“Nan! Nan! I’m just going up to that record shop at the Cally, y’know the one near the bridge? I’m getting that Chelsea record today. It’s called ‘Blue is the Colour’ and it’s got all the players singing on it!”.
After having almost sprinted up much of ‘The Cally’, otherwise known as Caledonian Road to non-locals and those not familiar with our terminology, I entered a tiny record shop deep in the heart of Islington and asked for the Holy Grail I had come in search of.
“Let me check if we’ve got one. I’ll be honest, we probably won’t get a lot of call for it ‘round here, son. Oh, hang on. I have. I’ve got one. You’re lucky! Blue is the Colour by Chelsea Football Club. This is it.”
Handing over a mass of coins which meant the journey back to Nan’s would seem easier and with less coins to carry, I’d certainly be somewhat lighter, I clutched on to the best record ever made and made record time back there, no pun intended. An orange-coloured sleeve housed an immaculate, black, 7” vinyl record with a red label. Red? Why red? ‘Blue is the Colour’ had been released on a red label. Really? Maybe they’d given me a joke one by mistake? What was ‘Penny Farthing’ anyway? Undeterred, I played the song on Nan’s radiogram and learned the words bit by bit, singing along as I did so. At this point around February 1972, this part of north London heard ‘Blue is the Colour’ coming out of Nan’s front room window again, and again, and again. North London was blue and it wouldn’t be for the last time.
Regarding matters on the pitch, I couldn’t accept we’d gone and lost to Stoke City in the League Cup Final at Wembley s I told anyone that asked that we’d come 2nd, it seemed to hurt a little less that way. However, from my north London Chelsea HQ, deep in enemy territory, I cheered us on through the sun and rain, ‘cause Chelsea, Chelsea is our name.
As a new season got underway, I decided to ask Dad if we could do something that, as yet, I’d not experienced with Chelsea. The thought of seeing my heroes play somewhere other than Stamford Bridge filled me with a great excitement, a real sense of the unknown and it would also take my support for them to a whole new level. It was with this in mind that Dad, my brother and I crammed into Dad’s little cream-coloured Morris 1100 on Saturday 21st October 1972 and zig-zagged our way through the north London streets and arrived at a place called Tottenham. Having parked our car quite a way from our final destination, White Hart Lane I think Dad had called it, we missed kick off and didn’t take up our positions in the ground until about ten past three. It was then that I first noticed it. Dad saw it too and my brother definitely did. The fans around us, not just some of them but all of them, were wearing scarves that appeared to be a much darker blue than I was used to, this blue being almost black in colour. If we hadn’t realised it before then we were to have our suspicions confirmed in the 25th minute of the game as our very own John Hollins scored a goal and those around us looked crestfallen and ‘as sick as parrots, Brian’.
What I didn’t realise at that time, indeed it would only come about some years later, was that this was quite the norm when going to watch ‘us’ play ‘them’ at their place. Dad had got the name of the stadium correct although Chelsea fans told me sometime later that it had now been renamed ‘Three Point Lane’ in a bid to remember many battles that had been fought and won on the soil at this historic site. Glory, glory Super Chelsea and The Blues went marching on, on, on.
Out of the League Cup to Norwich, out of the FA Cup to ‘they that must not be mentioned’, the season came to a disappointing end, a 12th place finish in the league was all we could muster.
However, before the season closed, something happened which needs addressing, it needs discussing and it needs to be spoken about. It was around this time that I travelled through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. Witness if you will, ‘The Twilight Zone’.
There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition and lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call ‘The Twilight Zone’.
So it was that on Saturday 14th April 1973, I went to Highbury where Arsenal played Tottenham.
This statement needs dissecting, it needs a full explanation in the hope that my actions can be fully understood and hopefully excused, although this, I understand, comes with no guarantees and my actions may never be accepted by some in a so-called civilised society.
Glen was my mate at school up there in the wilds of north London, deep in the heart of bandit country and it was his birthday. His present from his mum and dad was an eagerly awaited trip to watch his beloved Tottenham Hotspur and he was allowed to choose just one friend to take along with him. Much like a mouse zig-zags away as it tries to avoid being caught, such was the sight of me trying to avoid getting chosen for this particular afternoon but chosen I was and I couldn’t let Glen down, could I? He was my mate, after all. I was targeted and chosen and I felt strangely honoured in a peculiar sort of way.
The morning of the game came and we went and we came home.
That was it.
I felt, well, I felt absolutely nothing if I’m being honest. I didn’t get sucked in to the obvious rivalry between the two north London (well, South East London for one of them) sides and the proverbial ‘who do you prefer, us or them?’ was always met with a shrug of my shoulders as though someone had actually asked me if I preferred headaches or stomach aches, it meant the same to me. Glen had a nice birthday as he witnessed his side battle out a 1-1 draw with their fierce rivals, plus I managed to stay awake throughout.
Mention must be given to the final appearance of Manchester United’s Bobby Charlton at Stamford Bridge on 28th April. Brian Mears presented Bobby with a commemorative cigarette case in honour of the Busby Babe, a survivor of the awful events of Munich in 1958 where so many were either killed or injured after their aeroplane crashed while attempting to take off on a snowy, icy runway after a European game. 758 games resulting in 249 goals for United, that cigarette would be well-deserved.
The summer of ’73 was mainly spent waiting for Chelsea’s fixtures to be released, much of it to a soundtrack that seemed to be made for the club and its fans; while Barry Blue was ‘Dancing On A Saturday Night’, Elton John said ‘Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting’ but Free said that it’ll be ‘Alright Now’. Gary thought he was the ‘Leader of the Gang’ while Geordie asked ‘Can You Do It?’ However, Limmie and The Family Cookin’ probably summed it up best for me when they said ‘You Can Do Magic’, and with Derby County away in our first game of the new season, who would argue with that?
Would the 1973/74 season prove to be the one we’d been waiting for? If we could just beat Derby and Burnley away, then Sheffield United and Liverpool at home, then maybe we could go on and win the First Division title again, just like we did in 1955? We just needed to get off to a great start and then the world could be our oyster.
The only problem with that is that shellfish can, and do, go off quite quickly.