Sit Down? Shut Up?

The demographic among the supporter base at Chelsea FC resolutely remains middle-aged, male and white. The young men who were the fighters of the 70s and 80s are now not only fathers, but in some cases grandfathers. They constitute some of our most vocal and passionate supporters.

Among our younger support (i.e. late teens and early 20s) there is a good proportion who “get” Chelsea. They flog themselves up and down the country every week, and talk on social media of “barts” and “briefs”.

Neither of these groups are backwards in coming forwards when it comes to getting behind the team.

Over the last 10 years, in proportion with Chelsea FC’s success, Stamford Bridge has changed from being the home of an almighty army of underdogs out to challenge the world, to the home of the tourist, glory-hunter, corporate and hanger-on. Away supporters sing “Your support is f**king sh*t” and to be honest, who can blame them? I would add that I can’t have been the only one feeling the irony at Goodison the other week of our supporters serenading the home fans thus.

Whilst it’s unreasonable to expect corporates and holiday-makers to come to terms with the complexities of the Celery Song, especially on a first visit, some attendees (let’s not dick about by even dignifying them with the term “fans”) can’t even bring themselves to join in the simplest one-word constant refrain of “Chelsea” sung to the tune of Amazing Grace.

However, in a sanitised, happy clappy before kick-off, sit on your hands during the game Stamford Bridge, the away support has managed to retain the heritage of the old days. Or at least, so it seems, until now.

Here’s a selection of comments from Twitter after the midweek game at Swindon:

“Can only imagine what people who packed in Chelsea 10+ years ago because of the support going downhill would think seeing what it’s like now”.

“midweek carling cup in a ground we ain’t played at for years should be rocking”.

“.. was hoping the slight novelty of somewhere different midweek would do something good”.

“…huge gap in our support which is being filled by weird odds and ends”

“Filming yourself standing on a chair in the pub doing alouette, silent in the ground…”

“Majority of our m*** behaviour can be attributed to people not from a London borough”.

“…these complete melts sat in front of us who sat and didn’t sing once took down our seat numbers and are reporting us for singing the Dennis Wise song and not concentrating or some bullsh*t”.

Of course, it is worth pointing out that one person’s standing atop a seat taunting the opposition is another person’s night at the match ruined, but there is a real antsy feeling among those who consider themselves “proper Chels” just now. Unfortunately, given randomly allocated seats, a sweary, shouty 20 year old ending up in front of a dad and small kid combo is usually a recipe for dissatisfaction. Personally, I have never had the least difficulty in remaining seated during a football match and singing at the top of my voice (and those who’ve had the pleasure of meeting me in person will testify to it’s clarion quality on a match day), but some people seem unable to grasp the concept. I think in my case it’s a hangover from Old Mother Baby’s edict “never stand if you can sit and never sit if you can lie”.

I think the real issue here is that even the away support is starting to diversify now. It used to be a homogenous group of working class (mainly) men, who were either young or in the prime of life. But now the group includes women, families, and older supporters who are not physically able to stand for the duration of the game. There is a possibility, which could probably do with further analysis, that the split of away tickets to members may also have contributed to this dilution of the away support. Geography is another factor. It’s a lot tougher to sit on a coach to Everton and back on what turned out to be a trip lasting nearly 15 hours (coming soon in “Away Travels With The Chels”), than to take a trip down the M4 corridor.

Tomorrow’s game against a club with whom we have a ferocious local rivalry will hopefully bring out the best in our away support, rather than, to quote one particularly irate Tweeter “… record numbers of Richards and tourists”.

As usual you can find me on Twitter @BlueBaby67.  And if you enjoy what you read here, you’ll find a new piece specially commissioned by The Football Blogging Awards called “Listen – Do You Want To Know A Secret?” here.