In his latest blog for the official Chelsea website, Stephen Rea reflects on the miles clocked up by the Blues in recent weeks... Days after Chelsea lifted one European trophy, thoughts turned towards the next. I know fans who days after our Europa League victory in Azerbaijan against Arsenal, booked flights to Turkey where we will take on Liverpool for the European Super Cup on August 14.
Baku is geographically in Asia, and although it’s been close to three decades since I was in Istanbul, it is considered a city that bridges east and west, with the Bosporus river treated as the continental divide. One side in Europe, the other in Asia. The Blues are playing for two UEFA titles in two ‘Asian’ cities in the space of two months.
If you trekked from London and back to the Europa League showdown, then did it again for the Super Cup, you would have racked up a staggering 8,000 miles. That’s the equivalent of flying from Washington DC to Las Vegas, returning - and then doing it again! And that’s as the crow flies, as we know, many supporters were forced into various circuitous routes to and from the Caucuses.
Add in the trip to Boston last month and the pre-season jaunt to Perth last summer, and it means the Londoners played on four continents in a year. I wonder if anyone at the club logged the miles covered by the team last campaign? Intercontinental flights, journeys up and down the motorways of England, chartered jets to midweek cup ties, planes to Eastern Europe for continental competition… some distance covered.
At least when Chelsea play in the contiguous 48 American states, fans can get in their cars and drive. At the recent Final Whistle on Hate match against the New England Revolution, I met a fan who did just that.
Leland Gradney lives in Oklahoma, and the last-minute flight price to see the Blues at the Gillette Stadium was a sky-high $900. So rather than miss the game, he drove 1,800 miles.
It took him 40 hours, occasionally stopping to nap in rest areas, once using a truck stop to shower. After all that he barely made it in time for kick-off, driving straight to the ground. Afterwards he crashed on our hotel room floor for a few hours, then headed straight back for work the next day.
A drive of more than 3,500 miles - the distance between London and New York - with one five-hour stretch of sleep… for a friendly. Now that’s a true Blue.