Posts Tagged ‘Chelsea’

What Became Of…? Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris

by Richard DJJ Bowdery.

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Chopper is not only a legend at Chelsea but also of a certain era of the game.

Chelsea’s Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris – along with Tommy Smith, Nobby Stiles, Peter Storey and Norman Hunter, to name but five – belonged to an exclusive club of football’s hard men back in the 60’s and 70’s. Their fearsome reputation for snuffing out the opposition often had the desired effect before the game had even started.

And they all had their ‘tricks of the trade’. One of Ron’s came courtesy of Tommy Docherty who gave him an effective tip on man-marking. “He told me to ‘larrup’ somebody in the first few minutes, and after that just to stay behind them and cough every now and then, to show them I was not too far away.”

Aged just 17, Harris made his first-team debut in in a 1-0 win against Sheffield Wednesday in February 1962. For the next 18 years he was ever present racking up a club record 795 appearances for the club.

His career highlights during that time included:

• Winning the League Cup in 1965 beating Leicester City in the Final
• Becoming the first Chelsea captain to lift the FA Cup after defeating Leeds United in a replay at Old Trafford
• Being the first Chelsea captain to lift a major European trophy after beating Real Madrid to win the European Cup Winners Cup in 1971.

Like Tommy Smith for Liverpool, Harris was a rock in Chelsea’s defence, two footed and with an ability to play in either full back position.

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Harris now shows visitors around Stamford Bridge

Heading West
In 1980, as he approached the twilight of his career, Harris left Stamford Bridge to join Brentford as player-coach. Then in 1984 he was appointed player/manager at Aldershot Town following a boardroom takeover which saw the departure of the then manager, Len Walker. But when former chairman Reg Driver returned to the club he reappointed Walker and Harris hung up his boots for the last time.

No rest for the Chopper
The most he ever earned in a week whilst playing for Chelsea was £295: chicken feed compared to today’s stars who can earn in excess of £50,000. So to keep the home fires burning Harris forged a new career in the property market. And by all accounts, ‘the boy did good.’

Reminiscing
Today Ron Harris shares his memories from his playing days as an after-dinner speaker. He recalls 18 years at the top of his profession – going toe to toe with the likes of Dennis Law, Jimmy Greaves, George Best and the Leeds United eleven – all of which has given him a wealth of stories to regale audiences with.

Chopper

Harris was both a defensive stalwart and a fearsome opponent

Once such story concerns the 1970 Cup Final replay and Leeds winger Eddie Gray. He said: “Gray had given Dave Webb a real chasing at Wembley. So for the replay, we swapped flanks and I took Gray.” The Chelsea manager, Dave Sexton, had a word with Harris before the game and said, “If you get half a chance to rough Gray up a little, take it.” Ron took the manager at his word. Eight minutes into the game he ‘tackled’ Gray. Harris recalled: “I thought that was nice of me to give him eight minutes.”

But it isn’t only after dinner speaking that takes up his time. He is also heavily involved with the Legends Tours at Chelsea FC. Here a twinge of bitterness enters his voice. For a long time after he’d packed up playing it seemed that he wasn’t really welcome back at his old club. Perhaps that was because of criticism Harris had voiced about the club’s leadership. Under Roman Abramovich all that changed.

Now he is one of the former players who gives guided tours to the many people who sign up for a walk around this historic footballing attraction. And to recognize his great service to the Blues, in May 2011 he was given Special Recognition Award. Upon receiving the award, presented by former teammate John Dempsey, he said: “I’ve been in the game a long, long time and I’m very, very proud [to receive this award].” He even has a suite at the ground named after him, without the ‘chopper’ bit.

Chelsea aren’t the only club he supports. He is also patron of Aylesford Football Club based in Kent. They have youth teams, ladies teams and a senior men’s side who ply their trade in the local leagues.

Charity Work
Since 2009 he has regularly given time and support to the Duke of Edinburgh Award. His guest appearances at the Awards fundraising evenings are, unsurprisingly, called Chopper Nights.

Ron's autobiography is a must-read for all blues fans

Ron’s autobiography is a must-read for all blues fans

He has also supported other charitable events including Make-A-Wish Foundation UK, which grants the wishes of children battling life-threatening conditions, and the Chelsea Pensioners. It seems the hard man of Chelsea does have a soft side.

Autobiography
In 2004 Ron’s autobiography ‘Chopper: A Chelsea Legend’ was published. Co-written with Kevin Nash it recalls a time that would seem alien to todays ‘pampered’ stars. And he is as fearsome in print as he was on the pitch.

