Pat Nevin: Magical and memorable
column Tue 30 May 2017
In his final column of the season Chelsea legend and columnist Pat Nevin looks back on a campaign which will live long in the memory, and explains why he felt a sense of pride in the way those of a blue persuasion dealt with our Wembley disappointment…
So what do you really want when you consider the end of a season? I am guessing a bit of reasonable perspective as the passion and excitement recedes. I found just that perspective after the Cup final at the weekend as I walked out of Wembley and off towards Brent in search of a way back to central London. The numbers waiting at the tube station beggared belief, so a Chelsea TV colleague and I ambled away from the scrum in the other direction. We eventually came to a bar just south of Wembley Park which was blue from top to bottom and what a tonic it was.
There was no grumbling or griping, even though we had just lost the Cup final to Arsenal. There was simply a general acceptance that we had a great season and then had a bad 90 minutes on the last day. Yes their first goal shouldn’t have counted and on another occasion there could have been a decent amount of anger aimed towards Victor Moses for getting sent off. But he and the rest of the group have built up such a store of good will that the vast majority of Blues fans where quite unable to be anything other than reasonable and forgiving.
Plenty of the side had a quiet afternoon but even so, had we kept 11 men on the field and allowed Antonio to make his desired substitutions near the end, it might still have got us to extra time. Then we would have tested Arsenal’s resolve and their confidence. It is however all ifs and buts, we never got going and the better team won, a phrase I heard many times at the ground, outside and in that bar from fair-minded Chelsea supporters.
Chelsea fans aren’t always portrayed as being the most magnanimous, but there was a mild disappointment rather than devastation around the ground. That of course was also partly to do with the fact that no one in the UK is going to be overly serious about a football game so soon after the grotesque tragedy visited upon those innocents killed in Manchester earlier in the week.
There was however still one fairly light moment at the end of the game which everyone around me enjoyed. As we trudged down Wembley Way after the final whistle, Gooners to the right, Blues on the left with only a line of bollards separating us, one Arsenal fan ran over to our side and started screaming some offensive anti-Chelsea abuse to one of the two guys walking in front of me. It was so out of sync with the feeling around the place that we all just looked at him with disdain while the other Arsenal fans were shaking their heads with embarrassment too. Still he wouldn’t stop and eventually the guy in front of me who was getting the full force of the verbal volley stopped, turned round and slowly unzipped his jacket to reveal that he was wearing a nice bright red Arsenal top. The abuser tried and pretty much failed to melt back into the crowd as everyone, blue and red, laughed at his stupidity!
It may well be my enduring memory of the day in years to come, banter but no brutality. Disappointment but no devastation. A good level of realism that we are back after a bad season and looking forward to the Champions League, a defence of our title and maybe a few new faces to make that title defence more robust. In the meantime this season’s team had a final opportunity to bask in the warm glow of a job well done at the end of season awards dinner.
As ever it was a classy, sparkling do, very different from my days, when I sheepishly got up to accept the odd award in front of a couple of hundred people in a local hotel. The pictures are pretty good and the coverage on Chelsea TV was as ever compelling for those who couldn’t wangle a ticket.
The big news was of course Eden winning the Player of The Year award again, JT getting another now final send off with the thanks of fans, former players, current players, former managers and the current manager ringing in his ears. The Academy and Ladies teams were lauded and of course the entire first team were on show to accept the accolades too. It was particularly good to see the first team mixing, signing autographs and having the obligatory selfies well into the night.
Omid Djalili kept everyone entertained with cutting edge and knowledgeable football banter to round off an evening that refused to be dulled by defeat the day before. With N’Golo Kante getting another award, this time Players' Player of the Year, everyone left with smiles on their faces. It was, however, a Player of the Year event and it was fitting that Eden now equals Frank Lampard in being only the second player in Chelsea’s history to win the award three times. Us poor folk who have only won it twice have certainly been put in our places!
It was a magical season and it only leaves me to say thanks for listening to and reading my ramblings once again. It has been a pleasure, but then it always will be when you are wittering on about the champions of England. Let’s hope for more of the same next season, but whatever happens we will all keep the blue flag flying high, that is what true Chelsea fans always do. Enjoy the summer and be safe.