Chelsea v Villa blog: Here's hoping for a "feast" of football this time
22nd Dec 2012
It would be stretching a point to say I felt physically threatened.
After all, we were standing outside the home dressing room at Stamford Bridge so the guy obviously had some kind of Chelsea connection.
Even so, his burly frame and vaguely familiar rugged face sent out a message that it might be best to go along with whatever he had to say.
"Good game, eh, mate?" my new acquaintance offered.
Villa had just lost 2-0 to the Blues, I faced the prospect of a late night journey back to the Midlands and then he task of compiling my match report for the Evening Mail. It certainly hadn't seemed like a very good game from a claret and blue perspective but I nodded in agreement.
"And who do you reckon was man of the match?" he continued.
In view of his Cockney accent, there was little point in putting forward a Villa player.
Anyway, it was difficult to think of a deserving recipient from the visitors.
"Andy Townsend?" I suggested. This was a couple of years before the Republic of Ireland midfielder moved from the Bridge to Villa Park and apart from scoring, he'd enjoyed a pretty good game.
"Nah," my pal replied. "Try again!"
I was struggling now. I came up with two or three other Chelsea players, whose names were all rejected.
Short of getting out the team-sheet and going through every member of the home side, I was clearly fighting a losing battle.
Thankfully, help was at hand.
The dressing room door opened and what I should have spotted earlier suddenly became all too apparent.
One of the players, who looked remarkably like my new pal, uttered a few words and went inside again.
"Got it," I said, as he disappeared from sight. "Vinnie Jones."
"Yeah mate, that's the one. Brilliant, ain't he?"
Facing Vinnie's brother in the tunnel might have not been as daunting as it must have been for opponents who had to confront the infamous hardman on the pitch but it came pretty close.
Things have changed a bit at Stamford Bridge since that September night in 1991.
These days reporters don't have to stand in cold corridors waiting for interviews.
The respective managers attend a post-match press conference in a comfortable, spacious lounge and the press corps can also request the attendance of certain players.
I also happened to win a sumptuous Fortnum & Mason hamper in that lounge after Villa had again lost 2-0 to Chelsea in 2002.
It was just before Christmas and Chelsea's sponsors of the time - Emirates Airlines - laid on a pre-match champagne reception as well as offering all members of the media free entry into a prize draw.
I duly filled in my entry form and thought no more of it - until Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri finished his post-match press conference and was asked to draw the winning ticket.
A few seconds later, Ranieri was presenting me with a smart wicker hamper which contained bottles of Bollinger, Bordeaux and Chablis as well as a host of luxury festive food items.
"At least you're not going home completely empty-handed," observed the Chelsea boss.
Needless to say, Mrs Bishop was delighted when I walked through the door later that night with a tasty Christmas present from the boys at the Bridge.
rob bishop, blogs, chelsea,
Go to full match coverage for 23 December 2012, Chelsea 8 - 0 Aston Villa
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