After the hard fought win against QPHa Ha on Saturday, Jose went on the offensive; the floodlights man was targeted and then so were the fans. We were too quiet apparently - I was there and I can't say the noise levels were any different from normal; we got loud when we attacked, sat grumbling when we didn't, started whining when our small neighbours scored and then we went mad when Hazard scored the winner. The only thing with the potential to have changed that would have been Rio Ferdinand's appearance. T'was ever thus, so one has to wonder what Jose is up to.
In English football, there is a real pride thing going on when it comes to the intensity or volume of support, the repertoire of songs, the atmosphere. Arsenal have always played at The Library, Liverpool's atmosphere is forever condemned as a myth, Old Trafford is the Theatre of Screams and so on. So when a manager steps into the arena of fan rivalry and criticises his own fans for quietness, he is really moving into dangerous territory. I have seen hundreds of exchanges between fans ever since and Jose has very much blotted his copybook with lots of them. Others think he is spot on but if he is, it isn't a problem confined to Chelsea but one that afflicts English football's top flight in general. Many point to all seaters and the prohibition of beer in the stadium; we get louder when pissed and standing up apparently. Back in the old days of Stamford Bridge, a windswept, concrete monstrosity of a stadium, we were so far from the pitch that it was a wonder players could hear us at all. As for the other fans, they were miles away and interaction with them either meant charging into them with fists flying or scarcely noticing them at all. If the opposition scored at the old north stand end, the roar from their supporters actually suffered a time delay before reaching us in the Shed. But then, most of the time from 1972 onwards, we were rubbish and going to the football only partially involved watching the game, so we just sang songs, pissed down the back of each other's trousers and gave rousing, dangerous renditions of Knees up Mother Brown that created an undulating mass of bodies and chaos. There was an atmosphere of sorts but usually it was one of menace. You see, we weren't terribly good so it never really bothered us too much. In fact, there was honour to be had from being there so frequently whilst the team lost, an outcome that was just as likely as a win.
Modern football has changed all of that for the bigger teams. Now we take it all a bit too seriously, it means too much, we expect more and so we sit anxiously for most of the match, only erupting into celebratory mood when the win is certain. Away games are better; there are lots of theories for this including the argument that those travelling are generally the more hardcore support. Another is that a greater proportion are a little inebriated and so more effusive. I also believe there is an element of being in The Lion's Den too, which provokes a more vocal belligerence. At Stamford Bridge, as with other grounds, fans are now much more demanding, wanting to be entertained and once we are, well maybe we'll pipe up a bit by way of praise. The choreographed and constant cacophony of European Stadiums (I got a headache at PSG, so loud and persistent was the noise) has never been an English thing and our noise levels tend to be much more responsive. In some ways, that strikes me as a more dynamic way of doing things: a constant noise is "an atmosphere" for sure, but without the peaks and troughs or approval and despair, I am not sure players on the pitch are necessarily more emboldened or intimidated by a persistent din.
One other aspect of English support that has always interested me is how poor we are at actually singing. I don't want to get too operatic and technical here but when I hear other countries' fans, especially Italian, there is a much fiercer and compelling togetherness in their singing. We tend to just shout a rough approximation of a tune (often an operatic one). Perhaps Jose should suggest that Roman pays Opera Holland Park to teach the Matthew Harding how to sing?
In any case, I suspect Jose's real point is that Chelsea fans, like the players on Saturday, are becoming a bit complacent, but he is still on dodgy ground. I predict two things will happen now;
a) Jose will backtrack furiously and b) during our next home game fans will make more noise. If it happens, the lunatic will have again brought his asylum to heel.