Chelsea vs. Preston North End : 6 January 2024
With the Christmas period over, our first match of 2024 saw us paired in a home FA Cup tie against Preston North End. Our paths do not cross much these days; this only would be our ninth head-to-head since 1963.
I recollected the previous two, both FA Cup ties, from 2002 and 2010. These have been my only sightings of the lilywhites from Lancashire.
On 17 February 2002, we played Preston at Stamford Bridge in the fifth round of the FA Cup. I remembered the visitors going ahead with an early goal – which I happened to capture on film – but my memory was of it being scored by Jon Macken, but it was actually scored by Richard Cresswell. Thankfully, we recovered well and triumphed 3-1 with goals from Eidur Gudjohnsen, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Mikael Forssell. The gate was just 28,133, possibly a result of the club not getting the pricing structure correct back in those days.
On 23 January 2010, on a cold and misty day, Parky and I travelled up to Deepdale and watched us beat the home team 2-0 with goals from Nicolas Anelka and Daniel Sturridge. The gate was 23,119. Before the game, there was time for a quick photograph of the lovely statue of Sir Tom Finney, the Preston plumber, outside the stadium. This statue, nicknamed “The Splash”, is based on the famous photograph taken at Stamford Bridge in 1956 of Finney evading a tackle by Chelsea defender Walter Bennet, and captures the sun hitting the water as it is splashing up from a water-sodden pitch. In 2010, the National Football Museum was based at Deepdale, but it has since moved to Manchester. I remember being impressed by Deepdale, a neat and clean modern stadium. However, there is nothing much left of note in Preston these days, except perhaps its bus station, a brutalist gem.
There are a few other Preston “moments” in Chelsea’s history and social history.
During the FA Cup run of 1968/69, we drew 0-0 at Deepdale and reconvened at Stamford Bridge on the following Wednesday. We were 2-0 up in front of 44,000 but after seventy-five minutes the floodlights failed. Lo and behold, the game was replayed on the following Monday when 36,000 showed up to see us win 2-1.
An episode of “Minder” was filmed at Stamford Bridge on the afternoon of 20 September 1980 during our game against Preston. The segment shows actor Denis Waterman watching at the bottom of The Shed terrace with some friends interspersed with some actual game footage, including a great little cameo by Mike Fillery, before he walks along the gangway at the back of The Benches.
On 28 February 1981, Chelsea fan Gary Lee was tragically killed after being chased, with some friends, by locals before our away game at Preston when he slipped and fell from a multi-story car park. At the game in 2010, supporters close to where I watched the game raised a banner in his memory. His mother, the well-loved Breda, was always on the Chelsea Specials. I remember seeing her around Stamford Bridge and at our away games on many occasions.
Gary Lee RIP
I dropped my fellow travellers at “The Eight Bells” and at Stamford Bridge and I parked up just off Lillee Road at about 11.15am. I had a little time to kill. I would eventually meet up with the lads in the pub, but wanted a bite to eat. Lillee Road is the site of the 1873 FA Cup Final, just as it nears West Brompton tube station.
As I started walking down the North End Road, I spotted that the “Norbros” pizzeria next to “The Goose” had been re-opened as “Koka” and so as it was lunchtime I popped in for some food. Midway through my pizza I spotted Alan walk past, no doubt on his way up to “The Oak” further along the North End Road. In an instant, I decided to join him for a drink and the title of this “Tales” was immediately decided upon.
I walked north, past “The Elm” which looked like it was being refurbished. Just as I was about to pop my head inside inside “The Oak”, I saw a Chelsea face pass by. He was heading a hundred yards further north to “The Clarence”. These little run of pubs are decidedly old school. No tourists make it up to these parts, away from the match day buzz and shiny attractions around Stamford bridge. Opposite “The Oak” is the site of “The Seven Stars”, a lovely old art deco pub that we popped into once or twice back in the mid-‘nineties, once after the 1997 FA Cup parade at Fulham Broadway. It is now flats but the façade has remained. I wondered if any North End supporters would be drinking anywhere along the North End Road. Maybe up at “The Famous Three Kings”, where we used to drink a few years back? I remembered some Sheffield Wednesday fans in there in 2019.
