Best of enemies

Thursday 18 April 2002

Fulham's defeat at the hands of Chelsea last Sunday will forever remain one of our supporters most painful memories.

On Wednesday Paul Thorpe caught up with life-long Chelsea fanatic Jonathon Beale to get a Blue prospective on the closely fought match, and the re-born rivalry that exists between the two Clubs's.

So what do Chelsea fans make of Fulham these days?

"To be honest" said Jon, "In recent years we've not given Fulham a second thought. We've clearly had our sites set a little higher than events at Craven Cottage.

"I think many Chelsea fans were pleased that Fulham won promotion as it meant we could have a real West London derby again. Us slightly older supporters have missed that (and the six points that usually go with it!)

"However to be fair to your lot you've done well in the last 5 years or so and many of us, if we are honest, do believe that you'll be a threat to our domination in West London before too long.

"Money plays an important role in football, and I guess you have to say that you've got as much, if not more than us to play with these days. In the end, I suppose that will have to tell.

"However, we believe that we're still some way ahead of you at the moment. Until you get your new stadium then it's going to be difficult for you to become a real threat. But when that's completed and if you manage to build upon your recent success, I suppose we'll be looking over our shoulders to a degree."

Chelsea won Sunday's untidy semi-final with a scrappy goal. What did Jon and his mates make of the game?

"It was a disappointing affair all round really. We dominated at times but we were never at our best. We never really got a kick on the second half and there were times when I certainly thought that it was only a matter of time before you equalised.

"Thankfully that didn't happen but that was the third time I've seen Fulham play this season and you've impressed us on each occasion.

"If only you could score," he added with a grin.

What do Chelsea fans make of the rivalry between the two sets of supporters these days?

"I think it's great. It's very healthy and unlike our rivalry with some other Club's the hatred isn't there.

"The passion is of course, but it's more like Liverpool v Everton rather than Leeds v Man Utd if you like. The rivalry is intense but the heat isn't there and that's nice. It makes for a good, rather than a scary atmosphere which nobody wants or enjoys.

"On the way to the game I was amazed at the amount of Fulham and Chelsea fans who'd travelled to the match together. I even saw two couples holding hands, on each occasion the fella was wearing his Fulham shirt, his partner a Blue one.

"I think Fulham and Chelsea remains a family thing in many cases. You often find that a family is split (my uncle and my sister are Fulham fans) and that helps take the sting out of these occasions - but it also makes it worse when your team loses I suppose".

"My Sister Hannah still hasn't spoken to me despite the fact that I've sent her three text messages!"

So are Chelsea fans hoping that Fulham retain their Premiership status and will Fulham fans be hoping that Chelsea go on to win the FA Cup?

"Knowing you Paul I think you'd rather see Barcelona win the FA Cup than Chelsea! But seriously, I think all Chelsea supporters would be disappointed if Fulham were relegated.

"We've all waited a long time for the re-birth of the West London derby and both sets of fans have clearly enjoyed the occasions.

"Do Fulham fans want us to win the FA Cup? Of course not, and we wouldn't want you to win it either if you were in our position. I guess we'll just have to carry on being the very best of enemies."