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F. Chelsea History (1988-1993)

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Chelsea History (1988-1993)

Written by Loz in October 2009

1988/89 SEASON

save%20the%20bridge.jpg So there we were, back in the second tier of English football, dogged by continued problems on the terraces, without Nevin and facing the real prospect of being booted out of Stamford Bridge. I won't go into the 'Battle for the Bridge' here as it is covered here however it is worth keeping in mind that the uncertainty over the future of our stadium, and possibly the club, was always in the back of everyone's minds from Ken Bates through to the punters in the stands. An uncertainty, which by the time we started the 1988/89 season, had been hovering around for the best part of ten years.

In these days of Premiership football, and more significantly the money that Premiership status secures, the idea that a successful season in lower flight football is more enjoyable than struggling in the top flight, is probably alien. However back in 1988, the days before the motor car, it was possible this was the case. Of course it is easy to say that in retrospect, at the time it was heartbreaking to turn on the radio on a Saturday and know full well that the best you were going to get was the odd score update from our game.

Before the season kicked off the FA announced that, due to the crowd trouble at the end of the play off game against Boro, the Chelsea terraces would be closed for the first six home games of the seasons (note this meant that the all seater stands would be open).

Roberts.gif As well as the departure of Nevin, Roy Wegerle and Jerry Murphy moved on. More significant though, as it transpired, were the two players Bobby Campbell identified as being the signings needed to ensure we bounced straight back up. Campbell already had a reputation of preferring ball winners to ball players (maybe a little harsh) and he realised that getting back out of the second division was going to require some good old fashioned 'no nonsense' grit. Graham Roberts was signed from Glasgow Rangers (he has also played somewhere in London before) to shore up our defence and Peter Nicholas was signed from Aberdeen to provide the steel in the centre of our midfield. Many Chelsea fans would remember that Nicholas played for Crystal Palace in the 1983/84 season when Palace kicked ten shades of sh*t out of us (although we had the last laugh as we took five points out of six off them and won the title).

Campbell also brought in Ian Porterfield as his new assistant manager. Porterfield would prove to be the protective wall that saved players from being strangled by Campbell! He was calm and collected and very popular with the players whereas Campbell was a graduate of the management school of blowing his top when things didn't work out or players didn't do as they were told.

So we started the season with the majority of the 1987/88 squad, the addition of much needed fight in the spine of the team, and an assistant manager who was rapidly rebuilding the team spirit that had vanished under John Hollins. It was no surprise when the bookies made us favourites to win the title.

Mclaughlin-2.jpg We started in true Chelsea fashion by defying the odds and losing the opening game of the season 2-1 at home to Blackburn. In the classical tradition of doing our best to screw things up the Chelsea fans jeered the players and captain Joe McLaughlin tore off his armband and threw it on the ground. McLaughlin was promptly dropped and Campbell installed Graham Roberts as our new club captain.

Five games later we were just shy of the relegation zone and hadn't registered a single win. The atmosphere at the stadium was terrible due to the closed terraces and it began to look like Campbell's reign as manager was to be short lived (he had no contract at this point so was very vulnerable to the Bates boot).

Steve Wicks was then forced to retire through injury and there was much talk that a defeat at the hands of Leeds would signal the end of Campbell. We won 2-0 and the good news continued with the return from injury of Tony Dorigo and Kerry Dixon, followed by a decent run of results which saw us steadily climb the table. In amongst that was a humiliating 6-3 aggregate defeat in the League Cup by fourth division Sc**thorpe - the most significance of that tie being that the home leg was the last game played before closed terraces.

Wilson.gif Colin Pates, who had absolutely no time for Campbell, joined Charlton after the Sc**thorpe game and this was followed by the news that Dorigo was attracting the eye of Manchester United and Liverpool and fancied a move back to the top flight. Dorigo encouraged the rumours and made it clear that he was concerned that playing in the second division would affect his chances of playing for England. Too be honest his England career was always going to be limited due to the fact that Stuart Pearce was ahead of him in the pecking order. Campbell was not a man to be pushed around and players didn't have the power they have in the modern day. It was made clear that Dorigo was staying and that Campbell would only allow players to leave who he felt were not up to the task of getting Chelsea back into the first division.

The Shed re-opened, the fans poured in and we stuffed Plymouth 5-0. With the atmosphere back in place the good results kept rolling in, Dixon and Durie were in the goals and a 4-1 twatting of Birmingham in December saw us move clear at the top of the table. The good news just kept rolling in. Kerry Dixon signed a new four year contract, our defence, marshalled by Roberts, was as generous as a Scotsman in January and the partnership being forged by Dixon, Durie and Kevin Wilson was proving far too good for second division defences.