Alan and Gal were inside “The Oak” and I joined them for a while. I hadn’t visited this particular pub since early 2019/20. My friendship with Alan goes back to 1984. My friendship with Gary goes back to around 1988.
I then did myself proud. Rather than take the tube or bus, I walked the 1.6 miles from “The Oak” to “The Eight Bells” and got some steps in. It is pretty much a classic match day walk, deep in the heart of Fulham; down the North End Road, onto Fulham Road, onto Fulham High Street. I spotted a family of PNE fans opposite “The Temperance” but I was surprised that neither “The Temperance” nor “The King’s Arms” was full of away fans. Where the bloody hell were they? With six thousand of them in town, they couldn’t all be drinking at Earl’s Court surely?
When I had set off from “The Oak”, at 2.25pm, I texted PD to say that I would be about thirty-five minutes. At 3pm exactly, I walked into “The Eight Bells.”
I work in logistics.
It was a rather shortened drink-up in there. The pub was quiet. Still no away fans anywhere. With the tubes knackered, we caught a bus to Fulham Broadway.
As expected, Preston had the entire Shed End, some six-thousand strong. Again, I had swapped out with Parky to allow him to sit next to PD and Alan. I took up my “Cup” position in the MHU.
Gilchrist – Disasi – Colwill – Gusto
Caicedo – Enzo
Sterling – Palmer – Mudryk
So, a full start for Alfie, soon becoming a Chelsea cult-hero.
The usual darkened arena, lights flashing, flames.
Once normal lighting had been resumed, there was a moment of reflection on the one-year anniversary of the passing of Gianluca Vialli. A banner was passed below in the MHL. This struck me as being a “first”. I do not recollect us acknowledging anniversaries of the passing of past players ever before. I think this exemplifies how much the great man was truly adored in SW6. Well done Chelsea.
Gianluca Vialli RIP
At kick-off, there was a ridiculous “shift” from Preston. Four players were lined-up on the half-way line between the centre circle and the East Stand touchline. Here was a variance on the way to start a match. I liked that. A deviation. Something out of the ordinary. One of the hideous buzzwords in popular football parlance these days is “overload” but here was a fine example of it. The ball was played back to Freddie Woodman, the ‘keeper, who pumped into the air. Chelsea won the first header and the resulting second ball.
Oh well. Next time Preston.
The first-half was shite, eh?
I am not going to waste too much time writing about it.
As expected, the six thousand in The Shed were suitably energised and full of noise.
“Jump around if you hate Blackpool.”
Ah yes, the rivalries in Lancashire are alive and kicking; Blackburn and Burnley, Preston and Blackpool, lovely.
“PNE, PNE, PNE – PNE, PNE, PNE – PNE, PNE PNE – PNE – PNE!”
Ah, good old Paeonia lactiflora.
Perhaps we should have replied with a song about Apium graveolens.
Our first attempt on goal came after fifteen minutes. Then the visitors had a dig at our goal. But this was lukewarm stuff. On twenty minutes, Raheem Sterling unleashed a stinger at Woodman.
I was sat next to strangers, and both were ridiculously quiet. I found myself commentating at times in the way that many football fans do.
“Don’t let it drop.”
“Into them, Chels,”
I felt a bit odd. I needed to engage with someone. Thankfully John and his son were sat right behind me, so I was grateful for an outlet.
I could not but help notice that Alfie was wearing black boots. It seemed like he was trying to “out JT” John Terry.
A beautiful ball from Enzo was lofted into space but Cole Palmer was quickly closed down by the Preston ‘keeper and the ball bounced wide. This remained virtually the sole moment of unscripted innovation from the whole team in that turgid first-half.
There was angled shot by a Preston attacker, but easily saved by Djordje Petrovic.
The half-hour was reached and it was so dull. I was getting so perplexed with the continued lack of movement from those in advanced positions. Armando Broja, like Nicolas Jackson, needs to move their markers more often. Everywhere I looked, we had players who were ball-watching, mesmerized into a state of inertia. There were hardly any runners looking to exploit space.
We would have been no match for Tony Hancock’s mother’s gravy which “at least moved about.”
