As a Chelsea fan, how happy are you? I ask this now because, after the hugely-awaited Champions League game against Manchester Utd, I’m not happy.
The world’s most rubbish pre-match meal, combined with an extortionately priced vodka and lemonade, a log-jam at the turnstiles causing me not only to not get to the loo beforehand but to miss the first five minutes of the match and a hugely disappointing result has resulted in a distinctly grumpy baby.
This train of thought was started by a comment Martin Samuel made in his Daily Mail (apologies for citing the Mail in a family column) on Tuesday:-
“Football is locked in a cycle of violence, emotional if not physical, in which the majority of those in the stadium appear hugely dissatisfied at being there, as if they have been forced on to the pitch or into their seat at gunpoint.”
OK, the “cycle of violence” might be a bit of an exaggeration but the dissatisfaction element struck a chord with me and I responded in a comment which they printed:-
“There seems a general joylessness at football matches these days, even at successful clubs. The crowd seems to be divided into two – those who are there as tourists or on corporate jollies, or the genuine fanbase who are forking out a great deal of money in a time of hardship to watch multi-millionaires, most of whom wouldn’t give fans the time of day, and sometimes won’t even give 100% of their effort.”
This comment was borne of my own feelings at the moment. Our fans don’t seem happy. I’m not happy with the atmosphere in the stadium (non-existent at times last night during the biggest game of the season). Two many corporates/tourists have certainly spoiled the broth. And the emotional input of our players into the club seems also to have disappeared.
Although JT obviously loves the club and would run through a brick wall for it/us, he’s one of a dwindling number. Whilst Frank Lampard is a lovely guy, he seems preoccupied. Ashley will go wherever the money takes him. Drogba will do whatever’s best for Didier. Maybe that’s the true meaning of professional. You go out, you do your job and you get paid. And I think it’s rubbing off on the genuine fans.
The people for whom a trip to Chelsea is not part of a holiday to London, or a night out paid on someone else’s expenses. Us sad souls whose very existence is governed by the football schedule. Who scan the forthcoming fixtures on TV with anxiety to see how yet again the tradition of 3pm on a Saturday is fast becoming like the Holy Grail, almost impossible (all our weekend games in April are on a Saturday. Is this a record since we’ve become more successful?)
Before I moved to London, a matchday was broken up into components forming the whole. Train journey (and at the turn of the century given the state of the railways this would sometimes take up to 3 hours from Birmingham), pre-match meal, and match. The meal was quite important not only because of the length of my day, but not being a meat eater, a dog burger was out of the question.
The train journey was often the worst element, albeit much cheaper then (there was a magical time when you could get a walk-up day return to London for £14). And the most important bit. The match. And whilst 15 – 20 years ago we mightn’t have been seeing the quality that we often see now, there is no doubt in my mind that the players seemed happier and seemed to care more about the fans. Homegrowns such as Frank Sinclair, Eddie Newton and Andy Myers mightn’t have had the skill and/or talent of some players who’ve worn the shirt more recently, but at least they appeared to care.
For me the rot set in about 1998. Messrs Laudrup and Deschamps appeared to have absolutely no emotional rapport with the fans. Indeed Laudrup was unable to hack life in England altogether and soon disappeared. Deschamps hung on for a couple of years but was never a favourite – a really strong indicator of how fans feel is the song.
Did Deschamps ever have a song? Desailly struggled for one. A great player, but someone who appeared to be a professional in accordance with my definition. Coming up to date, how many players now don’t have songs? Ramires doesn’t have one (although he’s improving all the time). Boswinga never seems to have had one. Ashley Cole only tends to get one against Arsenal. I don’t think Cech’s ever had one. David Luiz, on the other hand, has gained instant cult status because he looks like he would like to die for the cause.
We as fans seemed happier early in the season, and this begs the question about correlation of happiness to on pitch success. Those early season romps against West Brom, Wigan and Blackpool, during which it looked as if we would carry all before us this season, seem an eternity ago. Is it the transition from likely Premiership winners to hoping to storm to 2nd place the cause? Is it the lack of free-flowing football we’ve seen in recent weeks?
Is it disillusionment over the apparent lack of commitment and willing to go for the jugular displayed by a number of our players? (best summed up by a friend of mine who had what the press described as “an altercation” with Drogba at Stoke last Saturday; he tells me the truth is the matter was misreported. He was by the corner flag and took exception to Drogba fannying about with a short corner when he thought a long corner might have resulted in a goal attempt.
They had a brief exchange of views and Paulo Ferreira did not have to drag Drogba away. My friend subsequently received a great deal of abused by a number of fans who feel that just because someone is wearing the shirt, they shouldn’t ever be criticised).
Personally my own happiness index could be measured mathematically as follows:-
Hopefully the elements will combine to produce the formula on Saturday.