Early bird catches the worm

The New Orleans Chelsea supporters’ club got a lie-in this weekend. All three of us.

I’m joking - there are more than a trio of Blues fans in the Big Easy, but it’s David, Gilbert and I who make most games. We crossed the Atlantic in September and went to Atletico Madrid away in the Champions League, before flying to London for the Manchester City clash at Stamford Bridge (no prizes for guessing which one was more enjoyable).

Other Chelsea supporters turn up at the pub when they can, often there are tourists and conference attendees as well, and our recently-created Facebook group has now rocketed to 22 members.

But the two previous weeks were a struggle. Back-to-back 6.30am kick-offs against Newcastle and West Ham would test the loyalty of even the most die-hard follower.

Getting to the bar that early is a challenge at the best of times, but a couple of additional factors made it exponentially harder. It’s December, and although New Orleans is relatively small by American terms, even if you only live a few miles away you are still setting your alarm for 6am. In winter it’s dark and relatively cold for Louisiana .

Also, this city is renowned for being a fun town where the partying never stops and whose motto is, ‘Laissez les bons temps rouler!’ Which translates as ‘let the good times roll’, so the festive season, in particular, is packed with shindigs, get-togethers, celebrations and all manner of late-night weekend drunken events.

I’m sure it’s the same for Chelsea fans in the great swath of the USA stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border, where we are six hours behind the UK. Slightly easier to the east with a five-hour difference, worse in the west where those poor Californians are pulling themselves out of bed before 4.30am. Or staying up all night.

I was ‘one for two’, as we say Stateside. For the Newcastle contest, I was at Finn McCool’s drinking coffee by kick-off. But when it came to the West Ham fixture, I crawled downstairs and lay bleary-eyed on my sofa after a friend’s house party the previous night - and slept for 15 minutes at half-time.

So, for the match against Southampton, which was a 9am start, I could afford a lazy lie-in and we had eight true Blues turn up to watch us beat the Saints at Finn McCool’s. For us, my friends, the struggle is real…