Saturday 13th December 2014 – Chelsea 2 – 0 Hull City AFC
FA Premier League @ Stamford Bridge, London
A mixture of not being back in Yorkshire this Christmas and holibobs beforehand means this was my last Premier League game of a very eventful 2014.
And after a run of just one win in 8 games (draws away at Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton aside) not one I was looking forward to, particularly after last week’s tod fest at home to West Brom.
Nothing at all against Stamford Bridge and Chelsea, but with the league leaders losing away at Newcastle the prior weekend, they would surely be chomping at the bit to get back to winning ways. This could get messy. And it is probably unlikely that we would get a helping hand from the ball boys……
Previous visits to ‘The Bridge’ have been a mixture of all and nothing. A very credible, ten men on the goal line, 0-0 draw in ’09, incidentally the last game of Scolari’s ill-fated reign. The following season this fixture was the curtain raiser, in which we produced a performance that was in no way reflective of how the rest of that campaign would go (humiliation, Ian Dowie and relegation), with a Stephen Hunt opener being cancelled out and ultimate only worthy for the goal difference tally after Drogba’s shot come cross in the 9th minute of injury time.
Last season was pretty dull in fairness; 2-0 down at half time after which Chelsea coasted. We were in awe of them, Bruce tried to trade the Humber Bridge for Frank Lampard, and it was Mourinho’s first game back as the boss – it was never going to be a good result for us.
The script was different again this time, but the outcome exactly the same – defeat. Hull remain to win at Stamford Bridge. Ever.
But to the match shortly. Pre-game first….
Drinking around Stamford Bridge pre-match can be difficult for the away fan; most of the closer pubs are home fans only, and even if they weren’t, not the greatest of atmospheres. Chelsea fans have a reputation of being (and still like to think they are) ‘nawty’, so if you choose to sup round there, leave your colours at home and learn to enjoy plastic pint glasses.
Notting Hill Gate was our destination. Might seem far away but is only around 10 minutes from Fulham Broadway on the District Line (should it not be closed….) and with a good number of options to choose from. Choice that day was the Prince Albert, located at the South Exit of the tube station, just along the road.
If you are looking for a place full of football fans and a Sky TV, this place is probably not for you. If it is craft beers and chin wag you are after, then get stuck in. Great range of beers, and an amazing selection of burgers, toppings including ‘Fried egg and peanut butter’ and pickled onion monster munch! This is definitely worthy of ‘Worth a sup…‘, and given it’s location, an ideal pre-match boozer for both Chelsea and QPR, and at a stretch, Fulham.
Fed and watered, onto Stamford Bridge. A short hop from Fulham Broadway station, not much en-route other than burger vans, touts and scarf sellers. An interesting entrance to the away end though. The Ken Bates years saw Stamford Bridge developed into an all singing leisure and business park, complete with hotels, and at the front of the away end, a Marco Pierre White restaurant….!! Nothing better than a seven-course taster menu with the lads before the big game….
The away end is easy to spot – as always look for the throngs of stewards. Only difference at Chelsea is you have to show your ticket to all 48 of them individually before you get to the self-scan turnstile, after which you will be asked to show your ticket again, once more when you enter the bog, and lastly before you unzip your fly….ok the last one is a fib. Oh well – in fairness I barely noticed the stewards all day, which is to be applauded, but then we were all sat down and being quiet.
As with all old grounds, the concourse is pretty tight. Beer choice though is good – Black Shape and Asahi (and cheaper than the pub) amongst the usual weaker lagers, though they did run out of pies. I know the folk of Hull love a pie, but I doubt we ate them all before the match. The staff also wear ‘Come on the Tigers’ t-shirts; this is becoming more and more frequent at matches, as clubs try to foster a family experience. To be applauded – the grumpy in me though would rather they didn’t.
My seat that day was in the upper tier just behind the corner flag. Bit steep but very good view of the pitch.
The interior of Stamford Bridge looks pretty impressive, with banners hiding amongst all the Gazprom adverts adorning the likes of “JT – Leader”, “Super Franky Lampard” and “Chosen One”. I struggled to spot anything about Erland Johnson, Neil Shipperly or Kevin Peacock though – sort it out Chelsea. I was told prior to the match that the club puts these up before each game, not the fans. Regardless, it is nice to see something. Chelsea also have the flag flyers they have at Arsenal too. These only come out for goals though (so I got to see them twice!!!).
Chelsea enter the pitch to that famous all time classic ‘The Liquidator‘ – I heard a lot of fans around me moaning about this, but again, I think it’s a nice touch, alongside the likes of ‘Z Cars’ at Everton, and dare I say it, ‘Marching on Together’ at L**ds.
There have been some headlines recently about Mourinho stating the Chelsea fans are quiet, so I was intrigued to see whether this was really the case. They weren’t bad in all honesty, not the loudest, and I also enjoyed some of the banter when we all got bored with what was being played out in front of us. But the Hull fans that day were woeful….
Perhaps it’s because the tickets were £50. A staggering amount of money for a football match, especially two weeks before Christmas. But the main reason was the disproportionate amount of ‘tourists’ in amongst the Hull fans that day. I’ve mentioned a few times about this unfortunate side effect of Premier League football on our crowds, and I don’t begrudge anybody who comes over for a match. But at the detriment of atmosphere? I’d also like to know how they got in – Hull announced mid-week that this game was sold out – so who is selling them the tickets? Do Hull fans really come all the way to London to flog tickets? Do Chelsea hold a proportion back? Are touts registering accounts with Hull in order to get hold of tickets? Guess we shall never know. But at times I was left thinking that relegation might be best for Hull just to rid us of this scourge – day trippers from overseas tend not to tip up at Doncaster or Peterborough. The game probably didn’t help my mood!!!
Hull went behind very early; given the size of our central defenders Davies, Dawson and Chester, it was quite a surprise to see a Belgian midfielder seemingly suffering from dwarfism beat them to a header. Sort it out lads – going a goal behind at Stamford Bridge so early on is always a death sentence.
After that the game seemed a bit of a non-event. Hull huffed and puffed but couldn’t do anything once it came to creating a goalscoring opportunity. Chelsea were in control, which was why it was a surprise to see not one, not two, but three acts of diving. I have come to expect it from the likes of Willian and Costa, it is part of the game in the leagues were they learnt their trade, but I always thought of Gary Cahill as a good ‘n’ proper, old-fashioned, no-nonsense central defender. To see him throwing himself over was a tad embarassing…
Much has been made by Bruce and the media about the diving; Foy did bottle it. The rant about big clubs always getting the decisions at home, whilst valid, is old. I won’t repeat it here. Chelsea were the better side on the day (though way below the level I had expected to see), I am doubtful as to whether we would have got anything even with an extra man (especially when that extra man is Gaston Ramirez).
Didn’t matter anyway; Huddlestone saw red for a terrible tackle (will he be missed over the Christmas period?) and shortly after Costa scored a beautifully worked goal. 2-0.
So nine games without a win. And back home.
I like Stamford Bridge; the old ones are always the best. £50 is a bit steep though, and it could do with a little more noise at times. But I guess I wouldn’t be saying that had we actually taken something from the game!!
With 13 points and a spot in the relegation zone, which is unlikely to be relinquished by Christmas, Winter 2015 is going to be a long one if you are Hull fan. Gulp.