Super Frank Lampard departs Chelsea as Thomas Tuchel arrives

Chelsea Football Club over the last few years have had a nasty habit of sacking managers at a whim, but their latest sacking of fans favourite and club legend Frank Lampard seems very harsh.

By Tommie Collins

Chelsea Football Club over the last few years have had a nasty habit of sacking managers at a whim, but their latest sacking of fans favourite and club legend Frank Lampard seems very harsh.

This is especially the case when fans of other clubs leave you messages such as “madness”, “brutal” and “out of order”, it’s at this point you realise that the club make such decisions without even thinking about fan opinion – the ruthless truth being that football is now sadly but a business.

Looking back in time, another excellent manager in the making, Eddie Mcreadie, left the club in 1977 and fans were also seething back then, and to be honest the club didn’t recover until the arrival of probably our best manager (not the most successful) John Neal in May 1981.

Things didn’t start well for Neal. We nearly got relegated to the then Third Division until a Clive Walker goal at Bolton Wanderers gave us a 1-0 win to save us the heartache. Then to his credit, then Chairman Ken Bates backed Neal in the summer of ‘83 with some superb signings bringing in Pat Nevin, Joe McLaughlin and Nigel Spackman, all relative unknowns at the time, whilst also adding Welsh Goalkeeper Eddie Niedzwiecki and Kerry Dixon.

Neal had an eye for talent and the 1983/84 season was the beginning of our revival and, for some of a certain age, probably our best season ever culminating in gaining promotion to the 1st Division. Sadly Neal had to step aside in the summer of 1985 due to illness and again the club took a long time to recover – oh what might have been.

The arrival of Glenn Hoddle revitalised the club but he left to take the England job in 1996 – since then our managers have rarely lasted more than a few seasons, with Ranieri nearly completing four.

Chelsea fans thought they got the real deal when 18 months ago we appointed Frank Lampard. Enough was enough of the managerial merry go round, and this was the appointment where we could settle down and surely give a club legend, who had been learning his trade at Derby County, that word which does not resonate in a Chelsea boardroom – time.

I’d really like to get into that boardroom and find out what they really want from a manager say season by season. There’s the League Cup, FA Cup, possibly a European trophy and the Premier League, whilst not forgetting the all-important Top 4. There’s not much to go around is there!

Some fans want to win trophies, with some thinking this is a must or they’ll desert the club, whilst some want to see entertaining football. Others want runs in the European competitions, whilst some are content just to support the club whatever they achieve.

Therefore in his first season in charge, Frank Lampard achieves a top 4 finish and an FA Cup final without being able to sign players, he then gets handed a lot of money, splashes the cash and come December we’re top of the Premier League and still in Europe.

A month later we’re ninth, some of his big money singings have been poor to say the least but we’re still in Europe and the FA Cup with a manager who’s still learning the job, so what exactly do the board want?

Whilst manager of Derby County, he took Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori on loan and in his first season at Chelsea had to play youngsters due to the transfer ban imposed on the club. This is what the fans wanted to see, academy players coming through the system and thriving; Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Reece James and Callum Hudson–Odoi.

Things haven’t since turned out well for Fikayo Tomori after such a promising start. He recently joined AC Milan on loan but Mason Mount has excelled under Lampard and was handed the captaincy on Sunday against Luton Town in the FA Cup. Maybe Lampard was being sentimental in giving Mount the armband, maybe he knew his time was up.

Personally I want someone who identifies with the club, Jose Mourinho did the first time and Antonio Conte did briefly. Fans disliked Rafa Benitez because of his Liverpool links and things he’d said, Maurizio Sarri was just Sarri, no charisma no interest in gaining a rapport with the fans. However, Frank was our man.

Who can forget how he celebrated at Tottenham. Jurgen Klopp has entrenched and endeared himself with the Liverpool way. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is a Manchester United legend and currently the club seem happy with him. Mikel Arteta was toast before Christmas but has since turned things around to a degree, whilst Pep Guardiola is still comfortable at the Etihad despite failing to win the UEFA Champions League.

Now confirmed as our new manager is former Mainz, Borussia Dortmund and PSG coach Thomas Tuchel who according to some reports won’t take orders from above and is a control freak – that augurs well for the future, although I wish him all the best.