The only real blip in this period came in January and was in cup competitions. We lost 4-0 to Barnsley in the FA Cup and 4-1 to Notts Forest in the Simod Cup. Roger Freestone, who had won his place back in the team after Kevin Hitchcock has picked up an injury, was considered to be largely at fault and Campbell decided to dip into the transfer kitty and bring in Dave Beasant from Newcastle for a then club record £725,000.

To recuperate some of those funds Campbell sold Darren Wood for £350,000 (God knows how, I don't think he would fetch that kind of money in today's inflated transfer market) but also brought in Dave Mitchell - a man who is to strikers what I am to hair growth.

Durie2.gif In February Durie bagged 5 goals in a 7-0 thrashing of Walsall (only George Hilsdon has scored more than 5 goals in a game for Chelsea) and as we pulled away at the top of the table only Manchester City were managing to hang on to our coat tails. We then experienced a mini slump and dropped a few points at home thus allowing City to sneak ahead of us in the race for the title (but this time promotion was all but secured). March saw what was tagged as a 'title decider' as we travelled North to Maine Road to take on an in form City. The game ended 3-2 to us but in truth we humped them for 90 minutes and only conceded two late goals to allow City to creep back into the match. Dorigo scored a beauty in that game and we were back on top of the pile, back in form and looking confident.

Six straight wins later had seen us extend our club record unbeaten run to 27 games but all that came to an end when we went down 2-0 to Leicester (note this record was beaten when we went 29 games without defeat in the 2004/05 & 2005/06 season).

The day of the 2-0 defeat was also the day of the Hillsbrough tragedy and as the news of the disaster filtered through the disappointment of clinching promotion against Leicester paled into insignificance.

Bumstead.gif Promotion was only delayed one week. Leeds travelled south and loyal Chelsea servant John Bumstead scored the only goal in a game which was only memorable because it clichéd the title. Our final home game of the season was a 3-1 win over Bradford, after which the trophy was presented to the players and paraded around the Bridge. That game saw Ken Monkou make his début and in the following games, the final one of the season, Graeme Le Saux made his debut in a 3-2 win over Portsmouth.

We ended the season with 99 points which was a second division record (and 17 points ahead of second placed Manchester City) and also a club record for the number of points obtained in any season. Graham Roberts set a club record of scoring 13 penalties in one season. Furthermore, due largely to his personal performances, but also his drive as club captain, Roberts was deservedly named player of the season.

The 29 league wins we achieved was a club record since equalled in the 2004/05 Premiership winning season. We also set a club record for consecutive away wins (7), a record which, at the time of writing is still to be equalled.

The Dixon, Durie, Wilson partnership was also key to our success but it was never on a par with the Dixon, Speedie, Nevin one. Dixon himself later said 'Kevin and Gordon did very well. I adapted to their styles. Neither of them were Nevin or Speedie, but they were their own men and we all got a good amount of goals.' A good amount of goals is a bit of an understatement. Dixon finished the season with 25 league goals and was, once again our leading league goal scorer although note that Durie had topped that chart in the relegation 1987/88 season.

A little tale from the 89/90 season comes straight from the horse's mouth (and that horse happens to be a MODerator on the forums). When he was mascot in 1989, he was chaperoned around and then asked to wait in the physio area after which he would be allowed to go in and get player's autographs. Graham Roberts was in the physio room with a heat lamp on his back. In walks some bloke and announces to Roberts "Bates says he wants 99 goals and 99 points this season' and Roberts looked amazed that Bates was demanding so many.

1989/90 SEASON

Lee.gif After only one season away we were back amongst the big boys of English football. I say big boys and then need to point out that our opening fixture was away at Wimbledon (having said that they were the reigning FA Cup holders) who had a knee high to a Mars bar midfielder called Dennis Wise in their side.

We signed Alan Dickens from West Ham for £635,000 (a fee set by a tribunal upon which sat John Lyall who was West Ham's manager - and they say corruption in football is new! Actually Lyall was sacked as West Ham manager round about the same time as the Dickens transfer and I am not sure what came first, the transfer or the sacking). To be honest that, and a hat trick against Bournemouth in the third round of the ZDS Cup in November 1989, is about the only interesting thing about Dickens four year stint at Chelsea, he was poor, very poor.

We started the season playing five at the back with the three central defenders being Ken Monkou, David Lee and Graham Roberts and, given that we had just been promoted had a pretty decent start. Out of our first ten games we won five, drew three and lost two. One game in particular was its usual memorable self, a 4-1 over Tottenham at 'Three Point Lane' (although mention it quietly that they beat us 2-1 at the Bridge in the return fixture in January). Stevie Clarke was on the score sheet that day, just as he was to be three further times before a back injury he picked up during a Scotland training session in February brought an end to his season and his chances of playing in the 1990 World Cup in Italy.

