Chelsea - Stamford Bridge
The Eurythmics once sang 'Sweet dreams are made of this', if there was ever any doubt that we are in the big boy's league then Sundays the day when it will finally sink in.
When I was a young lad on holiday with the family in London, Chelsea were opening their new stand in a game against Man City. My old man took me on the tube and we tried to take in a game, these were the days when pay on the gate was the norm and we were promptly hounded by a tout until Essex Snr finally caved in and paid less than a price of a programme in today's footballing world for 2 x tickets in Chelsea's new stand. Chelsea won 2-1 and Colin Bell scored. Today`s football seems a million years away from those days our current situation has seen us come a million miles in the last 4 years, Chelsea away in a league match I once read 'You'll feel dirty for liking it, but it's got a traditional feel, and there aren't many places better if you manage a win. The always-smug home punters - half gentrified, half old-school Burberry monkeys - don't understand defeat any more' for us - it won't get much better than this.
Stamford Bridge opened in 1877 as the home of London Athletics Club until 1904 when the lease was acquired by the Mears brothers who wanted to stage high profile football matches there. Stamford Bridge was built close to Lillie Bridge, an older sports ground which had hosted the first ever FA Cup Final in 1873 and was initially offered to Fulham who turned it down. It had an official capacity of 100000 and was the second largest ground in England after Crystal Palace and after WW1 hosted the FA Cup Final for 3 years until being replaced by Wembley.
In 1930 a new terrace was built on the South side for more standing fans, only part roofed it became known as the 'Shed End'. It remained until 1994 when it was demolished and replaced by an all seated stand, but the name still remains. We`ll be sat in the Shed, with 1400 making the trip.
Ken Bates redeveloped the Bridge borrowing almost £70million the end result now completed after his departure includes hotels, apartments, bars and restaurants and a museum. There are hopes to increase capacity from the current 41,841 to 55000 but this is built up London, space is at a premium and it's not as if they need the revenue raised from an extra 10000+ fans.
How to get there
M55 M6 South. Now you could go down the M1 and join the M25 leaving at J15, personally I'd suggest the M42 then the M40 joining the M25. At J15 take the M4 towards London, which then becomes the A4 up to Hammersmith. Carry on over the Hammersmith flyover and after a further one and half miles, take the turning Earls Court. Continue past Earls Court station and down the one way system until you reach the junction with Fulham Road. At this junction, turn right at the traffic lights and after about half a mile, you will see the ground on your right.
Sat navvers - SW6 1HS
I'd also suggest parking up and getting the tube. The nearest tube station is Fulham Broadway which is on the District Line. Take a tube to Earls Court and if necessary, change for a Wimbledon bound tube.
For the Virgin lovers amongst us - The nearest over ground train station is West Brompton, which is served by trains from Clapham Junction (which is in turn served by trains from London Waterloo and Victoria stations). It is around a 15 minute walk to the ground from West Brompton station. Turn right outside the station past the Tournament Pub, then right again into Brompton Cemetery. Walk on through the Cemetery (just follow the crowd) and Stamford Bridge is soon visible to the right. If it is a night game then turn right after the cemetery into Finborough Road. After a half-mile, turn right onto the Fulham Rd.
For those flying via Samm airways - The nearest airport to Stamford Bridge is London Heathrow, some 14 miles away. The Piccadilly Line runs from Heathrow to Earls Court tube station, which connects with Fulham Broadway.
Where to drink
Plenty of pubs on the Kings Road, for away fans is the Slug and Lettuce outside Fulham Broadway train station situated a few minutes walk from the ground.
About a 15 minute walk away from the ground near Parsons Green Tube Station is the White Horse. To find this pub with the new West Stand behind you turn right (up past where the away coaches are parked) up Fulham Road and into Fulham Broadway, passing the tube station on your right. Continue to follow Fulham Road around to the left and then take a left hand turn into Parsons Green Road. Go under the bridge passing Parsons Tube Station on your right and you will reach the White Horse pub on your left. Ale is on sale within the ground.
Stewards + Plod
Differing reports on stewarding but on the whole no real concerns. It's the met and we're Northerners say no more.
Fear Factor Rating - 3. We're everyone's second team. No anticipated problems
Now I've been back to the Bridge since the Eurythmics crooned that song watching the Pool, but bearing in mind this is Chelsea in the 21st century, current Premier League Champions, FA Cup holders, 100% league record, money no problem -
here's hoping that in my sweet dreams we get the same result there as we did on our last visit, well we can all dream can't we? As the bloke says on the telly - don't have nightmares.
Onwards + Upwards