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I. Chelsea History (1975-1980)


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Chelsea History (1975-1980)

Written by Lofty in August 2007

thenewbreed.jpg 1975-76 saw Chelsea back in Division 2. I say "back" but for me relegation was new, a million miles away from the hopes of the early '70s. The harsh reality was that Ossie had gone, and so had the glory days. And so the job of repairing the damage wrought by Dave Sexton was handed to Eddie McCreadie, who was appointed Chelsea manager in April 1975.

Adding to the difficulty of replacing the likes of Ossie, Huddie, Johnny Hollins and so on, McCreadie's task was made that much more difficult by the financial constraints imposed as a result of the East Stand debacle.

brianmears_eaststand.jpg Builders strikes meant the job was well behind schedule, spiralling costs taking the final outlay to more than £1million over budget, and that on top of revenue lost as a result of having to play the previous season's home games in a three sided stadium.

Despite the on and off-field problems, we still hoped for a quick return to the first division, but were quickly brought down to earth after losing the first game of the 1975-76 season 2-1 at Sunderland.

wilkins_ray.jpg

Eddie McCreadie made Ray Wilkins captain - it says a lot about Chelsea's overall level of performance that Wilkins, a defensive midfielder, finished as the season's top scorer with 11 goals, a season in which we eventually finished 11th in Division 2.

The 75-76 season included yet more Cup disasters - we lost in the FA Cup 5th round to 3rd Division Crystal Palace and were knocked out of the League Cup by 4th Division Crewe Alexandra. Whether that or the train being set alight on the way back from Luton qualifies as the season's lowlight is debatable. All I knew was that the train had stopped, and rather than wait for alternative transport, most of us on that train swarmed through the streets of Cricklewood.

The 1976-77 season again started badly, Chelsea winning only 1 of the first 5 games - which included the 3-0 defeat at Millwall - another nightmare day out about which I am keeping my mouth well and truly shut. In the cups, we were knocked out 2-1 at Highbury in the League Cup 4th Round, and lost at home to Southampton 0-3 at home to in the FA Cup 4th Round, deceptive because all 3 of their goals were scored in extra time.

steve_finnieston.jpg Back in the League, away form was variable, but at Stamford Bridge we were unbeatable, winning 15 and drawing 6 of our home league games, and it was this home form that was largely responsible for our success in gaining promotion back to Division 1.

Following final last game of the season, the 4-0 victory over Hull City, hundreds, maybe thousands of Chelsea supporters poured onto the pitch, gathering in front of the East Stand where the players and management emerged to make speeches to the crowd. This was largely unreported by the press who couldn't be bothered with an unfashionable (yes that's right unfashionable) club like Chelsea. A marvellous day, players and fans alike joining in celebration - until the Old Bill decided they'd had enough and brought the horses out to clear us off the pitch.

mickey_droy.jpg The low point of the season came with the 4-0 defeat at Charlton, during which bonfires were lit on the terraces; after the game Chelsea fans rioted in Charlton High St, and damaged trains on the way back to Charing Cross. Note I say "them", because I was never one for smashing things up. If trouble happened, then fine, but smashing property was out of order. Events that night proved to be the last straw, prompting Dennis Howell to officially ban Chelsea fans from attending away games. Despite the ban, hundreds of Chelsea fans turned up at the penultimate game of the season, the 1-1 draw away at Wolves, who finally beat us to the Championship by a mere 2 points.

"6 foot 2, eyes of Blue, Mickey Droy is after you". A cult hero at Stamford Bridge and Chelsea's player of the year for 1977-78, Mickey Droy was highly underrated, but not by Chelsea fans

At the beginning of the 1977-78 season, following Eddie McCreadie's departure, Ken Shellito, another ex-player took over as Chelsea manager. The season started badly with a 3-0 defeat at West Brom. Back then it was still said that Chelsea were traditionally slow starters, received wisdom being that if we won three or four games, you could guarantee we'd be in trouble come the end of the season.

As it was, Steve Finnieston's goal touch deserted him, leaving Tommy Langley as the season's top scorer, with a total of 13, 11 in the league, and we ended up in 16th place, crashed out of the FA Cup in the 5th round replay losing 2-1 at home to Orient.

clive_walker_v_liverpool.jpg This defeat was all the more disappointing after the previous round, when we had beat current European Champions Liverpool (yes that's right, one of the famous 5 Times) 4-2 at the Bridge. This was the undoubted highlight of an otherwise unmemorable season, and Shellito's greatest by far achievement during his brief time as Chelsea manager.

Not exactly a claim to fame, but I managed to miss every one of our goals that day, largely due to a combination of Scottish & Newcastle Breweries and a weak bladder.

By one of those strange quirks that the fixture list has a habit of throwing up, we also drew Liverpool away in that season's League Cup, losing 2-0, the same result as in the League game at Anfield. However, to even things up, we also beat Liverpool 3-1 in the league game at the Bridge.

tommy_langley.jpg Tommy Langley, Chelsea's player of the year for 1978-79, and top scorer in 77-78 and 78-79 1978-79: Danny Blanchflower took over from Ken Shellito. Blanchflower's brief reign was a disaster. While he was in charge we won just 5 out of 32 games and finished rock bottom of Division 1, 6 points behind 19th place Derby, with a goal difference of minus 44. Exactly why Blanchflower was appointed manager remains a mystery.

Further Cup failures hardly came as a surprise: we lost 2-1 at Bolton in the League Cup 2nd round, and were knocked out of the FA Cup in the third round 3-0 at Old Trafford. Neither was it surprising when, at the end of the season, Ray Wilkins was sold to Man Utd for £800,000.

Blanchflower left in September 1979, to be replaced by Geoff Hurst, who became the 5th Chelsea manager since Dave Sexton's departure, an indication of the instability of the club during that era.

ron_harris_colour.jpg From the outset I had great difficulty thinking of Hurst as anything to do with Chelsea, a feeling that hasn't changed to this day. Hurst's first game in charge was the 3-0 defeat at Shrewsbury. However, the next game against Watford was the first of five successive wins that saw Chelsea rapidly climb the table. Cup runs were pretty much a thing of the past, but still losing 2-1 at home to 3rd Division Plymouth in the League Cup 2nd round replay and at home to Wigan, then of Division 4, in the FA Cup 3rd round.

We put in some impressive performances that season, including a 4-0 win over Newcastle and a 7-3 victory at Orient. However, a disappointing end to the season, which included home defeat to QPR and draws against Luton, Preston and Swansea meant that we narrowly failed to gain promotion, finishing 4th in Division 2 level on points with 3rd place Birmingham, but with an inferior goal difference, +14 to their +20. A little more consistency and we might have made it. but to be honest, we weren't quite up to it, as shown by the fact that we lost 5-1 at Birmingham.

The following season, with Hurst still in charge, Chelsea plunged to 12th in Division 2, the club's lowest ever league position up to that point. We fared no better in either of the cups, losing 1-0 at Cardiff in the League Cup 2nd Round and 3-0 away to Southampton in the FA Cup 3rd round.

Little did we know that the worst was yet to come. But that again, is another story.

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