Some games matter more

This week’s FA Cup win against Newcastle was doubly satisfying for me because one of my best friends is a season-ticket holder at St James’ Park. It meant a particularly pleasing domestic cup double, as I’ve also got a good mate who supports Nottingham Forest, whom we defeated 5-1 in the Carabao Cup in September.

Sometimes certain fixtures, other than the obvious crunch matches against traditional rivals, take on increased importance. In the Seventies and Eighties, our biggest games were maybe those against the hugely successful Liverpool team of that era, the 4-2 victory in 1978’s FA Cup probably the standout memory from following Chelsea then. But we weren’t an ‘elite’ team, and our fiercest local competitors were arguably West Ham and QPR.

However, for many of us in the USA, the important factor may not be the location of the club the Blues are playing, but whom we watch games alongside Stateside.

For instance, many Chelsea fans consider Spurs our bitterest rival. They have not had as much league or cup success as us (stop laughing at the back), but even the most biased Blue would admit they are a trophy challenger. However here in New Orleans, it’s not a big game for me.

There are maybe only a dozen Spurs supporters and nearly all are my friends (I know, I know, fire me now). A few play on our pub team and when we beat them in last season’s FA Cup semi-final, I turned up at the next match in a Chelsea jersey! But it’s always just a bit of banter.

In contrast, Arsenal have by far the largest Premier League fan-base in Louisiana, so contests involving the Gunners are often watched in a packed and emotionally charged bar. Indeed, this past weekend, hundreds of American fans descended on the city for ‘Gooner Gras’, a weekend celebrating all things Arsenal coinciding with the start of Mardi Gras. Hilariously, with the Gunners out of the FA Cup, they didn’t have a game to watch.

I’ve only ever seen one Hull City supporter here in the Big Easy, and maybe he will turn up at the pub to watch our fifth-round tie against the Tigers. I’ve a soft spot for the Humberside city, because I once had a surprisingly enjoyable night out there 30 years ago, but for that hour-and-a-half even that won’t influence my feelings towards his club.