The Infamous Nickname
Everybody assumes the nickname is to do with his tough tackling. But Bobby FC has uncovered another explanation. Harris says the nickname has done him proud. And he adds: “…the ladies like it. That’s the first thing they say; ‘Why did they call you Chopper?’”

With a twinkle in his eye he says nothing, just smiles.

@RichardBowdery

Arsenal v Chelsea
Latest Odds PLUS Fantastic Four: Classic Past encounters

Selected Match Odds

ARSENAL   29/20   DRAW   9/4   CHELSEA  19/10

First Goalscorer: Sanchez 5/1, Welbeck 11/2, Hazard 6/1, Drogba 7/1, Fabregas 11/1

Correct Score: Ars 1-0 Che: 7/1, Ars 1-1 Che: 6/1, Ars 1-2 Che: 10/1

BOBBY’S BET OF THE DAY: Anytime Drawcast – Alexis Sanchez to score anytime & match ends in a draw at 10/1

odds courtesy of William Hill.

 

FANTASTIC FOUR – CLASSIC ARSENAL v CHELSEA PAST ENCOUNTERS

Arsenal 2-4 Chelsea – March 1964

There was turmoil at The Bridge when Tommy Docherty took charge of Chelsea after Ted Drake was dismissed following a series of mid-table finishes and a woeful start to the 61-62 campaign, but he was unable to turn things around and at the end of the season Chelsea were relegated. But they bounced straight back with a side built around Peter Bonetti, Ron Harris, Terry Venables, and their young captain Bobby Tambling.

Their first season back with the big guns was magnificent for such a young team – the standout result being a 4-2 win at Highbury.

The Arsenal team was built around the attacking talents of George Eastham, Joe Baker and George Armstrong, and they still held faint hopes of maintaining a title challenge. But they were found wanting as Bobby Tambling scored all four Chelsea goals on a mudbath, capitalising on three mistakes by Ian Ure, the other a delightful lob.

Chelsea finished in fifth, three places ahead of Arsenal. Docherty’s side were anointed as one of the teams of the decade and went on to capture the League Cup a year later. Arsenal on the other hand descended into a dark period under Billy Wright, not only losing their way but also their white sleeves in the process.

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Bobby Tambling scored all four Chelsea goals in the mud of Highbury

 

Arsenal 5-2 Chelsea – April 1979

Stapleton netted a brace to help relegate the Blues

Stapleton netted a brace to help relegate the Blues

Both teams began the 70’s in fine style; Arsenal won the league and Cup Double in 1971, only to drift. Chelsea followed up their 1970 FA Cup win with the Cup Winners’ Cup a year later – and then decided to expand Stamford Bridge with a massive East Stand. Up went the stand, and down went Chelsea.

One of their stars of the 1960s Eddie McCreadie led Chelsea back up with a team built around Ray Wilkins. Boardroom unrest meant McCreadie was replaced by another star of the previous decade, Ken Shellito, before Danny Blanchflower was tasked with keeping the Blues in the top flight.

But in 1978-79, Chelsea won only five league games all season, the knockout blow being landed with a spectacular flourish by Arsenal. David O’Leary, Frank Stapleton (2), Alan Sunderland and David Price sent Chelsea down – with the west Londoners’ only relief coming from terrace favourites Clive Walker and Tommy Langley.

 

Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal – February 1991

Dixon scored the winner

Dixon scored the winner

Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal went unbeaten in their title triumph of 2003/04 of course. But that achievement could have been old news had Chelsea not beaten George Graham’s Gunners in February of 1991, 23 years earlier, which proved to be their only league defeat of the season as they clinched the title by seven points.

In a tight match, Chelsea seized control in the second half thanks to Graham Stuart’s header into an almost unguarded net after Winterburn’s mistake, and late on the Arsenal defence was in tatters as Kerry Dixon tapped in after being set up by Damien Matthew to send The Shed into raptures.

Alan Smith’s smart finish pulled one back, but it came so late the away fans could barely muster a cheer. Invincibility would have to wait…

 

Chelsea 2-3 Arsenal – October 1999

Nwankwo Kanu is a curious character, the embodiment of unfulfilled possibilities some would say. Despite his frustrating, languid style and unspectacular goal scoring record he is a cult figure to Arsenal fans everywhere – thanks largely to this game.

