May 06th 2014. Wayne Bridge announces his retirement.
Renowned Chelsea author, Walter Otton gives us his thoughts on Wayne Bridge’s retirement and how he helped turn the tide against Arsenal…
I’m on my computer scrolling through my Twitter timeline when I notice a tweet saying Wayne Bridge has retired…. And straight away it makes you think about that night at Highbury. I watched that match with my mates in the rammed Shed Bar at Stamford Bridge. It was April 06th 2004. I drift away for a moment, lost in the memory of a couple of hundred plastic pint glasses hitting the ceiling in euphoric unison as Bridgey pulled the trigger and drove a bullet past Lehman.
Out of all the tweets I’ve read over the last couple of hours, these by Gary stand out:
@cfcgazz: That night at Highbury when Bridge scored is probably the best Euro away I’ve done other than Barcelona 2012. What a night.
@cfcgazz: As a club, could argue that was one of the most important games in our history. Arsenal never got near us after that season.
Each month I submit an article to the cfcuk fanzine. Below is an amalgamation of two separate articles written in June and November 2013 that I have chopped and edited. I suppose it focuses on the tables turning regarding the Arsenal and Chelsea rivalry which has flipped quite spectacularly in favour of Chelsea Football Club.
‘Remember you are Chelsea and Chelsea is style.’
It is a beautiful June evening. I sit at the bar on the West coast of France enjoying conversation with a few of the French lads who work here. They’d all finished their respective shifts on the site with their various jobs and duties for the day behind them. Now they’ve settled back in their stools for the Brazil v France friendly football match. We talked a lot – me more than them – firing questions about the French league and the national team, as the pints of Hoegaarden worked their way into my system to meet and greet the cheap yet stunning bottle of local white wine I’d savoured earlier.
The dominant French number five takes out Neymar. Crunch. Have that. Fair challenge, and all. Dominic, behind the bar, tells me that this centre back currently plays for PSG, and I point out that Neymar is going to the Nou Camp. Barca are welcome to the berk. Well suited to each other. Whoever advised Neymar to avoid the Premier League advised him well. No place for that stupid, pathetic haircut in South West London or anywhere in England for that matter; the camera zooming in on him now so he pouts slightly as he checks himself out on the big screen adorning the magnificently redeveloped stadium. Someone should tell him he’s playing a football match on green grass, this isn’t a film premier full of stars posing on a red carpet.
Oscar knows the score, I reckon. Oscar has the bollocks for it. His sleight frame compensated by his perfect balance – bouncing off the Premier League bad boys and nicking the ball first – toe poking a nutmeg, beating another man and whipping a ball in – feet on the ground but no head in the sky, yep he is level headed this one.
Some French player goes to ground after a nothing tackle and tumbles over a few times. The physiotherapist and doctor are on the pitch, pulling him up and feeling his ribs and squeezing him from behind – the slow motion replay shows he was slightly kicked on his calf of all places – his CALF – makes me mad watching these twats with their ridiculous hairstyles and pathetic tattoos – playing the hard man yet can’t stay on their feet – can’t even get a proper haircut either.
Oscar scores. Then he is subbed. The Brazilian crowd boo Scolari’s decision to withdraw him. The camera zooms up on Giroud, the Arsenal player on the French substitute bench. Pre Roman, I don’t think Arsenal ever really hated us, because back then they practically always beat us – but boy they ENVIED US – and this envy really rattles their own cages – gets right under their skin. I explain this to my French pals, getting across to them how, in my opinion, this pans out.
As a young teenager I watched in awe from the Clock End as Chelsea took the North Bank. I knew Arsenal would never take The Shed. That was the difference. Off the pitch we were the masters. It wasn’t just the terraces and our variety of songs, it was the fashion and the style – the swagger and the reputation – even the authors.
The authors. Chelsea have John King and Martin Knight. Arsenal have Nick Hornby and Jonathan Creek. We are Chelsea and Chelsea is style. The essence of this difference – this gap, this chasm, this envy, is found in the simplicity of a drink. Peter Osgood, the King of the Kings Road, sipped champagne out of the FA Cup. Arsenal blow hot steam off a plastic cup of milky frothy coffee. Ashley Cole’s won a European Cup. William Gallas cried on the pitch and left them for T*ttenham. And to put the cherry on the cake, we regularly beat Arsenal now, all ends up. And now Jose is back. And they can’t stand it. We know he is Special. ‘The’ Arsenal call him obnoxious as they bleat an empty ‘Chavski’ insult in our direction. Our response is to light a fat cigar, put our feet up and watch their blood boil some more as their has-been of a manager bangs another nail in his own coffin, his own supporters digging his grave for him – each boo that resounds from their mouths is another shovel full of earth extracted from Wenger’s imminent resting place.
