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‘Carefree! Chelsea chants and terrace culture’ — book review

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Chelsea celebrate

It is my absolute privilege to review Carefree! Chelsea chants & terrace culture, a new book written by Walter Otton and Mark Worrall. Some regular readers of WAGNH will know that Walter is one of my favourite writers, not just on Chelsea, but on any topic. I would enthusiastically read his grocery list, if I'm being honest. I’m not one for undue lofty praise, but Walter is genuinely one of the best writers I’ve ever come across in any genre. That he often writes about Chelsea is simply an added bonus.

So, when I heard that Walter had not only written a new book, but had partnered with Mark Worrall - a fantastic writer in his own right who has written several Chelsea books and covers the club for ESPN - for this project, I had extremely high expectations.

Somehow, these expectations were exceeded.

Carefree! is billed as an inside look at the origins of many of the hundreds of Chelsea chants that have been sung by fans over the years. However, it is much more than that. Drawing from a combined 70 (maybe 80?! Sorry, fellas.) years of matchdays, both home and away, Walter and Mark paint a rich portrait of terrace culture, and through engaging stories and banter, they share their own personal journeys of following Chelsea through the years.

The book starts with a very interesting foreword by Kerry Dixon, who provides a glimpse into the surreal experience of having your name chanted by 40,000 fans at Stamford Bridge and how chants - both positive and negative - have an actual effect on the players on the pitch.

Mr. Dixon sets a very high standard from the outset, and the book only gets better from there. Carefree! is structured in three parts, with each part containing dozens of mini-chapters, each dedicated to particular chant.

The chants are used as vehicles for which Walter, Mark and several notable guest contributors launch into lively stories, share impressive research, and do indeed live up to the book’s billing: an inside look into the terrace culture, of which they have been a part since they were practically children.

Walter and Mark cover almost 100 chants and it is a hefty tome (250+ pages). However, the book never lags and for each and every story revolving around one of the chants, I came away with a chuckle or having learned something new and interesting about the club and its fan culture.

This review won’t do the book justice, but I would strongly recommend Carefree! to any Chelsea fan, whether they be a home and away match-going supporter, a fan living thousands of miles away who has never visited Stamford Bridge but wakes up at ungodly hours to support the team, or anyone in between.

Whether you sing them at Stamford Bridge, in a pub in any of hundreds of cities around the world, or at home on your couch, you know these chants because you follow Chelsea Football Club and it is a truly a must-read for any fan.

At just $3.95 for the Kindle edition (£12.95 or $14.95 for the paperback edition), this book is well worth the investment. Quite frankly, “just” the 5,000 words on the origins of the Willian chant is well worth the price of admission.

In fact, if you buy the digital version, and for whatever reason, you don’t feel like you got your money’s worth, I’ll personally reimburse you.*

* I don’t think this will be necessary for one person, let alone multiple, but lawyers gonna lawyer. Reimbursement available to the first ten people who request it, and any request must be via e-mail (jake dot f dot cohen at gmail) and accompanied by a receipt.