For the second time this month, I saw myself heading off to the big smoke to see my beloved Swans take on another premier league giant – this time in the shape of the multi-national, multi-million pound stars of Chelsea. They’re quite a bit like Manchester City really, only poorer.
The trip took on all the more significance as I was accompanied by Loughor’s very own answer to Bear Grylls – Plastic Jack – whom was making his Swans away game debut.
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt travelling to lots of Swans away games, it’s that leaving early is always a good idea. As a result, we were on the road by 07:30 and made speedy progress along the M4 to our tube station destination (try saying that after a few beverages) of Hounslow West – which is just off junction 3 of the M4.
In fact, I’d recommend catching the tube from Hounslow West for ANY game in London (especially if you’re coming along the M4) as it’s free to park there and costs just £8 for unlimited day travel on the underground between zones 1-5, which pretty much covers all the London based teams.
Here is Plastic Jack posing in his one and only Swans jersey at the tube station.
Walking down Earls Court Road (just like the old Swans song – minus the Mumbles of course) we came across Penywern Road and just for a micro-second, we thought we were in Ystalyfera… until we noticed the abundance of grand houses. Right that’s enough of the geography, moving on swiftly…
We all met up in a pub called the Courtfield which is pretty much opposite the tube station and was already rather busy with Chelsea fans by the time we got there at 11:30. It was a decent enough place – if a bit dark and dingy – but the welcome was good with no bother whatsoever. It was rather amusing however to see the bemused looks from the locals as we proceeded to speak to each other in Welsh – with the odd bit of English here and there.
It was also at this point that I realised that Plastic Jack and Teacher Jack really needed to go and get a room together – such was the intensity and passion with which they spoke about the Scarlets and Welsh rugby in general. Now although I’m an ex-rugby player myself, I did find all this talk a bit weird, given that this was after all a football away day!
As noon approached we headed off to the Kings Head pub where we’d arranged to meet a larger group of TwitterJacks (whom are Swansea City fans on Twitter for those of you not in the know) for some pre-match food and conversation. It was good to see the Oxford Jacks once again and to finally get to meet Windsor Jack – although I did find his story about Fatima Whitbread’s sexiness rather disturbing to say the least!
I’d been warned that the barman at the Kings Head was of Cardiff origin, but unfortunately such facts couldn’t be substantiated on the day. However, judging by the paltry, wafer thin, dried edge, piece of ham served with my egg and chips (costing £6.95) I suspect he might well have been exacting a wee bit of revenge. Bless it must be hard supporting a lower league football team 🙂
By 14:15 we were on our way to the game and opted against catching the tube to Fulham Broadway in favour of a walk on what was bizarrely a surprisingly warm and sunny September day. We made the 20 minute walk to the ground without any bother – despite passing a couple of “spotters” – and were soon queueing to get into the shed!
After being searched no less than 4 times, we made our way to the inner concourse and I can see why it’s called the ‘Shed End’. Space wasn’t at a premium (unlike Arsenal) and you can see that Stamford Bridge is a ground that has been built up over the years as the club has grown, or rather as the bank balance has.
It was also nice to see a collection being made outside the ground for the Swansea Valley Miners Appeal Fund, as well as Chelsea donating the monies from their match day raffle and offering to double to the amount raised. A nice gesture indeed from a club whose reputation is probably more associated with the infamous ‘Chelsea Headhunters’ of the 1970’s than being a club of goodwill and respect. Da iawn.
So what of the game, well I’ll summarise my observations in the form of bullet points – as is the norm for me nowadays – rather than re-iterate what you can read elsewhere in terms of a full match report.
- As has been the case with all 6 PL games to date, we started off well and didn’t appear overawed by the stature of our opponents – which is always a good thing. In fact Chelsea appeared somewhat rattled by the lack of ‘respect’ – for want of a better word – that we showed them;
- It was also quite noticeable that until the Torres goal, we’d restricted Chelsea to long range efforts on goal and crazy as it sounds in a 4-1 defeat, I’ve seen us play a heck of a lot worse defensively than that;
- That said, at least 2 of the Chelsea goals were sloppy in my opinion and I felt that Vorm wasn’t as quick to react as he had been in previous games. That said, he did make a couple of other good saves though;
- The Torres tackle was shocking and I shudder to think what state would have been on Mark Gower’s leg/ankle if he had made full contact with his 2 footed raised feet challenge!
