Spine-tingling. That’s how it felt for so much of tonight’s game with Chelsea supporters back at Stamford Bridge for the first time since March.
The cheers when the players came out to warm up. The first rendition of ‘Carefree…’ ringing around the ground. The applause when the players took the knee. The roar at kick-off, and again when we won a corner inside the first minute. The Shed rising to its feet to acclaim Olivier Giroud’s fifth goal in four days. Even the hushed silence when Leeds scored had a certain charm, and was quickly filled by sustained chanting.
‘CHELSEA, CHELSEA, CHELSEA!’
You could sense the players feeding off the crowd’s energy and excitement, revelling in those moments when they stole possession and launched an attack, or executed a tackle or pass to perfection.
And how nice for them to feel the warmth of Chelsea supporters when they were subbed off. Unfortunately, Hakim Ziyech left the pitch with an injury, but the appreciation for his all-too-brief involvement was clear to see. Fellow new signings Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Ben Chilwell, Thiago Silva and Edouard Mendy also got their first taste of life with fans at the Bridge.
Our Brazilian skipper took a late knock but hearing his name being sung must have energised him to complete the game and secure the three points with our full allocation of subs having been made.
And then, in stoppage time, one more goal to celebrate, and a chance to relax for the final couple of minutes while reminding the players and coaching staff the victory moves us top of the league. When the final whistle blew, there was extra bounce to accompany One Step Beyond!
‘It was fantastic to be back,’ said Billy MacKean, who holds a season ticket in the Matthew Harding Stand but was in the West Lower tonight.
‘I had forgotten how much more impressive the intensity is in person compared to watching on TV. It was so great to get that matchday buzz again and hear the fans sing.
‘And what a performance and result to top it off against an old enemy. We are top of the league!’
Nine, long months these supporters had waited to return to their matchday rituals. Many thousands more will have to wait a while longer, but hopefully this is the first positive step to having Stamford Bridge full again, and enjoying this hugely exciting Chelsea side in the flesh.