Fans are fickle and no manager, player, boardroom member is bigger than the club so fans will move on. At the end of the day there’ll be a split – some will not accept Tuchel due to their loyalty to Lampard, whilst others won’t accept him as he possibly won’t buy into the club. Some won’t care as long as he wins those coveted trophies – but what if he doesn’t?

It’s just a shame that currently fans aren’t allowed in the ground as things could be hostile towards our beloved board members.

I wish the board would be open and honest with us the fans, being clear as to the bare minimum he has to achieve. I wonder if, say, in another 18-months, we still haven’t lifted the Premier League or Champions League, which Tuchel has failed to do thus far – what fate then awaits him?

I think we all know by now.


Football without fans: Pass me the remote

As football continues to be played behind closed doors, Tommie Collins looks into whether the special connection between us football fans, our teams and the beloved game is slowly being lost, or was it in fact already lost some time ago..

By Tommie Collins

Do you remember the very first time you attended a football match in the flesh? Was it a relative who took you or were you old enough to go on your own?

In the early seventies, I remember my uncle taking me down the Traeth to see Porthmadog in pre-season friendlies against Tranmere Rovers and Stoke City. He also took to my first ever Wales game at the Racecourse circa ’73, then to see Chelsea for the first time at Hereford circa ‘76.

These are all good memories since replicated with my kids. Taking my daughter aged two to Villa Park for the last game of the season which Chelsea drew, I remember holding her hand walking up the steps through the tunnel. When witnessing the vast stadium, she stopped and kneeled down seemingly in awe at the stadium. I then took my two boys to their first games at Torquay and Blackburn Rovers respectively. Another highlight for me was taking my eldest lad, then age six, to Marseille circa ’99. That I tell you was an experience and a half.

He also came with me aged 10 to the Parc des Princes to see PSG V Chelsea. These games made my kids the fans of today, going to Wales away matches and the occasional Chelsea match.

PSG v Chelsea, Parc de Princes 2004.

Yet why the ‘occasional’ match I hear you ask. Well, time has since seen the experience change with the abundance of live televised games. The odd live game here and there was all well and good. Then with the creation of the Premier League in 1992 came higher ticket prices which prompted the loyal travelling fan to question whether he could afford going, especially with the way it has since developed with silly kick-off times on any day of the week.

Many fans soon realised that they weren’t worthy pundits no more and that the game was in fact being turned into a TV event for the armchair fan, where pubs would be packed to the rafters.

Then with social media since coming into play it really has gone global. We all remember your club having a supporter’s branch in Wales, Ireland, Australia and the USA. Now any person in any country is blessed with a platform to give their own wonderful insight worldwide. Everyone has something to say and an opportunity to be heard which leads to outrage on social media sites. 

The old school supporter who got priced out of the game still supports their club and will still go when finances and transport allow. However, the global fan who might be based on the other side of the globe will do nothing but decry the old fan. They spout they are as much of a fan due to getting up at a god forsaken time to complain or lament a manager who possibly won the league the previous May, or who might be a club legend (i.e. Frank Lampard) but according to them he is already burnt toast.

Looking ahead to this upcoming summer’s Euro 2020/21 Championships, currently planned to take place across 12 different countries, this despite being in the midst of a global pandemic.

On 5 March, an announcement will be made on how many fans can attend or whether they will be held behind closed doors – actually, let’s just call it football without fans. Only last week UEFA offered to refund supporters if they didn’t/couldn’t attend this year, but why now? Why not wait until after 5 March to see what that announcement brings, or leave it until April even, where the vaccine situation could have changed things dramatically.

The pandemic has led to enough games being played in empty stadiums worldwide. Being at a live game allows you to criticise loudly, support and go ballistic when your team scores. One of my most recent games before the pandemic was Tottenham away at the their excellent new stadium. Chelsea came out on top and, even at my age, it meant something to be present.

“The game was made for supporters to attend, not for a watching TV audience which sadly it has since become.”

The train journey down, socialising pre-match, the buzz entering the ground, jumping like a madman when we scored, even at home watching Wales or Chelsea I could get emotional with a crowd there, but now I like many others sit there unattached, hardly watching the game.

Additionally, for years now there’s been a live game almost every night – it has been saturated to the point where I rarely watch a live game unless it involves Wales or Chelsea. But to the armchair fan, it’s sheer bliss and for UEFA to even contemplate playing the Euros without fans is nothing short of scandalous.