- We created several good goal scoring opportunities but a lack of cutting edge and luck once again haunts us in front of goal – especially away from home;
- The video I have of one of these unlucky chances (Nathan Dyer hitting the crossbar) can’t be shared with you right now, as YouTube and the Premier League have issued me with a copyright infringement warning!! I’ll tell you more about that later in the week;
- The Swans fans reaction to Ashley Williams’ goal spoke volumes about how passionate we are about the club and indeed about how realistic the majority are about our PL journey (i.e. just enjoy every single minute);
- Overall we simply couldn’t compete for the full 90 minutes with the pace, power and overall class of the expensively assembled Chelsea team;
- My picks for the Swans were Leon Britton, Garry Monk and Mark Gower – with decent contributions from Scott Sinclair and Nathan Dyer;
- I’m still not convinced by Lita or Routledge. Lita seemed well off the pace (unlike last weekend) and I can’t help but feel that Routledge’s heart simply isn’t in wearing a Swans shirt. Both of which were in stark contrast to Danny Graham, who came on and seemed prepared to run through a brick wall, such was his work rate and enthusiasm. We need players like that if we’re going to do well this season;
- The chants of “Swansea Reject” and “You Jack Bast*rd” at Frank Lampard whilst he was warming up were quality and even he managed to have a chuckle at them;
- The 3,100+ Jacks were once again in fine voice, with the “You’re only here to watch the Swans” chant appearing to amuse the locals somewhat;
- Thankfully – in terms of noise – Stamford Bridge wasn’t a library, but perhaps more akin of a kindergarten. I find this rather odd – but suspect it’s the norm for numerous reasons up and down the country (for reasons I won’t go into here!);
- The stewarding was far from friendly and in some causes bordered on harassment – even to the extent of ushering us out after the game – despite there still being long queues! There were also issues because of the language barrier in some cases;
- Seeing Petr Cech ask Scott Sinclair for his jersey was rather a strange sight. Even Scotty was taken aback and pointed to Michel Vorm as if to say you want to swap goalkeepers jerseys? Cech’s response was to once again point at Sinclair… they duly swapped shirts. To date, it has always been the other way around!
After the final whistle blew, I took comfort in the fact that we’d acquitted ourselves relatively well and scored our first away goal in the premier league. The fact is we’d simply been outdone by a classy top 4 outfit and there was certainly no shame in that.
Upon leaving the ground, we encountered our one and only bit of confrontational banter with a couple of Chelsea “fans” whom were visibly inebriated/high as kites. We later learned that these two beauties and their accompanying “well fit birds” (NOT) hailed from Devon or rather the Chelsea supporters club from that area.
After the initial (and oh-so predictable) anti-Welsh comments, we then had the laughable… “We’re from Exeter, you know them, you Swans were playing them only a few seasons ago, remember? Only 90 minutes away from non-league remember? You’ll be playing them again soon!”. Now as much as this got under my skin and I was tempted to give some verbal retort, I decided that it simply wasn’t worth the bother. After all, they probably couldn’t read and they couldn’t write, but apparently they could drive a tractor!?
It also begged the question of course as to why they weren’t supporting Exeter City and not Chelsea, but heck we know the answer to that don’t we. Bloody plastics 🙂
The remainder of our walk – including a short cut through the vast yet overgrown Brompton cemetery – was pleasant and we were stopped outside several pubs (the Imperial and Prince of Wales being two which I remember) by Chelsea fans wanting to have a friendly natter, offer of a pint or two and a farewell hand-shake (not that sort!) before moving on.
All the Chelsea fans we met were generally complimentary about our style of play, Nathan Dyer, Angel Rangel, how noisy the Swansea fans were and the predictable – yet condescending – “we hope you’ve enjoyed your day out”.
We duly arrived at West Brompton tube station and proceeded to board the next tube to Earls Court in order to change for the final leg of our tube journey to Hounslow. Trust us then to find the one tube full of stone island clad Swans fans with the 10+ British Transport Police officers in tow. All I can say is I bet the train journey from Paddington must have been an interesting one!
After queuing for a short space of time, we were on our way to Hounslow and the M4 was beckoning by 18:30. Whilst at Hounslow tube station, we did our good deed for the day and gave our unlimited day travel passes to two unsuspecting ladies queuing to get their tickets. Despite us not speaking Polish, they were happy and so were we.
The journey home was rather eventful! We almost ran out of fuel and thankfully we just made it to Magor services in time. Although it was at the services we were encountered some rather strange people whom thought it hilarious to play football in the gents toilets – complete with imaginary ball, sliding tackles and Gordon Banks’ heroics. Messy and bizarre.
Fair play to Plastic Jack for being our driver for the day, he did a splendid job and I was back home by 21:30. So all in all it was another enjoyable and eventful away day with the Swans and my Scarlets loving, egg chasing, Plastic Jack friend appears to have now caught the away day bug too.
I do wish he’d stop calling it “soccer” though…