Chelsea seemed to have the game all sewn up shortly after half time when Dan Petrescu added to Tore Andre Flo’s 39th minute strike. But Arsenal’s lanky Nigerian striker had other ideas, scoring an exquisite 15 minute hat-trick. His first two goals were all about his control and delicate touch, but it’s his 90th-minute winner that will really live long in the memory.

It looked like the chance had gone after he’d chased down Albert Ferrer’s stray clearance, but dribbling past a stranded Ed de Goey, Kanu whipped the ball over an array of Chelsea defenders into the far top corner from an impossible angle, sending Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler into a fits, screeching the famous line: “Can you believe it?!”

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Kanu believe it?!? Chelsea couldn’t…

@KGHof

Chelsea v United Preview
PLUS 2 CLASSIC GAMES: Dixon ends title hopes & Violett the hat-trick hero

by Karl Hofer.

CHELSEA v UNITED: TWO CLASSICS

80’s Away Day

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Dixon netted a brace to end United’s title hopes

Perhaps one of the most painful defeats for United at the hands of Chelsea was The Blues 2-1 win at Old Trafford in April of 1986. Despite Everton and Liverpool breaking away from the chasing pack, both clubs were still grimly hanging on in the title race but neither side were in any kind of form going into this meeting. Chelsea were squandering away the games they had in hand on the leaders, having just been slapped 4-0 at home by fellow contenders West Ham and (even more disastrously) 6-0 away to neighbours QPR.

United meanwhile were starting to resemble that depressed drunk guy at the end of a night out, now rambling to themselves in the corner with bottle in hand having initially arrived as the life and soul of the party. They had seen a 10 point lead at Christmas dissolve into nothing and now Ron Atkinson’s side knew their long wait for the title would continue for sure unless they won this one. This was make-or-break for both clubs.

After a goalless first half, Kerry Dixon beat the offside trap to score his first goal for four months. United then equalised through a Jesper Olsen penalty, big Doug Rougvie doing what he did best; this time sending Hughes crashing to the floor in the area. But Dixon had the final say in the dying moments to knock United out of the title race and send the many thousands of travelling fans into delirium and the home fans into despair. The future looked bright momentarily for John Neal’s team but Chelsea would subsequently win only one of their last seven games to finish in sixth spot.

United’s poor form continued through the beginning of the following season, and with the club languishing at the foot of the table in November manager Ron Atkinson was dismissed – with Alex Ferguson and his assistant Archie Knox taking over that same day.

One to Eleven!

Without question the greatest match between the sides was an 11 goal thriller at Stamford Bridge back in October 1954. Ted Drake had taken over Chelsea in 1952 and had been busy trying to rid them of their image, one that saw them as the butt of many a comedian’s jokes in the music-halls up and down the land. Out went the nickname ‘The Pensioners’, replaced with the more respectable ‘Blues’. Also dispatched was the affable septuagenarian on the clubs crest. This was a new Chelsea, one that Drake was instilling with a winning mentality.

To that end Drake drafted in solid defenders Peter Sillett and future England boss Ron Greenwood, plus striker Roy Bentley. As a consequence the team established itself in the top flight and were no longer involved in relegation battles, but nobody expected more than a safe mid-table position when the 1954-55 season came round.

The favourites for the title were reigning champions Wolverhampton Wanderers and Matt Busby’s upcoming Manchester United side.

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Dennis Violett was a hat-trick hero

The game on October 16th was a glowing confirmation of the emergence of the attacking prowess of the ‘Busby’s Babes’. The visitors went 1-0 up with Dennis Viollet opening the scoring but a pair of unknown amateurs making their debuts returned fire as Seamus O’Connell equalized before the Thermos-flask seller Jim Lewis put the home side 2-1 up. Tommy Taylor and then Viollet put United back in front 2-3, a lead they held at half-time.

The same pair in the same order, Taylor and then Viollet (completing his hat-trick) seemed to have put Matt Busby’s side out of sight at 2-5 but then Ken Armstrong pulled one back for Chelsea. Jackie Blanchflower looked to have sealed the points when he made it 3-6, but cattle-farmer O’Connell then scored twice to record a famous debut hat-trick and set up a grandstand finish, but United’s shaky defence clung on for an extraordinary 5-6 triumph.

Chelsea lost their next two games – completing a run of six games without a win – to end October in 12th place, Wolves having taken over from United at the top. But then Drake’s Ducklings got their act together losing only four more games all season as they stormed up the table and, beating Wolves home and away, shocked the nation to win the title. Their last defeat of the season was at Old Trafford – but by then the title, Chelsea’s first trophy in their 50 year history, had been won.

