Chelsea v Wolves at Stamford Bridge

by Peter Flynn

It is an archetypal late autumn Saturday in London. The type of ‘Match of the Day’ Saturday I remember from my formative years. Cloudy, breezy, wet and dark by 4pm. Aaahh great memories of host Jimmy Hill, commentators John Motson, Barry Davies and that iconic theme music.

My old china Corka and I take the 12.43pm train from Princes Risborough (near the Chilterns) to Marylebone Station. We are off to see our boys, league leaders Chelsea in action against Wolves at Stamford Bridge. We leave Sally, Kate and Tess to their hamster cleaning day. Hamster management is a thorough and exacting process.

Corka is a former spearhead and sharpshooter for the North London Lions in the BARFL. He still shudders about the West London Wildcats’ mosquito fleet slaying his beloved Lions in the third quarter seemingly each time they locked horns. Corka is also a Sainter who really appreciates the raw emotion of the 2009 Footy Almanac Grand Final pieces. He watched this year’s premiership decider from a Walkabout Pub in Central London. Walking (staggering in a sinusoidal manner) to the Tube after the game, he felt like a wino in his alcoholic haze. His description reminds me of the Paul Hogan derro character.

Upon alighting at Marylebone, instead of taking the Tube to Fulham Broadway, we make the fiscally fatal mistake of taking a cab to The Kings Road. Traffic jams abound. It is gridlock whatever route we attempt. Thirty quid later and almost via Slough (OK it was Hammersmith) we finally arrive at Fulham Broadway. During one extended motionless period in the left jab, we are ‘parked’ outside a betting shop that offers juicy odds on a 4-0 Chelsea drubbing of Wolves. Corka and I consider leaving the stationary cab and taking the odds. Sadly we don’t.

The pre-match pint is at the Imperial Arms on The Kings Road. Liverpool is playing Manchester City in the early game. Each City goal brings great delight to Chelsea fans who despise Liverpool for recent Champions League disappointments in semi-finals.

Upon entering the ground, a line of mounted horses is used to separate the Wolves supporters from the Chelsea fans. We walk in with a David Baddiel lookalike who actually is David Baddiel. Apparently the biggest bane of his life is when people say ‘where’s Frank Skinner’. I make this faux pas. Corka chortles at my lack of tact. Baddiel gives a dirty look. This incident gives further proof that Frank Skinner is the far more humorous of the duo.

We take our seats in the East Stand Upper. There is a warning on the ticket that PERSISTENT STANDING IS NOT ALLOWED. This rule will be sorely tested today. Wolves are in their ‘traditional’ bloods colours. Their supporters seemingly have a larger than usual allocation of seats.

Chelsea goes in without Lampard, Drogba, Ballack and Deco. We have no idea who plays for Wolves. On cue, as the referee blows his whistle to commence hostilities, it starts raining. The first five minutes are scrambly, frenetic and full of unselfish passes. In the early throes, only John Terry displays calmness and an ability to execute a pass that finds a blue shirt. Then, out of nowhere, Malouda capitalises on a ‘Crash’ Craddock miskick and slots a cracker with his lethal left boot in the 5th minute. The ball leaves the boot like an exocet missile and almost rips the old onion bag. What a peach of a strike. The stands are in rapture. Blue is the colour. The Wolves supporters either have their arms folded or are having extended dry washes.

In the 13th minute, Chelsea strings together a long chain of passes. They force a corner. From the corner, an unmarked Essien positioned at the near post heads Chelsea’s second goal. It’s poor defending from Wolves. By now, Chelsea has asserted midfield dominance through Cole, Malouda and Anelka. Corka reckons that Anelka, like Agassi, has got better since he stopped wearing a wig.

Not long after the second goal, a Chelsea player shoots at goal and misses by a postcode. Corka looks at me and says ‘Schneider’. Memories of the Grand Final profligacy are still fresh. Chelsea exerts such dominance in possession that it looks like a Chelsea XV against a Wolves XI.

