Nestled somewhere in the pantheon of football, the hierarchy dictates there must be a bracket between ‘club legend’ and ‘good player’, the cult hero. This rare breed of player either does not achieve the former because they don’t spend long enough at the club, or do not achieve enough, but are slightly better than the latter – or spend so long at a club that people view their time there with rose-tinted eyes.
With this in mind, here are six fool-proof ways to ensure cult status around the hallowed halls and concrete walls of SW6:
- Scoring in Derbies
Before anyone asks, Didier Drogba will not be featuring in this section. That man could have his own almanac of articles explaining why he is a club legend and I’m sure no one needs that drilled in their head.
There is a sure-fire way to propel yourself onto the lips of fans for at least one week or more, by nabbing a goal against one of our London rivals in a fiercely contested derby. Against Tottenham Hotspur, the likes of Pedro, Gary Cahill and Nemanja Matic have scored screamers against the Lilywhites which have left fans and players alike staring in disbelief. Going back further, Alex’s thunderbolt against Arsenal still amazes. David Luiz’s strike against Fulham at Craven Cottage veers from ‘Why the f*ck did you try that David?’ to ‘Why the f*ck don’t you do that more often David?’. Andre Schurrle putting a terrible first half behind him to produce a clinical hat trick at Craven Cottage. Oscar’s beautiful curler against QPR – unbelievably not his best strike at home. The list goes on.
And of course, I couldn’t forget the latest sure-fire bet to score in London derbies – Marcos Alonso. Whether it’s battering Hector Bellerin out the way to slam in a header, firing home from the edge of the box miles away from the normal left-back position, or whipping out elastico nutmegs against Crystal Palace (yes really), Alonso will always “run down the wing” for the most vocal sections of the Matthew Harding Stand and The Shed.
Of course, there are downsides. Once you’ve retired, jealous fanbases will look back on your record against them and start posting reams about how you were overrated, or not good enough, whilst conveniently forgetting the fact that you were steamrolled every single time you came up against that certain player. But we already agreed, this section wasn’t going to be about Didier Drogba after all.
2. Wrecking Title Dreams
If somehow any Liverpool fans have snuck onto this article from somewhere, you might want to skip this.
If there is one thing in football that can match winning a title, it’s the sheer satisfaction of stopping a team from winning one. If you are a player and you want to forever hear your name sung around a stadium, then all you need to do is pop up with the decisive goal in a key match to stop a title charge in their tracks. Of course, it becomes that much easier when the opposition captain (a lifelong hero at this club and a undisputed icon) decides to generously pass you the ball and give you a free run in on goal. Add a sprinkle of 3rd choice goalkeeping heroics from Mark Schwarzer, a debutant Czech defender named Tomas Kalas shackling the league’s most fearsome striker, the worst corner in the history of the Premier League and the team’s ex-talismanic striker, and your most expensive signing ever laying the ball off in a one-on-one for your winger to walk the ball into the net in front of the away fans, it becomes quite a tall tale. Nothing like that could ever happen right? At least, not unless you are a certain Senegalese journeyman striker by the name of Demba Ba. Of course, you could also light the touchpaper by impudently backheeling in a cross against one of the world’s best defenders and their world class goalkeeper at their seemingly impregnable home-ground. Joey Cole, Joey Cole.
Poignantly, this article was published on the 6th Anniversary of that fateful moment at Anfield.
3. Rejecting Rivals
The same principle applies to any Spurs fans here- but come to think of it, why the f*ck are you here anyway?!
When transfers get hijacked, there is always a race for the losing party to be flippant. We never wanted him anyway. Of course, that’s a bit difficult when you’ve previously unveiled the player, complete with club shirt and number and announced the deal. It’s especially damning when that player is considered one of the top young talents in world football. And although John Obi Mikel never quite hit the heights of the African Zidane tag, he did stick around long enough to win absolutely everything in London and make nearly two-hundred and fifty appearances for the Blues. Equally damaging is when you show a player around a training ground – a certain smooth-headed Dutch winger for instance- and he chooses to join your new London rivals. Not that Arjen Robben would know anything about a situation like that.
Of course, nothing really hurts quite as much as when you actually fly a player in for a medical, only for them to ditch you and join the most successful club in London, only to then remind you what you could have had by delivering several MOTM performances against you. I’m sure Willian doesn’t regret seeing the light.
