“That’s why we’re champions,” crowed the Matthew Harding Stand after César Azpilicueta had bundled Chelsea back from the precipice. Their meaning was clear enough: you do not win titles without the wherewithal to make light of a seemingly lost cause and the way that – invigorated by Antonio Conte’s substitutions – they punished Watford in the last 20 minutes brought to mind some of last season’s remorseless displays.
The memory of the great title defence meltdown of 2015-2016 is still fresh in the minds of all at Stamford Bridge and for that reason there may well have been distressing flashbacks among the support with 20 minutes left and a goal behind to opposition of a much lower status.
If there’s a way in which the Chelsea matchday experience resembles the Watford matchday experience it’s in the Fulham Road beforehand, a seething artery that channels the masses towards the stadium transforming it into something quite unrecognisable to those who see it on a “normal” day, in much the way as Vicarage Road always feels odd if you chance down it during the week. Today the October spinning dial that promised sunshine and rain and wind and made preparation next to impossible settled on sunshine, fitting for a rare trip to the Bridge that didn’t come with the knowledge that we were likely to get stuffed.
Toddy’s funeral took place on Wednesday. It has to be said that his family and many friends gave him a magnificent send off and it was fitting that the wake was held in the Captain’s bar at Vicarage Road. The help given to Toddy’s family by his friends at the club, especially Dave Messenger, has been outstanding and a testament to what he meant to the people there.
So to Saturday and with Watford in red hot form and champions Chelsea having lost two on the bounce in the league, there was no better time to face them. Before the game I felt that if Watford were ever going to win at Stamford Bridge for the first time since 1986, it was to be now.
It was hard to watch these highlights, I really tried to skip past the bad bits but I had to include them. The result doesn’t tell the story of the game, at all. No matter how disappointing coming home empty-handed was there are plenty of positives to take.