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Call it Premier League fatigue, economics or just a case of marginalisation. I have bought a season ticket for Fulham for the 2018-19 season and frankly, I am looking forward to spending a year at Craven Cottage. In exile, perhaps, maybe a marriage of convenience, but I prefer to call it the search for something new.
As a Chelsea fan since 1968, I’ve had season tickets at Stamford Bridge, but not for many years. I decided that I wanted to watch, regularly, top class football instead of playing the nomad, which has been my football diet of choice for the past 25 years. Of course, it’s difficult to get a ticket for a single match at Chelsea, let alone a season, and the process of trying to go and see the club I’ve followed since I was nine years old has become tedious. So what should I do if I want to see a reasonable level of football next season?
Fulham was an obvious choice, given they are just along the Fulham Road from Chelsea, and furthermore, it’s a club I have always liked. Matchday at Craven Cottage is always pleasant and Fulham have always struck me as a decent club. I’ve not discarded Chelsea, but I’ve kind of given up on trying to see them. Not an easy decision, but one I had thought about for some time – I want a break from non-league football and rediscover the passion of feeling attached to a club again. It wasn’t going to happen at Chelsea because I’m too detached from things – I’ve become a Sky/BT fan – and I have little in common with the current generation of spectators at “the Bridge”.
This is a club for today, not the past. I know all about Chelsea’s history, I can name all the great teams and players off by heart. I can recall the pivotal moments in the club’s history and Stamford Bridge will always be there, but for the time being, I refuse to scramble around, go on waiting lists and sit for hours online in the forlorn hope of getting a ticket.
There’s also the element of the unexpected that was, for many years, part of being a Chelsea supporter. My season ticket days were in a time when very few were interested, so I am familiar with boredom, frustration, false dawns and low levels of achievement. I couldn’t believe it, in 1997, when Chelsea won the FA Cup – the last time I had enjoyed this experience was in 1970 when I was at Primary School. I loved it when Mourinho brought the first Premier title to the club, I almost hyperventilated when Drogba netted the winner in Munich and I can still go hoarse when Chelsea score a goal on TV. But it has become near impossible to be part of it and I want that level of allegiance before I get too old to make the journey to South West London to see a football match. Also, I want a taste of unpredictability, of enjoying “little victories” and watching some reality rather than seeing a trophy win as a given, as something that is somehow owed to clubs like Chelsea.
How long will my exile last? It’s not exile, it is about aligning myself with more than one club. I now support Chelsea and Fulham. They’ve got my £400 for a season ticket and I will give them 100% backing in 2018-19. Whether that’s in the Premier or the Championship matters not to me. I want to enjoy the matchday experience again, cheer on a team and get more out of being a supporter again. Personally, I cannot wait to take my seat.