Mega-rich and successful, but hardly the cuddliest folk around. That’s Chelsea. More a brand than a club, at least in the embittered eyes of Salut! Sunderland, they must surely be on the point of putting a compulsory purchase order on Millwall’s designer-menace slogan: “You all hate us, we don’t care.” But despite Chelsea supporters’ reputation for an unpleasant combination of arrogance and malice, David Millward* wants us to know that Decent Ordinary Fans (DOFs) follow them, too.
And what do we learn? That Chelsea’s season will end on an “all or nothing” note. And since the article was written before Chelsea encountered the delights of Oakwell, David’s Heroes in Blue will now have to settle for nothing…………
The Les Fridge Fan Club lives in London, now alas closer to West Ham Pikey Boy territory than the civilised environs around the shrine of football that is Stamford Bridge.
However having been raised about a mile from the Bridge, my support for Chelsea goes back decades. I first saw the team in 1963, the year that Tommy Harmer clinched promotion at Roker Park with a magnificent solo run, before drilling the ball home from 35 yards. Or something like that; the passage of time does blur the memory.
Les Fridge Fan Club is the handle I use on a Chelsea website and it was chosen in memory of the worst goalkeeper in the club’s history. Fridge once conceded four goals in about 20 minutes at home to Watford. By half an hour the crowd were pleading “don’t shoot!” whenever an opponent ventured within 50 yards of Chelsea’s net.
As for Salut Sunderland, this is run by someone who has been a friend and colleague for rather a long time. Our lives became intertwined in the 1980s when we both worked for the Daily Telegraph. Salut! was in Bristol, I was in London and our employers wanted to make us swap places.
At the same time Chelsea and Sunderland drew each other in the League Cup. It was a – ahem – memorable night. To this day, Salut! refuses to accept that the Sunderland winning goal was offside with several of the police horses on the pitch at the time and clearly interfering with play.
Chelsea’s support is split between the new folk, who regard all these trophies as a divine right and those of us with memories of defeats at places like Rotherham, who will enjoy the ride until Roman Abramovich is driven off in a Zil, handcuffed to two burly unsmiling gentlemen.
And now for those Salut! Sunderland questions………
What did you think of our respective clubs’ prospects before season started?
Sunderland lower mid-table. I thought the combination of Keane, cash and the Arctic winds at the Stadium of Light should be enough to keep the team up. I still do. As for us, I thought we would be in with a shout for the Premiership, still a possibility, but no more than that.
When did you last see a SAFC v Chelsea game home or away, and what happened?
The game at the Bridge. It was a comfortable 2-0 win. One of your ruffians was sent off. There was a brief text exchange with Salut, which failed to apologise for Miller’s indiscretion.
Have you been to SoL (obviously the last question may answer that). if so what did you make of it? Of Sunderland itself? Or if not, had you ever been to Roker Park?
I have indeed been to the Stadium of Light for the England v Turkey game. I got as far as the reception centre to pick up my ticket. As Salut! will remember, I spent the evening not inside the ground, but wandering around the Venice of the North East looking for the riot that never happened. I watched the game in a pub, surrounded by Sunderland fans – they were due to play my boys three days later. They were remarkably friendly. As for the town, it is rather cold and I have never seen skirts as short.
Your predictions for both clubs for rest of season?
Sunderland: very much as above. I think the long term omens are good as well. Keane is a good manager, there is money a crowd and a sensible chairman. Chelsea – to quote the old Small Faces song: All or nothing.
Memories of players linked to both clubs?
Clearly the great Clive Walker. He was capable of taking sides apart or being utter dross. I would rather remember him taking Liverpool apart twice, than his weaving between the police horses mention ed above.
Club vs country. Who wins for you?
Club. I have spent too much time with the racist pondlife that follows the national team.
Who will win on Saturday? Score? And will you be there?
I never predict. As I will be in Maine, I shall be relying on the good offices of Fox Soccer or the internet.
* For David, read Sid, which is what he mostly answers to. His uncle was a bandleader called Sid Millward. The band was actually called the Nitwits. For further informations about these Nitwits, look up David’s exploration of this rich piece of famiy history .
David, or Sid, is transport editor of the Telegraph, speaks as many languages as SAFC have away defeats and remortgages his Wapping flat each year to renew his season ticket at Stamford Bridge. He swears the people sitting nearby are almost human.