Ahead of a dreaded trip to West London and a date with Chelsea FC, we caught up with top Chelsea boyo, Mark Willett, who against all of the odds is an absolutely sound gadgie and good friend of this fanzine. Mark has previously been a mover and shaker with the Chelsea Pitch Owners group who put the block on the Russian upping sticks and leaving Stamford Bridge, probably for Twickenham. He is a frequent and always very welcome visitor to our fair and noble city.
Anyway, enough of the pleasantries, on with the craic:
TF: How the fuck did United beat Chelsea at SJP earlier this season?
Chelsea Mark: Easy, LUCK….On a more serious note you were the better side. A strong midfield stopped us from playing out of defence, with both our flanks paying no dividends on the day. Mourinho set up the team poorly, players weren’t on their game and thought they would cruise a victory. There is no room for complacency in any top flight game.
TF: How have things gone for Chelsea since then?
Chelsea Mark: Can’t complain, since that day we have only lost 1 league game (Stoke) 3rd in the league and still in the FA CUP and European Cup. I think the NU beating was a good, early kick up the arse for us.
TF: I just watched Chelsea beat Man City at their place and was put in mind of Man Utd beating us at SJP in ’96 through a Cantona goal at The Gallowgate which was the start of them reining our lead in for the Championship. Do you see the similarities – a flamboyant team being out-smarted for the title by a cleverer coach?
Chelsea Mark: I agree that Mourinho was the cleverer coach against Man City last Monday but that is where the similarities with your ’96 analogy end. We have only scored 1 goal from open play in the last 270 mins of football played. We have the worst goal-scoring record of the current top 4 clubs and Man City have scored nearly 70 league goals whilst we have scored only 44 so far. Unless we start scoring goals (with E’to and BA our only fit strikers!!) then I can’t see us winning it. And we haven’t got a Cantona (which is good in some ways as I couldn’t stand the bloke)
TF: Have Chelsea fans being laughing as much as everyone else at Mourinho’s lamenting Man City’s superior spending power?
Chelsea Mark: No, we are not laughing, financial fair play is an extremely serious issue! Clubs like Man City have the backing of an entire wealthy state. We all know they can out bid anyone for the best players in the world. This does not give an even playing field and City have already won an FA CUP and a League Title as a direct result of spending loads of cash-which is very un-sporting. These are trophies that we were getting used to winning and if they keep spending money at the rate they have been, and attracting the best players, and paying the best wages, it will make it harder for Chelsea to win everything. A Totally unfair situation which FIFA,UEFA,THE FA, and GOVERNMENT should put a stop to immediately.
TF: £50 for your place for visiting fans – do you have any of Chelsea’s old guard, working class fans from West London with those kinds of prices? What is the attitude amongst Chelsea fans to your club’s ticketing prices?
Chelsea Mark: Firstly, there are no working class people living in the immediate surrounding area to the club. Put our club postcode into Rightmove and the cheapest item they have is a parking space for sale at £120,000. The average price for an apartment is £2-£10M with some having an asking price of nearly £70m…In short real people no longer live “near” the club….With regard to ticket prices I pay £750 a year for my st. Years ago when we had our first major price hike under Ken Bates he said in response to the outrage of supporters…”you wanna see thoroughbreds then you pay for it” which, whilst not palatable at the time was true….like it or not. I went to Cheltenham for the race meeting in November last year and my ticket cost me £25. I have just bought my ticket for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March…It was £85.00-horses for courses I guess. I also hope to be allocated with my conditional World Cup tickets for Brazil shortly…the final ticket (yes, just the one ticket)…face value? Cat. b ? ….US$750!!! Not 75…Seven Hundred and Fifty!
All in all £50 for a prem ticket at Chelsea is cheap when you compare with certain other events…if away fans can’t afford it at the Bridge there is no shortage of take up from the home “locals” who love to spend a couple of hours in Stamford Bridge a la Jarvis Cockers’ common people. My personal opinion is different….the game has moved on from Ken Bates’ comments as the ticket money now only provides a tiny amount of income for the top premier clubs. We have all seen the increase in club income from the new sponsorship deals and sky/bt money and this should allow clubs to lower their home and away tickets to normal fans like you and I. Will they do it? I have sat opposite Bruce Buck in a fan meeting where reduced ticket prices were on the agenda when he has said “I think we are charging the most we can for tickets at the moment” Implying that if the club could charge more….they would!
