Sixer Says: why I still find it hard to like Chelsea

Sixer ponders the prices of Stamford Bridge season tickets
Sixer ponders the prices of Stamford Bridge season tickets
In my current curmudgeonly mood, I find it quite difficult to like Sunderland, let alone any of our opponents. But of all the teams we play, there are two that I just can’t get away with. One of them is Crystal Palace and I will save my thoughts on The Glaziers for later. The other is Phase 1 of this week’s London Invasion, Chelsea F.C. Compared with these West London arrivistas, I positively welcome Phase 2 on Saturday night, when Tottenham come calling. 

Pete Sixsmith takes a calculated gamble that he won’t be the most popular lad down Fulham Broadway once his thoughts on Chelsea have been digested. Not wanting any bother at his west London badminton club, Monsieur Salut points out that some of his best friends etc etc etc …

So, what is it about Chelsea?
And is it just me? I suspect not.

They seem to be club that antagonise supporters all over the country, from Newcastle to Newport, from Carlisle to Colchester, although they have many so-called fans in these footballing outposts.

For a dyed in the wool traditionalist (or old fart) like me, a football club has to be rooted in its community and play a part in it. Most clubs do this, serving the town or city that they come from. That is relatively easy for the likes of Sunderland, Newcastle and Middlesbrough who represent strong, local communities and draw the bulk of their support from their immediate environs. Nobody from outside Middlesbrough supports them because they are fashionable.

But Chelsea are, and that is what many of us find difficult. From the 50s and 60s, when the likes of Dickie Attenborough, Raquel Welch and Lance Percival frequented the World’s End pub and the seats in that ramshackle old stand, Chelsea have been a club that “fashionable types” have latched on to.

JAKE: 'I'm preparee to like you a bit if you let us win'
JAKE: ‘I’m preparee to like you a bit if you let us win’

Their proximity to Fleet Street helped (didn’t you used to teach geography, Pete? – ed) and the fact that journalists far preferred to be fed and watered in the restaurants and upmarket pubs of west London rather than the rundown areas of North London or the pie and mash shops and “let’s all play the old Joanna”, spit and sawdust pubs of the East End meant that they often wandered down to Fulham Broadway to write about a club that seemed to be an ephemeral part of the London landscape.

So, the Chelsea myth was born. They are a club with no roots in their local community, unlike West Ham, Millwall and Charlton who serve their immediate areas. Even the behemoth that is Spurs serve Tottenham and Haringey, while Chelsea seem to draw from the bits of West London that aren’t Fulham or QPR (two other clubs that I don’t care for).

Founded in 1905 because the Mears family had built a ground and had no team to play in it, they trundled along for donkey’s years without troubling the man who wrote the names on the Honours Board. They got on it in 1955 when they won the league, a title which could have well finished up at Roker if Len Shackleton and co had taken things seriously, and then, nothing until Tommy Docherty arrived to plant them firmly in the media’s attention.

Part of this ill feeling towards the Blues (imaginative nickname or what?) may well come from that fateful game in 1963 when we were about to take the First Division by storm but Docherty out-thought Alan Brown and his team beat us 1-0 with a dubious goal from Tommy Harmer. This should have warned an impressionable 12-year-old that becoming involved with Sunderland AFC was akin to Charles Saatchi marrying Nigella Lawson – it looked glamorous but would lead to a depleted wallet and lots of heartbreak before the habit was never finally kicked.

After Docherty left, they faffed around, were relegated and promoted and were bought by Ken Bates, possibly the most obnoxious football club owner of all time, although Sunderland-born George Reynolds, of Darlington notoriety, would push him close. Bates was a man who suggested that electric fences and cattle prods should be used to keep fans in line and who made a fortune out of the club when he sold it to Roman Abrahomovic 10 years ago.

So they went from an obnoxious English/resident of Monaco owner to a slightly creepy Russian/resident of Monaco owner, but the latter was prepared to pour in millions and millions of pounds to buy a team that could succeed.

Since then, Mourinho, Ancelotti, Scolari, Di Matteo and Benitez have won the trophies that Abramovic’s millions have demanded, but it has been done in a ruthless, passionless way that has left many fans cold. The sight of bullies like Terry and Lampard, good players though they may be, lording it over others and showing complete lack of grace, alienates non-Chelsea fans far more than did the antics of Ferguson and co at Old Trafford.

