I Don’t Want to go to Chelsea
I made my small gesture against the Premiership today. I declined to hand over £98 for a pair of tickets to a club I loathe and revile and to whom we would obviously lose. But not being there creates its own specific difficulty: the problem of what to do with myself. The television is tuned into Soccer Saturday, radios are on in all rooms, the internet is there. I vacuum the stairs, attend to my prep for tonight’s dinner, look for superglue to fix the bumper on the car, find the car keys, put the car radio on, fiddle about with the bumper, give up on it, put the kettle on, and start on the Hoovering again. Trezza shouts out.
‘What?’ I say.
‘Stoke,’ she says, ‘The bloke is just saying they’ve gone a goal up.’
We are one up, away at Chelsea. Rory Delap has gone past two defenders and scored with some brand of exquisite dink over Petr Cech, apparently. This is unanticipated in every way. It is about the hour mark. We only have to hold out for 30 minutes to post the result of the season. I give up the cleaning and start pacing and texting those who are there. I have made the worst decision of my life here. Up at the computer I find a link on the Oatcake messageboard advertising a live feed. Quite incredibly, to me, this actually works. I watch the last ten minutes live: I find it so hard to believe that this is possible that I have BBC Radio 5 on too, right next to me. It seems to me there should be less time left than the clock in the corner of the internet video says. What, I wonder, is the actual delay on this live feed. I turn the radio up louder, and the commentary on the computer down, then up again. It’s difficult to get the volume-balance right across the various sources of information. Though Chelsea have all of the possession they are doing nothing with it, they are aimlessly punting it forward. We are going to record a famous victory. A famous, famous victory and I have been stupid enough to decide to miss it. And then, from a slung-in cross, Chelsea appear to score a far post, unmarked, header on the 88th minute. It can’t be true. I turn the radio up louder where they switch from the dying minutes of their principal commentary game (Bolton-Man United) for a score update from Stamford Bridge. I was not prepared to trust the evidence of my eyes; it is only now that I’ve heard it that I believe it. One-one. We have lost two vital points, as well as the famous victory, but still, it is a creditable score-line. Disappointing, now, under the circumstances, but it will do, after a fashion.
In the final seconds of added on time they are given a free kick out on the wing. The picture I am watching is the size of a cigarette packet. A tiny blue-shirted figure crosses the ball; this is followed by bagatelle in our penalty box. It goes for a throw, into the stands, and one of our guys goes with it. He has landed in the crowd, and will not give the ball back until he, himself, is also on the pitch. It is Abdoulaye Faye, a huge defender, and a pro. But actually, Abdoulaye slightly miscalculates and returns the ball for a fraction too soon. He is not quite back in position when it is bagatelle once more. Finally the ball falls loose at the feet of Lampard who bangs it through a ruck of players into the top corner. It seems clear that the shot takes a deflection. Fat Frank, recognisable even at the size of a thumbnail to football fans far and wide, who loathe him for reasons they don’t wholly understand (he is rich, he is greedy, but there are plenty like him and there is more to it than that) has done it again. This afternoon has been much, much worse than being there, and is not an experiment I will repeat in a hurry. I would rather pay a hundred and ninety-eight quid than fanny about like this.
The live feed turns out to have come from American. ‘That’s all the real excitement of the EPL there folks,’ the host excitedly advises us back in the studio. (EPL? English Premier League, of course.) It takes only a second for his co-host to agree with him before they cut away to an advert for Budweiser.
In the 11th of the 19 away matches that this season will demand, this is the nearest we have come to an away win. But as it turns out, we are back in the bottom three.
F/T Chelsea 2-1 Stoke