In his latest blog for the Chelsea website, Stephen Rea explains how he's keeping Chelsea in his family by taking his daughter to her first Blues game recently... I took my American daughter, Nicola, to her first Chelsea game this month. It is four decades since my Blues baptism.
My inaugural visit to Stamford Bridge was March 1979. A First Division fixture against Liverpool, the reigning European champions, that ended goalless. We were relegated that campaign, and would spend five seasons in the second tier.
Fast forward forty years and four months and I’m introducing an 11-year-old to my lifelong passion. Obviously, football in general - and Chelsea in particular - has changed so much in half a lifetime. Today’s matchday experience is a world away from what it was in the seventies.
However, there were similarities too. My mum and I had seats high up in the East Stand (I think I still have the ticket in a box in the attic), but for the vast majority of the attendance, there was no assigned spot to watch the action. It was a similar case for us at Dalymount Park in Dublin for the recent friendly against Bohemians. We had no designated seats and had to trawl up and down the aisles to find a pair together.
We eventually tracked down two that were, of course, right in the middle of a row. So though she is a typical tween, permanently hungry and thirsty, she didn’t want to ask the supporters in the same row to get up. Instead she waited until half-time to hit the concourse area for snacks, and when I was her age, I remember feeling the same way.
When I entered the Bridge all those years ago, I recall that it seemed huge. It was vast and sprawling, the pitch miles away and surrounded by an army of fans massing on an oval ring of crumbling terraces.
In contrast, Nicola was shocked by how cramped Dalymount Park was. About 50 percent of the stadium was closed off, so the sold-out crowd was crammed behind one goal and along one side of the field. The one football contest she had been to in the States was to watch the USA women take on China in the cavernous Superdome in New Orleans, which holds more than 74,000 spectators.
Afterwards she told me it was ‘brilliant’, just like I said to my parent 40 years previously. Then she added, ‘It would be so much cooler to see Chelsea play in their own stadium.’
I guess that’s next on the list, right?