Grant James, fan from afar
Grant James, fan from afar
See the SAFC v Chelsea ‘Who are You?’, with Grant James, a South African supporter.
I had an argument with a Chelsea fan on Twitter recently that has gone to almost every game for 35 years. She wouldn’t consider my footballing opinion of one of our players purely because of my location, when even regulars at Stamford Bridge shared my sentiments. I guess it also depends on your particular club – we have probably 50 outstanding Twitter accounts, many of whom are not from the UK … I’d just say that it’s a global game, and judge fans for their passion and knowledge, not their location.

They will probably beat us tonight as they have players who, even on an off day, are far superior to ours. They will certainly finish above us in the league this season and no doubt for the next 10 or 20. They will undoubtedly win more trophies than we can ever dream of.

But what they will never do is to win the hearts of a community and have support that will stand by them through thick and thin. Their support is transient, has no loyalty to the area and is, in my view, boorish. They may finish above Newcastle, Burnley, Stoke and Sunderland but what they will never be able to do is to win over the hearts of a community. And after all, that is what football is all about.

For another look at Chelsea, including memories of that magical day SuperKev and Quinn destroyed them:
My approach to Sunderland versus Chelsea is darkened by the usual mix of realism and apprehension whenever a supposedly bigger club pays a visit. I could be mischievous and point out that Sunderland have won the top-flight league title half as many times again — six to four — but it would only prompt knowledgeable Blues supporters to point out that three of those six were in the 19th century.

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Jake flags the new feature allowing you to have your say on topic or off
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18 thoughts on “Sixer Says: why I still find it hard to like Chelsea”

  1. CSB – Good post.

    As a kid living in the southeast, but born in Sunderland and obviously seeing them at all the London grounds, I made many trips to Stamford Bridge.
    In my experience they were a great crowd of supporters
    with an ironic sense of humour [ they needed it because they were pretty rubbish in those days ]
    They had some great players over the years – usually playing alongside some really poor ones. As a very young kid I saw Tommy Lawton a couple of times, and he was awesome. Roy Bentley was one of the most reliable and loyal players ever, and Greaves was simply unique – the greatest natural striker I’ve ever seen.
    Then, in the sixties, under Docherty, they turned into a terrific side. I loved watching that team, and Peter Osgood was as good a footballer as I have ever seen [ IMO, if he had taken it really seriously, he could have been England’s best ever centre forward ]
    I don’t like what Chelsea has become as a result of obscene amounts of money – but you could say the same about the two Manchester clubs, and indeed quite a few others.
    But I still like Chelsea – because I have marvellous memories of watching them through the years. And because, in my boyhood days, they were probably the funniest and most entertaining supporters of all.

    • Good for You,,,,,,,as Bernard M. Baruch wrote

      “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

  2. I was there in 1983 as well and agree that the Chelsea support were animals that night, but both the Club and support are in a very different pace now as is football on the whole.

    Chelsea are what they are, another Club that has slipped in to the hands of an owner with ideas of his own and the money to put those ideas in to practice, you can’t blame their loyal fan base for that, they probably don’t like it any more than the rest of us.

    I always try to imagine if the same type of owner took over Sunderland how would I feel. Elation at seeing quality players arriving and the potential beginning to develop where we could challenge for trophies……the up side!

    But the downside of supporter alienation, increasing ticket prices, glory supporters getting the seats and the inevitable divorce from the community is too much.

    I think we tend to glory a bit much in boasting our support and not having won anything… Will put it ‘I think some of us doth protest too much!’ I feel sorry for the loyal down to earth supporters at Chelsea, having to witness your club being transformed from an average Heinz 57 mongrel into a preening poodle. I know which I would rather be and a suspect that there are a lot of Chelsea fans who are the same.

    Having said all that I really hope we give them a right royal stuffing tonight…hope springs eternal…FTM

  3. My memories of “interactions” with Chelsea will always be shaped by a March 1983 visit to Stamford Bridge for the League Cup semi-final. We were leading 2-0 from two Colin West penalties after the first leg at Roker Park.

    What happened that night was frightening. We won 3-2, with two goals from Clive Walker, but there was the most shocking violence from the Chelsea fans after the game. Police were on the pitch when the cross came over from Walker for West’s winner.

    Chelsea fans were throwing whatever they could into the Sunderland end after the game was over and we were locked in for 40 minutes while things “calmed down”.

    I am glad that watching football has changed for the better, The Bridge was like a war zone that night.

