Jose is right but there are several reasons the Bridge has been quiet

Jose Mourinho accused Chelsea’s fans of being too quiet during Saturday’s narrow win over struggling neighbours QPR. But was he right, and if so why are the fans not making noise?

Well, the uncomfortable truth is that Chelsea home games can be a bit quiet and it has been the case for some time. But Stamford Bridge is far from the only stadium where that is the case.

Old Trafford and the Emirates both hold far more people – and therefore more vocal chords – but are both very quiet, and Anfield can be too during games, for all the noise Liverpool’s fans might make singing a show tune before kick-off.

The Bridge is in that category too these days. When I started attending matches regularly as a teenager in the early 1990s the football wasn’t as good, the stadium was dilapidated and the crowds were smaller – but the noise was louder.


“At this moment it’s difficult to play at home because playing here is like playing in an empty stadium.”

Jose Mourinho

Obviously the main noise came from the Shed End, and the East Stand was known for being quieter, but you could be sure of an atmosphere in the West Stand too.

These days there is singing in the Matthew Harding Stand – usually – and sometimes from the Shed End. But that is often about it.

There are many reasons that is the case, some solvable and some not.

In terms of the geography and architecture of the stadium, the Shed End stand is smaller than it should be and is shared with the away fans – a move apparently instigated by Mourinho in his first spell as manager when he got tired of the away fans sitting behind him and next to the television and radio microphones in the East Stand.

Several other reasons relate, frankly, to the type of people in the crowd.

Success brings attention and admirers and a trip to a Chelsea match has become a must for many visiting London. At every game there are hundreds, if not thousands, of tourists.

Many of these will never have seen Chelsea play before, so of course they probably do not know the words to One Man Went To Mow or songs about Tottenham going to Rome to see the Pope and are unlikely to join in.

But they probably will spend £50 or more in the megastore, so the club would rather have hundreds of them in the ground than traditional fans who won’t buy a new shirt because they’ve already got one. And if it isn’t tourists then it’s people in suits who’ve decided to bring a business associate.

On the subject of money, the wages of a team made up of some of the best players in the world do not come cheap and one way of funding those wages is to charge high admission prices.

Chelsea is a big business and that is not the fans’ doing. Again, this is not an issue unique to Chelsea, but it is having an impact at Stamford Bridge.

It is not easy for youngsters in lowly-paid jobs or still in education to afford to come to games – and often it is these fans, full of the energy and exuberance of youth, who are likely to make the most noise. I know, I sang and shouted more a few years back but it doesn’t mean I care any less. I’m just getting older.

Eden Hazard's against QPR winner livened up the home crowd
Eden Hazard’s against QPR winner livened up the home crowd

And I am not alone in that. Look around you and you will see a lot of middle-aged and older people. That’s not a bad thing, it shows people who started following Chelsea in their younger days are sticking with the club – and why wouldn’t you? We’re a great team to support – I certainly have no plans to stop coming any time soon.

But near where I sit in the Matthew Harding lower, we’re all getting old together and, for a lot of people, the descent into middle age brings with it a bit of a loss of energy and a general sense that there are other things in life and while you still love watching football, maybe screaming and singing for 90 minutes doesn’t rank quite so importantly.

There are other issues at hand too. In the old days of terracing the singers could gather together and if you wanted to sing and found yourself in a quiet area you could move.

Those days are no more, and it’s no surprise many people have suggested areas of the ground devoted to those who want to sing.

I sat in the Shed End for the Maribor game and it was almost silent, but one bloke a few seats to my right spent almost the whole first half trying, and failing, to get everyone to sing. I’d have joined in if anyone else had shown an inclination to join him but nobody did.

So why did Jose raise the issue this week? He pointed out the contrast between the quiet of the home game and the noise Chelsea fans made at Old Trafford and Shrewsbury – but away followings are almost always louder.

An away game is more of an adventure and the fans that tend to go to them are by nature some of the most devoted – you would tend to be if you go every week rather than just to some home games – and so it’s no surprise our away support is vocal.

The same goes for teams who come to Stamford Bridge. And, especially now we are a massive club, it’s one of their big days out of the year, so of course they make noise.

Looking at this past weekend, the Chelsea game is QPR’s cup final – the local derby, a game against the team they probably most want to beat all season. But for some real and devoted Chelsea fans, it’s just another game.

Many Blues fans despise QPR but some either aren’t old enough to remember playing them all that often, or reserve the ire for other rivals – the bigger London opposition or the clubs we are in direct competition with for trophies.

And the days of working with and living near QPR fans have gone for a lot of supporters because west London has become unaffordable for many people to live in. That’s not the fault of Chelsea or the fans, it’s the fault of London’s broken property market.

Eden Hazard of Chelsea
Many visitors to London want to see the likes of Hazard in action

So Jose was right. But should he have said it?

He is an old hand at deflecting attention away from the team after a poor performance – and Saturday’s wasn’t great. But this is the first time I can remember him turning the focus on to the fans.

Some fans are angry. Angry because they do make noise, did sing against QPR (I know I did) and angry because they pay vast sums of money to support Chelsea and don’t expect to be criticised for it.

And the fans who go to Anfield next weekend are sure to get mocked by Scousers eager to seize upon Jose’s words in just the same way they loved Rafa Benitez’s line about plastic flags.

Jose has highlighted a problem that exists at many English football clubs and does need tackling.

He’s been brave to do that and to criticise his own team’s fans, but in doing so he has turned a nationwide problem into a Chelsea problem.

People are talking about the lack of noise at Stamford Bridge and calling us plastic fans when you could point the same finger at a load of clubs.

It might be that today’s news is tomorrow’s chip paper, or this could bring about a change. A long-term change would mean a lot of action but Jose’s words might just bring about short-term change – I bet it’s noisier when we play West Brom in our next home game.

So Jose was right. But there are a lot of reasons for the problem and he maybe shouldn’t have said it how he did or when he did. It remains to be seen whether it does any good or not.

James Clarke is the author of Moody Blues: Following the second-best team in Europe

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