Darrell Allen started attending FAWSL games regularly for the first time this season, making 300+ mile round-trips to Kingsmeadow. He shares his experiences from the campaign below (30/5/22).
Above: Chelsea lift the FA Cup at Wembley to cap the end of Darrell Allen’s first season watching them at Kingsmeadow. Photo: Vitality Women’s FA Cup.
That was certainly some season to be attending regular Women’s Super League games, a Chelsea league title success and turned into a cup double with the extra time success over Manchester City at Wembley. Just those two events alone come with enough memories for a lifetime.
In the heart of summer 2021 just as Covid restrictions had been lifted and society was returning to normal, despite living 169 miles from Kingsmeadow, I made the decision to journey regularly through the season to watch some of the world’s best players.
The first trip would be for Chelsea’s game with Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday 2nd October. In hindsight, probably not the greatest of decisions with kick off moved to Saturday at 11.30am for television and weather conditions were also as dire as they could possibly be.
My first experience of seeing Chelsea live was just incredible and seeing all the names you associate with greatness in front of your eyes was a moment to behold. It wasn’t Chelsea’s best performance but a 3-1 win with Sam Kerr and Beth England adding to Guro Reiten’s opener made it a memorable afternoon and a good start to my trips to Kingsmeadow.
My second trip of the season came in February when I attended the Friday night game against Arsenal billed as arguably the FAWSL title decider. This was a day that will live long in the memory as I had the privilege of meeting Emma Hayes and see the players arrive.
The game itself was something special, with fans of both teams rammed into the stands together with only enough room to just stretch your arm. A closely fought 0-0 with both sides denied a stonewall penalty was my second offering.
Just two weeks later I returned for the Fifth Round FA Cup tie with Leicester City. Chelsea took care of business with a stunning 7-0 win thanks to braces from Pernille Harder and Kerr with Ji So-Yun, Aniek Nouwen, and England adding a goal each to complete the success.
Two weeks later and the league game against Aston Villa. This was a surreal day as the ground was bare and no programmes or merchandise for sale due to the restrictions imposed by the government. However, it was a privilege to be there to see Hannah Hampton produce one of the greatest goalkeeping displays I have ever seen but Sam Kerr eventually found a way through with a dramatic stoppage time winner to spark wild scenes on the terrace. Another trip certainly well worth it.
This day I particularly thought was the decisive one in the direction of the title race, Chelsea had Hannah Hampton in the way of everything in the Aston Villa net, a crowd limited due to the aforementioned restrictions, and this game was heading for two dropped points until Sam Kerr found a way and got the stoppage time winner. Kerr was continuously trying to raise the crowd, as well as continuing to remain calm when opportunities were squandered but the incredible movement in behind Villa’s defence was going to catch them out eventually and so it proved.
A player who is priceless, a goal that was priceless and a day that I believe gave Chelsea the forward momentum to that would eventually see them go on to win the FAWSL title.
My final visit of the season was for the final day clash against Manchester United. Chelsea knew a win would guarantee them the title and what followed was an extremely enjoyable afternoon as Chelsea came from 2-1 down at half time to win the FAWSL title 4-2 thanks to goals on the day from Erin Cuthbert, two specials from Sam Kerr and Guro Reiten with the other. The title celebrations, speeches, and trophy lift will stay with me forever.
If that wasn’t enough, the following Sunday was Chelsea against Manchester City in the FA Cup Final at Wembley. Seeing Chelsea win the trophy in dramatic style thanks to a Sam Kerr extra-time winner was a special day in itself but nothing compares with the close, tight knit family atmosphere and feel that Kingsmeadow provides.
There has been a lot of talk over the season as to why Chelsea did not play any games at Stamford Bridge this season, and Sunday 8th May at Kingsmeadow for the game with Manchester United proves why.
Fans close to the pitch, a ground packed to the rafters and a great atmosphere being created. I believe Chelsea won the title because this match was at Kingsmeadow. The players needed the fans to help inspire the second half turn around and they did just at. Had it been at a likely half full Stamford Bridge at best then the Chelsea players would have found it very difficult to feed off an atmosphere that at Kingsmeadow inspired that second half comeback. Long may it continue that Chelsea use Kingsmeadow.