Whenever Chelsea get a disappointing result, I have several coping mechanisms, ranging from an impromptu visit to McDonald’s, to watching a few episodes of my favourite American comedy shows. However, with the release of Rick Glanvill, the club historian’s latest book, The Chelsea FC Miscellany, I now have a pick-me-up strategy that dominates all the others. This charming book is the perfect collection of stats, stories and unabashed reminiscing of better times to put a smile on my face.
Glanvill expertly weaves in the old-school and modern day; news extracts and letters are mixed with tweets from celebrities ranging from Nigella Lawson to Snoop Dogg. The write-ups about Jimmy Greaves, Bobby Tambling and Pat Nevin are nothing short of beautiful; it only cements my wistfulness to have be born in their era so I could have witnessed these mens’ powers up close; I particularly wish to see goal machine Greavsie weave his magic. Misty-eyed nostalgia is prevalent on every page, with a guide through the games and players of each decade. It may interest fans to know that when Chelsea were first ever written about in the media, their ground was referred to under the quaint name “Stamford-bridge”.
Rick once stated that one of his favourite things about being the Chelsea historian was discovering new information about the club, and in creating this book, he is able to give some lovely anecdotes that I had never known about – Ballack and Ancelotti being in neighbouring hotels in Florida to meet up for a chat is one of my favourites. I have a fair few idiosyncrasies about Chelsea, and it gave me immense joy to see Rick sharing some of them in literary form – the #Morres (Mata/Torres) goal in Euro 2012 that won Torres Golden Boot being acknowledged made me particularly happy.
The author’s wicked sense of humour is also discernible in this book, whether it is through pithy choices of words or carefully selected headlines. On pompous BBC radio commentator Alan Green’s erroneous assertion that Chelsea were going to get torn apart at Camp Nou, the title is simply the deliciously ironic “Psychic.” Similarly, Glanvill shines some light on Liverpool – the club most guilty for repeatedly mocking Chelsea football club’s supposed lack of history – on the Merseyside club’s highest attendance at Anfield, when they were playing, oh look, Chelsea. The go-to chant for opposition fans is often the lazy one that Chelsea has no history, yet this book illustrates just how untrue such a silly statement is.
The Chelsea FC Miscellany dextrously captures the cyclical nature of football – Mark Hughes was a rather nifty player for us (also, his real name’s actually Leslie – there is a section dedicated to players with distinctive Christian and middle names), yet as a manager, he is the one who has experienced least success against Chelsea, losing 76% of his games. The Frank Lampard love-in throughout also rendered it an especially pleasing read for me; Lampsy is my favourite Chelsea player. And there’s even a bit of bawdiness that had me smirking naughtily in the form of players’ with smutty-sounding surnames. Pure and simple, this book is a complete treasure chest for juicy tidbits of gossip pertaining to every aspect of Chelsea that you can imagine, and plenty that I didn’t think of.
For the numbers geek, there is trivia aplenty, from a list of firsts for the club, to a comprehensive list of players who have worn the armband for Chelsea post-war. As an economist, I was interested to learn of the gaping difference in runners-up prize money between the 1914/15 FA Cup, and the 2001/2002 one, surely a sign of the ever-increasing commercialisation of football. I am a bit of a pernickety so-and-so when it comes to my team, bluntly correcting friends’ mistakes when they make the slightest of mistakes on Twitter, but there is absolute no danger of me doing that with any of the statistics in The Chelsea FC Miscellany, which have been compiled with a meticulous eye and checked with a fine tooth comb.
Rick is an intelligent guy, and knows better than to ignore the gut-wrenching, agony-inducing moments that being a Chelsea fan has incurred (he wryly includes an admission of wrongdoing from Tom Henning Ovrebo, the epitome of bolting the barn door after the horse has bolted), as well as the less respectable elements of Chelsea’s history – hooliganism has been a problem amongst our fans, and Glanvill highlights how some fans got around being banned from away games to attend nonetheless. Despite some people (and by “some people” I mean pious broadsheet journalists) liking to pretend they are, absolutely no-one is perfect. Chelsea FC certainly isn’t, but it is important to acknowledge, if not embrace, these flaws because they, too, form part of our club’s identity.
Young Chelsea fans really need to be asking this book for Christmas so they can bask in the pleasures of the world that Chelsea inhibited before they were born. That this was written by a proper fan that has lived through all the club’s ups and downs since childhood means that Glanvill knows exactly what other Chelsea fans want to read, and what will interest them. His writing style is genial and gripping, and gets the blend between narration and personal analysis flawlessly. The book jumps back and forth across Chelsea’s past and present, yet the overall experience I got from reading it was that of a deeply satisfying voyage.
Marilyn Monroe was once famed for saying “if you can’t handle me at my worst then you don’t deserve me at my best.” The state of the club recently has leant it closer to the former category than the latter, lamentably. But Rick Glanvill’s brilliant creation shows the many, many faces of good that Chelsea have had, and through the hours I spent poring over it, I went from smiling, to giggling, to beaming. Much like Drogba’s spot-kick for Chelsea in Munich in May, our Rick has truly done Chelsea proud with this entertaining, witty and expertly written book.