Sunday, 3 May 2015

Chelsea 1 Palace 0

Were you like me twenty or thirty years ago? That hopeful Chelsea fan who thought that even if you were 30 points behind the league leaders with 30 points to play for - that your team could in theory still mathematically win the league on goal difference? Now, with our fourth league title in a decade imminent the thought process was different. Actually wanting a draw up at the New Library so that it meant I would not miss us winning the league at home. Being delighted that Liverpool will have to form a guard of honour for our side (will their fans again claim a boycott of high ticket prices now that the rest of the season means nothing to them?) Knowing that we can relax and enjoy our football for the rest of the season despite the poor refereeing decisions and injury blows to key players that we have suffered.

This has been a fantastic season on many fronts. The main importance for me is that the club finally seems to be a going concern. We are actually in profit. Our youth teams are winning trophies and providing real, credible talent for the future. Our ladies' side is top of the league. You remember when we were taunted that we would fade away should Roman leave? Well now it actually doesn't materially matter if he does or not - that is how strong a position we are in.

One can compare us to many other clubs who promised so much but are now in the doldrums. Blackburn, Bolton (£173 mio in debt!) or even Blackpool to name a few. No, the moral of the story is not to avoid investing in a football team that starts with the letter "B", but to put our achievements in perspective. Newcastle and Sunderland are sides that regularly pull in 40-50k fans through their gates and look at where they are. This could have been us.

Our path to where we are today could be a Hollywood film with slo-mo tv replays of important goals a la NFL that try to glamourise key match moments. I remember seeing the NY Yankees play in Tokyo for a pre-season friendly and simply could not fathom how they could sell out a whole stadium. And the foreign fans stayed until the final inning when even in a league game most tend to leave by the 7th of 9 once an outcome seems certain. Now we are the team going on tours to large arenas abroad. We need - but most importantly earn - the tourist money.

For me the two most memorable moments of the season? John Obi Mikel scoring and Wilfred Zouma hitting the ball so hard and high that it managed to hit the underside of the roof of the East Stand Upper. Matches? Lisbon, doing a whirlwind tour of many stadia in 36 hours. A visit to Maribor chatting to a young girl in a wheelchair. Her government would not stump up $100 for an upgrade to an electric one (and she refused my cash offer to help) - nor supply her apartment block with a disabled entrance.

Both winning the League Cup and the League once again brought a tear to my eye. Chelsea is important to me. I plan my holidays around fixtures. I know which carriages are the closest to entrances and exits to Stamford Bridge en route to and from the ground so that I can be efficient with my time. I know the ins and outs of away travel at every ground we regularly visit. I know how to get my daughter to meet and have pictures taken with Chelsea players. Whilst I am the one who is secretly trying to keep my cool while inside feeling like a pre-teen at a One Direction concert. She could not care less and at the age of six has not once since mentioned having photos taken with JT, Peter Cech and Diego Costa.

Jose said once we won the league, we should move on. He is right. Already I look forward to next season and one new away that I cannot miss - Bournemouth. Fingers crossed for Brentford too - there are far too many Northern teams in our division which one would not mind were kick-offs not changed to ridiculous times making journeys more arduous than they should be.

Well done and thanks Jose. It is so good to have you back.

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