Ah but you might say ‘they’ve already cancelled it once remember therefore needs be’, so what – why won’t they cancel it again until 2022, then move the Qatar World Cup (another thorny issue in my backside) back another year.  The game was made for supporters to attend, not for a watching TV audience which sadly it has since become.

When UEFA’s inevitable ‘behind closed doors’ announcement comes on 5 March, I will then reluctantly watch the televised games at the Euros. However, I already know I just won’t be able to celebrate the same as if I was there.

Is it just me? Is it my age? Is it that I was brought up in the pre-live game era? Whatever it is, it’s currently a dismally soulless experience

… Pass me the remote.

Trains, Planes and a Crazy Taxi Driver

“The beer was vile so I again plumped for pear cider all the way from Cornwall! The old BATE stadium was adjacent to the bar and it seemed a pity we weren’t playing here – proper old skool stadium.”

When Chelsea’s UEFA Europa League draw was made I knew that I would miss PAOK as I was on holiday, whilst Vidi in December was a non starter, thus I fancied Bate Borisov in Belarus due to it being a country I hadn’t previously visited.


This was no straight forward trip to arrange even for Tommies Tours. The easiest way it seemed was to fly via somewhere to the capital of Belarus, Minsk, Borisov was about an hour away. The flight was touching £300 and the return was via Istanbul with a four-hour wait there as well. I explored the other options and flying to neighbouring Lithuania seemed a decent choice and again a country I hadn’t visited. However, by going this way you required a visa, what a stupid situation this was, if you fly into Minsk a visa isn’t required but entering any other way you need one – it should be all or nothing.

The visa seemed reasonable at £60 on top of the £143 flight to Vilnius, but problems lay ahead. The Belorussian Embassy in London would not answer any emails or phone calls, it was a complicated visa form thus I needed to speak to them. Eventually we decided to pay £100 for a visa company to assist us, which I must say they did well – the train to Minsk came out at £30 – not bad for a return which took over two hours both ways.

So flights booked and the visa arrived in time and match ticket was purchased for £17.50. The usual ticket collection was in place and with luck at our hotel, which by the way was excellent – kudos to Billy for booking, at least he didn’t moan about the hotel.

Baltic States

We flew to Vilnius via Stockholm where I refused to pay €12 for a pint at the airport but cracked and paid €9 for a bottle of pear cider – no logic in that. We arrived in Vilnius and a decent night was had. It wasn’t a poor place by any means but, my understanding is that compared to the other Baltic states such as Estonia and Latvia, Vilnius isn’t the nicest of the three. Maybe we weren’t there long enough but there was it seems only one street with bars and there wasn’t many, although they were decent. The beer was fine, we did look for a late bar, but to no avail we couldn’t find one, albeit a good outcome probably due to us having to catch the 06.15 train. There was passport control procedures at the station and the border crossing was nervous, they inspected our passports like they were looking for gold, but when they got the stamp out I knew we were in.

Catching a glimpse through the taxi window

The station in Minsk was a taxi ride away to the hotel where we passed the renovated national stadium – it looked impressive, as far as floodlight go it was porn, they were like gigantic tennis rackets.

Check in

The hotel bar was open when we arrived at 10.00am thus beers were ordered and we refused to pay the €77 for an early check in. We checked in at 12.00, showered and headed back to the bar and left for the mini bus to Borisov. Once again, this was a contentious decision as most were staying in Minsk till later – kick off wasn’t until 21.00, Google had shown a couple of bars in Borisov but the driver firstly decided to drop us of at the impressive stadium on the outskirts, I mean who wants to go in the stadium at 14.00 – he eventually managed to find a bar – the obligatory shamrock was outside and it had wooden decor inside. This area was grim, I’ve travelled a lot and this city was the grimmest I’d visited: it had nothing going for it.

Old ground walls.

Ordering food and drink was a nightmare, the waitress brought us two plates of cheese balls instead of the chicken and chips we ordered, she didn’t understand what a vodka and orange was: we were in Belarus! The beer was vile so I again plumped for pear cider all the way from Cornwall! The old Bate stadium was adjacent to the bar and it seemed a pity we weren’t playing here – proper old skool stadium. It seemed that some Chelsea fans were happy to stay in one bar but I wanted to say that I’d been to more than one, so we decide to head off to bar Pinta.