Liverpool topped the league by mid September but the unlikely parties challenging at the right end of the table were Chelsea and Millwall (who ended up rock bottom come May!)

LeSaux.gif Graham Roberts had started the season in the rich vein of form he had showed throughout the 1988/89 season but all of that was to come crashing to a halt at the Bridge on September 30th. We played out a credible 0-0 draw with Arsenal but the game was marred by an injury to Roberts brought about by an x-rated lunge by Perry Groves. Roberts was stretchered off and Groves, forever-more, would, and should, be remembered by Chelsea fans as nothing more than a talentless prick with a fat arse.

Although Roberts did return to first team action and played regularly (and also took on a player coach role when Ian Porterfield left to take over as Reading manager in October) he was never the same player again. He eventually left after a row with Ken Bates over a contract offer and also becoming involved in a number of on the field arguments with his team mates (including giving a young Graham Le Saux a slap when we were knocked out of the 4th round of the FA Cup by Bristol City). It was a sad way for his Chelsea career to end - although he was only with us for a short time he played a huge part in galvanising the squad and you could sense that he knew he wasn't playing to the standard he was accustomed to and that this was the primary reason for the frustration that boiled over on the park. He signed for West Brom for £200,000 in February 1990.

Another player making his way through the exit door was Micky Hazard. Campbell had never really taken to Hazard's preference for flair over grunt and, after being on the transfer list for the best part of none months, was finally sold to Portsmouth for £100,000 in January 1990. I like to give Campbell the benefit of the doubt, Roberts and Hazard were, after all, ex Tottenham players - you have to set standards!!

Erland.gif Ken Monkou turned out to be the pick of our defenders over the season, for someone so young, and inexperienced, he coped with top flight football remarkably well and was often seen doing the unthinkable - actually bringing the ball out of defence without hoofing it! The English game soon put a stop to that though and it wasn't long before he resembled a good old fashioned English centre half than a classy Dutch one. At the end of the season he became the black player to be named Chelsea's player of the year.

In December we signed a player who was to go on to become one of my all time favourite Chelsea players. Not so much for his ability but entirely for his love for the club and will to see us succeed. Bobby Campbell paid Bayern Munich £300,000 for Erland Johnsen and we all thought Campbell had had a lobotomy as we witnessed Les Ferdinand, Mark Falco and Colin Clarke tear him a new arse as QPR ran out 4-2 winners. Johnsen didn't last the 90 minutes and it appeared unlikely he would see the light of the first team again unless the squad were struck down with the bubonic plague. He did, however, return for an FA Cup tie in January against Crewe Alexandra. Although it was a disappointing 1-1 draw Johnsen played well and ended up starting every game from then till the end of the season.

Hall.gif Chelsea did win a Wembley final in 1990, albeit one you are unlikely to hear too much about when Pele is justifying his next ridiculous list of 100 greatest ever football players. Formerly known as the Full Members Cup (which we won in 1986) it was now known as the Zenith Data Systems Cup (name change being due to sponsorship). Chelsea clinched the trophy, in front of 76,369 success starved fans, courtesy of a solitary Tony Dorigo goal. Peter Nicholas had taken over the captain's armband when Graham Roberts was sold and the winning of the ZDS cup meant he was only the second Chelsea captain to lift a trophy at Wembley - he was also selected as man of the match in the final.

From near the end of February onwards we put in a run of results which, in those days, were considered to be potential championship winning form (remember these were the days when you could drop 35 points and still win the league). It all kicked started with a 1-0 win over Manchester United (courtesy of a very rare Gareth Hall goal - he probably remembers it as a 35 yard screamer rather than the four inch tap in it actually was), on 24th February 1990. By the time the season ended on 5th may, we had won seven, drawn three and lost two of our last twelve matches including a fine win over Arsenal (thanks to a solitary strike by John Bumstead) and a 3-0 win over Crystal Palace which saw a debut goal by a young Graham Stuart.

By the end of the season, we sat in a very respectable fifth spot, Kerry Dixon had helped himself to 25 goals with Kevin Wilson chipping in a further 20. It would be another 10 years before another Chelsea striker would break that 20 goal barrier in a single season (that was Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in 2000/01). The third member of the strike force, Gordon Durie, had a far less memorable season with groin injuries restricting him to just 19 appearances and five goals.

Dixon's 25 goals included seven goals in the final four games of the season (three of which came against Millwall in the final game) and there were late calls for his inclusion in England's 1990 World Cup squad. Dixon failed to make the squad but Dorigo did make the cut and made one appearance in England's 2-1 3rd place play off defeat at the hands of Italy.