Palmer was a meagre plus point. Enzo showed a very occasional hint that he might be able to unlock things, but this was a terrible game. As the end of the first-half approached, even the away fans had almost given up on it, their noise decreasing with each passing minute. There were even a few muted boos as the referee signalled the end of the first forty-five minutes. I was mentally preparing for two more days off work to attend the replay at Deepdale in ten days’ time.
At the start of the half-time break, just before I trotted off to turn my bike around, I joked with John that I was leaving my camera at my seat so I would be forced to return for the second-half.
Chelsea attacked us in the Matthew Harding in the second-half. Early on, a lovely ball from Enzo was dropped towards Palmer but the ball fell short and he could not get a touch as it bounced above his leap.
A Moises Caicedo error allowed a Preston attack but the effort from Alan Browne was always curing over.
Throughout the game, the away team chose the currently out-of-favour style of goal kicks; all players huddled either side of the half-way line and a boot up field from the ‘keeper.
Just after a booming shout of “Fuck The Tories” from the away supporters, Malo Gusto sent over a pacey cross down below me. A leap from Broja, a flick, and the ball ripped into the goal.
Oh how we love the sight of footballs nestling against the white mesh of goal nets.
The crowd was now alive at last.
Fifty-eight minutes had passed.
CFC 1 PNE 0.
In The Sleepy Hollow, Alan sent me a text that I soon reciprocated.
You know how it goes.
Broja charged down a poor clearance but could not convert. Soon after, almost a copy of the first goal. A great cross from Mudryk, another leap from Broja, but the ball scraped the bar this time.
Some substitutions on sixty-one minutes.
Thiago Silva for Gilchrist.
Noni Madueke for Mydruk.
Silva slotted alongside Disasi, Colwill moved to left-back, Gusto moved to right-back.
On sixty-six minutes, a Palmer corner kick from my left and our right zipped towards the near post. Silva rose and headed it convincingly past Woodman.
CFC 2 PNE 0.
I caught Silva’s celebrations on film, if not the goal. He was certainly pumped full of passion. He roared. I spotted him place a clenched fist beneath his shirt to signify his heart.
An iconic image.
Shortly after, John and I were completely bemused and befuddled as to why VAR had been consulted.
The. Goal. Came. Direct. From. A. Corner.
VAR – do fuck off.
An air horn had been surreptitiously smuggled into the East Lower and every time that it sounded, I could not help but notice the predominantly young voices that responded “CHELSEA!”
A very odd sensation. It sounded like every single voice had yet to brake; a choir of pre-pubescent young’uns. I looked around. There were, indeed, many more families with kids in attendance than for normal league games.
Three minutes later, Palmer was fouled centrally and Sterling took aim. I caught his approach and strike on film. The ball spun and dipped over the wall. I could hardly believe it had beaten everyone.
CFC 3 PNE 0.
I caught his run and leap too.
Three goals in just ten minutes. And the floodlights stayed on.
Broja came close again, but an effort was cleared off the line.
On seventy-six minutes, more substitutions.
Conor Gallagher for Palmer.
Deivid Washington for Broja.
There were shots on goal from Gusto and Gallagher.
On eighty-eight minutes, a ridiculous scramble inside the Preston box, but the ball eventually presented itself for Enzo to prod home.
We celebrated but we soon saw a flag for offside. To be fair, it looked offside. Oh well. Then, the elongated pain of VAR. The players all tracked back to the half-way line. The wait seemed to go too long. Maybe ninety seconds? Ridiculous.
The sign from the referee : goal.
I did not celebrate.
CFC 4 PNE 0.
I hate VAR.
A very late substitution.
Michael Golding for Enzo.
The substitute almost prodded home a debut goal. There was still time for a rousing “Zigger Zagger” from Cathy down below the lads in The Sleepy Hollow, a merry dance into the box by Madueke but a blocked shot and an effort from Sterling that zipped wide.
It finished 4-0.
I am not sure what Mauricio Pochettino had dropped into the players’ cocoa at half-time but it certainly worked.
We made our way home and into the next round. Who do I fancy in Round Four?
An away game at any of these please –
Newport County or Eastleigh
Now that we are not actively involved in the league’s top placings nor in European competitions, the two domestic cup competitions really are the focus of our attention this season.
Next up, more days off work and another cup tie.
Middlesbrough away, Tuesday night, a League Cup semi-final, a Chicken Parmo,I can’t wait.
See you there.