Crazy driver

The taxi arrived and promptly expected us to walk through the mud and puddles to it. Billy was having none of it and we persuaded her to drive to an area not as muddy. She drove off and whilst pulling out of a junction I could see the lorry drivers eyes, we were lucky – I’m sure someone had just given her a set of keys and said drive, she was character but wasn’t fit to be behind the wheel. To make matters worse, bar Pinta didn’t exist, to save our embarrassment of going back she came up trumps and took us to bar Dogma her local. It was a great bar and the thought of grim Borisov soon vanished.

The local Chelsea fans were there and wouldn’t take no for an answer regarding buying us a little drink, large shots of vodka were bought and I swear we couldn’t say no. A bear of a man then came in with a ‘Cymru am byth’ jumper (Wales for ever) but he was in no mood for a laugh, he was the sort of guy who you didn’t want to upset, he persuaded us to join him and share his jug of vodka, a man of little words, a gentle giant perhaps, but possibly ex-forces. Came across as a bit of a nutter.

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Vodka man

We eventually managed to free ourselves from vodka man and got to the ground. The evening sky was the same as the city, dank misty and grey. Chelsea scraped a win and the trip back to Minsk was a thirsty one, the hotel bar was crammed with Chelsea until the early hours of the morning where most realised they had a plane or train to catch.


I can’t really judge Minsk as I didn’t see enough but the contrast between Belarus and Lithuania was immense. Belarus people seemed regimented, and it seemed like a job for everyone, whilst when we arrived back in Vilnius everyone seemed jovial and happy. Borisov is the worst place I’ve ever been to, although I’m in Albania soon…

Four flights – ran a mile to catch a connection

Two trains

One nutter

One crazy taxi

Vodka – lost count

Beer- mostly good

Food – good

One grim city.

One night in Madrid

Many a football fan is found to be disillusioned with the modern day game. And is it any wonder, when they’re treated like this..

By Tommie Collins

Many football fans these days pick their games, whilst many have become disillusioned with the game due to outrageous ticket prices, astronomical player wages, live games schedule and even the boredom of facing the same old teams in the UEFA Champions League.

Thus, when Chelsea drew Atletico Madrid in the group stage of this seasons competition it was a match I wanted to attend mainly due to Atletico playing at their newly opened Estadio Wanda Metropolitano. The club played there previously from 1923 to 1966.

The flight was booked with Ryanair at a cheap price of £50, the match ticket cost more at £55, although the trip was in doubt at one stage due to Ryanair cancelling flights due to staff rostering – alas we were lucky our flight was going both ways.

My previous visit to Madrid was a 2-2 draw in 2009 at the Vicente Calderon- it was a cauldron of noise that night with an intimidating atmosphere, but what stood out was the sheer brutality of the Spanish police. Whilst leaving the metro near the ground before kick off Atletí fans were throwing missiles at us from the other side of the road, but it was the Chelsea fans that bore the brunt of the baton wielding police, cracking heads of innocent fans for it seemed with no reason except that they could. I had seen the Spanish police in action previously at the Real Zaragoza – Chelsea, European Cup Winners Cup tie in 1995 when again for no real reason they attacked us in the ground and took no prisoners.

This trip to Madrid saw no violence. The majority of fans these days are out for a good time whilst abroad, but the way Chelsea fans were treated after the match was something I thought was in the past. After the unforgettable few weeks at Euro 2016 in France with Wales, even with a real threat of terrorism, the French police – who I did have bad experiences with in the past whilst following Chelsea at Marseille and PSG – were excellent and kept their distance.

Chelsea had given us instructions to meet at an arranged point where we would be escorted to the ground in a 25 minute walk, with bars awaiting us at the meeting point. I don’t know of any fans who took up the club and police offer. The instructions read:

“The police strongly advise using the Metro’s Line 5, which runs from the city centre, and to get off at Metro Canillejas. They do not recommend using Line 7 which will be crowded with home fans.

The police have designated a meeting point outside Metro Canillejas, Plaza Del Cefiroline, which has a few bars close by. They recommend fans arrive there three to four hours before kick-off.

From the meeting point there is a 25-minute walk along Avenue Luis Aragones. It should be noted the stadium is located on the outskirts of the city and as such, adequate time should be allowed for the greater distances involved in travelling to the stadium compared with our previous visits to play Atletico. Police will accompany fans along the route to the stadium.”