Playing second fiddle to Tony Dorigo, and the emergence of Graham Le Saux had severely limited Clive Wilson's first team opportunities and although he was offered a new contract at the end of the 1989/90 season he decided to move on when QPR had a £450,000 offer accepted by Chelsea.

1990/91 SEASON

Wise.gif June 1990 witnessed a signing which surely brings great joy to all of us even all these years later. A club record £1.6 million saw the arrival of cheeky chappie Dennis Wise - to celebrate we all got round the ol' Joanna and sang songs with the lyrics 'ave a banana' in them.

Did I mention that we also signed Andy Townsend that summer? I didn't? Well I have now. Can we move on please? Yes? Good. If you ever phone up TalkSport ask him if he has spoken to Paul Elliott recently and tell him Loz says he is a w**ker.

We got off to a winning start to the season beating Derby County 2-1 at the Bridge. Dennis Wise was voted man of the match and the three points were secured in the final minute of the match when Dave Beasant saved a Dean Saunders (spit) penalty. Beasant was to finish the season as the club's top appearance maker however he did miss three weeks of the season with a broken finger - now I have read that that injury brought an end to a run of consecutive first team appearances that went back for nine years. I find that very hard to believe (I knew it was long) so if anyone can confirm it, or otherwise, I would be grateful.

Three days after his great performance against Derby, Wisey was sent off as we lost 2-1 away at Crystal Palace - how we grew to love his cheeky ways!

For reasons I still can't comprehend Bobby Campbell preferred Gareth Hall to Stevie Clarke at right back. Clarke was born and bred in Saltcoats, which is about as refined as a bag of cocaine you would buy on a street corner from a man with no teeth, and it is probably fair to say he reacted to this snub with as much grace as Bernard Manning in a tutu. After a bun fight with Campbell he demanded a transfer. Fortunately this came to nothing however the rest of his season was very much stop start as he was called upon infrequently to provide cover right across the back line.

The season saw the curtain brought down on the Chelsea career of a true Chelsea legend. John Bumstead didn't see too much first team action over the course of the season but when called upon he, as always, didn't let us down. In 1991 the biggest English stars were Paul Gascoigne and David Platt. In November we beat Aston Villa 1-0, Bumstead marked Platt out of the match and was selected as man of the match. In December we beat Spurs 3-2, Bumstead marked Gascoigne out of the match, scored and was selected as man of the match. At the end of the season, after 13 years and 409 appearances we bid farewell to the man with a name that made school kids chuckle. He joined Charlton Athletic on a free transfer.

Stuart.gif Three games in 1990/91 will always stick in the mind. The first was against Arsenal at the Bridge on February 2nd. Arsenal ended up winning the title by a canter, (canter meaning seven points - although note they were deducted two points for an on field brawl with Manchester united who were deducted one point) and only lost one game the entire season. They only conceded 18 goals all season, largely due to having a back five of David Seaman, Tony Adams, Steve Bould, Nigel Winterburn and Lee Dixon (though let me say they were not as good as Cech, Gallas, JT, Carvalho and Ferriera). By February they were top of the table whilst we were loafing around in mid table obscurity and firm favourites to pick up 'nil points'. The Gooners were weakened due to Adams spending eight weeks doing porridge for his 'glug glug vroom vroom' habit however they were still expected to have more than enough to beat their more handsome West London rivals. Kerry Dixon and Graham Stuart had other ideas and had us cruising at 2-0 before Alan Smith scored a 90th minute consolation goal.

The second was a 4-2 win over Liverpool, in which Dixon scored a brace, with Durie and Wise chipping in with the other two goals. One of the Liverpool goal scorers that day was none other than David Speedie. Dixon scored 15 goals in total in the 1990/91 season including two in the hockey match 6-4 win at Derby County, and a further double when we drew 2-2 away at Everton. It was to be the last time he got over double figures in a season in a Chelsea shirt (I am trying to break the sad news slowly!!).

The third was a 3-2 win over Manchester United in early March. This wasn't as memorable from the perspective of the score as Man Utd were not a major force at that time. It was memorable because of the quality of Tony Dorigo's goal and because that was one of the last things we ever saw him do in a Chelsea shirt. Despite pressure from the fans Dorigo refused to sign a new contract. Consequently Campbell took the understandable decision to focus on the future and dropped Dorigo in favour of a young Frank Sinclair. Another highlight in that Man Utd win game was Ken Monkou's (named man of the match) goal which was a header scored from about 863 feet in the air.

Nicholas.gif Frank's debut was a memorable one. We were playing Luton at the Bridge and they took full advantage of the inexperience in our team by racing into a 3-0 win. Le Saux pulled a goal back but then blotted his copybook by being sent off just before the half time break. Rather than capitulate, the team got their act together and fought back to secure an unexpected point in a 3-3 draw. Frank was the stand out player in that second half despite playing out of position as a left back.

