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Love and Chelsea: The Origins of My Troubled Relationship with The Blues

My girlfriend and I split up a couple of weeks ago. I have a lot of time to think and I’m doing a bit of reflecting on my life and the past. I was on vacation and while we were apart, we both did some soul searching. We talked about it when I got back and we knew it wasn’t going to work. I’m not mad at her or anything; it just wasn’t going to last. I’m alright with it and I’m moving on. It’s best for both of us. Another on the long-list of failed relationships. Some weren’t bound to last, others I didn’t want to last, and one I completely sabotaged and still regret how it ended. That’s life though. We’ve all been there… we live and learn.

But it got me thinking about my relationship with my football club. Interestingly, I got into the Premier League – and chose Chelsea – because of another girl. This girl didn’t last too long but she was a serious Arsenal fan. And I mean serious. She could recite scoring statistics from players that I still never heard of. She watched all their games more than once and listened to podcasts galore. She got into Arsenal during the invincibles season and all their games were shown on a NYC-area sports channel (I assume YES network but don’t hold me to that, I live in Philly). She was Ms. Arsenal.

I became an Premier League fan because of her. I have an easy explanation for how I became a Chelsea fan: I looked at a map and chose the team that was closest and highest on the table. Chelsea fit the bill. Done. I’m a Chelsea fan. It was, in part, to antagonize her but with good intentions. I couldn’t be a Man United fan or Arsenal fan as “everyone” loved those clubs, so it only made sense. Now who were all these guys out there playing? I didn’t know Frank Lampard from Frank Lloyd Wright; I couldn’t tell you if they played at Stamford Bridge or Stanford University, near where I grew up; I had no idea who John Terry was – that he was the captain of England – and that he’d been a career Chelsea man. This was the spring of 2007…. and my relationship was now in hyperdrive.

So, I started to read. I read everything I could find. I learned the history of the club; about Roman Abramovich and about how he made his money; about Russia and the “wild east” capitalism that reigned in the 90s and made the oligarchs rich beyond anyone’s imagination only because they understood the true value of the assets Russia was auctioning off (as a side note, Casino Moscow is an older but very good book on post-Soviet Russia, highly recommended if anyone is interested in that topic, but it’s not specifically about Abramovich). I learned about the dark side of Chelsea and the reputation they had because of the Chelsea Headhunters; and their financial troubles in the 70s and 80s. I could tell you that John Terry came through their academy; Lampard may have never made it if it wasn’t for his dad being a coach at West Ham, where he got his start; that Drogba played just one year in Marseille and grew up near Paris; and that Claude Makelele also grew up near Paris. I learned everything I possibly could.

I’ve been there since 2007. But if I had do it over again, I wouldn’t have chosen Chelsea. And I’ve already cheated a little. I’ve started following two other teams but without such intensity: Everton and Tottenham. They’re solid, well run and talented clubs with great fan bases (especially at White Hart Lane) that I’d be proud to say that I’m a supporter. I even bought a Everton jersey from Landon Donovan’s time there. I tell people that I’m a Donovan fan and not an Everton fan. That’s a lie, I feel he’s a bit overrated (but I won’t get into that here). I wouldn’t dare publicly admit that I’m an Everton or Tottenham fan. I’m in denial and denial is the first sign of a problem.

Then I remember what I’ve been through with Chelsea. I remember screaming at a gamecast I was following during the 2008 Champions League Final and checking the rampant text messages I was getting during the shootout while I was stuck at the trading desk that I call my day job; the dismay when they fired Scolari who didn’t even seem to have been given a chance; talking to my co-worker, a London native, about the John Terry affair and his attempts to quash it hitting the press. It’s the little things and that’s what makes it tough.

But I just can’t do it. I won’t do it. I still bleed Chelsea Blue. I may be critical of their transfers and the revolving door in management, but I won’t turn my back. I can’t cut the cord but I’m not entirely sure why. I’ve put so much into this relationship that it’s not worth turning my back on it. So I do the unthinkable: I cheat on Chelsea and sit in denial. I’ve become complacent. I don’t want Chelsea to win… I expect it. I get upset if they lose and if they don’t win by four goals. I get depressed when they lose to Man United or Liverpool. And I cynical when they “only” beat West Brom 3-1. I get frustrated during their mid-season slumps and embarrassed that they lost 3-0 to Sunderland at the Bridge. I’m not sure how I’ll feel if they when they’ll play in the Champions League Final again. Not when, but if.

All relationships take some amount of work. For myself to claim that I am a true fan, a knowledgeable and dedicated fan, it takes work. It’s easier when you live in a city and the local teams are in the media like with the Phillies and Eagles here in Philly. Fox Soccer and the Internet, obviously, make a relationship with Chelsea a bit easier to manage. But it takes work. I’ve put too much work into it to turn my back on them now.

And after typing all this out, I openly wonder if I put this much thought into the how and what went wrong in my last relationship… my ex-girlfriend and I might still be together.

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  1. pyromania

    June 16, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    hey Brian ,

    A very Well written piece, a few of us still hold the chelsea mast high the local pubs in philly like Fados and Dark horse.

