I've been a Chelsea supporter for nearly 25 years. I always enjoyed watching football on TV and I was a West Ham fan for a while when I was a teenager ( only because I had a crush on someone who supported them) but I didn't actually go to a game till 1988 when my then-boyfriend took me to see Chelsea play Spurs in a testimonial game for Colin Pates. The game was memorable only for being Gazza's debut for Spurs but I was bowled over by Chelsea – the team, the ground, even the mascot won my heart and I've been a fan ever since.
During the late eighties and early nineties I was a regular at Stamford Bridge and went to several away games too. Then the Premier League happened. Ticket prices rocketed and what was once a cheap day out – a fiver to get into the Shed End or £10 for a seat – became something of a treat, especially as we were now a family of Chelsea fans. We probably managed a couple of games a year – the FA Cup 3rd round if the Blues were at home, as a birthday treat for me, and perhaps a league cup or European cup game if the tickets were cheap enough. And when we moved to Oxfordshire even those dropped off, as the cost of the entire day, including travel, soared.
Enter Steve, my lovely man, and a lifelong Torquay United fan. Over the last four years I've been to more Torquay games than Chelsea ones – part of the reason is it's easier and cheaper to go to see the Gulls (yes, even home games in deepest Devon) than it is to see Chelsea, but also because, without the huge wage packets and egotistical stars of the top flight, I've discovered League Two football is pretty entertaining.
But for all these years I've loved my club. I've followed Chelsea through Division Two games and I was at the mind numbingly dull ZDF final win over Middlesbrough at the old Wembley. I've endured humiliating defeats in cup games against sides like Crewe and Oxford and tasted the glory of winning League and FA Cups and back to back Premier League titles.
And until now I've put up with the regular changes of manager. My favourite teams were in the days of Gullit, Vialli and, of course, Mourinho. I wasn't happy about him going but tolerated Ancelloti,Scolari, Hiddinck et al for the sake of my club. When Di Matteo – a Chelsea fan through and through – became manager last year I was over the moon – even more so when he handed Abramovich the title he wanted above all others – the Champions League.
And equally devastated when Di Matteo was unceremoniously dumped after having a couple of bad results. OK so our Champions League performances were nothing short of woeful but you can't win every game, and every team has its peaks and troughs. But here we are with our ninth manager in nine years – and my patience with the club owner has finally run out.
Im sick and tired of Abramovich calling the shots. Apparently he takes a hands-off approach to the other businesses in his portfolio – yet seems to think he knows best when it comes to football. And that means we have no stability at all, and no manager is ever going to have the opportunity to succeed, because they are always going to be managing the previous guy's choice of players. We have a strong (if aging) core to the team but players come and go with each managerial change so there is no consistency and so wide a range of playing styles that its unlikely to gel properly. What we need is someone to manage the club for a good long period – but of corse that is never going to happen while Abramovich is there.
In my darkest fantasies I dream about relegation. If we found ourselves in the Championship surely Abramovich would get bored and move on to something else. Chelsea would be wrecked, of course – without his money tne big money players would leave and if the creditors called in their investments the whole club could perhaps be at risk of bankruptcy. But at the same time we could start again with an owner who loved the club, had the club's best interests at heart …..
After a shaky start Benitez seems to be getting things back on track – a glut of goals in midweek and we're winning 3-1 in the league as I type this. But I can't find the enthusiasm to be excited any more. I feel like my passion for the club has finally been doused. Football – and Chelsea – has always been really important to me, but it just doesn't seem to matter anymore. The club is Abramovich's toy and he's going to have his enjoyment with it – at the expense of mine.