Having said that Frank had a mare when Notts Forest beat us 7-0. However it wasn't Frank's performance that made the headlines but accusations that Dorigo, who was filling in on the left wing, had purposely done bugger all tracking back thus exposing Frank, time and time again, to the Forest right winger and full back who were doubling up on him. Dorigo joined Leeds for £1.3 million at the end of the season.

That 6-4 win over Derby marked the final appearance in a Chelsea shirt of Peter Nicholas. Nicholas had started the season well with the wining goal against Derby County but when his form dipped the Chelsea crowd were merciless and vented their frustration. Campbell took away Nicholas's captain's armband and handed it to Andy Townsend and although he did recall Nicholas in November a first minute own goal in a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Wimbledon gave the Chelsea boo boys even more to moan about. Nicholas came off the bench in the Derby game but left for Watford on a free-transfer in March.

As the season drew to a close Gordon Durie announced that he needed to leave Chelsea stating that his wife was desperate to move back North to be nearer to her family in Scotland. Clearly their grasp of geography was as sound as Rod Hull's grasp of electromagnetism as Gordon Judas promptly moved to Tottenham for �2.2 million. He was sh*te at Spurs, he deserved even less. Next time we have a player you don't like or rate just tell yourself, 'it could be worse, he could be Gordon Durie!'

We finished the season in a solid, but not impressive 11th spot. At the end of the season Bobby Campbell was 'moved upstairs' and took on a role as Ken Bates PA (what that entailed I have no idea). It was largely thought that our meek surrender to Sheffield Wednesday in the semi final of the League Cup was the beginning of the end for Campbell. His former assistant manager Ian Porterfield was appointed as his replacement after a largely average 18 month spell as manager of third division (and if that makes sense to you then I only have one thing to say to you 'cheers for saving the Bridge Ken!')

1991/92 SEASON

Elliott.gif The 1991/92 season was to be the last season before the birth of the Premiership. In all honesty it was a pretty forgettable season in our history in that we largely drifted along in mid season obscurity.

One of the first things Porterfield did was to do what any one with even Glen Johnson's limited grasp of defending could see was sensible. He dropped Gareth Hall and restored Steve Clarke to his rightful place on the right hand side of our back four (Hall put in a transfer request during the season but later retracted it). The back line was further strengthened by the signing of Paul Elliott from Celtic for £1.4 million in July 1991. Elliott kicked off the season delivering the goods at the end of the pitch he was less accustomed to. He scored in out first two home games of the season with his header in the 2-2 draw with Wimbledon being a classic towering centre halves goal.

Elliott was the rock in the centre of our defence that the developing Le Saux, Jason Cundy and Stevie Clarke needed as an example for them to follow. He was voted as our player of the season and his most memorable performance was probably against Sheffield united in the 5th round of the FA Cup. We had gone one ahead through a first half goal from Graham Stuart and then took a battering for the rest of the game as a Sheffield United side, famed for being more aggressive than a pit-bull with an elastic band around its nuts, tried to scare the living sh*t out of relatively youthful Chelsea side. Elliott was a man mountain that day as we kept Dave Basset's team at bay and even Bluebeard forgave Elliott for ever playing for Celtic! Our FA Cup run came to an end in a quarter final replay when we lost 2-1 to Sunderland

CUndy.gif It should, however be noted, that Porterfield didn't start the season pairing Elliott alongside Cundy. His original first choice central partnership was Elliott and Ken Monkou. It was as successful as a bacon buttie van in Krakow. Our net bulged with the same regularity as teenage wombs in Toxteth including throwing away a two goal lead over Arsenal and being knocked out in the second round of the League Cup by a 3-0 reversal away at Tranmere. Ken was dropped, Cundy stepped in and we kept three consecutive clean sheets. Monkou then returned to replace the injured Cundy and we shipped three goals at home against Norwich. It was safe to say Porterfield had realised which was the better pairing!

Paul Elliott could be described as 'hard but fair.' In August we signed another player who didn't quite fit that same description. It cost us £575,000 to allow Sheffield United to rid themselves of Vinnie Jones and if I said his signing was greeted with universal acclaim by the Chelsea faithful my nose would grow so large I would be worth millions in the porn industry.

However if there is one thing a football fan loves it is a man who is prepared to do just about anything to ensure his team wins!! Vinnie fits that definition to the letter, and, in addition has a natural flair for 'being one of the lads' when it comes to interacting with the crowd. With a few exceptions the Chelsea fans warmed to him quicker than a hamster in a microwave. It helped that his debut was in a 4-1 win over Luton in which he was clearly the best player on the park. Throughout the season he would be found conducting the crowd during his warm ups.

