A decade ago when I lived in the UK I loved the character Roger Mellie in the adult comic Viz. He was a foul-mouthed TV host who couldn’t stop bleating out expletives at every opportunity despite the best efforts of his producer Bob.
My friend Gordon, also originally from Belfast but now living in California, referenced him in a text he sent me after the Barcelona game. It read: “**** me Bob.”
Like all of you I’m sure, I’ve read, discussed, watched and thought about the match nonstop since Tuesday. But nothing I’ve seen in the media sums up the excitement, the drama and the emotion as succinctly as that.
Mental. Crazy. Unbelievable. The greatest night in our history? I think so.
You may disagree. We haven’t won anything. Getting to the final is a great achievement of course, but we didn’t pick up a trophy. Yes there will be extra prize money, a raise in profile, a higher coefficient ranking and so on, but we will either be crowned champions of Europe or not. If not, then you may as well go out in the qualifying round, never mind lose the final.
I was in Stockholm when we beat Stuttgart in the European Cup Winners’ Cup final, and a few months later went to , to see us defeat Real Madrid in the European Super Cup. So were they better nights? How do you define “better?” There were important nights that shaped the league campaign during each of our recent three league title winning seasons, and other fans could make a case for pivotal moments under the floodlights in late Spring. Hell – you could even argue that when Roman watched Real Madrid against Manchester United and decided he wanted to buy a football club, that was the most important night in our history. And we weren’t even playing!
But for me, no matter what happens in Munich next month, I’m going with my gut. Those 90-odd minutes in the Nou Camp had everything. Thrills. Joy. Despair. Irony. You couldn’t make it up.
When you’ve been watching Chelsea for almost four decades, your memory fades and matches blend together and you struggle to differentiate games, seasons and even years. You have small details that flash up in your mind and for a fleeting second you are transported back to a sunny Highbury for the FA Cup semi-final, a Kanu hat-trick at a rainy Stamford Bridge, or sliding your way down a terracing in Tromso. Already this week’s heroics are dissipating into a series of snapshots: A wee pre-match feeling that it just might – just might – be our night… the first Barcelona goal seeming to happen in slow motion… the replay of Terry’s foul… a glimpse of Drogba’s coloured boots at outside left-back as I worked out we were set up as a 6-3-0… a bolt of energy as I realised Torres was through without a defender between him and the goal. I’m smiling as I write this right now. And probably will be for a while yet.
As I’ve mentioned before, being a stay-at-home dad without the use of a car in the afternoon means that I watch midweek games alone on my sofa. With 20 minutes left though my neighbour called and said he was coming over to watch the end of the match with me. He’s not even remotely a football fan – at least not our type of football – but I guess he got caught up in the drama. Or maybe he just felt sorry for me.
Either way, it was good to have someone to share our achievement with. But whether you were home alone, down the pub with your mates, or at the ground with the fans, I’m sure you enjoyed it. After all, maybe it was the greatest night in our history.
Stephen Rea is the author of the book Finn McCool’s Football Club, a tale of supporting Chelsea from the United States, the formation of a pub football team in New Orleans and the devastating effect of Hurricane Katrina on that city. Visit his site here: www.stephen-rea.com or friend him at www.facebook.com/stevorea
Please note : the views in many of our blogs are written by fans of Chelsea FC and are not necessarily the views of the club