    Lately, I wasn’t sure of my relationship with pensioners, until last winter i went to stamford bridge and rekindled my unrivaled love for the club.

    • brian c

      June 16, 2011 at 7:11 pm

      Hi Pyromania, I live just outside the city and it’s a pain for me to head to center city at Saturday AM, but perhaps this fall I’ll make the trek one of these days. There should be a supporters club in Philly which it’s currently lacking.

      • pyromania

        June 20, 2011 at 9:09 am

        hey brian ,
        I concur we need more representation in philly 🙂
        you should def come out to the city , shoot me a mail sometime .. I am already pumped for the new season.

  2. StayThirsty

    June 16, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    Great write-up! I am a first-year Chelsea fan, and newbie to the EPL. I enjoyed participating in Soccer when I was younger, but never thought of it as much of a spectator sport…I would occasionally watch an MLS game and get wrapped up in the uber-patriotism of the World Cup, but I never found that connection that I had with other teams in US “Big 4” (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL).

    That is until I was sitting in a bar in Salt Lake City 2,500 miles from home watching a group of Brits get trashed and sing “You’ll never walk alone” at the top of their lungs…Their enthusiasm rivaled that of any other fanbase I have ever seen, and after talking to them I started to pay more attention to just how popular this sport is around the world. I wanted to be a part of that!

    My brother-in-law has always been a Liverpool fan, so I had to jump on the Chelsea train to antagonize him. Of course, that simply got sweeter when Torres transferred – although I was the one that actually got ribbed over that. (He’ll come around!)

    Anyway, all this to say that although I am a fan of Chelsea, overall I am a fan of the EPL. It was exciting to research and here that the scores of the table were tighter than they have ever been – the lows were higher and the high teams were lower. Analysts agonized over these numbers but it really means ALL of the teams are becoming more competitive. What a great time to be a fan of Football! You never know what will happen in a game…

  3. Mark

    June 16, 2011 at 7:30 am

    Really good article. Well written. Well done Brian

    Being a born and bred Evertonian from Liverpool I have to agree with Larry O’Hara’s points. In addition I would like to offer the following:

    It is impossible to fall in love with something that you picked by putting a pin against a piece of paper. That is not true love and therefore you are not “cheating” on Chelsea, you are just enjoying someone elses company.

    There are two sayings which I think are appropriate in understanding a true Evertonians feelings.

    The first is “There are only two true loves in this world, a dogs love for his master and a fans love of his football team.

    And the second is known to all Evertonians and ingrained on our souls:

    “Evertonians are born not manufactured. We do not choose we are chosen. Those that understand need no explanation. Those that dont understand don’t matter.”

    Read that last quote a few times and see if it rings a bell, maybe it is that you think you have been cheating on Chelsea when in reality, you have been chosen and did’nt realise it!!

  4. Jake

    June 16, 2011 at 6:33 am

    I don’t get why its okay to like Chels but not Man City. Whatever Chels and MCity get are not real. They didn’t grow. They just bought their way in. Same goes for the new LP. It’s all outside money. Only Arsenal, Man U and Spurs are honest in growth. The other 3 have spent outside money and a ton of it.

  5. Larry O'Hara

    June 16, 2011 at 4:26 am

    As a life-long Everton fan, brought up in Liverpool, I am impressed how many of you seem to ‘cheat’ with my club. If I may though, point to the root of your problem–your original choice was made by sticking a pin in a map and seeing who was highest. That way, you never (you hope) get to experience the pain that is an essential part of being a football fan. To paraphrase Shakespeare, what know they of success who only success know? Everton’s recent history is like a Shakesperean tragedy–denied of entry into Europe with our best team by the Heysel tragedy (involving LFC fans) we have fallen financially behind. Yet we have an amazing manager who gets the team to punch way above our weight, and the most passionate fans you ever did see. Yet still we have no money, and a chairman who seems to not want to sell. I appeal to those who are cheating–get a divorce, and join the band of brothers (& sisters) that is Everton. When we do get our first trophy since 1995, it will not have been bought by Russian Mafia money, but earned…

    • brian c

      June 16, 2011 at 7:10 pm

      Hi Larry,

      I’m also surprised by your observation. I happen to also agree with you 100%. The Toffies are a solid, well run organization which earns the respect it gets. It doesn’t buy trophies, in part due to lack of resources but they’re consistently a top-half team with minimal resources. Imagine if Moyes had some decent cash to move around and what he could do.

  6. jsint11

    June 16, 2011 at 12:08 am

    Thanks for the great post! This scenario sounds way too familiar.

  7. brian c

    June 15, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    Thanks guys. Glad you all liked it and that I’m not alone here. Happy this went over much better than my first blog post. I thought I was alone on cheating on my club.

    My boy who’s a massive chelsea fan from west london (who I wrote about) commented on my facebook pic with myself in my Landon jersey and said “why are you wearing a toffies jersey?” Looks like we’ll have a long chat when he gets back to work from his vacation.

