A wish for Sunday

Posted by Mark Worrall

Mike Hewitt/Getty ImagesStamford Bridge will assuredly be packed again when Chelsea take to the field on Sunday versus Hull City.

Since the day Chelsea CEO Ron Gourlay announced the reappointment of the Special One, Jose Mario dos Santos Felix Mourinho, as Blues manager, supporters around the globe have been wiling away the time to the big kickoff debating in minute detail every aspect of what might transpire during the season that lies ahead.

- Lythell: Mourinho aiming to turn dreams into reality
- Lythell, Worrall: Chelsea 2013-14 season preview
- Marcotti: Revolution at the top

Mourinho's return to Stamford Bridge had come as no surprise to anyone. Optimists heralded the "Second Coming" as a joyous thing to behold, a match truly made in heaven. Cynics, on the other hand, opined that it was a marriage of convenience as both Club and manager, by virtue of their fractious DNA, had painted themselves into the same reluctant corner. Whatever the case, the preseason portents look good, and when John Terry leads the team out on Sunday afternoon, those of a Blue persuasion will be relishing the prospect of witnessing a frenzied goal-fest against a Hull City side that will be present to complete the spectacle -- nothing more.

For those of us who will be fortunate enough to be inside Stamford Bridge, this is what we live for: the anticipation, the buzz, the banter, the sound of the crowd. I know I'm lucky -- I live 10 miles from the stadium. Chelsea Football Club has been a part of the glue that binds my life together for more years than I care to remember. The friendships that I have made along the way make the shared experience of watching a game more enjoyable than the game itself.

For some Blues supporters, geography and/or personal circumstances make a visit to the Bridge either a rare treat or just a beautiful dream, but even if Chelsea come to you via a satellite link to a TV in a remote part of the world, your viewing pleasure is significantly enhanced if you are watching the boys in Blue with family and friends.

Friendship and football go hand-in-hand, but we take it for granted -- right up until the moment that something happens to alter that dynamic. Unknown to me, in the midst of the euphoria surrounding the Special One's return, tragedy had been lurking around the corner. For the first time in my life, I would have to deal with the denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance that comes with the death of someone truly loved. On June 6th, I received a message that my oldest friend Uti Thakkar -- better known to the Chelsea community as Sir Larry -- suffered a heart attack. At first, it seemed that things would be okay, but then the grim reality began to set in. On June 13th, my birthday, Sir Larry passed away without regaining consciousness. Earlier that day, I'd sat at his bedside tearfully willing him to wake up, willing myself to wake up, kidding myself this was just a bad dream, but it wasn't. There would be no more adventures, no more elbows-on-the-bar drinking sessions, no more nonsensical discussions and no more Chelsea matches together. Nothing, that was it -- game over. Thirty-three years of friendship, with never a cross word between us, stubbed out like one of those smoked-to-the-filter cigarettes that Larry was all too fond of.

Larry was one of those rare people who didn't have a bad bone in his body. A genuine fellow who was taken to heart by all who met him, which, back in the day, was just as well when it came to supporting Chelsea. Sir Larry was a Ugandan Asian whose family had arrived in Britain in 1972 having been expelled by dictator Idi Amin. I'd first made his acquaintance at college in 1980, and four years later, despite me warning him of what he might experience, he made his Stamford Bridge debut -- a volatile encounter with West Ham United during which Larry would witness the full extent of filth and fury associated with following the Blues at that time.

Standing up by the Tea Bar on the old Shed Terrace, Larry got some curious glances. No doubt a few observers convinced themselves that he had a suntan, unable to cope with the reality that there was a foreigner in their midst. On the pitch, Chelsea ran out comfortable 3-0 winners. Next up at the Bridge was a cup game with Millwall, and an enthralled Sir Larry was back for more. As the years progressed and his madcap personality developed, I began to write and share my experiences of watching the Blues, and of course, Larry was right there in the middle of it all. It is said that grief is the last gift that we can give the dead, but in Sir Larry's case, my gift to my dear, departed friend is the written memories of his legend as a Chelsea supporter, which ensure that he will never be forgotten.

The stark reality that Larry won't be standing next to me and applauding as Chelsea take to the field on Sunday was forced upon me when my season ticket dropped through the letterbox. It's going to be a tough day, and I'm sure that out there in the True Blue beyond, there will be other supporters gathering to watch the game, lachrymose at the memory of one of their number who has departed this life. My thoughts will be with all of you.

Sir Larry was beside himself with excitement at the prospect of the Special One coming back to Stamford Bridge. The last time I had a drink with him, the potential of Romelu Lukaku was among the topics of discussion. We agreed that the young Belgian international was ready to lead the line, and if preseason form is anything to go by, then maybe we were right. So here's hoping Jose gives him a chance, because I'm sure Lukaku will take it. In his last Premier League appearance, he scored a hat trick against Manchester United. The boy, by his own admission, is now a man. Can you imagine what he might do to the Hull City defence? The Tigers will be terrified. I'll be willing Romelu Lukaku to do well, and I've no doubt that somewhere out there in the ether Sir Larry will be cheering when he scores. Life goes on, but for me, the pleasure of watching Chelsea will never be quite the same again.

Twitter: @gate17marco


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