Guest post by Stephen Rea, Chelsea’s Blogger from America
I read an article recently on how we are so fixated with documenting events in our life that we miss living in the moment. I thought about that yesterday when next year’s fixtures were released.
Don’t get me wrong, I was as keen as anyone to discover our schedule – especially as I’m planning to cross the Atlantic for an early-season visit to the Bridge – but this season hasn’t even finished yet. We had CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers on Tuesday and the Confederation Cup doesn’t begin until Saturday. So maybe now is a good time to reflect on what was an enthralling and enjoyable campaign for Chelsea.
A drawback for us Stateside this year was the inordinate amount of midweek league games. We had 12: a round dozen matches played on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday. It was a high proportion, almost a third of our contests kicking off between 1145am and 245pm in America.
The first home league game was a Monday night. We won the league on a Friday evening. Instead of crowds of Blues fans celebrating together in their local pubs, Chelsea followers around the USA surreptitiously streamed the match at work, recorded it to watch when they got home, or, like me, kept in touch via updates on the web. Weekend kickoffs at noon in England, which can mean a pre-dawn start for us over here, are preferable to not being able to watch events unfold live.
Undoubtedly the season’s low point was the 3-0 defeat to Arsenal in September. In New Orleans the Gunners are the best-supported club – I’m sure it’s the same nearly everywhere in the States – and they were out in force. I sat at the bar with a handful of fellow Blues, surrounded on all sides, the stoic blue fulcrum in a maelstrom of celebrating red-and-white. Little did we suspect that the defeat to one of our fiercest rivals would be a turning point and the catalyst that kick-started our campaign.
And what a campaign it turned out to be. I was lucky enough to watch us win this season in Florida, Texas, North Carolina and Nevada. And I saw us lose the FA Cup final in Oklahoma. On those trips I experienced a different vibe, a different culture, and relished being out of my usual habitat of my living room or my local pub. I met new people and made new friends.
There may be 50 states but it’s like there are 50 different countries on this continent. Every American supporters club is unique, but whether you followed us in New Orleans, New Iberia or New York, it was a season that all of us here in the United States enjoyed.