It’s the 12th of March 2016, a normal day for some, I guess a normal Saturday for me also. But it was slightly different than normal… I was finally half way to completing my ultimate goal of watching a football match at every single one of the 92 Premier League & Football League grounds. It has been 14 months since my first trip. An FA Cup game on the 2nd of January 2015 between Cardiff City & Colchester United at the Cardiff City Stadium. I guess it’s fitting that the half way point would also be spent in the same competition, I wonder if I could end the 92 in an FA Cup game also? We shall see.
I had been looking forward to my trip to Goodison Park for a long time but I didn’t predict it would be happening at any point during the 15/16 season. At the start of the season I had always said I would like to follow my boyhood club, Chelsea, through to the FA Cup Final and I thought that this season would be the chance to do this. It started at Stamford Bridge against Scunthorpe United followed by victories over MK Dons & Manchester City. On the tube following the City victory I was praying for another home tie to maximise the chances of getting to Wembley, to say I was disappointed with Everton away would be an understatement. For two reasons; firstly, I knew it would be an extremely tricky tie & with Chelsea’s form this season it really would be tough but the main reason for my disappointment was I honestly didn’t think I’d get a ticket. In the end though, I was glad that this was the fixture as it did give me an opportunity to get a Northern ground ticked off after quite a long break since my last ‘proper’ Northern ground in Burnley back on the 25th of January.
One thing I was really dreading about the trip was the long journey. Bristol to Everton and back in a day is set to make an extremely long day! The journey would take approximately 3 and a bit hours but I know what the dreaded M6 can be like. Roadworks, accidents and breakdowns have all contributed to delays to a number of my journeys but today wasn’t one of those days. It was as perfect as it could be in the UK. Yes, there were the normal 50MPH speed limits every mile and half (not literally to those outside the UK)
but they are more than frequent. We arrived at one of the main pubs for Chelsea fans to meet just outside Liverpool called the Cat & Lion which was one of the Flaming Grill chains. Even though they aren’t traditional pubs, the food & drinks are brilliant. Cheap & cheerful. I couldn’t fault my burger, chips & pint. Onto Goodison.
After visiting Anfield back in November I knew that Goodison would be similar in terms of traffic and parking etc. Today was slightly different in the fact that we had a disabled badge which helped with the parking situation, even though Goodison didn’t seem to actually have any parking facilities for the disabled. So we just had to park on some single yellow lines and hope that when we returned we would still have all 4 wheels attached to the car.
Goodison Park is a fairly normal, older ground from the outside. Not the most picturesque but I did like it. It was oozing with the normal stalls selling pin badges and other
memorabilia including the dreaded half-half scarf. It interests me looking at the kind of people who buy these at a game such as Everton vs. Chelsea. I’ve even seen people with half-half shirts… who are these people?! Inside the ground though its a different story. A stunning ground, I’d heard from a number of people that the view from the away end is fairly poor due to the supporting pillars but I couldn’t fault mine. Right on the half way line and in the upper tier. Even with this great view though I still continue with my opinion on away fans should be behind the goal. I don’t know why I prefer it but I always do. I guess its the beauty of watching the highlights on the TV after a 90th minute winner in front of the travelling fans. I guess I don’t mind it occasionally but I don’t want this to ever be the norm!
Once I’d found my seat & found the scarf that Chelsea had left for every supporter it was time to wait for the game to kick off. I was filled with anticipation at the recent Chelsea performances since Guus Hiddink had taken over and was extremely confident that we’d take the win home and book a place in the semi finals at Wembley. The first half wasn’t up to much, it was a fairly normal Premier League and was pretty dead. Not only was it the normal Premier League dire that us fans pay a lot of money to watch but it was Diego Costa back to his BAU tasks. I could tell from the off that he was in a mood to focus on fights & arguments rather than doing his job which was to put the ball in the net.
With the score 0-0 at half time I was fearing I’d gone all the way to Liverpool for my first game with no goals since Old Trafford in November when Manchester United drew 0-0 with PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League, it would also be the 1st game since Reading that would be 0-0 as part of my 92 challenge. A run stretching back 63 games. I’m ever hopeful that I’ll be able to keep this record going & will only have 1 ground out of the 92 in which I failed to witness a goal. I was lucky, in some ways, that this didn’t occur. There were two goals in the second half, unfortunately though, neither for Chelsea. It could have been so different though. Just shy of the hour mark Diego Costa seemed to have put Chelsea in front after going round the keeper and putting a shot just along the edge of the goal line before scraping the post and going out of play to the sound of shock by the 6,800 Chelsea fans.
Following this miss it was clear that Chelsea weren’t on the same page and just weren’t going to win this match, now it was about holding out for a replay… step up Romelu Lukaku. The man who had been sold by Chelsea in 2014 to Everton. With just 13 minutes left he went on a run from the left hand wing, going past all Chelsea players in sight and making them look like a Sunday League team before smashing the ball past Courtois to put the home side 1-0 to the good. To say I was gutted would be an understatement because I knew at that point that there would be no way back for Chelsea with the way they were playing and the way Everton were defending which was a rare feat this season at Goodison. Just 5 minutes later it was Lukaku again to put them 2-0 up. Game over. A neat ball from Ross Barkley put him in the clear and he put it between Courtois’s legs. This was the boiling point and resulted in Deigo Costa getting his marching orders for fighting with Gareth Barry. This was his first red card for Chelsea which I was in complete shock about. A bad, bad day at the office for the Blues. What added insult to the wounds was the end of the game when only 4 out of the 11 (well, 10) players stayed behind to thank the travelling support, 4. One of which was the departing captain, John Terry, who is the last man standing from the players who seem to genuinely care for the club. Awful.
Goodison Park, a wonderful ground with a hell of a lot of personality to it. I do look forward to a return one day (hopefully, to a more favourable result for me!).
What Were The Statistics?
Everton 2-0 Chelsea
Attendance – 37,283 (6,800 away fans)
Price of ticket – £20.00 (Young Adult)
Programme – £3.00
Car Parking – Free
Miles Travelled – 370
Easter Period 10 Games in 8 days!
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