A timid chorus of “sit down, shut up” rang nervously around Stamford Bridge on Saturday as Chelsea beat Crystal Palace 2-1.
We can only assume it was directed by those in blue to the rest of the home end, because it was followed by a universal dissension and almost 40,000 silenced voices.
Spot the irony.
Sadly for the Blues, this humiliating piece of self-satire was about the only peep made by the crowd all game.
In fact, other loud noises in the stadium – bar Palace’s valiant effort – came from the soft swish of a revolving door that swallowed up and coughed back out guests of the Millennium Hotel, situated *within* Stamford Bridge itself, and the rustling of paper from a lamb kofta wrap or fish and chips bought for consumption during the match.
Fear not, we’re told the relevant people had been informed of the disturbing sounds and that stewards were sent to silence the offenders.
But, Chelsea play Barcelona this week and surely the laughable state of their home crowd and stadium has nothing to do with how things will pan out in Catalonia.
(For the record, dear reader, things will pan out with a Chelsea loss.)
Well, actually, we disagree. The capabilities of a club’s home crowd, in this case anyway, does in fact have a sizable outcome on team performances away from home.
Chelsea have only won one of their last eight games away from Stamford Bridge and we reckon we know why.
Imagine, as a player, acclimatising to West London. You’ve ruggedly braved the bare-footed challenges of street football as a kid, relying on whatever sphere presented itself as a ball, and then you are spotted for the talented youngster you are and snapped up by a Premier League giant.
It’s not hard to become used to the velvet covered pavements of Kensington and Chelsea.
With this new scenery comes new fans and, breaking into the first team, you’re shocked on your debut to see home supporters sitting almost solidly for over 90 minutes – ‘what about the risk of DVT?’, you fret – people taking phone calls mid-match, and real life adults watching you play through their camera’s lens.
Soon, this too becomes the norm and the whiff of fresh Thai delicacy with hints of Paco Rabanne and skinny chai lattes becomes a familiar, homely scent to you.
The shock of stepping forth into the lion’s den, then – the home of scorching chicken balti pies, Carling, and burly men called Steve who eat wasps for fun – must therefore come as quite a surprise.
Where have all the fur coats disappeared to? What happened to the lemongrass? And, for the love of God, who stole all the soya milk?!
With these questions racing manically through your mind, there’s no way you can play to your utmost standards and so the team disintegrate and lose, with wasp-eater Steve shaking his fist in a most frightfully offensive manner whilst swigging a crumpled black and white can of – what’s that – fake Peroni?
The transition from the gentle portal of Stamford Bridge back into the real world of football must contribute to Chelsea’s shocking away form.
And, after what really was the most abject excuse for an atmosphere against Palace, this puts the Blues at quite the disadvantage when heading down to the 99,000-seater footballing cathedral that is Nou Camp .
The difference will be unnervingly palpable and Chelsea’s boat – the HMS Waitrose – will be rocked beyond repair.
Now, we’re not picking on the West Londoners unfairly, here. Well, we are, but let’s pretend we’re not.
Plenty of top clubs can all be berated for their stale, soporific atmosphere as they pander to the wealthier quarter of football. Arsenal and Manchester City are serial offenders these days, but they both have stadiums far larger than Stamford Bridge and everyone knows about their tediously corporate nature.
It’s high time we picked on someone else.
And, given their history as one of Britain’s most hated clubs, Chelsea are fair game.
Something better click soon or the Blues will be in big trouble. Sort out that piteous excuse for an atmosphere and, tactics and squad aside, we’ve worked out a solution to winning away both in Europe and domestically.
The first port of call? Don’t sit down and don’t shut up. Or at the very least don’t do both – that really is poor form.