On Sunday afternoon, or Monday morning in my case, Tottenham will go up against Chelsea in the Capital One Cup Final (or the Carling Cup in old money). Believe it or not, Tottenham have reached five cup finals in my lifetime and I have been to every one…..until now. This is not through any lack of desire on my part but mostly because I am a 24-hour commute and a guaranteed divorce away from Wembley. I don’t know whether this is a good thing or not as we have triumphed in the majority of the finals that I have attended, winning three and losing two. As always, I guess it is a matter of perspective. If you live in a make believe world of Care Bears, rainbows and lollypops you might say that the odds are stacked in our favour. However, if you live in a world of Jose Mourinho, ISIS and the Ebola virus then you would expect things to be evened up in demoralising fashion. After all, it is common knowledge that if Chelsea can succeed, they invariably will. If they can succeed and inflict damage and humiliation on Spurs, they definitely will (Source: Champions League Final, 2012). Yet further proof that all the dirty money in the world may be able to buy Andrei Shevchenko, but it certainly cannot buy class. Unless of course, you use it to buy Klass-Jan Huntelaar. In which case I don’t know what to believe anymore……
In light of the upcoming clash, I have dedicated this blog to some of my past experiences against Chelsea. This could go one of two ways. It could be upbeat and inspirational ahead of the biggest game of our season or it could be utterly soul destroying given our abysmal record against them in recent years. Thankfully, there are a few exceptions to this rule. Most notable would be the 2008 Carling Cup Final victory. I went to this game with my Dad and best mate, fully expecting a drubbing but determined to enjoy a day out at the new Wembley nevertheless. Getting to the ground was relatively hassle free. This was back in the days when Chelsea fans would allow other people to board the trains, so we got there in no time. Once we arrived however, we were greeted with the usual gaggle of goose-stepping Chelsea fans, behaving in a manner that would not be out of place in Apartheid-era South Africa. This wasn’t my first run in with Chelsea fans and it certainly wouldn’t be the last but we will get to that shortly.
As far as the game is concerned, Didier Drogba got his customary goal against Spurs before treating us to a one man, amateur dramatics showcase. In the 75 minutes that followed his opening goal, he went down more often than Malaysia Airlines. But in between the theatrics, Dimitar Berbatov found time to equalize from the spot and it ended 1-1 after 90 minutes. Just four minutes into extra time, Jonathan Woodgate got his face in the way of an attempted clearance which inadvertently found its way into the back of the net. It wasn’t pretty but we had taken the lead. For those of you that have read my previous posts, you will know that my attitude towards Spurs is rarely a stones throw away from manic depression. With this in mind, I responded accordingly by declaring grumpily that we had ‘’scored too early”. Despite my pessimism, we managed to hold on and win a rare piece of silverware. I have never lived that comment down.
As I mentioned earlier, this wasn’t my first run in with Chelsea fans. When I was 13 years old, my uncle took my cousin and I to watch us play at Stamford Bridge. We did what Spurs always do at Stamford Bridge, we started brightly and gave the fans a glimmer of hope before conceding a sloppy goal and falling apart quicker than a leper in a wind tunnel. Another miserable day in West London. But then things started to get interesting. My uncle, not the paternal type at the best of times, decided to call it a day. Having fulfilled his obligations for the weekend, he dropped us at the nearest tube station and drove off into the sunset. We were 13 years old, dressed head to toe in Spurs garb and deep in Chelsea territory. We did our best to remove any incriminating Tottenham memorabilia and huddled together on a bench whilst throngs of Chelsea supporters, dressed almost exclusively in Hackett, stalked the platform. At one stage, a menacing looking skinhead was staring directly at us whilst desperately trying to recruit his mates to help him go and bash a nearby group of Spurs fans that had been separated from the herd. Thankfully, he was not talking about us. We were being ignored or at the very least, tolerated. It was like that scene in Lord of the Rings, when in the middle of a raging battle, Frodo puts the ring on his finger and becomes invisible. It was only when we got off the train later that evening when I realized that in the panic and stress of being abandoned by our only adult supervision, I had forgotten to remove a small Spurs badge from my jacket pocket. But nothing had happened to us, we had come through unscathed. As a result of this we came to the conclusion that, much like a T-Rex, a Chelsea fans vision is based purely on movement……and the colour of your skin, obviously. More through luck than judgment, we had lived to hide another day.
Despite the recently publicised events in Paris, I must point out that this kind of behaviour only represents a minority of Chelsea fans. The majority are much, much worse! I jest. But all the same, I am sure that John Terry will sleep much easier, snuggled up to Gary Cahill’s wife, knowing that his racist legacy is in safe hands and will live on long after his impending retirement. And as for me, I will be hoping against hope that we can repeat the heroics of 2008 whilst also coming to terms with missing my first ever final. Instead, I can look forward to the unique camaraderie that only comes from 3am kick offs, watered down lager and misplaced hope. But more than anything, I really hope that we don’t score too early!