  4. I have to disagree with Pete, indeed with anyone, who thinks Chelsea and such clubs have poor community support. I do accept that their success and location have done much to garnish that support with fur coats and Gucci sunglasses but I maintain that underneath the garnish there is a core of grass-roots support from ordinary working people. These provide the large body of [their] support Sobs refers to. We just don’t have the sunglasses (but then the sun rarely shines on Sunderland) or the fur coats, (which we really need ‘cos it’s always freezing when I go). Let’s face it, SAFC, Hull City Tigers, Yeovil, etc. are not and never will be in a fashionable location. Tough, get used to it. Let’s not begrudge Chelsea their good fortune, even if…

    …given the ridiculous cost of tickets, transport, beer, pies, mortgages and everything else in London, quite a few supporters struggle to support their club. Like fans everywhere they will be suffering because any club that can get away with it will raise prices, with the possible exception of Wigan, and in Chelsea the potential to raise prices is immense.

    As for supporting a club from a distance (Sobs’ point). What should Grant James do? Choose Accrington Stanley or Wycombe Wanderers, perhaps? I think not. When you’re distant gratification has to be vicarious so you might as well pick a club that has some chance of providing it.

    • ..John, as I’ve said many times, you don’t pick your team, your team picks you. What’s wrong with the Kaiser Chiefs, anyway?

      • For you and me, maybe SAFC chose us. It’s a bit scary though, like the ring choosing to find Bilbo Baggins. It makes you wonder what destiny has in store for us.

        But is it true for people living in distant places with no local teams calling to them? Imagine if you live in, say, Alice Springs, Lhasa or Cleator Moor.

        Nowt wrong with the Kaiser chiefs, but where do they come from? How do you feel about their home city and why?


      • They’re from South Africa, and it’s the only South African club I could think of without research/google. So is Grant, that’s all I’m saying. I don’t begrudge him his self-made affinity for Chelsea, but it’s a shame we have to go so far for comment. It’s probably my pedantic understanding of the word “support” that sets me off. Technichally, folks across the globe may support whichever team they take a fancy to by paying their SKY subscriptions, either directly or by spending money in a bar that does. But if they do that, they’re supporting us as much as Chelsea.
        I like to watch Barcelona on the TV, but I would never claim to be a supporter. I have a mate who chooses a different Premier team each season and follows their every move before changing his colours in the summer. Does this make him any less of a “supporter” than Grant?
        Cleator Moor = Carlisle, like the rest of Cumberland and Westorland, I would hope!

        Anyway, where’s my precious?

      • A South African club never entered my mind. I was thinking of the band from Leeds. Parochial or what?

  5. a few years ago, I (literally) bumped in to a Chelsea fan ouotside the Bridge after anouther routine defeat for us. He was clearly the worse for wear (hence the initial bumping into) but throughly pleasant and chatty. He apologised for the seat-chucking at Roker in ’85 and the nonsense at the Bridge the same year, said he would never stop supporting Chelsea, but that he hated the way the club was going in terms of its connection with the common fan. He ranted on about women in fur coats and Gucci sunglasses not knowing which team was which but still getting tickets for big games ahead of the likes of himself. He said that there was ( and I doubt it’s dwindled that much, although trophies make many friends) large body of their support who felt the same way.
    While all clubs have the majority of their support with some sort of connection with the club, be it by family or history, I do appreciate Pete’s point.
    Grant James writes well, and knowledgeably, about Chelsea, but the word support doesn’t come into it. Other than buying a club shirt, the club don’t benefit from his support, and the team certainly don’t. It may be a global game, as he says, but only because anyone can watch any team on the TV and pledge allegiance to them. It doesn’t make them a supporter.

  6. My lord: what passes for the editorial team of Salut! Sunderland is also an eclectic mix. Pete is allowed a set number of anti-southerner, anti-Rugby Union, anti-Tory rants a year on the grounds that the therapy is not only good for him but saves the NHS the cost of medication he would otherwise need.

    But it you something positive about your club, it was here (same site, different part of the mix):

  7. Why not just write something positive about your own club? Next time you walk around the ground look at the mix of people, are they all the same? Every club has an eclectic mix of fans. In the modern world lots are transient, look at the motorway next time Sunderland play, I know people who support Sunderland who have never lived there, due to old family ties, are they not welcome? In the end you might as well have written the old cliche flash cockney gets. And by the way, where does man Utd and Liverpool’s fan base come from?
    Good luck to Poyet after tonight and carefree

    • Eclectic mix or not Chelsea’s support is based on successwhich has been bought by Ambramovic’s billions.

      Would your gates be as big as ours if your record was the same as ours . I doubt it very much because your club has no real soul . We support our club, whereas imo the vast majority of Chelsea supporters support the success of the club, and would run a mile if they had to put up with what we have had to .

      Tell me honestly what you think your gates would be if the money dried up and you were consistently in the bottom reaches of the league.

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