Nevertheless, we made our own way to the ground without any issues, even arriving at the Metropoloitano metro station with the Atletico fans. After the match we were locked in for 45 minutes. This I can accept, during Wales’ recent visit to Serbia the lock in lasted an hour but you were free to find you own way back after. Instead of taking us to the metro station by the ground, by which time there were no Atletí fans in sight, the police proceeded to march us along a main road back to the pre match meeting point metro station. Despite repeated questioning by fans, there was no explanation why, there had been no trouble before, during or after the match. I finally managed to break away from the escort and found a bar which was supposedly near the pre match meeting point. 15 minutes later, lo and behold, the Chelsea escort turned up at the metro entrance. The bars were basically two small bars. Just imagine if the 2500 Chelsea fans had taken up the offer of the pre match meeting point.

I struggle to understand why football fans are still treated this way, it’s frustrating and needless, and it basically beggars the question why we bother. Could there have been Chelsea stewards with the police to convey information, perhaps?

Many supporters of clubs from abroad take it upon themselves to walk miles to their stadiums in a show of solidarity, that’s their choice. British fans like to stay in bars until as late as possible and make their own way to and from stadiums, it seems that the Spanish police have other ideas. When will this stop?

Fan organisations are in place these days with supporter liaison officers, Chelsea need to take the actions of the police up with the relevant authorities to prevent innocent supporters being denied their civil liberties as happened last week in Madrid.

Chelsea In Crisis, They Say.

Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea have struggled so far this term. Tommie Collins (@CymroPort) gives his opinion on the matter.


By Tommie Collins.

As a long standing Chelsea fan since the 70’s, this so-called crisis amuses me.

The Chelsea team I chose to support because of the white stripe on their shorts – who went 27 years without winning a trophy of note – that previously teetered on the brink of relegation to the old Third Division in 1983 – who sack managers at will – that were European Champions three years ago and won the league at a canter last season.

They are now in the middle of a crisis, apparently.

Chelsea have the most successful manager in their history at the helm – although some beg to differ that we don’t actually have a history.

However, Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea are now languishing in the lower reaches of the English Premier League with rival fans tipping the special, grumpy or sometimes happy one as the next in line for the chop.

Come on, will you – we were a poor side in crisis way back in those heady days of the late 70’s and early 80’s. See above for more details.

Onto this current crisis we go.

We are talking about the team who romped to the title a few months back, with fans and press alike handing out plaudits to the likes of John Terry, Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas – who I had reservations about from the start.

Why you ask? It was nothing to do with Cesc really, it had everything to do with the club’s philosophy of signing young players at will only to loan them out to other clubs – eh let’s just say a certain club that participate in the Dutch Eredivise.

It was the sheer arrogance of the club’s “we’ll buy because we can” attitude. I and many other long-term fans believed youth should have had their chance.

This current crisis is thought to have started back in pre-season – or the lack of it, according to some murmurs.

Too many players have underperformed since. Ivanovic, Matic, Hazard and Fabregas spring to mind. The latter, according to some fans that go week in, week out seems like he just doesn’t have the desire to perform at the top level every match: he’s been having a right mare, actually.

So José the magician is having his first crisis as a manager.

The Eva Carneiro incident has clearly affected him and the club also. In my opinon, José got that wrong.

The indiscriminate substitutions and dropping of players – especially the captain, leader, legend John Terry – suggests that something is wrong in the camp.

The futile attempt to coax John Stones from Everton ended in disaster and gave a message that José can no longer buy anyone he takes a fancy to. This also proved another kick in the teeth for many a youngster waiting in the shadows.

Chelsea have made errors in the past by sacking or not awarding contracts to managers at vital times. The McCreadie incident with the row in the 70’s springs to mind, whilst more recently you have the Carlo Ancelotti dismissal.

Getting rid of Ancelotti was a huge mistake, in my opinion. A mistake the club took a long time to recover from. Therefore, we need to stick with José now.

For some fans, this man can do no wrong and they’re entitled to their opinions, but for me he should toe the line and keep quiet during some situations. If the dressing room holds egos and players want him out, then they are doing a mighty good job of accomplishing it.

In life, we all make mistakes and should show some humility when they are made. I think it’s time for the special one to admit to the former and improve on the latter, perhaps.

Keep the faith.

Tommie Collins.

Tommie with José last season.

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