Allen.gif It was a pretty uninspiring opening three months of the season. By the end of October we had won four, lost three and drawn seven of our opening 14 fixtures. In amongst that was a satisfying 3-1 win at Three Point Lane and a respectable 2-2 draw at home against Liverpool.

In December Porterfield strengthened our attacking options by signing Clive Allen from Manchester City for £250,000. Whether he wanted Allen as a striker or just wanted to stop the bugger scoring against us only Porterfield knows however just three months later he was sold to West Ham for £275,000. In the three months he was with us he made 16 league appearances and scored seven times including scoring against Manchester City (where he had fallen out with Peter Reid) and against Spurs in January as a 2-0 home win secured a double over the scum from N17. Granted Allen was just the wrong side of 30 by the time we bought and sold him but I found it odd that we let him go so quickly. When he moved on to West Ham he never played regularly but he maintained a ratio of about a goal every other game in the 36 appearances he made for the Hammers.

In February 1992 we travelled north to Liverpool preparing ourselves for a probable beating. We hadn't left Anfield with a win in 55 years and the chances of bringing that run to an end appeared as likely as me walking through Dean Saunders home without taking the opportunity to sh*t in his airing cupboard. Anyone who, to this day, wished we had never signed Vinnie Jones must surely be forgetting what happened next! Between Jones and Dennis Wise our first team contained about as much cheek as a naked Cyril Smith. Before the game kicked off they got hold of a marker pen and wrote 'We're Bothered' on the 'This is Anfield' sign that the dippers like to touch as they run out of the tunnel.

Then, to add insult to injury, both of them scored (Vinnie's in particular being a stunning effort volleyed home from the best part of 25 yards out). Dennis was named man of the match and, in doing so, became the first ever opposition player side to be awarded the sponsors' man-of-the-match award at Anfield. Although Dennis had played in the 1990/91 season I feel that it was the 1991/92 season when we really saw him start to show the qualities that we would be blessed with over his 11 years at the club. I personally feel a big reason for that development was the fact he was playing alongside Jones.

Over the course of the season Ian Porterfield seemed entirely unable to decide between Dave Beasant and Kevin Hitchcock as his first choice goalkeeper. Every time one of them had a bad game he would be dropped and would then sit on the bench until the other had a howler. It was, quite simply, preposterous decision making by the manager, possibly at its worse when Hitchcock, after playing superbly in January and February, made one mistake to gift Sunderland an equaliser in the FA Cup quarter-final, was immediately dropped. By the end of the season both keepers had made 21 appearances and both had had their confidence shattered.

Over the course of the season Ian Porterfield seemed entirely unable to decide between Dave Beasant and Kevin Hitchcock as his first choice goalkeeper. Every time one of them had a bad game he would be dropped and would then sit on the bench until the other had a howler. It was, quite simply, preposterous decision making by the manager, possibly at its worse when Hitchcock, after playing superbly in January and February, made one mistake to gift Sunderland an equaliser in the FA Cup quarter-final, was immediately dropped. By the end of the season both keepers had made 21 appearances and both had had their confidence shattered.

Dixon2.gif In March 1992 we beat Norwich by a solitary Kerry Dixon goal. It was to be the last goal Dixon would score in a Chelsea shirt as he was sold to Southampton at the end of the season for £575,000. A great Chelsea playing career was finally at an end and it would be a hell of a long time until we again witnessed a Chelsea number 9 (well would be number 9 - damn this stupid squad number system) with the power, pace, and finishing of Kerry Dixon. In a total of 420 appearances he scored 193 goals, he was our top scorer in all competitions in no less than seven seasons, was an ever present in the 1983/84 and 1989/90 seasons and it is a pleasure that even now, as I write this in 2009, he is still working for Chelsea in a media capacity.

Also in March Chelsea decided to cash in and sold Jason Cundy to Spurs for £800,000. It was only four years since he was named our young player of the year and his sale came near the end of the season where he had finally established himself as a regular first team player. Chelsea fans were expecting his partnership with Elliott in the centre of our defence to be the bedrock of the team for a good few seasons to come and his sale made little sense and caused much anger amongst the Chelsea supporters. As it turned out he was sh*te for Spurs - good lad!!

The out door was swinging like Stan Collymore with Kevin Wilson joining the exodus when he was sold to Notts County for £225,000. He has had a patchy season which had started promisingly when he lobbed a beauty over Thorstvedt's head in the 3-1 over Spurs at White Hart Lane but stuttered when the signature of Clive Allen saw him drop out of first team consideration.

