Tuesday, 30 October 2012
A Romantic Weekend in the Chopper Ronnie Suite
It was my wife's birthday last week, so we spent a few days in London, going to theatres, bars, restaurants and museums and generally just mooching around. We we staying in a hotel which was part of the Chelsea AFC complex at Stamford Bridge, in the Chopper Ronnie Suite. It was named after Ron Harris, the Chelsea captain in the 1970s, and there was a huge photograph of him on the wall, showing him neatly groomed with hardly a hair out of place, in his finest moment - the 1971 FA Cup Final replay against Leeds, and his spectacular foul on Eddie Grey, which all but ended the Grey's involvement in the match. Next to it was a smaller photograph of Chopper holding the trophy aloft.
Of course, if he were playing today, he wouldn't last five minutes on the pitch. There's hardly any physical aspect to the game anymore for fear of ruining a hairstyle, and I think the sport's a lot worse for it. Years ago, I went to see my local village team in the local Sunday league. They were getting beat 1-0, there was quarter of an hour to go, and the manager - who I was standing next to on the touchline - decided to make a substitution. His pep talk to the number 12 consisted of him saying "Go out and nail that ginger **** - he's running rings round us". Five minutes later, after the substitute had been sent off, and the ginger-haired player had hobbled from the pitch with his leg hanging off, my local team equalised, then got a winner in injury time - which was somewhat ironic.
Despite all the casual violence that existed on the field then, I think football was more enjoyable to watch, and to play. It was rooted in the community, and a lot of the players came up through the ranks. Now it's full of journeymen who couldn't give a stuff who they play for, and going to see a Premier League match these days is often more expensive than going to the opera.