The Busby Babes would have to wait to make their mark on English football’s roll of honour.

The Odds

CHELSEA  v  MANCHESTER UNITED, Saturday April 18th, 5.30pm

If you fancy a repeat of that 5-6 scoreline then you’ll no doubt be delighted to hear that William Hill are offering a handsome 500-1 on it. Realistically the game is set to be a much tighter affair. A confident United (3/1) will be keen to unnerve Chelsea (10/11) early on, imposing their own game on the blues. The first goal of the game could prove critical.

EdenHazard

Hazard: Game changer

There will be a lot of mutual respect, both managers know each other extremely well having worked together previously at Barcelona and Mourinho will be keen not to concede an inch to LVG – So Bobby’s Bets recommends a draw at 5/2, with a 1-1 final scoreline at 6/1.

Diego Costa is missing from Chelsea’s starting line-up and Loic Remy is fighting to be fit – he’s 4/1 to open the scoring if he makes it. You could opt for Oscar (13/2) or Fabregas (9/1)  but the 9/2 on offer for the penalty-taking and in-form Eden Hazard looks the better value.

If you think one of the visiting team will strike first than Wayne Rooney is the favourite at  13/2 with van Persie at 15/2 and Radamel Falcao at 9/1. But the man in form is the big Belgian Marouane Fellaini who is 9/1 to be the first scorer. If you fancy Juan Mata to do a ‘Frank Lampard’ then you can get 10/3 for the Spaniard as ‘anytime goalscorer’ against his old club.

Bobby’s Bet of the Day: 11/1 for Eden Hazard to score at anytime and the game to end a draw (Anytime Drawcast).

Odds courtesy of William Hill.

@KGHof

Lock, Stock and Three Smoking Seconds!
Vinnie sets fastest card record!

Chelsea’s Vinnie Jones sets a new footballing record

by Richard DJJ Bowdery.

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Vincent in his Chelsea days

Vinnie Jones, the former ‘hard man’ of English football, has featured in a few ‘infamous’ moments during his footballing career – a certain Mr. Gascoigne and the Football Association, to name but two, can vouch for that. But one of those moments has entered the record books and will probably never be beaten for as long as the beautiful game is played.

It was 21 March 1992. Chelsea, whose side included Jones the ex-Crazy Gang cheerleader, were playing an FA Cup tie at Stamford Bridge against Sheffield United.

The referee had just signaled the start of the game and removed the whistle from his lips when Vinnie Jones had announced his presence by introducing himself to United’s Dane Whitehouse. The referee’s whistle was hurriedly called back into action. Out came the notebook and in went the name of Vinnie Jones: a mere three seconds into the match. That has to be one of the quickest records to rival any other collated by football’s statisticians who record these things.

In his book, ‘Vinnie: The Autobiography – Confessions of a Bad Boy?’ he recalled the incident. He wrote: “I must have been too high, too wild, too strong or too early, because, after three seconds, I could hardly have been too bloody late!” Indeed Vinnie.

A year earlier Vinnie, then a Sheffield United player, managed to get himself booked after 5 seconds against Manchester City at Maine Road – so this was shaving two seconds of his personal best!

As for the game, Whitehouse and company got their revenge by knocking the Blues out of the Cup, winning the game by two goals to one.

As for Vinnie, the incident added another layer to the mystique that was gathering momentum and would one day propel him onto the silver screen.

For now, however, he was just another name on the team sheet, with his steely stare and wearing those boots into the footballing arena where – taking the words from a Nancy Sinatra song – his opponents would fear that “One of these days [his] boots are gonna walk all over you.”

@RichardBowdery

Remembering Their First Win, 50 years on! Chelsea roll back the years with their latest triumph

McCreadie spent eleven seasons with Chelsea and made over 300 appearances forby Richard DJJ Bowdery.

Chelsea’s victory over Spurs in last Sunday’s League Cup Final came almost 50 years after the Blues first victory in this competition.

Back in 1965 they dispatched Birmingham City, Notts County, Swansea Town, Workington, and Aston Villa to reach a two-legged final against Leicester City.

The first leg was played at Stamford Bridge in front of over 20,000 fans.

Full back Eddie McCreadie found himself playing up front as cover for injured striker Barry Bridges. Things didn’t improve for the King’s Road boys when, 13 minutes into the game, Allan Young was injured. With Young being unable to continue, and given in those days substitutes didn’t exist, Chelsea had to face Leicester with only ten men.