In the final game of the season we lost 2-1 away at Everton - I only make reference to that game as it saw a 20 year old Eddie Newton make a scoring début. We finished in 14th spot with a negative goal difference and a pretty shabby record of 13 wins, 14 draws and 15 defeats. However it wasn't all bad. We finished one position above Spurs and West Ham were relegated!

1992/93 SEASON

Fleck.gif The 1992/93 season saw the birth of the FA Premier League (Premiership) bringing an end to 104 years of four tier football within the confines of the football league. There was one reason for this, and only reason only – well actually 305 million reasons for that was how many pounds BSkyB paid for exclusive TV rights. This cash injection was largely passed onto clubs who spent it on players and also ensuring they complied with the requirement to have an all seater stadium.

Remember what I said about having money to spend on players? Having money to spend brings great responsibility – unfortunately nobody told Ian Porterfield who promptly blew £2.1m on Robert Fleck. At the time it was the highest fee we had ever paid for a player and was also the most Norwich had ever received for a player). As successful purchases go this one was on a par with ordering garlic bread on a first date. It has been widely reported that Chelsea struck a deal with Tottenham whereby we wouldn’t bid for Teddy Sheringham if they didn’t bid for Fleck (thus ensuring the prices were not driven up). We would take it out on them later in the season when we picked up our customary three points at White Hart Lane (a game which saw Sol Campbell make his Tottenham début).

Our record signing had a mare of a season. It started badly when he missed a handful of good chances in our season opening draw with Oldham and it just got worse from there. He scored three goals all season, two in the league and one in the league cup and was soon kicking his heels on the bench with the likes of Mick Harford, John Spencer (who Porterfield had signed from Glasgow Rangers for £450,000 in the summer of 1992) and Neil Shipperley ahead of him in the pecking order.

Harford.gif Harford signed from Luton for £300,000 round about the same time as Fleck joined us. He was 33 years old and his signature barely merited a mention in the press. He opened his account in the 1-1 Oldham match with a belter of a shot from distance and that set him up perfectly for a cracking first half of the season. He scored the decisive goals in league wins against QPR, Manchester City, Ipswich Town and Coventry and also our second in a 2-1 win over Newcastle in the third round of the League Cup. It wasn’t just his goals that impressed, just as he had over the course of his career, he battled for every loose ball and gave centre halves a torrid time in the air.

Just as it was looking too good to be true for a player enjoying a career Indian summer it proved to be.. err.. too good to be true. Harford’s form inexplicably collapsed after December. He had scored 10 goals by the turn of the year but added only one more in the second half of the season. He was sold to Sunderland for £250,000 in March 2003.

September 1992 witnessed an incident that Chelsea fans should never allow themselves to forget. Whilst we were struggling to accommodate Porterfield’s new signings up front one new partnership that was settling down well was our new centre half pairing of Paul Elliott and Mal Donaghy (who had been signed form Manchester United for £100,000 as a youthful almost 35 year old) . They has only played seven games together when Elliott’s football career was brought to a hideous end by a brutal challenge by that dirty little bar steward Dean Saunders. There is no doubt that Elliott’s attempted challenge on Saunders was going to be a foul but nothing above and beyond a routine foul. Saunders decided the best form of defence was to brutally jam his studs into Elliott’s knee cap The ligaments in Jamaica’s right knee were damaged beyond reasonable repair and despite battling for 18 months to regain fitness he had to announce his retirement from football in May 1994.

Elliott2.gif Elliott decided to sue Saunders claiming the challenge was reckless. Key witnesses supporting Jamaica were Vinny Jones and Andy Townsend who, after the challenge, made no shortage of noise about how bad a challenge it was and committing themselves to supporting Elliott. Townsend then moved onto Villa where he was joined by Saunders. When Saunders his first goal for Villa who was the first to be offering him a bit of celebratory man love – yep you guessed it – Andy Townsend. Next time you listen to Talksport and think Adrian Durham is an arse; just remind yourself that, whilst you may well be right, he is nothing compared to Townsend how is human vermin.

Jones was only marginally better. He failed to show up in court and had to be subpoenaed. When he did show up he was in full Hollywood ode showing up in an outfit better suited to a night on the piss in a club with a generous dress code. Then, to add salt to the wound, he didn’t stick to his original statement.

Elliott had the support of other Chelsea representatives including Ken Bates and Dennis Wise, and also Ronnie Whelan who had been one of Saunders’ team mates at Liverpool. Despite this he lost the case with the ref on the day supporting Saunders and stating in evidence that he ‘never made mistakes’ despite being disqualified by the FA after the game. Elliott was let down by his ‘friends’, let down by those charged with upholding the game and let down by a judge who appeared more eager to get Vinny Jones autograph than query his change of story.

