Well a new Saturday and therefore a new destination. This time, we decided to stay in London and visit Stamford Bridge. Chelsea Football Club is a professional football club based in Fulham, London, that competes in the Premier League. Founded in 1905, the club’s home ground since then has been Stamford Bridge.
We had booked the 3.20pm tour, best book them as they go off quickly, and we made sure we arrived 15min before hand at Fulham Broadway tube station. The stadium is 2min walk from the station and in the pure British tradition, it is located around houses, pubs and hotels. My first reaction is that it is a nice stadium.
Stamford Bridge history
Stamford Bridge’ is considered to be a derivative of ‘Samfordesbrigge’ meaning ‘the bridge at the sandy ford’. Eighteenth century maps show a ‘Stanford Creek’ running along the route of what is now a railway line at the back of the East Stand as a tributary of the Thames. The upper reaches of this tributary have been known as Billingswell Ditch, Pools Creek and Counters Creek. In mediaeval times the Creek was known as Billingwell Dyche, derived from ‘Billing’s spring or stream’. It formed the boundary between the parishes of Kensington and Fulham. By the eighteenth century the creek had become known as Counter’s Creek which is the name it has retained since. The stream had two local bridges: Stamford Bridge on the Fulham Road (also recorded as Little Chelsea Bridge) and Stanbridge on the Kings Road, now known as Stanley Bridge.The existing Stamford Bridge was built of brick in 1860–2 and has been partly reconstructed since then.
The brand New Stamford Bridge stadium in August 1905. Chelsea beat West Brom at Stamford Bridge in September 1905. Stamford Bridge opened in 1877 as a home for the London Athletic Club and was used almost exclusively for that purpose until 1904, when the lease was acquired by brothers Gus and Joseph Mears, who wanted to stage high-profile professional football matches there. However, previous to this, in 1898, Stamford Bridge played host to the World Championship of shinty between Beauly Shinty Club and London Camanachd. It was initially offered to Fulham Football Club, but they turned it down for financial reasons. After considering the sale of the land to the Great Western Railway Company, the Mears decided to found their own football club, Chelsea, to occupy the ground as a rival to Fulham. Noted football ground architect Archibald Leitch, who had also designed Ibrox, Celtic Park, Craven Cottage and Hampden Park, was hired to construct the stadium. In its early days, Stamford Bridge stadium was served by a small railway station, Chelsea and Fulham railway station, which was later closed after World War II bombing. Designed by Archibald Leitch, it is an exact replica of the Stevenage Road Stand stand he had previously built at the re-developed Craven Cottage (and the main reason why Fulham had chosen not to move into the new ground). The other sides were all open in a vast bowl and thousands of tons of material excavated from the building of the Piccadilly line provided high terracing for standing spectators exposed to the elements on the west side.
The stadium Tour
As any good tour, it starts from the megastore (outside the stadium). You get the chance to take a picture with the real Premier League trophy and then your guide comes to pick us up. Our guide was a really nice guy, friendly and full of jokes (I am on the receiving end but youwould expect that). We make our way to the bridge and start with the Shed End. This is the stand were the most fanatical Chelsea fans are. It confirmed my impression that it is a very nice British stadium. You feel close to the pitch and I can imagine a nice atmosphere on a European night. I must say that the tour is not very friendly to buggies, but then we come and visit a football stadium not a children’s park :). We then make our way to the media area and the guide explains that the desk where the Special One gave is post match interviews is the one where key players like Zola, Gullit, Makelele and Lampard signed their contract. It is quite small and I imagine it must be feeling cosy when you have about 200 journalists in. We then make our way to the away dressing room. It is spacious but basic. Few shirts from the greats that have played at the bridge (Moore, Charlton, Becks, Messi, Cruyff, Ronaldo). The guide cracks few jokes. The best one is when he merges the two physio tables and says that they have to do that when Rooney visits. Harsh. We then go to the home dressing room and I must say, nothing special. The players are sat together with their mates and not by role or number. You have all Brazilians, French, English (or what is left of them). We then go down the tunnel but not the interview rooms, which I am surprised. Now to the most awaited time of the afternoon…the pitch. We go through the tunnel and have full sight of the pitch. Amazing. Cost £1m a year, a bargain. It is cloudy so the U. lamps are out. There is a small tent on the penalty spot and the guide explain that it is to generate dioxyde of carbon so that the grass recovers faster! We then sit in the famous dugout and I can see Jose arguing with Eva! We then make our way through the stands and the tour is over. Well not before you have paid £10 for your picture with the Premier League.
Although the guide was really good, the tour felt rushed with little time to take pictures towards the end. You can feel that you are on a production line and the other tours are catching up. My disappointments are that we do not visit the VIP, corporate hospitality and interview rooms. But we did get some good stories along the way.