  8. BBC

    June 15, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    My mistress is Everton, too

  9. Gav

    June 15, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    Nah, Lyle’s wrong. It was a fun article.

    I too made the mistake of falling in love with Chelsea for the wrong reasons and now cheat with Everton pretty consistently. They just have more soul and a quality underdog is always more fun than the ‘Big club that’s expected to win.’ I’ve never been a ship jumper though (witness my 22 years as a Pittsburgh Pirates fan in which they’ve had 18 consecutive losing seasons), so I’ll just try to stick by Chelsea and hope they stop making me feel so dirty.

  10. Lyle

    June 15, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Never begin a sports article by telling us that you broke up with your girlfriend recently.

  11. Keith

    June 15, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    Wow I have the same internal conflict. I love Chelsea when they’re doing what they’re supposed to like the 6-0 win against Wigan last year but I can’t stand half the team. And no player represents this internal clash more than Ashley Cole. On the pitch he’s my favorite player. I like nothing more than seeing Malouda walk in towards the box and then flick the ball towards the corner and out of nowhere comes a blue streak that is Ashley Cole. I love his toughness and how he seems to play the best when he’s jeered at. I get Arsenal fans hating him for leaving (and going across town at that) and I get that most fans think he’s a pompous ass that represents all that is wrong with football players. But I don’t get why everyone hates him over Cheryl. Yeah, she’s hot. But it’s not like he ruined her or something, she’s the celeb she is because of him. And I say this to myself and then he shoots someone at the training ground. What an idiot. I love Terry, I love Lamps, and I love Essien. But man sometimes I hate Anelka, Drogba, and Malouda. I have this love hate thing with Chelsea. When they’re on TV I can’t leave, I get jittery and I feel for the team but off the pitch I ask myself why I like them. Why not Arsenal or Tottenham who do it the right way?

    My favorite team in the world is my local Detroit Red Wings. I love them not only because they have their system that they play (and until last year played alone), nor because of their unprecedented success before and after the salary cap implementation, but because they develop their talent. They find these Swedish and Russian and Czech gems in rounds 4, 5, 6, and 7 in the draft and let them over rippen on the farm team before coming up the NHL. Then they start them on the checking line (which for non-hockey fans is the defensive, not scoring line) or the 3rd line and make them earn their promotion up and up and up.

    And Chelsea does none of this. Or Bruma and McEachran and Kakuta and Sturridge and Bertrand would actually play some. But we don’t. And Bruma got loaned and Kakuta got loaned and Sturridge got loaned (AND TORE UP THE EPL) and McEachran and Bertrand sat on the bench and played junk minutes in junk games. Nobody can tell me Bertrand or McEachran aren’t ready. They’re not ready for Carling Cup action? How about when everyone is hurt and we’re playing Wigan or Blackburn or West Ham?

    I hate this team and I love them. And I don’t know why.

  12. Russian Megalomaniac

    June 15, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    Well said.

    As a Chelsea supporter since the days of Ranieri I’ve watched the squad develop from a top ten team to a top two team. I too am ‘let down’ when they can only manage 3 goals against the likes of West Brom. and lately I’ve loathed the Utd and Liverpool matches. I bask in the days of Mourinho when these matches were inevitable wins, when teams feared Chelsea and when the Bridge was fortress. When you knew deep down that you could count on one hand the number of goals conceded at home in a season. It’s wonderful to see Chelsea playing a more fluid and open style but the lure of guaranteed 3 points that Mourinho cultivated is hard to ignore.

    As someone who doesn’t live in the UK I think it’s easy to support a few clubs without feeling much guilt. Bolton has always held a special place for me. I can thank Jay-Jay Okocha for that.

  13. SeattlePat

    June 15, 2011 at 11:39 am

    A very well written piece. Of course, as an Everton supporter who married a Chelsea girl, our house is basically a representation of your internal conflict when those two teams meet.

    I think it’s okay to support multiple teams in the Premier League. I’ve always been an Everton fan, but also support Fulham for the number of Americans they’ve always seemed to have hanging around (McBride, Keller, Mastroeni, Dempsey, even Eddie Johnson). Bolton has gotten a bit of love from me too recently with the elan they’ve played with (and Stuart Holden doesn’t hurt). And who didn’t love Blackpool last season?

    There’s nothing wrong with “cheating” a little. Every team has slumps, it’s nice to be able to focus on something else while that’s happening. Of course, if it’s a hometown team, then it’s a little tougher. Some day the Sounders will figure it out…

  14. i like tuesday

    June 15, 2011 at 11:09 am

    Nice piece – I’d been meaning to write a little something about my troubled relationship with Chelsea all season but never could quite put it together. Shortly after moving to London, I found myself tottering home up the North End Road on Friday nights from a pub we called the “Slut and Legless” next door to the Bridge. I figured that I should support my local team, even if I felt little initial attraction. The relationship intensified as Chelsea transformed from being a blend of underachieving aesthetes and hard-to-love misfits into an Rouble-slathered tabloid circus and Mourinho personality cult. Like you, other clubs have caught my eye since then but nothing ever matches that doomed first love.

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