Chelsea scores its third goal in the 23rd minute again through the agency of Essien, his second. Will we see a hat trick? Wolves are 3-0 down half-way through the first half. Extraordinary. No wonder Wolves supporters cheer every completed pass.

At the half-time break, Corka and I seek to get a pint. The crush makes this wish impossible. Corka makes a sage remark regarding the differences between soccer supporters and footy supporters. He reckons that English soccer supporters are much more collective in their comments, primarily through chants and songs. Aussie Rules supporters are more individual and are more inclined to yell out choice comments at players (derogatory or praiseworthy) or umpires (always derogatory). A wise man is B Corcoran.

Chelsea start the second half hell-bent on destroying Wolves. It’s a weird game for the fact that there were no yellow cards in the first half and very few free kicks awarded. The game is being played with a distinct lack of physicality.

The second half is a celebration of Chelsea FC and a chance for some talented young Blues to show their wares. Joe Cole scores in the 57th minutes to move Chelsea to that dreaded 4-0 scoreline. It was poor goalkeeping from ‘Cognac’ Hennessy. Oh no, Corka and I remark. We could have recouped the left jab fare. Stamford Bridge is in raptures. The fans are in full cry. I love the sounds. I love the atmosphere.

The 18-year-old substitute Kakuta (the player at the root of Chelsea’s transfer ban), comes on for his first game and immediately shows more toe than a roman (Abramovich) sandal. He nearly scores with his first touch. Manager Carlo Ancelotti reckons he is the best 18-year-old player he has seen. We reckon he is a real livewire. John Terry continues to be the connector. Chelsea’s midfield does whatever it pleases.

In the 80th minute or so, a massive roar is heard around the ground. Sunderland takes a 1-0 lead over Arsenal. Can they hold on? What a day. Chelsea victorious and Arsenal vanquished.

The final whistle blows. 41,786 attended the rout. Chelsea wins by the lazy four. It could have easily have been 10. We later find out that Chelsea scored five in both previous premiership meetings.

Corka and I head for the Hollywood for some celebratory refreshments. We watch Australia go down 9-8 to Scotland at Murrayfield. We are well-refreshed when we meet this Scottish bloke who spent about an hour bragging about his sexual prowess. Corka and I say very little. Why would he be telling two blokes this? Maybe it’s because Corka’s cold has left him sounding like Barry White.

Comments

  1. Love it, Peter.

    Perhaps you can be our writer-at-large, roaming the world, going to sporting contests, drinking pints, listening about other blokes’ sexual conquests …

    Why do you barrack for Chelsea anyway? (Not that you “barrack” for English soccer clubs.)

  2. sub.-contract that job Daff. I’ll look after sport and pints. You are a good listener. Flynnie can roam

  3. Peter Flynn says:

    Daff,

    Because Tim Brooke-Taylor from the Goodies did.

    I much preferred Bill and Graham though.

    Crio, we should go halves.

    I have not written an article about it but going to the ATP Tennis Finals in London was cracking.

  4. Richard E. Jones says:

    FLYNNIE: just a tad earlier in November I was at Upton Park one crisp Wednesday evening to watch West Ham beat Aston Villa 2-1.
    The Hammers scored the winner in injury time, 2nd half.
    It was their first win since opening day way back in August so the home crowd went bananas. Over and over again the West Ham faithful chanted: “We’re forever blowin’ bubbles, pretty bubbles in the air.”
    Not an overly ferocious sort of song for a football club, you might say.
    Anyway a very subdued Villa mob left east London that night knowing a victory would have propelled them to outright 4th spot on the EPL table. The same mob had been very vocal when their boys equalised during the 2nd half.
    And why choose a West Ham home game? Well, son-in-law is an east London boy and his whole family have the Irons in their blood.
    The pints went down very briskly in one of the boozers just up the road, as we waited for the crowd to dissipate via the Tube.

  5. Peter Flynn says:

    Nice tale REJ,

    I really like the after-match at the Pubs around the ground.

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