Bridging the Ashes divide
Inside Blue Wed 22 Nov 2017
Former cricketers Alec Stewart and Shane Warne are no doubt supporting different sides as the Ashes gets under way, but they can agree on one thing, their love of the Blues.
Stewart and Warne captained the England and Australia cricket teams and faced each other in the historic Test Match on several occasions, although the bragging rights belonged to Warne as the Aussies won every time they were both involved, including in 2001 when he bowled out Stewart for his 400th Test wicket.
However, when it comes to their football allegiances the duo are very much on the same team, having both supported Chelsea for many years.
'I used to be taken to Chelsea one week and Fulham the other,' explains Stewart. 'Chelsea were obviously the better side and when we beat Leeds in the 1970 FA Cup final replay that helped seal it.
'But there was one other thing. Chelsea played Surrey at the Oval in a testimonial for Arnold Long, who was a wicketkeeper, and Peter Bonetti. They played a game of football and a game of cricket! I went to that because my dad was playing and I met the players – I've still got the autograph book from that day.'
The younger Warne fell in love with the Blues 20 years later, after moving to England early in his cricket career and being introduced to the sport by his team-mates.
'My loyalties are with Chelsea, absolutely no doubt whatsoever,' he said. 'It's not one of those things where I've jumped on the bandwagon of late with Chelsea's success, I've been a supporter since 1989. I was playing club cricket down in Bristol and we caught the train to watch a game at Stamford Bridge and I fell in love with Chelsea straight away.'
Having begun their love affairs with the Blues in different eras, it is no surprise that they disagree on their all-time favourite players, but they do also share the fact that they have been lucky enough to meet some of their heroes during their time following the club.
In fact, Stewart (above with John Terry and Marcel Desailly at our Centenary Dinner in 2007) has frequently appeared at Chelsea Player of the Year ceremonies and other club events, even presenting awards to some of the men most admired by his long-time cricketing rival.
'I always liked John Terry, he was fantastic for Chelsea, as is Eden Hazard since he joined the club,' continued Warne. 'When Chelsea did the Australian leg of their tour in 2015, I got to take my son into the changing room. He met a few of the boys, including Hazard who is his favourite player, and I was really appreciative of that.'
Steward added: 'He knows it and I think everyone else does by now – John Hollins is my favourite player. He's a top bloke. As a youngster, I had his shirt number on every Chelsea kit, and now I can call him a mate. I remember his famous goal against Arsenal, when he hit the bar and put in the rebound himself.'