The romance of the Blues

I first went to Stamford Bridge in March 1979. I was nine years old and my mum and I flew across from Belfast for the weekend to see us playing Liverpool, then one of the top teams in Europe. How times change, right? We drew 0-0 but played really well and were unlucky not to win. At the end of the season we were relegated and it took us five years to escape the old Second Division.

Despite it being close to four decades ago, and despite me being younger than my own daughter is now, I still remember a lot about matchday. The crush on the Underground, the noise of the crowd, the forest of blue-and-white scarves held aloft in the Shed End, my mum buying me a porcelain Chelsea piggy bank that I dropped and smashed on the walk back to the hotel… the memories are still sharp, the images still vivid.

Around 38-and-a-half years after my first match, I accompanied four American fans from New Orleans as they made their first visit to the Fulham Road for our most recent home fixture. When I had flown across from Northern Ireland in the seventies it had been a major undertaking, in contrast by the new millennium supporters go to the extreme of intercontinental travel to watch the Blues.

I wrote about the quartet’s trip in a piece published on the official Chelsea Facebook page, and it prompted other supporters who live Stateside to post comments about their first pilgrimage to the Bridge.

Keith Walter had crossed the Atlantic to see his beloved club in the flesh and wrote; ‘We love watching the games from our house in Maryland but nothing beats singing along with the fans in the stands.’ Simran Bains seems to be a lucky charm for the Blues: he explained he usually gets up at 4.15am in Los Angeles to watch the lunchtime kick-off’s, but that he has made it to see the club twice and both times they won, both times they went onto lift the title!

As much as I love going to the Bridge to see Chelsea, I wouldn’t consider it a romantic destination. But Mark Vidreiro wrote that he is visiting next month from the USA on his honeymoon, Rob Thomas is doing the same thing when he gets hitched next year, Jessica Holt Smalarz also incorporated a home game into her wedding celebrations and Chris Stevens was a fourth who watched us beat Fulham while on his honeymoon. Maybe it’s true what they say - something borrowed, something blue...