TF: Talk us through your hierarchy of Chelsea’s London rivalries?
Chelsea Mark: Still only one real rivalry……SP*RS……all the other rivalries from the 60’s to the 80’s like West Ham, QPR, Arsenal, have petered out….wouldn’t mind playing Millwall again though!
TF: You’ve got NUFC this weekend, what kind of profile does this game have for Chelsea fans?
Chelsea Mark: As we are doing well at the moment it will sell out, no problem, all games are high profile at the moment. If we were in the same situation as Mancs at the moment then some of the Chelsea “new fans” or “tourists” would tend to go to the Emirates or any London Club that is hosting Liverpool, Man U, or Man City .. always getting there early to ensure they can buy a “half and half” scarf! For those of us that have been around a little longer it is safe to say we look forward to Magpie visits.
TF: What’s your take on recent events at SJP?
Chelsea Mark: Shocking….and I have to say that, on the whole, the fan reaction to the off field antics appears to be non-existent…almost resigned to the fact that nothing can be done.
When I travelled up for our encounter last November “The Chronicle” had just joined the ever longer list of those barred from the club. I read in the paper that fans would be buying the chronicle and holding it up as the teams came out in protest….I even thought of buying a copy and lending a hand for the cause….I didn’t see one paper waved!…You beat us so everyone is happy again? Within minutes Pardew is dedicating the win to Mr Ashley!!!….and no sooner have the groans in the pubs subsided you start talking about the next game. At least I would have expected some form of ground protest…even if it is just photocopied A3’s saying “Ashley out.” Each home game. He then sells your best player without replacing him and Kinnear resigns from a job that Ashley probably forgot he gave him…You lose badly against Sunderland and is he bothered? In my opinion he is an owner who wants to use the club only to make money for his own pocket….not unusual in this day and age, but to try and consistently humiliate the fans as he goes along is unforgiveable…and that is what it seems like he is doing to me. As long as he stays in charge he will keep on disappointing and humiliating a decent football club.
I hope, for all your sakes, that he sells the club to someone who will treat it, at the very least, with respect.
TF: How do you see Saturday’s match shaping up? Our TF match previewer has predicted a 4-0 win for Chelsea.
Chelsea Mark: Hmmmm….no evidence for a 4-0. Not that there needs to be evidence, and I hope he’s right. But the previously mentioned 1 goal from open play in the last 270 mins played by us does indicate that there will not be 4 goals scored by us. West Ham parked the 747 the other week and got a point….very risky but effective if you want a boring point. We are hard to beat but not that hard as you found out in November, and Stoke subsequently also found out. West Brom and West Ham have recently got a point. How the game shapes up will be directly connected to whether Pardew joins other managers and tries for a draw or if he sets up to play….It will be interesting I think.
TF: Any good, bad and ugly memories of United at Stamford Bridge?
Chelsea Mark: Good…6-0 80/81,and game before that 4-0…I was just a teenager, loved standing in the shed in the 2nd div. Days.
Bad…Last minute equaliser FACUP 95/96 which meant a mid week trip for evening kick off at yours (went to extra time…went on to win 4-2 pens) drove straight to work from SJP- good replay result but was so knackered and got a warning at work from for falling asleep at my desk.
Ugly….Whenever Peter Beardsley was in the team at the bridge.
TF: Tell us about the independent fan scene around Chelsea these days.
Chelsea Mark: If you are coming down on Saturday CIU club opposite the ground is ok (if you are a member) as beers are quite cheap. Buy a CFCUK fanzine…a brilliant read for a £…available outside the station or opposite the shopping centre from the CFCUK stand. Most pubs are now restaurants and wine bars near the ground with doormen that don’t let anyone in…very unfriendly in general. The changes in the area over the years has made it very difficult to enjoy a proper beer before the game. Many drink at West Brompton/Earls Court and walk from there.
TF: Prediction for Saturday?
Chelsea Mark: 1-0 Us