Remember you are Chelsea and Chelsea is style!
Arsenal 0-2 Chelsea; October 29th 2013.
On Tuesday 24th September I was in Budapest in a hostel getting ready to go out and find a bar that might just be showing Swindon v Chelsea in the League Cup. After successfully tuning into free wifi I tweeted: Beat Swindon. Get Arsenal away next round. 9000 Chelsea tickets. And then of course, it only went and happened. Over the next three weeks social media was in hyperdrive with the demand of tickets; arguments over loyalty points; baiting the opposition and arrangements for pre match boozing which, for many, began at lunchtime.
Not only do the Police agree to let us have 9000 fans (they could’ve insisted on 5000) but Arsenal stick to their League Cup policy (huge credit to them) charging £10 and £20 for tickets. Credit to them.
The night before the match and I’m buzzing. It doesn’t matter how old I get the juices still get flowing every now and again. I mean, it’s only the League Cup, right? Wrong. We’ve taken a pounding down the years from that lot. Until Wayne Bridge bought tears to our (and Claudio’s eyes) in the CL at Highbury, we rarely had things go our way. Thinking back to that second leg (the first game was 1-1 so Arsenal had the away goal) well Arsenal NEVER THOUGHT THEY’D LOSE!!! That first leg was on 25/03/2004 and Kevin McCarra of The Guardian opened his match report with this statement:
“Chelsea were much improved against their habitual tormentors, yet still not quite good enough.”
Habitual tormentors. That they were. In October 1991 the away fans in the Clock End were packed in by 1.30pm – it wasn’t an all ticket match – so when the terracing was full, they shut the gate. So all the locked out Chelsea went home, right? Wrong! They went into the North Bank. From my position with Tall Paul on the away terrace, it was a beautiful sight watching a line of stewards and police frantically surround the few hundred Chelsea at the other end of the pitch. In their end. The Blues raced into a two goal lead through Le Saux and Kevin Wilson. We were loving it – both the Chelsea fans packed into the away terrace and those bouncing in the North Bank. An absolute liberty. However, goals from Lee Dixon, Ian Wright and Kevin Campbell gave Arsenal the points.
Our team that day was: Hitchcock, Stevie Clarke, Boyd (Allon), Jones, Elliott, Monkou, Le Saux, Townsend, Dixon, Wilson and Wise.
Waiting for the tube home I remember being taunted and scorned by several Gunners fans. Big of them to have a pop, wasn’t it. Another cruel match was of course the ‘Kanu hat-rick’ at the Bridge in 1999. Three goals in the last fifteen minutes. I was in pieces. Weren’t we all. Sickening. Of course, there are several other examples of those smug, replica-kit jerseys over hoody, Nick Hornby loving merchants putting one over us. Habitual tormentors.
How things changed since Wayne Bridge in 2004. We’ve had quite a decent ten years against our North London rivals since then. And now the scene was set for 9000 of us to invade the Emirates. Everyone was totally buzzing.
I met Smiffy at Waterloo after lunch for some beers. We made our way to Russell Square for a few more, meeting the Squadron Leader, Peter, Famous, Sam and Lucky – amongst others. Then Smiffy and I moved onto the Drayton to pick up Smiffys ticket from the lovely Lizzi D. Everyone had a massive singsong. Even ‘Urry Up Dave (after being hauled onto a bar stool) serenaded the multitudes. Outside the ground the queuing Chelsea supporters taunted their rivals: ASHLEY COLE’S WON THE EUROPEAN CUP! Inside the stadium the concourse was bouncing pre match and at half time. The Arsenal meltdown on Twitter lasted days. So did my smile.
Happy retirement, Bridgey. We’ve never looked back. We habitually torment them now.
By Walter Otton
Follow Walter on Twitter @WalterOtton
Walters ebooks ‘The Red Hand Gang’, ‘SHORTS!’ and ‘#ROE2RO’ are available via GATE17 on Amazon