Bournemouth vs. Chelsea : 17 September 2023
The Chelsea website would call this an entertaining game.
I beg to differ.
Here’s my take on the match at the Vitality Stadium, plus a few other football-related anecdotes thrown in for good measure.
Our home loss against Nottingham Forest – that match feels like it took place ages ago – was followed by a period of inactivity for Chelsea as the increasingly despised international break took over the football calendar. It took over my calendar too; I buggered off for an international break of my own in Italy and France.
I flew to Genoa and then took a train to Diano Marina on the Italian Riviera, a town where I have enjoyed many visits – and football-related incidents – since I first visited it in 1975. On the Friday, I caught a train to Nice, passing through Monaco, the scene of our first UEFA Super Cup win against Real Madrid, a fine trip that one. I met up with my good Chelsea friend Dave, who I had not seen since Sheffield United at home in 2019. We first met up in Los Angeles while on tour with CFC in 2007 and he has lived in the South of France since around 2016. We updated each other with our recent histories while enjoying a few lagers in a couple of bars. It was a joy.
On the Saturday and Sunday, my work colleague Lorenzo from Milan, and his wife Marina, met up with me in Diano Marina, and we had a lovely time walking west to Imperia and then east to Cervo along the site of the old Roman road the Via Aurelia. There were beers, fine food and tons of laughs. That I was staying in the same hotel that my parents visited during their first holiday to the town made my stay even sweeter.
On the Monday, before my flight home, I even managed to pack in a three-hour walking tour of Genoa; such an historic, cramped and photogenic city. It left me yearning for more. As fate would have it, I used the services of the same taxi driver on two separate occasions, quite by chance. He was a Samp fan, and also favoured Chelsea as his English team. As I left his cab, we toasted the memory of Gianluca Vialli. They idolise him in Genoa.
Incidentally, on the Thursday, as I darted in and out of a couple of bars near the city’s Piazza Principe train station, I spotted many folk wearing Genoa colours. I panicked a little and wondered if I had made an error and that they were playing that night, a chance to see a game at the Luigi Ferraris Stadium missed due to poor planning. I was to find out that the fans were instead off out to celebrate the club’s birthday, formed one hundred and thirty years ago to the day. It made me think; do any British fans celebrate their clubs’ birthdays with such a show of public affection? I think not. Maybe Genoa are a special case; Genoa Cricket And Football Club, as they are officially known, are Italy’s oldest club after all.
One last comment about my mini visit to the twin Rivieras of Italy and France. Over the five days of my stay, the most popular replica shirt that I saw?
Not Juventus. Not PSG. Not Milan. Not Inter.
I hate modern football.
As the following weekend approached, I had the English Riviera in sight.
On the Saturday, Frome Town were playing an FA Cup tie at Plymouth Parkway. This naval city is not exactly on the English Riviera, which the tourist boards of Torquay, Paignton and Brixham have chosen as their own moniker, but not too far away. On the Sunday, I had the Chelsea game in Bournemouth. The Dorset Riviera anyone?
The FA Cup game, a keenly-contested 2-2 draw in front of almost 400, was very enjoyable. Frome Town twice led through Owen Humphries and then James Ollis, only to conceded a late equaliser. The two teams would meet again the following Tuesday at Badgers Hill in a replay. This really pleased me; two Canadian relatives were to visit my local area during the week and had been keen to see a football match, any football match, in person during their short stay in Somerset. With the draw, they now had a game to watch.
Another North American tourist came into my plans, like a last-minute substitution, when I awoke on Saturday morning before my flit down to Plymouth. Tom, from Orange County in California, was staying at a hotel only two miles from my house and was angling for a place in The Chuckle Bus for the short trip to Bournemouth on the Sunday. Some strategic logistical planning quickly took place and everything was sorted. One Chuckle Bus became two, parking was arranged outside the Vitality Stadium, and everyone was happy.
Sunday soon arrived. I picked Tom up at the hotel at eight o’clock, but before we headed down to join up with Glenn, PD, Parky and Sir Les in Bournemouth, I treated Tom to a whistle-stop tour of both my home village of Mells and my home town of Frome.
I darted around Mells, quickly combining facts about the village – “fifteenth century church”, “Manor House”, “my mother was born in that house”, “I spotted Robert Plant outside that house last year”, “Fussell’s Ironworks”, “Little Jack Horner”– with a few football-related things too – “here’s where I kicked a tennis ball against the wall opposite my house, breaking many windows in the process”, “this is the school where I first became a Chelsea fan”, “I played for my village the first time here” before then heading into Frome.
We even had time to stop off – and step inside – Badgers Hill, the home ground of Frome Town, where I watched my first real football game in 1970.
I zoomed down to Bournemouth and we joined up with the chaps in “The Moon On The Square” at around 10.20am. It was wet outside. So much for the Riviera.
A few other friends drifted in as I ordered a light breakfast, and Tom ordered his second breakfast of the morning. Glenn said he’d attend the Frome game on Tuesday. There wasn’t too much talk about the Chelsea game. It had been such an underwhelming start to the season.
And not just at our club.
In many ways, I have been struggling further with football in general. In a rare and lucid moment before a Depeche Mode concert with my mate Dennis from DC, at a pub on the River Thames in Richmond in June, I stumbled across a phrase that summed it all up.
With a nod to my deepening alienation from top level players, my dislike of VAR, of UEFA, of FIFA, even the FA, the deadening of the atmosphere at games at Stamford Bridge, the entitlement of many fans, players’ obscene wags, late changes to kick-off times, blah, blah, blah, I summed it all up.
“I am not a fan of football, but I love being a football fan.”