The Blues took the lead through Bobby Tambling before City equalized. Terry Venables restored Chelsea’s one goal advantage but again Leicester evened the score.

With ten minutes left on the clock McCreadie was back in more familiar territory: his own penalty area. He picked up the ball and raced fully 60 yards leaving Leicester City players in his wake before firing a shot past future World Cup hero, Gordon Banks.

Twenty seven thousand supporters turned up for the second leg at Leicester’s Filbert Street. What they saw was a much tighter game where both sides snuffed out each other’s attacking play. With neither side finding the net, the game ended goalless and Chelsea had won their first League Cup.

Including last Sunday, Chelsea have now won the trophy five times, with four of those successes occurring since 1998.

Fifty years ago it was called the Football League Cup. Today it is known as the Capitol One Cup. But, as the Chelsea faithful will tell you, in the heat of a win who cares what it’s called..?

@RichardBowdery

 

Greavesie Sets The Record Straight He Tells BOBBY Why He Doesn’t Watch His Old Clubs Play

Jimmy-Greavesby Rob Shepherd.

Jimmy Greaves  has hit back at a report that he has snubbed former club Tottenham for 45 years since he left Spurs.

It was stated in an article in the Daily Telegraph that Greaves has never been back to watch a game at White Hart Lane since he moved to West Ham in 1970 with Martin Peters plus £200,000 going the other way.

But Greaves said: “As a Sun reporter then a TV reporter I went there loads of times. Really loads. I launched my autobiography there and I attended the funerals of both Bill Nicholson and Bobby Smith.

“But I don’t go to games. I never have. It’s not just Spurs. I don’t go to any of my other clubs either.”

And Greaves, who turned 75 last week, insists he did not turn down an invitation from Tottenham to be a guest of honour at Wembley for the Capital One Cup final against Chelsea, the club where he started his career.

“There was no invitation forthcoming but I wouldn’t have gone if they did. I’ve got a lovely giant screen TV, a lovely dog and a warm fire. That’s where I watch sport and it’s very nice. I’m not interested in driving in heavy traffic and enduring big crowds and being freezing cold. I love it on TV.”

And no doubt if he found the Spurs-Chelsea game a bit dull then Greaves will have flicked channels to watch the Six Nations crunch game between England and Ireland.

During a speech he made at a dinner recently Greaves made it clear he tires of the antics of players and has grown to prefer rugby union.

But Greaves DOES still feel raw about how his departure from Spurs was handled.

And that he was not told by the club that Manchester City and Derby were interested in him at the time – both clubs he would have preferred to the Hammers where he did not have a happy time, a period which really triggered his lurch into  heavy alcoholism. Greaves though has not had a drink since 1978.

In his autobiography Greaves said: “I was taken aback and I was angry. I was so annoyed with Bill for wantingGreavesTHFC to bring my Spurs career to an end, I simply said, ‘Okay. If you don’t want me at Spurs, I’ll go’. I didn’t have to go, not if I didn’t want to. I still had eighteen months of a contract to run. I could have told Bill I was staying at Spurs and there was little he could have done about it. But I was so peeved that he appeared so willing to get rid of me, I went along with it. What’s the point of staying at a club that doesn’t want you”

“Looking back on that day, I wish I had told Bill I wasn’t interested in moving.”

Greaves scored 268 goals in 381 games for Tottenham over nine seasons after joining the club for a record £99,999 from AC Milan in 1961. He had started his career at Chelsea, where he netted 132 times in 169 games. Greaves is fourth in the list of all-time leading England scorers, having scored 44 goals in 57 appearances.

@iLshep

The Day Leicester’s Keith Weller Went on Strike at Halftime!

KeithWellerby Richard DJJ Bowdery.

Leicester City’s Keith Weller was an attacking midfielder who could score goals as good as any striker – and he could strike as well as any trade unionist!

On the 20 December 1974 Leicester were playing at home against Ipswich Town. But Weller had more than a game of football on his sometime temperamental mind…

The club were on a losing streak, his recent transfer request had been turned down, the crowd were getting on at him and he was arguing with teammates.

As he trooped off at half-time he decided enough was enough. Once in the dressing room he stripped off his kit and said he was going for an early bath.

One can only imagine what his manager and fellow teammates thought of his antics. Did it contribute to Leicester losing that day? It certainly didn’t help.

This fit of pique got him what he wanted: a transfer request (and something he didn’t want, a club fine).

Eventually Weller and his club settled their differences and it would be another four years before he left Filbert Street.

