I love away days. Firstly, because I am a season ticket holder living in the West Midlands, so the majority of away games are actually closer than our home games; and secondly, because of the different atmosphere which is not often associated with a home game. The new places to visit, the new routes to travel, the new food to sample and the new and often interesting encounters with opposition fans. My blogs will not be giving you a full insight of all the action from the games, but giving you an account of my experiences as an away fan. I hope you enjoy!
This was my first visit to Stamford Bridge, and was pleasantly surprised by the organisation at Fulham Broadway tube station. Unlike Finsbury Park and Upton Park, which were horrendously cramped and narrow for the amount of football supporters that they have to cope with every other weekend, Fulham Broadway was light and airy, with plenty of Underground staff directing people in the direction of the purpose built exit for fans.
Once arriving at the ground, the amount of wealth which has kept the club successful for so long on the pitch was also apparent by the amenities on display. Two hotels and two restaurants (including a steakhouse) sporting the name of a Michelin starred chef, dominate the entrance to the away end, which is tucked away in a corner of the Shed End. It was whilst I was waiting in this area that I was approached by a man, who I can only presume was a Chelsea ‘fan’. He was obviously not English, but managed to ask if I could have a picture taken with his wife and baby daughter, as he had never seen anyone wearing a Reading ‘uniform’ before. Oh, I do love tourists.
Getting into the ground can only be described as some kind of military operation. Walking through at least 7 or 8 rows of stewards and police just to get to the turnstiles was incredibly over the top, and this set the tone for the attitudes of the stewards inside the ground; grumpy, rude and somewhat power crazy. ‘Stand up, if you love Reading’ was sung plenty of times during the evening.
I was located in the lower tier, 11 rows back, directly behind the corner flag. It was cosy but not uncomfortable, and I think it helped generate one of the best atmospheres I have ever experienced at a football match. Our fans did not stop singing, even throughout half time sections of the visiting supporters were still chanting. The same could not be said for the Chelsea fans, even when their side were winning they created little noise, which I found disappointing. Considering how close both sets of fans are located to each other, I was expecting more of a reaction to our chants from the home support.
I found the facilities at Stamford Bridge adequate, with an interesting selection of food for sale. For just under £7 you could purchase the smallest portion of chicken curry I have ever seen. There was a couple of different pasties, but there was also only one pie for sale, and the servers in the lower tier were unsure of its price, or its flavour!
Even though I experienced the expected gloating from Chelsea fans on the walk back to the tube after the final whistle, many passed comment about how impressed they were with the way that we played. One supporter even agreed that we deserved more from the game, not until they had finished singing ‘Tesco, Tesco, Tesco’ though…
It’s still a bit surreal thinking about Wednesday night’s events. I actually went to Stamford Bridge, the home of the newly crowned ‘Champions of Europe’ and saw Reading not only score a goal to level the game, but saw us deservedly take the lead and convincingly outplay the opposition for most of the first half. We gave Chelsea a very good run for their money, and I am nothing less than proud of that. There are so many positives to take from the game, and we should go to Sunderland full of confidence to earn our first win of this Premier League campaign.
Twitter - @Becka_Ellen