Trevor Nelson: Sing When You're Winning

DJ, personality and person Trevor Nelson tells FFT about his love of Chelsea.

It’s the end of the season and DJ Trevor Nelson is reflecting on Chelsea while swigging water and scoffing a packet of Revels in a conference room at MTV’s London headquarters.

Passionate and opinionated, he’s been going to the Bridge for 30 years, ever since he rejected his two local sides. They were, after all, only small fry:?Spurs and Arsenal. It’s not like Arsenal had just done the Double or anything.

“I liked the blue,” pleads Nelson. “I just liked the kit. It was a toss-up between them and West Ham. I was only seven! I ended up with Chelsea and it’s been Chelsea ever since.”

The ’70s was an interesting time for Chelsea, on and off the field. Osgood and Hudson swaggered on the pitch while in the Shed, the hooligan element plotted their latest mayhem. So where did Nelson of north London fit in? He didn’t.

“I couldn’t afford to go regularly, I didn’t have friends who supported Chelsea,” he says. “I was just some odd kid who supported Chelsea. One game, against Bristol Rovers in the [1976] FA Cup, I went to the toilet and found myself next to a guy with a swastika tattooed on his forehead.

"Occasionally, you’d go to the ground and there’d be fascists campaigning out there. I knew Paul Canoville, a player, and he found it difficult. He was abused by his own fans, but…” He pauses. “But I never stopped loving Chelsea.”

"IT WAS LIKE WALKING THE PLANK"

His passion took him on a glamorous tour of England’s football grounds, each time hoping he would come home intact.

“Walking to an away ground was like walking the plank. You didn’t know what would happen. And with the violence went racism.

“But there are historic games etched in my mind. Like West Brom beating Man United 5-3 at Old Trafford with Cyrille Regis, Laurie Cunningham and Brendan Batson. They ripped them to shreds for us to see on telly. They were getting booed, they were getting monkey chants, and they just kept scoring. It was fantastic.”

Nelson missed key games in the ’80s. “It wasn’t the racism, more the aggro. They just liked fighting too much. If you travelled with Chelsea, you’d get into trouble by association.”

His troubles with Chelsea continue today:?he’s got the ‘Saturday disease’. “I’ve always had a Saturday job, when I was studying and then when I started in radio.

"I got to Radio 1 and finally got a season ticket and I was like, ‘Woh! Brilliant’. Then they offered me a show on Saturday. I said, ‘Great, what time?’ and they said, ‘Three o’clock.’ Career? Chelsea? Career? Chelsea? Career.”

It proved a healthy move. Nelson now hosts The Lick, a Sunday evening show on MTV Base, plus a late-night BBC2 series. Both are pre-recorded. But it’s his live Radio 1 show The R’n’B Chart that’s proving irksome for him.

"JUDGE JULES IS A F**KING GOONER"

He used to follow Chelsea’s progress throughout the afternoon via Teletext. But that had to stop. If Chelsea were struggling, his voice would become despondent – never a good radio trait.

“While we’re on there’s Five Live, so it’s the girls who listen to the R&B chart – it’s not good for me to mention football or be pissed off, especially as Judge Jules comes in after me and he’s a f**king Gooner. He comes in going on and on and it pisses me off.”

The pair remain friends, though. Chelsea’s Champions League victory helped, but what did he make of the Arsenal’s title win?

“They had a freak season. They’ve been lucky with injuries. But we’ll be with them next year. Beating Arsenal was my favourite game in a long, long, long, time.

“We’ll compete next year. Top or second, no question. I don’t want to put a curse on us but I’ll put m�y house on it. United are in real decline.” What Chelsea lack, says Nelson, is an icon to really galvanise the team. 

"CHELSEA NEED A GENIUS"

“We don’t have a Thierry Henry, a Ronaldinho or a Zidane. We’ve got a great team but we don’t have a real superstar. Frank Lampard has emerged as our star player. He’s been brilliant, more for his consistency than his bits of skill. But we need a genius back in the team. We need a Zola at 25.”

Three players. That’s all Nelson thinks Chelsea need, but he’s concerned that Roman Abramovich will buy a “whole new team again”. 

“I’m worried the ‘roll-your-sleeves-up’ brigade will be replaced. They’ve got to stop the rush buys.”

Still, all this talk is a far cry from Chelsea days of old. Is Nelson a fan of the new, corporate Chelsea: Old Etonians, hiked-up season tickets and executive boxes?

“A lot of passion comes from the generation of fans who are over 30,” he reckons. “They remember standing. They remember when it was like being at Hackney Marshes with a roof. It was disgusting, but we loved it.

"PROJECTILE VOMITING? HAPPY DAYS"

“You’d be standing there minding your own business and someone would score a goal and all of a sudden you’re splat… squashed over some geezer who’s regurgitating or projectile vomiting over you. Happy days.”

Nelson’s been talking for a while and he’s on a roll. He rates Glenn Hoddle, appreciates Ken Bates, feels Ron Atkinson’s recent comments reflect a common opinion among the old school and wants a job like Spoony on the Five Live phone-in 606.

But he’s late for the photoshoot. And as his banter continues, he gets later and later. So late, in fact, that as he reaches his car he finds he’s got a parking ticket.

Still, if Chelsea fail to finish in the top two next year, he’ll have more financial worries on his hands. He’s bet his house on the Blues.

From the July 2004 issue of FourFourTwo.

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