Keith Weller started his footballing career as a schoolboy on the books of Arsenal FC; turned professional with their north London rivals Spurs in 1964 and went on to lift the European Cup Winners Cup with Chelsea in 1971. He even managed to win four England caps during Joe Mercer’s time as caretaker manager.

But it was at Leicester where he made his name and became a hero among the Filbert Street faithful with his goal scoring prowess… and those tights.

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Weller in his infamous tights

The winter of 1978/79 saw a particularly brutal weather grip Britain. In a game against Norwich City that January – a match that went ahead when most of the football programme had been postponed – he wore a pair of white tights beneath his shorts.

The opposing fans in particular made much of his sartorial elegance. Undeterred he scored in his side’s 3-0 victory over the Canaries. That match was to be one of his last for Leicester.

His next move was to the fledgling soccer scene in North America where he excelled as both player and coach. He even found time to run a coffee shop.

Sadly tragedy was to intervene. In 2002 he was diagnosed with cancer. Leicester fans and former colleagues raised money to pay for his treatment. It was all to no avail. Just two years later he was dead at the age of just 58.

Alan Birchenhall, his former team-mate, said: “For me he was one of the five greatest ever players to pull on a Leicester shirt. His death is a tragic loss not just for Leicester but for the whole of English football.”

Ten years on from his passing it is fitting that we should remember the feisty midfielder who did so much to put Leicester City on the footballing map.

 @RichardBowdery

Jose Mourinho Glory Years Wouldn’t Have Happened Without John Neal

by David Chidgey.

Whilst pondering what to write about Chelsea’s dismissive 2-0 win against West Brom at the weekend, extending their unbeaten run to a club-record 12 games in the process, I heard some very sad news which took me back to a very different time in the club’s topsy-turvy history.

The news that John Neal, Chelsea Manager from 1981-1985, had died put a dampener on an otherwise fun-packed and celebratory weekend. The subsequent outpouring of grief on social media from Chelsea supporters of a certain age appropriately summed up the feelings we had for a Chelsea of our youth, and it can be argued that without John Neal as manager at that time we simply would not have the Chelsea (or the support) that we have today.

John Neal, a warm-hearted but tough character from the North East, arrived at Chelsea in the summer of 1981. Chelsea were in meltdown both on and off the pitch thanks to a period of laughable financial mismanagement following their early ’70’s glory years, and the even more comical management on the pitch by Danny Blanchflower and Geoff Hurst. Neal took over a side with little appetite for the fight, one which had finished 12th in Division Two and had failed to find the net in 19 of its last 22 league games.

Things would get far far worse before they got better. Neal’s first year in charge saw some of the most infamous defeats in Chelsea’s history – the 6-0 league defeat at Rotherham; the 4-2 defeat to Wigan in the League cup and the 3-0 defeat to Burnley which put Chelsea in the relegation zone of Division 2 for the first (and only) time in their history.

New signings for Chelsea in the summer of 1983: Rear: Eddie Niedzwiecki, Joe McLaughlin, Nigel Spackman, Kerry Dixon. Front:: Pat Nevin, John Hollins.  (Photo by Hugh Hastings/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

New signings for Chelsea in the summer of 1983: Rear: Eddie Niedzwiecki, Joe McLaughlin, Nigel Spackman, Kerry Dixon. Front: Pat Nevin, John Hollins. (Photo by Hugh Hastings/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

But John Neal was a fighter and he slowly began to instil these qualities in the Chelsea side he was shaping. The turning point came on 7th May 1983. Winless in nine matches, Chelsea were plummeting towards relegation to the Third Division and with it probable extinction. They faced fellow strugglers Bolton needing a win to stay up.

The game was petering out to a 0-0 draw, and relegation for Chelsea, when Clive Walker received the ball just outside the penalty area and lashed a shot into the top corner to secure what was arguably the most important win in Chelsea’s history.

Having avoided relegation to Division 3, Neal got rid of the deadwood at the club and, with the help of new chairman Ken Bates, built a team that could take Chelsea back to where they belonged – or as the terrace chant at the time aptly put: “Come along, come along, come along and sing this song, we’re the boys in blue in Division 2 but we won’t be here for long!”

And this is really where the respect and love that Chelsea supporters of my vintage have for John Neal and his mid-’80’s team began. His shrewd dealings in the transfer market brought players such as Joey Jones, Mickey Thomas, Eddie Niedzwiecki, Nigel Spackman, David Speedie, Pat Nevin and Kerry Dixon to the club, players who are still loved and revered to this day.