Could be worse Spurs fans. Could have actually had your transfer sabotaged by your star player calling their national teammate and telling them the manager was a complete idiot.
4. Having a fantastic name
Ah Pierluigi Casiraghi. What might have been.
What do Pierluigi Casiraghi, Cesar Azpilicueta, Eidur Gudjohnsen and Tore Andre Flo have in common? They all have utterly fantastic names. If someone asked you if you wanted to sign Freddy Church – big thumbs down. Federico Chiesa on the other hand – now that is exciting. Equally, who does love bellowing out ZOOOOOOOOOUUUUMMMMAAAAA when our French centre-back goes marauding forward, or simply knocks an opposition striker for six?
A great name doesn’t necessary guarantee you success at Stamford Bridge – injuries, lack of form and general performance usually plays a bigger part in that, but there is no denying that fans love a great quiz question like ‘Who made their only Chelsea appearance away at Walsall in added time of a 3rd Round Carabao Cup Tie in 2015?’ A quick hint – you might have already heard their nationality in this article.
If only we could persuade the commentators go for full names when discussing players – I for one would pay good money to see Paul Merson sweating over the prospect of discussing Oluwafikayomi Oluwadamilola ‘Fikayo’ Tomori assisting Kevin Oghenetega Tamaraebi ’Tammy’ Bakumo-Abraham.
5. Being ‘Propa Chels’
According to the Oxford English Dictionary (or a similar publication I’m sure), the words ‘Proper Chels’ actually refer to:
- A long-term Chelsea ‘fan’, potentially a season ticket holder, or someone who goes to a lot of games.
- A Chelsea fan who disagrees with anyone who might have a different opinion to them, on the grounds that they are the only one who are right.
“You don’t go to enough games to be considered propa Chels”
“If you rate Maurizio Sarri, you are not propa Chels.”
In terms of players, Propa Chels actually refers to those that have supported the club before joining and actually gone on to have great careers at SW6. Like Romelu Lukaku, who idolised Didier Drogba and couldn’t stop telling everyone how much he wanted to emulate him at Chelsea… err that’s not a great example actually.
Instead let’s look at one of the best recent shock stories, the Jamaican Sergio Ramos Michael Hector who often talks about being a Chelsea fan…
Actually, on second thoughts, let’s move on.
The days of Roy Bentley, Ron Harris and the much missed Peter Bonetti and Peter Osgood are long gone (and all are bona-fida legends, rather than cult heroes).
6. Having that Memorable Moment (or Match)
It’s an old adage that every single sports person has one truly brilliant game in them, where they defy expectation and achieve things they never thought possible. If you time this game at exactly the right moment, you have a chance to permanently mark yourself out as a cult hero.
This peculiar phenomenon is why everyone will remember the name of Ryan Bertrand, who carefully controlled and nullified the wing threat during that legendary Champions League final in Munich, and became the first Champions League debutant to win the trophy.
It’s why Andre Schurrle will so often pop up in conversation as players that deserved longer in Blue – that Fabregas assist against Burnley is case in point. It looks immense because the German had the intelligence to make that run, rather than let it trickle out of player.
It’s why we all loved Rob Green, another possible member of the cult club, saving Diop’s penalty against Lyon in pre-season. Why Beletti popping up with the occasional screamer from right back became a thing of celebration. Samuel Eto’o’s contender for flukiest hat trick ever against Manchester United, Hernan Crespo’s winner against Wigan in the dying embers, and of course, Ramires’ legendary chip against Barcelona in the Nou Camp. All iconic in their own right. All of these moments will conjure up vivid memories every single time.
Cesc Fabregas hitting those West Brom players and pretending he didn’t mean it was my favourite moment from the Spaniard.
The Final Word
So what have we learned? Simple.
There is no single way to make yourself a cult hero at a club like Chelsea and many players will sadly never achieve this lofty tag even temporarily.
Those that can sustain it for a period of time may even find themselves elevated to the pedestal of legend, albeit only in hyperbole in some cases.
But there is no denying that there is something special about being a cult hero in football, and there is no denying that Chelsea in recent years have had plenty of contenders.
Edited by Dami Adeleye