HOME WORKERS: THE MUSIC BOX
In the next part of our feature on matchday operations at Stamford Bridge away from the pitch, the official Chelsea website concentrates on the sounds that emanate from the PA speakers around the ground...
For regular Stamford Bridge visitors over the past two decades it has been one of the most consistent aspects of matchdays at the stadium. The songs change of course, although not all of them, and accompanied by the voice of DJ and stadium announcer Carl Chapman, they make up a major part of the audio experience of football at Chelsea.
Like many fans, Chapman is a creature of habit when it comes to the day of the game, taking the same route up to the box from where the music and PA systems are controlled having first been to the main offices at Stamford Bridge.
'There I pick up my match programme and see the guys in the big screen gallery to collect my running order, so I know what is going on as far as the big screens are concerned pre-match, at half-time and post-match,' Chapman tells the official Chelsea website.
'We run through the timings and I find out which ex-player is doing the walkaround on the pitch at half-time. Then I take the same lift down each time, walk through the Shed End stand and talk to a few of the stewards who often give me requests. One guy always asks for some Little Mix, so we have a bit of banter there, and I arrive in the PA box around about an hour and a half to two hours before kick-off.'
As he has been indicated, where once upon a time the DJ would be left on his own to provide most of the entertainment before kick-off, there is now a tie-in with the big screen production which was featured in a previous Home Workers. Chapman will play his music and make announcements around the Chelsea TV-produced features and adverts shown, as well staying in touch with pitch announcer Neil Barnett as kick-off draws near, and again at half-time.
For anyone wondering where the PA box is, its location has changed over the years. Originally in a position at the back of the East Stand middle tier in line with the tunnel, Chapman was moved when that became a hospitality area many years ago to a box in the north-east corner wraparound, until that was claimed as a TV studio for live match coverage.
Nowadays he can be found not far from there, looking down on the groundsman's tunnel from the upper tier at one end of the East Stand.
'It is a fabulous position because you can see across the whole ground and when substitutions are being made,' says Chapman. 'Inside the box we have numerous TV screens and access to all the feeds so we know what is going on around the ground. I have a great view of the game and I can even wander outside so I can soak up a bit of the atmosphere as well, so that works really well for me.
'Everything is done electronically so I fire up a tablet as a way to deliver the music and that takes about nine seconds to plug in and get rocking and rolling.'
This season fans are able submit requests prior to a matchday which supplement Chapman's playlists.
'I start the music about an hour and a quarter before kick-off and if you come early you will often here me play a nice long rock track because it sounds great in an empty stadium, but you can't play an eight-minute track when there are 35 to 40,000 people in.
'You have every age group there so if you stick on one genre of music, a lot of the crowd aren't going to appreciate it, so I play different things.
'Then 10 minutes before kick-off is when it starts to get busier. There are things happening on the pitch and maybe stuff I need to read out, all leading to the point when the teams walk out. For Champions League games, UEFA dictate the music for that, otherwise it will be "The Liquidator" cued and ready to introduce the teams.'
It is after the final whistle that our resident DJ has made one of his biggest contributions to matchday culture. Whereas for a regular victory, 'Blue is the Colour' will have some fans singing and clapping along, a spontaneous decision to play Madness's 'One Step Beyond' when we beat Barcelona back in 2005 has grown into a tradition for all major victories.
'We also played it after the recent win against Manchester City with a last-minute goal, the place was rocking and you just want to send everyone out on a high,' he says. 'One Step Beyond is for me what it is all about. I play that track and I stand back and I can see the rafters in the stadium bouncing. After that it is one more track and then I pack up and go home.
'The one that wasn't spontaneous was the "Kalinka" track I built when Roman Abramovich first bought the club. I thought I am going to play this Russian tune but I have no idea how it is going to go down because it was before the first game. For a season it went down really well.'
As the PA announcer too, Chapman has had the pleasure of announcing some of the great Chelsea goals and goalscorers, moments after the ball hit the net. Given the live nature of his work, it is to his credit that he can recall only one major drama over many years.
'I once played the wrong music at a Champions League game. It was when the Premier League anthem had just come in and once I started playing it I realised and had to make a decision, do I keep on playing it or do I cut it and there is no music at all.
'Everyone was standing there wondering what to do so I carried on playing it and then I literally curled up on the floor going no, no, no! Ever since then as soon as I put the track in I ask one of the guys in the studio with me to check that it is the right music.
'I lose track but I think it's about 22 or 23 years I have been doing this job, and to have been able to read out team sheets full of the names of some of the world's best players even now makes the hairs on my arms pick up, because we have been very fortunate to watch them.'