Freelance writer and journalist based in west London.
Published April 22nd 2013
Cheer on the Boys at the Bridge
In the last five years alone, Chelsea Football Club has won, amongst other plaudits, a league title, three FA Cups, a Community Shield and in 2012, became the first London club to win the UEFA Champions League. In 2013, the International Federation of Football History and Statistics ranked Chelsea the best club in the world, replacing Barcelona at the top of the rankings. Since 2003, it's been owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and last year named by Forbes Magazine as the seventh most valuable football club in the world. So if you're not affiliated with a particular team, but like football and have the chance to see 'The Blues' at their home ground of Stamford Bridge, there's a high chance you're in for an entertaining time.
It's true that tickets don't come cheap and are usually the preserve of members. But if you can get your hands on one, Chelsea fans are a die-hard bunch and you'll be swept up in their very vocal support very quickly. There's no doubt it's a great experience to watch a partisan crowd cheer their team on their own turf.
Chelsea has only ever had one ground, Stamford Bridge. It actually started life in 1877 as an athletics arena, but in 1904 was bought by two businessmen with the aim of staging football matches. Chelsea is unique in the sense that usually, football clubs are founded and then they look for grounds to play in. In this case, Chelsea FC was founded for 'The Bridge' and the club moved in in 1905. Terraces started to be constructed in the 1930's, the most famous of which was the Shed End. No one really knows why it got that name; it could have been because the roof of the terrace looked like a corrugated iron shed roof. When new laws were introduced in 1994, dictating that grounds had to be all-seated affairs, the construction of most of the present stadium began. But there is a plaque commemorating the Shed End, which historically was where the team's most loyal supporters stood.
These days Stamford Bridge is a pretty impressive stadium. The Matthew Harding Stand, named in memory of the Chelsea director who was killed in a helicopter accident and whose loan helped with its redevelopment, is now the home of those most faithful fans. In general, the seats are much closer to the pitch which helps add to the atmosphere. The ground as it is today was completed in 2001 and has a capacity of 41, 798.
The excitement and anticipation on match days begins the minute you get off at the nearest tube stop (West Brompton or Fulham, both on the District Line). Roads are closed around the stadium and you become part of a sea of blue as you walk towards it. There are plenty of places to eat and drink once you're inside. There's a museum which tells the story of the club and which holds regular meet and greets and tours with former Chelsea players. There's also a large shop with all the merchandise you could ever think of.
But what was it like to go and see a match? Quite simply; brilliant. Security was quick and friendly. There are numerous other attendants waiting to help you. My seat was very high up but gave a great view of the whole pitch. I was surrounded by lifelong supporters, families, friends, visitors and tourists. I was hoarse the next day from screaming and cheering for Chelsea just like the majority of the thousands of other people there. You can see why people go every week and spend thousands each year. You're left buzzing. And on my visit, Blue certainly was the colour. Chelsea won. 2 – 1.