"How can you have a World of Sport without Dickie Davies?" That was what I pondered as we made our way through the concrete canyons of "Chelsea Village" (formerly Stamford Bridge). The place has changed since I first got hooked on the west London club back in the Sixties, and even since my son Jack's first game six years ago. What used to be a shabby concrete bowl with an old dog track and broken scoreboard now boasts smart new stands, hotels, several restaurants, innumerable nightclubs and even an "interactive sports exhibit", the new Chelsea World of Sport.
We suspected that it might just be a fancy name for a museum. Maybe there'd be a wax dummy of Dickie complete with extravagant monochrome wig. Or even one of Ken Bates? Thankfully we weren't greeted by the white-bearded chairman. They've got nice, helpful people working there instead. Like Lisa, a sports-science graduate, who told us the Chelsea history part of the exhibit we were heading for was only one-fifth of the new attraction.
The rest is part fairground, part classroom and all interactive. Purists may be dismayed to learn that it's not just about football. Step right up for tennis. Grab a racquet and whack the balls towards various targets on the other side of the net. Jack 3, Dad 2.
Ball control next. You too could dribble like Zola. Apparently the great man "did quite well" when he turned up the other day. Participants are timed: after his 10.56-second debut, complete with slow-motion replays, Jack was inspired to keep at it and returned again and again, encouraged by Kate, another friendly sports-science graduate.
We climbed a mountain (well, a small, round, plastic hillock): I fell off. The virtual volleyball was safer, and very funny, though I bet it would be even better if you were drunk.
Next was a machine that is supposed to test your reactions and peripheral vision. In fact, what it does is make you look very silly, punching lights as they randomly appear on a wall as quickly as you can. Jack apparently did better than the goalie Mark Bosnich.
Finally, we got to the museum proper – our first real disappointment, because there's not really much there. A few photographs, a model, some replica cups and the odd rosette – and that's about it, although there are some whizzy interactive machines that enable youngsters to learn about the club's erratic history.
The most thought-provoking artefact there was a faded photograph of the first ever Chel-sea team to beat Aston Villa, on 25 October 1913. Why did it take us eight years from the founding of the club in 1905 just to beat Villa? Maybe we'll get Dickie to tell us one day.
Chelsea World of Sport, Chelsea Village, Fulham Road, London SW6 1HS. For information, call 020-7915 2222, or go to www. chelseaworldofsport.com)Reuse content