The sign on the pub said “Chelsea vs Arsenal, LIVE, Saturday 19th“. My immediate thought: “Not sure I’d want to watch that, not the way Chelsea’s season’s going. Arsenal will probably kill them. And they’ve got Peter Cech..”
Despite my daily struggle to dodge footy I still know exactly how Chelsea are faring this season. And, like all long-term Chelsea fans, I still assume they will always lose to Arsenal. Sure, I don’t know the exact scores or who’s been playing like a buffoon but I know for certain that they’ve had a woeful start to the season and are somewhere in the bottom half.
How do I know this? First, because I worked in an office a couple of weeks ago and the first thing anyone said to me was “Your season’s gone a bit pear-shaped hasn’t it!” This was backed-up by a string of footy-related gags from the blokes sharing my desk.
The best was from a Saints fan. “I’m not going to reveal anything. I’m just going to say that we’ve had a crap start to the season but even we’re above you.”
That about said it all. That is, until yesterday when I made the mistake of opening a friend’s Facebook post. It simply said ‘best day ever’. I thought he was getting married or having a baby. It turned out that his mate is a big Everton fan and they’d just beaten Chelsea 3-1.
“For the love of…. ”
So despite isolating myself from football for the best past of six weeks, I am still stuck in the position of worrying about the ebbs and flows of Chelsea’s form. I’ve spent decades doing the exact same thing, only with information. Now I’m able to do it without ever trying to find out anything about them.
When I first ventured into Stamford Bridge the club was a joke ruled by a crazed version of Papa Smurf. The National Front newspaper was openly sold on the terraces, the back row of The Shed (the home end, bottom right hand corner of the pic, below) was an open sewer, we never won a game (not even against Newcastle) and our best player was Pat Nevin. Prior to that it was Colin Pates but he made a big money move to Arsenal so that they could stick him in their reserves.
The Shed also had a unique form of fire protection. Basically, the roof was so pants that all the rainwater collected in one spot and flooded onto the terrace like a man-made Niagara. It came in very handy during a Man Utd game when a chip van caught alight. The flames didn’t stand a chance against that torrent. We all knew it too. Not a single person bothered to move.
That was in the mid-80s. It was a time where it was virtually impossible to buy a Chelsea shirt and the ‘club shop’ was a converted newsagents in Fulham Broadway. You had a choice between a scarf, a programme or a flag. Or maybe a wooly hat in the winter. Not that you could get past the ranks of police horses to make it through the shop door anyway.
The team was rubbish. The stadium worse. The Birmingham City of the South. Now? There is literally no escape from Chelsea. Thanks to the Internet the club is everywhere.
But it’s not just them. I also know that Tottenham won their first game of the season yesterday and that Rooney scored a hat-trick over the weekend. This has all come through looking at random notes on Facebook that seemingly had nothing whatsoever to do with footy.
So, the big question now is whether I stop looking at Facebook entirely? For a start, it would save me from the thousand-or-so cat videos that are uploaded every day. Or any of those huge psycho-speak banners that pretend to hand you enlightenment with such twaddle as “Only a fool would follow the foolish into foolish, foolishness.”
Then again, maybe I could create my own version based upon the lessons of the past month.
“A man who avoids footy can only find footy.”