The team had a great balance of hunger, desire, aggression and a fierce will to win. Added to this was the flair of Nevin and the devastating strike partnership of Dixon and Speedie. They played some great football but most of all they played like a team that gave everything on the pitch, and as supporters that’s all you really want – 100% commitment.

Neal’s Chelsea romped to the Division 2 title in 1984, with Dixon scoring 34 goals, and were followed by a huge travelling Chelsea support – packing out most of opposition grounds in their desire to catch a glimpse of their new heroes.

Arguably the most memorable match in the Neal era was the first match in Chelsea’s return to the top flight after an absence of five years. The match took place on 25 August 25 1984, against Arsenal at Highbury. Twenty thousands Chelsea supporters were in the ground that day, and Kerry Dixon scored what he claims was his favourite Chelsea goal in a creditable 1-1 draw.

Chelsea were back, and that really was John Neal’s great legacy. He rescued us from the depths of possible extinction; put us back together and put us in a position to challenge with the elite once again. Anyone who supported the club before Neal’s arrival and during that time had their passion for Chelsea signed, sealed and delivered.

Neal achieved 6th place in Chelsea’s first two seasons back in Division One, and Chelsea would have been competing in Europe had it not been for the ban on English clubs at that time.

The bedrock of Chelsea’s hard-core support still come from that era – just look at how many season ticket holders at Stamford Bridge are in their late 40’s and early 50’s – and there is no doubt that an unbreakable bond was forged at that time between the team and the supporters. But the gratitude we have for John Neal should not be underestimated.

In fact, you could argue that without John Neal we would not have had the Hoddle, Gullit and Vialli years; and without them there would be no Abramovich or Mourinho.

Those of us who enjoyed the sumptuous football on offer, particularly during the first half at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, would do well to remember that. They would also do well to remember that Chelsea playing attractive, winning football was not invented this season. There have been other seasons where we have had a wizard of a winger and a monster of a striker banging the goals in for fun, long before the Abramovich era – and for a lot less money.

Good times: Neal with John Hollins and Chairman Ken Bates.

Good times: Neal with John Hollins and Chairman Ken Bates.

John Neal’s legacy at Chelsea was undoubtedly helping to forge the strong bond between the supporters and the Club – one that exists to this day – but, more importantly, he made us believe again. He made us believe that we belonged with the elite and could challenge at the top once again. He also serves as a great reminder that beating all and sundry with alacrity is not a given. You have to work hard, give 100% commitment and treat all opposition and competitions with respect.

I think Jose Mourinho would have liked John Neal. Although their backgrounds are very different, there is a strange similarity in their approach – mixing flair with aggression and an uncompromising will to win. On Saturday, Jose made two statements of great import. He pointed out that for all of the beautiful football and domination Chelsea have had so far this season, they have won nothing yet, and that it will count for nothing until they have the trophies to vindicate it. He also apologised to the supporters for criticising their lack of effort recently.

John Neal, a real gentleman and manager who never once criticised the Chelsea supporters (even though they called for his head early in his tenure), would no doubt have approved of that.

At the end of the season, if we win the Premier League, I hope John Neal looks down on us with a smile – after all he played a significant part in our history, and perhaps, just perhaps we wouldn’t be where we are now without what he did 30 years ago.

David ‘Stamford Chidge’ Chidgey presents the award winning Chelsea FanCast TV show and podcast which can be seen every Monday at 19.00 on chelseafancast.com or You Tube or heard at mixlr.com/chelsea-fancast/ or downloaded from ITunes. Follow on twitter @StamfordChidge and @ChelseaFanCast

( This piece originally appeared on the International Business Times website – www.ibtimes.co.uk )

 

Mourinho’s “Perfect” Chelsea Could Win Treble

JosevSchalke

Jose’s Chelsea side outgunned di Matteo’s new charges

by Rob Shepherd.

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho described his team’s performance in the 5-0 Champions League win at Schalke as “perfect” and one of the club’s finest ever away displays. It means The Blues to qualify for the last 16 with one Group G game remaining.

And it will have sent a message around the rest of Europe that Chelsea are serious contenders to win the trophy this season.

With Chelsea having established what many already regard as an “untouchable lead” at the top of the Premier League The Blues could well have the extra energy and focus required to go all the way in Europe.

