Chelsea vs. Huddersfield Town : 2 February 2019.
On the Friday, with probably far too much time on my hands, I had carried out some research and painfully discovered the last 4-0 loss that I had personally seen for my own eyes.
“The 1994 FA Cup Final against United.”
The lads groaned. We had all been there.
None of us were relishing the game with Huddersfield Town. We were looking forward to seeing Gillian, Kev and Rich once again – on the 6am flight out of Edinburgh on a day trip – plus the rest of the gang but the football could wait. Regardless, at about 11.30am, we had all assembled at the “Famous Three Kings” – right next to West Kensington tube – which is just over a mile to the north of Stamford Bridge. There aren’t many more “Chelsea pubs” further north. It sits on the A4, the old Roman road which linked Bristol with London and which my father used to use on the Chelsea trips of my youth after joining it at Beckhampton – close to where he did his first month of training during World War Two at RAF Yatesbury – and then leaving it at Hungerford. When I worked in Chippenham, I worked right on the A4. I had crossed over it on my way to the M4 earlier in the day. It is my own personal Mother Road. I can’t seem to escape it, but nor would I want to. Anyway, it certainly felt a whole lot better to be in the “F3K” at 11.30am on a Saturday rather than 3pm on a Sunday.
We were all there.
Glenn, PD and I from Somerset. Parky from Wiltshire. Gillian, Kev and Rich from Lothian. Duncan, Lol, Daryl and Ed from Essex. Andy and Kim from Kent. Alan and Gary from London itself. Fifteen strong.
Unlike the Sheffield Wednesday game, there were no away fans. The pub filled up slowly with rugby fans ahead of the afternoon’s fixtures in the Six Nations, and quite a few were watching the Tottenham vs. Newcastle United game from Wembley before the egg-chasing took over. The pub has been voted London’s best sports bar the last three years and the bar was advertising itself as a venue to watch the following day’s NFL Final.
In the first twenty minutes of chit-chat, we put the world to rights.
We spoke about Maurizio Sarri, Jorginho, Eden Hazard, Gonzalo Higuain, the board, our managerial merry-go-round, the performances throughout the season, Carlo Ancelotti getting the push after finishing second in 2011, our style of play, Antonio Conte, our current defensive frailties. You can probably guess the tone.
I made a point about Antonio Conte.
“Seems to me a lot of our history is being re-written. Seems to me that this new manager’s style of football is seen by many as an antidote to “quote unquote” the counterattacking football of Conte, and Mourinho before him. But wait a minute. That gives the impression that under those managers we simply sat back, inviting teams on to us and then hitting them on the break, and were continually dull. That’s not how I bloody remember it. I remember tons of possession. When we won the league under Conte two seasons ago, were people moaning or even mentioning “counter-attacking” football? I’m not so sure. I know I wasn’t. The way some people talk, they speak of Sarri’s style of play as ultra-stylish, an antidote to the football we played under Mourinho and Conte.”
I shook my head.
Conte’s football in the first part of 2016/17 was pulsating and passionate, and we were relentless in our hunting down of players in possession. The first-half against Everton in the autumn of 2016 remains, possibly, the most exhilarating half of football I have ever seen at Chelsea. The fans and the manager and the team were as one in those days. It was fantastic. So I’m not sure the negative take on Conte is particularly fair.
“At least Conte could change his game plan if he had to.”
The lads were chatting in small groups, enjoying each other’s company, spoiled only by a single Tottenham goal which would give them three huge points.
We mulled over the team.
Azpilicueta – Christensen – Luiz – Alonso
Kante – Jorginho – Barkley
Willian – Higuain – Hazard
“So, we know the substitutions then.”
“Pedro for Willian 65 minutes, Kovacic for Barkley 75 minutes, Giroud for Higuain 80 minutes.”
We laughed / groaned.
To read Chris' full post, including his disdain for pregame fire shows and such, click here.
Chris Axon is a life long Chelsea supporter, season ticket holder and honorary Chelsea in America member. HIs match x match blog are his thoughts, insights and a good list of pub recommendations for Chelsea supporters.