David Millward – universally known as Sid, after his band-leading uncle (Salut! Sunderland’s own Pete Sixsmith was very fond of Sid Millward and the Nitwits) – is a Chelsea fan who has graced at least two Who are You?s at this site.
When Sid, now exiled in New England, said he was heading west to Las Vegas for a convention of football’s most lovable fans – all based in the USA so presumably untarred by the Paris Metro brush – and that Gus Poyet would be the guest of honour, we felt a piece coming on. ‘Sure,’ he replied, ‘but it will be rather Chelsea focused. We went last year, the player who showed up was Michael Duberry, a lovely guy. This year we get Mario Melchiot as well as Gus.’
Well, he did warn us. All the same, here – for some midsummer quiet-time madness – is his account. He did try to mention us, but couldn’t quite suppress the temptation to be snooty …
Judging by his performance in an indoor football facility in the back end of Las Vegas, Sunderland could have done far worse than persuade Gus Poyet to put his boots on and come out of retirement.
Always a class act on the field, he belied his age as Team Gus won the mini-league concocted for a gaggle of Chelsea supporters in the United States.
A class act on the field and a class act off it as well. Gus was funny, relaxed and seemed to thoroughly enjoy himself as did Mario Melchiot, a rather tasty attacking fullback in his prime with my beloved Chelsea a decade or so back.
Cheerful, chatty and fluent in four languages, Mario – like Gus – showed that footballers can be wonderful company. As a member of Team Mario, I was even given a bit of professional coaching as I donned my boots again for the first time in several years.
And by the way Monsieur Salut, I scored twice – though the missus said I would have had a hat trick if I had not missed several sitters.
I don’t know whether Sunderland has an equivalent organisation over here. But Chelsea in America – or the rival CIA – is flourishing.
It is a combination of expats and Americans who have adopted Chelsea as their team.
Trust me several of the American supporters have some years under their belt as fans. One lived in the UK and has been besotted by the team for decades, another was attracted by the stroppiness of Dennis Wise in the early 90s and has followed the team from the days of having to persuade a bar to show “soccer” on the TV.
Now of course the games are all shown live and the game is hardly alien to Americans.
For supporters living out west, the time difference entails getting up before a sparrow would even consider breaking wind.
Many will go to extraordinary lengths to watch games, planning trips months in advance hoping to catch a match. In terms of getting a ticket, I am told, it is best not to even think about trying to go to matches against the big boys.
So Sunderland is always a good shout. [Don’t be too sure, Sid. Remember our Chumps attract somewhat bigger crowds than your Champs – Ed]
Once a women’s sport in the US, football is really taking off among teenage lads who seem to be turning away from the neanderthal gridiron where buying the kit costs a small fortune and the risk of life-wrecking injury ever present.
My Chelsea shirt has been acknowledged by a chap packing groceries. I have even seen a Frank Lampard shirt in the sleepy Maine coastal resort where I now live.
So exile is tough for footy fans, but mercifully at long last the beautiful game is finally taking root here and not before time.
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