Shhhh. Chelsea Are Winning

As history has recorded at dreary length, going to Chelsea was a scary experience in the '70s and '80s. I'm sure I'm not inventing a faux folk memory vis-a-vis shared turnstiles and having to sprint around the back of the baying hordes to reach the away corner and I'm certainly not deluded about that time hundreds (ie dozens) of Tacchini-clad urchins invaded a tube train and caused all sorts of carnage, but not to me or my friends. We could smile in a Cockney accent you see.
But even as they were attracting just 6677 hardy souls when Carlisle United visited in 1983 (Paul Canoville scored twice), there was always something special about Chelsea and about Stamford Bridge. The grandeur might have been delusional, but it was sustained them from Bentley to Abramovich, so the team of Peter Rhodes-Brown, Phil Driver and Bob Iles had ideas way above their station. Now, Chelsea have ideas in line with their station. Outside Fulham Broadway they’re giving away bottles of Karl Lagerfeld Diet Coke. This wouldn’t have happened in David Stride’s day. It tastes like Diet Coke by the way.
Chelsea's past hasn’t died, it’s just been parcelled up and left in a corner. If you look for it, you don't have to be Donal MacIntyre getting a method tattoo. There are hints of the former simmering cauldron everywhere, but for the most part, Chelsea 2011 is a cuddly experience. It’s hardly a new observation, but the new Chelsea have priced the working class (do classes still exist? Probably) out of Stamford Bridge – there's talk of a move to a new ground which is obviously a sensible move whatever the revanchists claim – and at times in their game against Everton it’s so quiet I can hear the players. The Middle Class don't shout. There isn’t intensity, but there is expectation.
I know it’s going to be one of those days when I stride up to the door, smile boldly and discover they’ve forgotten to put me on the list, despite their having sent confirmation of accreditation. They think I’m a chancer, they might be right, but they still let me in.
Inside the press room, it’s like some kind paradise of hackery. There’s a collection of Barclays, Rudds, Stammerses, Hopkinsons, Lawrences, Folleys, Szczepaniks, Collinses etc etc to keep me entertained (or at least to nod to) and the food is a delight. Richard Rae has sent a tweet lauding Carrow Road’s cauliflower cheese. It’s almost too cruel to reply. But he's a man of the world, so I do.
The main course is curry, which I‘m not having. No problem, because I can have more smoked fish, Caesar salad, ordinary salad, herbal teas, ordinary teas, assorted cheeses, cakes of many colours, assorted breads and cracker-esque biscuits, even before the jar of Smarties. I’m sorry about a food list, I really am, although I am quite interested in what you had for lunch. Don’t worry, I get my frankly undeserved comeuppance later in the day, but that's not for here.
I talk rubbish and read the programme, which has tumbled downhill faster than Stephan Eberharter with the wind at his back. On a personal level, obviously I’d prefer that they spent their money on extra anchovies for me rather than Where Are They Now? features on Kevin Hales, but they do themselves a terrible disservice. It’s a shoddy effort – sub-Stoke except they can spell ‘focused’ – and not just because they give Johnny Vaughan a full page, although that's a decent litmus test. Manchester United produce a near-book every game and Manchester City’s is perfect bound and has opinions. It used to be brilliant. Ho hum. I wonder if Roman Abramovich can read English…
The game is for connoisseurs, ie it's a bit chess-like. Everton are cagey but efficient. Chelsea take a little while to get going but once Juan Mata flexes his muscles there’s no stopping them. At half-time, I dispatch my words, sample the gourmet pea soup and help myself to a dessert that involves apricots.
There's more of the same in the second half. Chelsea cruise home, Mata looks terrific and you wonder just how they can find room for Fernando Torres, even if they wanted to. Afterwards, I get my first look at Andre Villas-Boas, who spent most of the match impersonating an overly theatrical dervish. He doesn't exude the electricity of Jose Mourinho, but he has a similar aura. Not one for loquaciousness yet, he won't be drawn on how great Mata is, so we'll have to do it for him. Let's not judge him here.
Everton, though, look in trouble. There's a lack of spark that only the knowingly doomed understand and David Moyes forever banging on about how slender his resources are is – for all its truth – becoming counter productive. He trots out the “I couldn't have asked for more” cliche, but if he believes it I'm the ghost of Drew Brand. They won’t go down but they need to do better than this.
I slope home, worried for us all.
Playlist
Coldplay
Mylo Xyloto
Parlophone
You know what to expect – although not necessarily sampling Brain May and quoting Leonard Cohen in the same song – but there are none more uplifting. The bigger they sound, they better they are.