I love the planning of travel to games, the sorting out of tickets, the driving, the endless driving, the drink-ups in the pubs, meeting new Chelsea friends from various places, the away days, the clobber, the laughs, the piss-taking, the banter, the memories…and I like being at games, live-games, taking in all in, the architecture of stadia, the history, the terrace humour…and I’d like to think I am a good supporter too, singing and cheering as much as I can, being there for the team…then there is the photography and the words in this blog.
I enjoy it all.
I love being a fan.
Not so sure.
We got drenched – absolutely soaked – on the short walk to the multi-story car-park. The two Chuckle Busses set off :
Glenn, PD, Parky, Sir Les, Daz in Glenn’s van.
Tom, two of Daz’ mates and me in my car.
We arrived at the same “JustPark” location – a large space outside a house on Littledown Avenue – at around 1.20pm. The rain still fell.
I was soon inside, evading the eyes of the tedious “bag gestapo” at the away turnstiles.
A few “hellos” and a few handshakes in the away concourse…before I knew it “bloody hell, it’s ten to.”
Into the away seats we went.
The floodlights were on, the sky was dull grey, the rain still fell.
The teams appeared and Chelsea were to wear the newly-confirmed third kit of Eton Blue. For once, I approve; a nice nod to our inaugural colours of 1905. Typically, I was amazed how many of our new fans were blissfully unaware of the light blue racing colours of the Earl Cadogan. It’s such a subtle shade. I think it looks fantastic.
Definitely a back four, right kids?
Gusto – Silva – Disasi – Colwill
Gallagher – Uguchukwu – Enzo
Sterling – Jackson – Mudryk
There was the usual “make some noise – for the boys” bollocks from the PA, plus some social deviant yelling out “Red Army!” on the TV screens.
Conor was captain.
Before the game, a minute of silence for those that perished recently in Libya and Morocco.
The game began, and it began ever so brightly as the Eton Blues attacked the goal to our right. A move down the right and some deft interplay between Mykhailo Mudryk and Nicolas Jackson set up Gallagher but he could not fully connect.
“Big game for Mudryk, Gal.”
Jackson then thumped an effort against a post after being set up by Mudryk.
We had a decent start, but the play was tending to by-pass Enzo. Both Sterling and Gallagher were combining well and creating a few solid advances into the opponents’ half. The game then struggled along, and Bournemouth slowly got back into the game. A low reaching cross towards the far post was met by Dango Quattara but Robert Sanchez made a fantastic block, spreading himself out, and the chance was fluffed.
There were songs for Frank Lampard and Dennis Wise?
Why – oh, why the fuck why?
Then, an odd moment. Sanchez was in possession just in front of his goal and as he ran through his options, we were treated to the bizarre sight of all four defenders lined up along the goal line. It was football, but not as I knew it.
The problem was that the home team weren’t necessarily taking the bait and pushing up. They stayed back. This was just hideously sterile football.
On the half-hour mark, more Bournemouth possession. They enjoyed a little spell.
But then a shimmy from Mudryk and the ball was played in to Conor in a central position. He shimmied himself. The world seemed to stop. He took aim. His shot was saved, damn it.
Damn you, Neto.
A Bournemouth effort was smashed so high into the air, and so wide of the goal – it went out for a throw-in – that I immediately Christened it the worst shot that I had seen in almost fifty years of football.
It was one of those games.
As the first-half neared completion, the noise levels had dwindled.
“You can cut the atmosphere with a shovel, Gal.”
There was a lack of cohesion and urgency after the initial flourish, and only Sterling and Gallagher could take much comfort from the first-half. However, Sterling’s fine touches in tight areas and purposeful spins into space just seemed to peter out as he reached the final third. He – and we – lacked a cutting edge.
Soon into the second-half, that man Sterling sized up his options at a free-kick. He struck a spectacular curler at goal, but it ping’d the underside of the bar and bounced down and across the goal. Levi Colwill was on hand to knock the rebound in, but the goal was immediately chalked off for offside.
“Will be 0-0 this, Gal.”
The sun came out, and it got uncomfortably hot in the away section.
Jackson was in on goal but slashed an effort ludicrously wide. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
We came close after a scramble that followed a Jackson effort. However, the Bournemouth ‘keeper managed to get a strong hand to a goal bound prod while lying on his back.
At the other end, Richard Billing drilled a shot just wide of our goal from a central free-kick.
Both teams struggled.
“Their final ball is worse than ours, Gal.”
Nearing the end of the game, the home team broke down our left and engineered a chance for our former striker Dominic Solanke. Again, Sanchez saved well.
I noticed that Jackson was too easily out-muscled in many of his his one-to-ones with his marker. But we have to give him time.
There was a plethora of substitutions :
Cole Palmer for Mudryk.
He hadn’t had that good game that he needed.
Ben Chilwell for Colwell.
We all moaned when he had passed, obliquely, after a fine run, the goal at his mercy.
Ian Maatsen for Enzo.
I disliked Enzo’s slow walk off the pitch as he was substituted.
Our last chance came from a rampaging Palmer – “keen Gal, but no options” – chose to pass to Sterling rather than shoot himself. Sterling then crossed to Palmer, whose snapshot was saved well by Netto. A follow-up shot by Maatsen was blocked.
It was all pretty woeful.
“I enjoyed Plymouth yesterday more, Gal.”
It was so dull that I sighed when eight extra minutes were announced.
I just wanted to go home.
It ended 0-0.
Next up, Plymouth Parkway on Tuesday, Bemerton Heath on Saturday and Aston Villa on Sunday.
This football life, eh?