In that respect Sky Bets odds of 6/1 for Chelsea to lift the Champions League this season looks a decent bet. Real Madrid and Bayern Munich are 3/1 joint favourites, Barcelona are 11/2, then Chelsea at 6/1. PSG are 16/1.

Manchester City’s 3-2 win over Bayern means their odds have been cut to 20/1 but it’s still a task for them to qualify for the knockout stages.

The best price for Chelsea to win the Premier League is 1/6 on with Paddy Power.

William Hill offer 11/2 for Chelsea to land a Premier League and Champions League Double.

And the odds of lifting the FA Cup too and emulating Manchester United’s treble in 1999 are 25/1 – thanks to Graham Sharpe (@Sharpeangle) of William Hill  for that.

The win in Schalke matches Chelsea previous best away win in the CL which came in 1999 when they beat Galatasaray 5-0 in Istanbul.

The Chelsea boss back then was Gianluca Vialli. The goals were scored by Tore Andre Flow (2) Gianfranco Zola, Dennis Wise, and Gabriele Ambrossetti.

But given the quality of the opposition the win in Schalke eclipses that win.

As Mourinho said: “I don’t remember Chelsea playing this way away from home”.

“Obviously, there have been great wins away from home with me, Roberto di Matteo (former Chelsea boss and the beleaguered manager of Schalke) and other managers. But this was very impressive. Very complete.”

The Premier League leaders, are now unbeaten in 19 matches across all competitions.

Chelsea led 3-0 at half-time after goals from John Terry, Willian and Schalke defender Jan Kirchhoff, before Didier Drogba and Ramires completed the rout in the final 15 minutes.

Mourinho added: “At this moment we are a good team. Obviously we can lose and a bad result is waiting for us but the team is playing really well and we have big self-belief.”

Record win: 13-0 v Jeunesse Hautcharage (Luxembourg), European Cup Winners’ Cup, September, 1971
Record Champions League win: 6-0 v NK Maribor (Slovenia), October 2014
Record Champions League away win: 0-5 v Galatasaray (Turkey), October 1999; 0-5 v Schalke (Germany), November 2014

@robshepherd5

 

Shotgun! You Wouldn’t Catch Them Driving to Training in That Thing Nowadays…

ChelseaBusBoys

by Roy Dalley.

Jose Mourinho would probably walk out on Chelsea for a second time if ever Roman Abramovich had the temerity to present a Ford Transit as the new team bus.

Fabregas, Hazard and Oscar would no doubt get their agents to check the smallprint on their contracts, while Drogba would theatrically fall in a heap… anything to get out of travelling in something other than first class.

However, as our picture shows, it wasn’t always thus.

Once upon a time you could win the FA Cup, then the European Cup Winners’ Cup, and still have to get to work in the back of a Transit, as the Chelsea squad of the early 1970s will testify. Here they are pictured at Stamford Bridge in the shadows of the old East Stand (soon to be demolished after a third cup final in three seasons, a 1-2 defeat by Stoke in the League Cup, in 1972).

You might think it’s some kind of ruse; Osgood’s idea of a Chelsea Charabanc for a jolly boys drive dahn to Margit. Or even the prequel to that television commercial featuring England legends now reduced to playing for the local Dog and Duck XI? But no.

The Transit would in fact ferry the first-team squad to the club’s training ground in Mitcham, some five miles across the Thames in south London, a facility which was later sold to Crystal Palace when the club’s finances became perilous (not least because of the cost of replacing that old wooden stand) and a far cry from Chelsea’s new state of the art complex in the Surrey stockbroker belt.

Sadly the photograph was supplied without a caption, so it is not known when exactly it was taken and indeed who is pictured. But Hudson’s absence could provide a clue; Hudson was forced to miss the club’s first FA Cup triumph, in 1970 against Leeds, because of a broken leg. Or maybe he was still in bed with a hangover? Dunno…

Club captain Chopper Harris is also absent, perhaps making a hospital visit to one of his recent opponents..?

There’s no Dempsey either, though his habit of wearing rugby style ankle boots on matchdays meant he was possibly more likely to be found on a nearby physio table.

Anyway this ol’ Blues man thinks he can name all but one of those reporting for training that day. How about you..?

(Leaning inside driver’s door); Bonetti
(Standing l-to-r); Birchenall, Baldwin, McCreadie, Hutchinson, Webb, Cooke, Houseman.
(Crouching l-to-r); Osgood, Hinton, *?!?, Hollins.

*?!? It’s not Kember. Is it Boyle..?

Feel free to Tweet me any guesses you may have.

@RoyDalley