I have to say, when I read reports a couple of weeks ago that plans for the Stamford Bridge redevelopment were put on hold, I wasn’t particularly disappointed. A few years ago I had looked up to stadium’s such as the Emirates and Wembley and thought how cool it would be if Chelsea’s ground looked like that. Reflecting back on that, I couldn’t have been more wrong, and there is nowhere I would rather spend my weekends than Stamford Bridge, just the way it is.
Indeed, one of my earliest memories relates back to this very ground. I was only four years old, but that didn’t matter to my Dad, he’d decided I was old enough to attend my very first football game. Arsenal would be the opponent but that really didn’t matter to me, I had absolutely no clue what was going on! One of the only real takeaways I actually had from that game was the mass of cranes stationed over the still being constructed West Stand at Stamford Bridge, the newest addition to the ground.
It would be a few more years before I was trusted to attend the establishment again, but I can remember a lot more detail from the event. Being just seven years old, I was extremely easy to influence, but attending a midweek game under the lights solidified my choice of team. As great as all of these different kick off times are at the weekends, you can’t beat a midweek game. The buzz you get at these games is just incomparable and I was hooked straight away.
Still, at this tender young age, there were certain games I still couldn’t quite be trusted in some of the bigger games. After all, I was only little and still had pleasantries such as school and my very own aspiring career as a Saturday League Footballer to worry about. Nevertheless, the games I managed to attend over the years did steadily increase.
I’ve been very lucky in many ways, not only to be able to attend so many of the games with my Dad, something which I’m hugely grateful for. But also to have had such a good group of close friends that I’ve always been able to go to games with which has only every enhanced my experience at them.
Some of the most amazing days of my life have taken place in this beauty of a ground. No matter how old I live to be, and no matter how many memories fill my head, I will remember every goal Chelsea scored the day we beat Wigan 8-0 and came home with the Premier League title. I’ll never forget Demba Ba scuffing the ball into the back of the net to claim a famous victory over PSG in 2014. You can even look at this week, the 4-4 against Ajax, a night which will live long in the memory of all Chelsea fans.
There’s nothing particularly special about Stamford Bridge in all of these memories, at the end of the day it’s actually just football that is capable of producing these incredible moments and not a specific club or ground. But just think how cool it would be, to go with future generations, and show them the exact spot you were stationed for that amazing moment. What a satisfying moment that could be.
I don’t begrudge any club that has chosen to redevelop their home. I mean, just look at the new Tottenham Stadium. Admittedly, they were extremely fortunate in having the space on their current site to be able to stay at the same location. Whilst it remains to be seen if the move will be worth it in the long-run.
I can’t help but feel sorry for Arsenal fans in particular. The Emirates is an impressive stadium, there’s no doubting it, but at what cost has this move come? Sure, there’s a financial one and this came in at £390 million. But what about the loss of Highbury? This was one of the historic grounds in England and I can’t help but feel many fans wouldn’t have been opposed to staying their until the opportunity to expand from within their current home came around. I think you could make a similar case for West Ham, who moved from Upton Park in pursuit of glory at the Olympic Stadium.
As I mentioned earlier, when I first saw the development plans for the new Stamford Bridge I couldn’t wait for it all to get started. This really was just sheer ignorance looking back on it and I think I fully realised this when Tottenham played at Wembley for 18 months. Their fans hated it and the team definitely suffered from the lack of identity in having it as their temporary home. I completely understand that every club has to eventually expand their home to meet the sheer levels of demand we see for football these days, I just hope Chelsea find a way to prolong the process further.
I do wonder how the club currently view expansion plans. Chelsea is unique, with the pitch actually being owned by a number of fans called “The Chelsea Pitch Owners” whom I aim to cover in a future piece. As a result of this, the possibility of moving site is near enough impossible. That leaves two options:
- Redevelop the entire site
- Expand the current stands
Neither are easy. As things stand, the current rail networks serving the ground would mean a new station would almost certainly have to be added as part of the stadium to handle the increased traffic. A hotel complex known as “The Chelsea Village” would also reduce chances of stands being expanded. I’ll cover the entire redevelopment of Stamford Bridge at a later date though.
To me it doesn’t matter that I can’t stand up properly in the East Stand toilets, or the fact that at my height of 6ft3″, I can’t even fit in the majority of the seats in the ground. The place just feels like home at this point and it is the soul of Chelsea Football Club.
As every year passes by, and as I attend more and more games, the memories I have at this place just get better and better and I can’t wait to see what’s in store in the future.
To conclude this piece rather poetically, there truly is nowhere else I’d rather be every other Saturday.