It started early enough. 3:30 am to be precise! That’s part and parcel of adjusting to new time zones when travelling. Within two hours, the low flying jets were screaming down over my B&B near Heathrow Airport. Low and behold, I spent the following hour watching planes fly above my head for a good hour or so. Beautiful things they are when seen from this angle.
Following a delicious yet dangerous English buffet breakfast, I made a dash for the 11:15 am stadium tour of Craven Cottage, home to Fulham FC, one of London’s oldest surviving football clubs. Craven Cottage itself is now a heritage listed location so one of England’s most stunning grounds will forever remain in its beautiful state. The club was originally known as “Fulham St. Andrews Football & Cricket Club”. Imagine commentators rolling that one out in 2017?
I’d recommend visiting Fulham FC for a match or at worst, the stadium tour. Well worth your time to visit one of London’s most beautiful areas. There are parks and cottages everywhere as you take a leisurely stroll from Putney Bridge tube station to the ground.
After the tour, I had to bolt like a blue arsed fly in order to make the 2:13 pm train from Euston to Birmingham. The ticket machine failed to work so I had to pester a Virgin rail staff member to print duplicates before sprinting through whordes of people only to just make the train as the doors were closing. Lucky break!
The only remaining seat in the carriage was next to a young Chelsea fan, Joe. As it happens, we spent the whole two hour journey talking about football and travel. It’s one of the great wonders of travel. You just never know who you will meet on the road. Joe is a dedicated Chelsea supporter. Home and away as well as Europe. He has a deep passion for the club and is a pretty decent fella to boot.
Once in the Brum, we found a pub heaving with Chelsea supporters which meant a good twenty minutes waiting to buy a beer. It was good banter and spirits all round. Bit of a party atmosphere as the Chelsea fans knew a win would secure their 5th Premier League title of the Roman era. Not wishing to spend another twenty minutes waiting to buy a drink, we popped into Tesco for some cans of Stella and jumped a tram to The Hawthornes for more pre-match antics.
Joe moved on to another away pub whilst I faced up to the serious challenge of obtaining a ticket for the match in the home end. They often say tickets for matches like these are impossible to get tickets for but I’ve never been one to subscribe to that theory so let me tell you why.
Dedpite their still being 1,509 unsold tickets for the West Brom v Chelsea match, the local side refused to offer them up as a general sale in fear of Chelsea supporters getting in and causing trouble. The club were also threatening season ticket holders with heavy penalties if they sold their match ticket onto away supporters. It didn’t stop some of them doing it though. There were swaves of Japanese tourists wandering about with Chelsea shirts, selfie sticks and match tickets. They must spend absurd sums of money to get tickets for matches like this. I personally would never spend stupid money to watch a football match. Touts are a blight on the game and sadly, too many people are happy to pay £400 plus for a ticket worth £39.
My first trick was to straight up try my luck in the ticket office. I was met with a stern looking lady who refused to budge despite my trickery. Next trick was to linger around the ticket office in hope that someone would be trying to offload a spare. My theory is you see, there are always going to be spare tickets for matches. You just have to put yourself in the right place at the right time. Positive energy gets you absolutely everywhere.
With thirty minutes to go before kick off, it was time to change tactics. I started openly asking Albion supporters if they would buy me a ticket. I was met with refusal after refusal and even some stern lectures. Try, try and try again. Which I did. Eventually, I found a young lad who bought me a ticket on his membership and we got in with time to spare. It was a great match with some decent Albion counter attacking on offer as the game went on and Chelsea pushed for a winner.
That winning goal eventually came for the rent boys from London thanks to some random I’d never heard of, Michy Batshuayi in the 82nd minute. The winning goal was also the clincher for the title, their 6th overall. What followed was a blight on the Albion home fans. Something that was well out of order.
With scatterings of delirious Chelsea fans in the home end, some of them couldn’t help but celebrate the winner which in turn, led to some Albion supporters battering them beyond belief. One unlucky Chelsea punter had no less than seven thugs lay into him not too far from where I was seated. The attackers all looked like bald headed grubby bouncers from seedy nightclubs. You know the sort yeah? Now, we are talking abouts pack of men (grubs) aged well into their fifties laying into one guy who just wanted to see his side clinch the title. Other pockets of fighting broke out around the ground with some Chelsea supporters having to run onto the pitch to avoid getting pumbled. The West Bromwich club must take the blame for this by their insistence that Chelsea supporters were not to be admitted into the home end. If the shoe was on the other foot, you can be certain that Albion supporters would have tried to do the same.
The rest of the night became a blur with a long train journey back to London where I found my hostel bed sometime around 3 am! If yesterday was anything to go by, it’s going to be a cracking three weeks ahead.