 decades. It (sort of) ended 34 years later in the aftermath of the Abramovich takeover, as I relinquished my season ticket due to a combination of factors, not the least of which was the knowledge that Winston Bogarde was earning the best part of £25K more per week than I was bringing home in a year. You can’t unring a bell though. Chelsea & I may not go steady any more, but we remain the greatest of friends. Was it better or worse in the old days? It was different. I miss the freedom to roll up on match days, pay a few quid to get in & decide which part of the ground you want to stand in. I miss that ivy clad office near the graveyard that Ken Bates had pulled down during the ’90’s redevelopment. I miss the little thumbs up Kerry Dixon used to give us in the West Stand Benches during his pre-match warm up along the halfway line. I miss the little fella in the neat blue raincoat, with the tiny enamel Chelsea badge on its lapel, who for many years used to religiously collect up all the discarded newspapers & match programmes from around the ground. I don’t miss the National Front members selling ‘Bulldog’ outside the stadium, the decrepit urinals, or the team being consistently awful at various times. Or the Wagon Wheels perennially on sale from the rusty refreshment stalls. Always Wagon Wheels. All snapshots of times that are gone, but should not be forgotten. The history of a football club is not confined to the contents of its trophy cabinet. It’s about all the people who keep coming back through bad times as well as good. This is a small attempt to celebrate them all.