For former Chelsea midfielder Steve Sidwell, Stamford Bridge resembles a “quiet stadium” which provides bleak atmosphere even during supposedly massive encounters. “Some stadiums get up for the big games more than others,” said Sidwell, who had a brief stint at the west London side back in the 2007-2008 season. “But generally, unless there’s real entertainment on the pitch, it’s a quiet stadium.”
While The Bridge opened as early as 1877, it was in 1905, when Gus Mears established the west London side, that the ground became the Blues’ home until today. In the 1990s, it went on a massive renovation to become a modern stadium and currently holds about 41,000, making it the 10th largest football stadium in England.
The now-retired Sidwell made 25 appearances in all competitions for the Blues during that single season at west London but having gone on to grace Chelsea’s ground regularly by spending the best part of his career in the English top-flight, the 36-year-old thinks Stamford Bridge, which has been primed to expand into a 63,000-seater stadium by the 2023-2024 season, can be a drab area to play on, whichever side he was suiting up for. “That’s from playing there and going as an opposition player as well,” added the Wandsworth native.
Yet while Sidwell reckons the Blues’ home ground does not produce the necessary atmosphere during the matches that matter, the Stamford Bridge faithful have certainly made their discontent known recently as the club suffered an alarming dip in form and results.
During the west London side’s timid exit against Manchester United in an FA Cup match last month, many fans voiced their displeasure regarding Maurizio Sarri’s method of play with the chant “f*** Sarri-ball.” Days later, Chelsea supporters turned their disgust on Jorginho, the chief enforcer of the ex-Napoli manager’s philosophy, jeering the midfielder as he came on as a substitute even while the Blues were on their way to victory against Malmo in the Europa League.
Yet with the club back on track now, having returned to contention for a top-four finish in the Premier League as well as getting a supposedly favourable draw in the Europa League quarterfinals in the form of Czech side Slavia Prague, the hope is that with the all-important games coming thick and fast, Stamford Bridge can provide a more animated and dynamic matchday experience.