It was a very poignant day on Sunday, specifically because of the 100th anniversary of the Armistice for the First World War. Not only was it respected at Stamford Bridge with silence during the minute before the Everton game, it was also silent for about 20 seconds leading up to the referee blowing his whistle for that minute. It showed just how much the fans wanted this to be a special commemoration.
There were plenty of beautiful moments up and down the country and indeed around the world. One little moment really got to me at the Bridge. Two Chelsea Pensioners resplendent in their red overcoats walked off the pitch with the wreaths just before the game, and they walked off perfectly in time like old soldiers should do, with a pride and respect in every left-right step.
Even before that I was in reminiscing mode anyway. Before the game I met so many old team-mates from my days at Chelsea. Colin Pates, Johnny Bumstead, Kerry Dixon, Paul Canoville, Clive Walker, and John Hollins (all pictured top) were all at the game at the club’s behest. It was such a delight to see them all in the one place considering this is not as common an occurrence as many fans might think.
I played for five other clubs throughout my career and it has only ever happened once since I retired that there was one real get-together of more than two, or at a maximum, three players. That one occasion was a memorial for a manager at Tranmere Rovers.
Great friends are made, great times are had, adventures are shared and glorious and hard times worked through together, often in the full glare of the public eye, but more often than not it is transient and fleeting. Everybody moves on to other clubs in other towns and sometimes other countries and all the while you are encouraged to never look back. You must fully integrate with your new team and friendship and ties with your old colleagues will have to wait until you retire. However when you do retire, those meetings rarely happen.
Maybe it will be better with the current generations, after all they have all the different social media outlets, Skype and doubtless something even better coming along the information superhighway pretty soon. I wonder though, will it happen or are the modern players from such diverse backgrounds so far away likely to be just like us.
Maybe it is just specific groups. If you all happened to win the League or even the Champions League, maybe that would form a special bond? There is something in that, I know that all players from Glasgow Celtic’s European Cup winning side of 1967 regularly meet up and will do until the last one of those great souls finally fades away. Maybe our Champions League winners will be a close group for the rest of their lives because of that one night in Munich. It is however the exception to the rule, the close friendships tend to fade far sooner than you would have believed at the time unless you happen to live nearby one another.
Will there always be a special bond between the members of our Champions League-winning side, ponders Pat Nevin?
Actually, here is a thought. Maybe all my old team-mates from all my old clubs meet up together regularly and just don’t invite me! I somehow doubt it, those guys were never any good at keeping secrets.
The delight is that when you do bump into old friends and team-mates, it is often a joy and on Saturday it was particularly the case with so many of them all standing together at the front of the tunnel by the pitch a couple of hours before the game. Maybe it was that proximity to the pitch itself that made the difference, the same precise place where all those memories were made for us all. Notice I do not say the same pitch! The current one is unrecognisably better, even if it is in exactly the same spot.
Not all former players have that fortune to be able to go back to the same stadium, of course; Arsenal, Spurs, West Ham, Manchester City and many more have all moved and taken away the shrine that their old players remembered. That’s before you consider how much it pains many fans who are forced to leave their memories behind in a move to a new, and almost always less atmospheric stadium.
By the time Chelsea and Everton got to kick off and Jason, Ben and I were up in the gantry for Chelsea TV, it was a real test not to become totally wistful in the moment. There was of course the added ingredient of Everton, the day’s opponents, being one of my old teams who I am still exceedingly fond of.
So maybe the game was a bit of a blur for once but as usual Chelsea started and slowly but surely took control of proceedings to absolutely no one’s surprise. If anyone deserved to win it was Chelsea and by the end Everton were hanging on, delighted with a point while we were disappointed. Well most of us were. For me it is the one game of the season I do not mind ending in a draw because of my emotional feelings and on this day in particular, they were running very high indeed.