Chelsea vs. Nottingham Forest : 5 January 2019.
Along with a league opener and a Boxing Day game, an FA Cup Third Round tie was historically one of the games of the season. But, I have to be honest that the home match against Nottingham Forest was simply not exciting me as it should. I, along with many foot soldiers, had originally hoped for an away game at a new stadium such as Accrington Stanley, Doncaster Rovers or Lincoln City. But no, we were given yet another home tie, and against a team that we only met as recently as last autumn in the 2017/18 League Cup competition.
So, the tricky trees were heading to Stamford Bridge once more, and as I picked the Three Chuckleteers up in the morning, the game was simply not getting me too excited.
The alarm had sounded at 6.15am – bloody earlier than a normal working day – because I wanted to be on the road nice and early. By 8am, I had collected two Glenns and one Paul. There was a slight frost, everything was a light shade of grey outside. By 10.15am I had dropped Parky and PD outside The Old Oak, where they hoped they would be able to grab an early pint. I parked up closer to the ground and walked down to Stamford Bridge with Glenn, where we hoped to spend some time with some of the US friends that have been featured in these match reports of late.
We walked past the usual smattering of ticket touts that have been part of the match day scene at Stamford Bridge for ever and ever.
They were certainly present as long ago as 1920, when the FA Cup Final itself was held at Stamford Bridge for the first of three times.
My grandfather, being careful not to walk into the onrushing crowds as he picked his way along the pavement from the Walham Green tube station to the main entrance of Stamford Bridge, was approached on several occasions by Cockney ticket touts, offering the chance to watch from the main stand. His ticket, and that of his friend Ted, had been given their general admission tickets by the Somerset Football Association in lieu of their role in the running of their local team Mells and Vobster United, for whom they had both played for a few seasons, along with my grandfather’s brother Christopher. My grandfather wondered how the touts had managed to get their hands on these tickets. It was a surprise to him. This was his first football match, and he was simply unaware that such tickets would be available.
“No thank you. We have tickets.”
“OK governor. You want to sell them to me?”
This confused and surely bemused my grandfather. He thought to himself, simplistically, “how would we get in without tickets?” and he paused for a while with a look on his face which probably was more serious than it really should have been.
“No. No thanks. No – they are ours.”
His long-time pal chipped in :
“We’ve come from Somerset for this match. Why would we give them to you?”
The tout uttered a couple of oaths and moved on.
In 2019, my responses to a few touts were not so wordy. I just shook my head and solemnly moved on.
We were at Stamford Bridge for 10.45am, a quite ridiculously early time. In the bar area of The Copthorne Hotel, we settled down with a couple of astronomically priced coffees – £4 apiece – and chatted to a couple of our former players. I like to do this two or three times a season; it makes a lovely change from the usual routine, and I usually bump into a few Chelsea friends while I am there. Ron Harris, who Glenn and I got to know when he lived in Warminster in the ‘nineties, but who moved away to live on the south coast for a while, now lives a mere ten miles from me. It was no surprise that Ron was there early. He always is the first to arrive.
To read much more of Chris' account from the Nottingham Forest FA Cup match, click here.
Chris Axon is a life long Chelsea supporter and honorary member of Chelsea in America for more than a decade.