PAUL McPARLAN (@pmaccap)Â reviews the new book by one of our own, All Blue Daze (not his real name, I’m sure you realise).
All Blue Daze is the Nom de Plume of a Chelsea fanÂ who is a regular contributor to a number of football magazines and websites including this one. I Donâ€™t Even Smoke is his first published book in which he describes his five-decades long passion for Chelsea, despite the fact he was born and still lives in the West Midlands. This is a not your bog-standard football tome as regularly churned out by certain tabloid football journalists and it does not feature interviews with star players and their friends. This is a fan describing the emotional rollercoaster of supporting a team and the impact it has on his life, family and possibly his health.
The book starts with feelings of despair and desolation as he watches John Terry miss the final spot kick in the Champions League final of 2008 in the company of his Manchester United supporting daughter and concludes with Chelsea winning the final in 2012.
However, there is much more to this book than just Chelsea. In the opening chapters the author describes how he spent many of his early years watching Walsall in the old Division Three. The part football plays in forming family bonds is often underplayed but his father played a key role in his induction into the world of football. His descriptions of travelling with his father to Walsall games on the “football special” bus from the town centre and watching the matches surrounded by serial smoking middle aged men evoke memories of the days when viewing live football was not the sanitised experience it can be today. Although, his depiction of the menâ€™s urinals on the terraces at Walsall will make you appreciate todayâ€™s improved sanitation at stadia.
The author also delves into the complications of falling in love with someone who supports a different club, as do their parents. His future wife and her parents are season ticket holders at Wolves and there are some amusing accounts of them watching Wolves vs. Chelsea games together in the late seventies and early eighties, with the author having to sit heavily on his hands so as not to celebrate a Chelsea goal. You certainly are left with the feeling thatÂ the in-lawsÂ have never fully accepted his choice of footballing allegiance. Even his own offspring are split , his son supports Chelsea and his daughter supports Manchester United. For some strange reason , he seems to think that by supporting Chelsea , he has dragged his son into “A pit of despair”. I donâ€™t think many fans of other clubs would agree with this view.
The majority of the chapters on Chelsea concentrate on the Abramovich years, building up to the Champions League final of 2012. There is a season by season analysis of Chelseaâ€™s signings, including detailed analyses of several players whose names have been long forgotten both by Chelsea fans and the wider football fraternity. Anyone know, off-hand,Â what became of Jiri Jarosik , Khalid Boulahrouz or Franco Di Santo?
There is also a detailed examination of the managerial records and styles of the managers who led the club during the Abramovich years. The author clearly has a soft spot for Di Matteo, understandable given the focus of this book, and for Mourinho, but Ancelotti appears to have been his favourite. However, with Ranieri now taking LeicesterÂ CityÂ to the top of the Premier League, perhaps it is time to for the author to reconsider his record at Chelsea. His assertion that Mourinho was right to sell Lukaku looks more suspect each day. He offers a fan based detailed analysis of the differing managerial styles of the men appointed by Abramovich and certainly appreciates the job that Guus Hiddink has performed in difficult circumstances. However , one can safely assume that neither Big Phil Scolari or Andre Villasâ€“Boas will be on his Christmas card list.
The Champions League campaigns between 2005 and 2012 are described in some detail and the author seems to have an impressive recollection of every tactical mistake, dubious refereeing decision and incident of pure bad luck which contrived to send Chelsea out of the competition undeservedly. There is certainly a theme of dodgy Scandinavian officials and defensive catastrophes that have cost the club dear, not to mention the infamous “ghost” goal scored by Liverpool in the 2005 semi final. I quite enjoyed reading these embittered accounts of unfortunate early cup exits.
Chelsea finally won the Champions League for the first and only time in 2012. Each game of the campaign is reported in comprehensive detail and although I knew the outcome of these games, I still found myself caught up in the ebb and flow of each match. The transformation of Torres from Premier League underperformer to goal scoring hero in the semi-final bemuses the author as much as anyone else. Di Matteo is rightly credited for his excellent tactics which allowed Chelsea to achieve results against much more skilful sides and for his impressive reorganisation of the defence after John Terryâ€™s sending off against Barcelona.
The book ends with his account of the final in Munich and I found his narration of the passage of the game to be both gripping and entertaining as Chelsea went from losing to drawing to winning against the strong favourites Bayern. The detailed analysis of the penalty shootout and the tactics employed by Peter Cech are worth reading. At the end of the game, there is a touching moment of bonding between the author and his son as they realise the enormity of what they have just witnessed. AndÂ the cigar that lay unsmoked since the 2008 final is finally enjoyed, even though as the author has said several times during the book, ” I donâ€™t even smoke”.
This book is an excellent account of the emotions of watching football from a fanâ€™s perspective and you do not need to be a Chelsea fan to enjoy it. Some football traditionalists may be disappointed that most of the Champions League games were watched on the television and not live in the respective stadia, however, a number of my own friends have not set foot inside a league ground for a number of years, yet due to the wall-to-wall coverage of football on television, they are as knowledgeable as anyone else.
Being picky, the proof reading could have been a bit sharper (a few spelling mistakes). The author also tries to justify not supporting his local team in the early chapters but his argument is quite spurious and seems to imply that unless you support your local park team you cannot really consider yourself to be a local supporter. However, he has maintained his support for Chelsea over five decades and has survived spells in Division Two and Ken Batesâ€™ threats to put up electric fences at Stamford Bridge! Despite what some pundits think, not every Chelsea fan is a high flying financier who downs bottles of Cristal in the Executive boxes at half time.
The book is currently available on Amazon for Â£3.89 and on Kindle for Â£1 and at those prices, I would recommend giving the book some of your valuable time. Get it HERE