In the end, Chelsea failing to beat Brighton was almost an irrelevance.
It should actually have been on the undercard.
The big fight had already been won.
Wrestling back their club mattered far more to Chelsea’s fans, massed outside Stamford Bridge in the hours leading up to last night’s goalless draw.
They hurled beer in the air and caution to the wind as the word on the street came through that the club were pulling out of the Super League.
They hugged each other, maskless, in scenes that would have had the scientists crying on Chris Whitty’s shoulder.
Supporters may still be banned from the stands but they were still the ones with the final say over the scheme soaked in avarice that threatened to bring world football to it’s knees.
It was a protest before it turned into a party. Legendary former Chelsea keeper Petr Cech, now the club’s Technical Director, remonstrated in vain with the hundreds refusing to move to allow the team coach into the stadium.
He pleaded with supporters to “let the people sort it out” but a section of angry fans branded him a “traitor”.
Roman Abramovich must surely have had a shiver down his spine watching those scenes. Likewise Sheikh Mansour at Manchester City, Daniel Levy at Spurs and the others among the six clubs who’d agreed to the get-rich-quick scheme put to them by Real Madrid president Florentino Perez.
They had clearly, massively, underestimated the ferocity of the backlash they’d be facing after their bid to snatch football away from the people who pay for it.
The TV reporters from Sky and AFP couldn’t hear themselves think as more and more supporters poured out from Fulham Broadway tube station into the area just in front of the main entrance to Stamford Bridge.
Some clenched their fists and screamed into random microphones as they walked by, disturbing pieces to camera and trains of thought.
Others sang, loud and proud, defiant and unashamed.
Stewards in high visibility jackets formed a barricade two deep to prevent anyone feeling daring enough from trying to make it into the stadium proper.
The Kings Road was closed off from traffic as fans from other clubs joined forces to show solidarity. At various points they’d sit down as one in silence – then they’d rise as one with the noise deafening.
English football fans have had their issues over the years. But when they come together with a passion to fight a common enemy, boy can they make it work.
Then, delirium. A huge cheer went up as news started to filter through that Chelsea had had cold feet.
As TV, radio and digital platforms began to relay verified information that it really was the beginning of the end for the much-maligned plan, supporters began to chant: ‘Super League, you’re having a laugh!’ And ‘Football’s Staying Home’.
It was the only news that would have dispersed them. Had it not come, it is entirely likely that the atmosphere could have turned even more febrile. More supporters, perhaps, would have made it down to join in.
The game – already put back 15 minutes – would have been played to a soundtrack of vitriol and anger. Police would likely have moved in to try and break it all up eventually. Who knows what chaos could have unfolded then?
Instead, job done, the fans began to stream away, leaving hundreds of beer bottles lay strewn across the streets as if an impromptu music festival had been held on the Kings Road.
Alcohol and the accrid smell of, er, unusual tobacco filled the air as a hot early evening in south west London wound down.
Fans group We Are The Shed had been among the organizers for this one. Others had been planned and some will still go ahead despite the Super League house of cards falling apart so dramatically on Tuesday night.
The likes of Stan Kroenke at Arsenal, the Glazers at Arsenal and John W.Henry at Liverpool will not be getting off that lightly.
This is already a super league. It isn’t perfect and the hegemony of UEFA and FIFA probably does need challenging going forward. Many feel, for example, that European football’s rulers have sneaked though a 36-team Champions League with 225 games and gold cards for two Super League-type clubs – in plain sight.
We also need a stern examination of the weak domestic governance here in England that allowed six of the biggest clubs to pick up their ball and threaten to walk away so easily.
For now, though, football is staying home. We can map out a better future in the coming days and weeks. What matters most is that football still has one. One that the fans are still part of.
[email protected] (Darren Lewis)
This article originally appeared on Mirror – Football