Clocking up the miles

This weekend I’m due to see Chelsea play a league game away from home for the first time in 14 years.

The last ground I visited other than Stamford Bridge was back in September 2003, when I went to Molineux for a match against Wolves. We won 5-0 to go top of the league thanks to goals from Frank Lampard, Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink, Damien Duff and a double from Hernan Crespo.

A few weeks later I left for six months on an around-the-world trip - I cut it short to return for the Champions League semi-final against Monaco - and then after a couple of months back in Belfast, I emigrated to the USA and I’ve been in New Orleans ever since.

I usually cross the pond once a year to see the Blues but it’s nearly always at home and more often than not a midweek European fixture. Indeed, I’m fairly certain the last Premier League match I saw was also against Wolves in November 2009. We strolled that contest as well, a 4-0 victory thanks to strikes from Florent Malouda, Joe Cole and a brace from Michael Essien.

Barring flight delays and intercontinental flying mishaps, I’ll be at the Bet 365 Stadium on Saturday watching us take on Stoke. Then the following weekend I’ll be in London for the crunch clash with Manchester City at the Bridge.

But it gets better. Sandwiched between those games I’m flying to Madrid to see us play Atletico. You know the last time I was at an away leg in that competition? April 2000 when we lost the quarter-final in extra time to Barcelona at the Nou Camp. That, incredibly, was 17 years ago now.

When Chelsea tour the States it’s great that we US-based fans get to see our team in the flesh. But watching us play a competitive fixture against an English rival or top-class continental opposition is obviously preferable to attending a pre-season friendly. I’ve clocked up tens of thousands of miles criss-crossing America to watch the Blues in the last 13 years and now, in comparison, Europe feels smaller. For instance, the distance to fly from London to Madrid is just 86 miles less than I drive every month to visit my daughter!

So I’m excited that in the space of a week I’ll see us play at three different venues in two different competitions. It’s been a long wait!