Newton.gif Back on the field, and back to the 1992/93 season, Donaghy did a fine job of assuming Elliott’s role as a defensive rock. He played 40 times that season and even picked up a couple of goals later in the season when he scored in consecutive games against Leeds (1-1 draw) and Middlesbrough (4-0 win).

In contrast to his début season Vinny Jones had a relatively quiet start to the 1992/93 season. He scored the first of our three goals when we recovered from a two goal deficit at Hillsbrough to snatch a 3-3 draw with Sheffield Wednesday in the third game of the season however this was the last goal he scored for us. In October we agreed a fee of £640,000 which saw him return to Wimbledon.

A few weeks prior to Vinnie moving we won 3-1 away at Aston Villa, a game in which Eddie Newton properly introduced himself as a player of considerable potential. He has already scored earlier in the season in the 3-3 draw with Sheffield Wednesday but it was against Villa that he gave us a taste of what he was capable of. Not only did he score but, more significantly, he, playing on the right wing, tore Villa apart time and time again. Newton quickly became though of as a ‘versatile squad player’ which is a tag always destined to bugger up a player’s career! In December he was played as an emergency striker (emergency not because of injuries but because Robert Fleck was sh*t) and showed our pug faced striker how it was done by scoring a brace in a 2-1 win over Tottenham (have I mentioned that game already – aargh well, you never tire do you).

In December Porterfield dipped into the transfer market again so sign Russian goalkeeper Dmitri Kharine from CSKA Moscow for £200,000. Porterfield had never been convinced by Dave Beasant and this was exacerbated when Beasant was largely to blame for the late equaliser we conceded against Oldham on the opening day of the season. Worse was to come for Beasant when he gifted Norwich two goals as we lost 3-2 despite being 2-0 up at half time. Porterfield made a public announcement to the press that Beasant would never play for Chelsea again.

Spencer.gif Of the three strikers Porterfield had bought in the summer John Spencer was the one who turned out to be the most successful in a Chelsea shirt although it wasn’t really until February 1993 that he established himself as a regular in the first team. Our early season form faded like Rio Ferdinand’s status as a consistent world class centre half and Ken Bates’s patience was stretched like a Michael Owen hamstring. In February he decided enough was enough and Iain Porterfield became the first manager to be sacked by a Premier League club. Within six months of its inception we had made a significant mark on Premiership history. 17 years later, and counting, Liverpool still hadn’t accomplished this. Porterfield’s replacement, albeit on a temporary basis, was David Webb and it was Webb that gave Spencer a regular starting berth. By the end of the season Spencer had contributed seven goals from 13 starts.

Three further players benefited from Webb’s appointment. The first was Dave Beasant. Webb’s second game in charge was a home tie against Arsenal. Webb recalled Beasant and he repaid him with a man of the match performance which helped ensure Graham Stuart’s goal was the only one of the game. Beasant retained the goalkeeper’s jersey until a comprehensive 3-0 defeat at the hands of Manchester United persuaded Webb to give Kharine his chance to impress in the final two games of the season. Beasant never played for Chelsea again.

The second was Erland Johnsen. Johnsen had only made one appearance under Porterfield in the 1992/92 season however David Webb knows a bloody solid centre half when he sees one and he saw one in Johnsen. With the exception of Webb’s very first game in charge Johnsen played every game of Webb’s brief tenure and played a huge part in stabilising a team that was going off the rails.

Beasant.gif And the third, and probably most surprising, was Gareth Hall. Possibly even surprising than Hall’s return to first team action was that Webb tasked him with being a creative midfielder! At the time I think I would rather have seen Webb himself in a number 10 shirt however I was to be as wrong about that as I was when I backed Sam Dalla Bona to have an excellent future! In April 1993, coming off the back of three consecutive 1-1 draws with Crystal Palace, Tottenham and Leeds, we thumped Middlesbrough 4-0 with Gareth Hall the man of the match by 17 country miles. That performance secured his first team place as a midfielder for the rest of the season and he chipped in with a goal as we beat Wimbledon 4-2 in our second last home game of the campaign.

Prior to being sacked, Iain Porterfield had made it clear he wasn’t happy with the quality of Graeme Le Saux’s play and, in particular his distribution. Le Saux was regularly hauled off before the 90 minutes were over and against Southampton in the 1992 Boxing Day fixture the sight of his number going up again was too much for Le Saux. As he trudged off the field he told Porterfield what he thought of him and threw his shirt on the ground. His punishment was relatively light with only a one match suspension being dished out but from that moment on his Chelsea career was all but over (at least for the meantime). In March the club accepted an offer of £700,000 from Blackburn and Le Saux packed his copy of ‘How to be an English Gent’ and moved North.

As the season drew to a close, and we finished in a mid table 11th place, Ken Bates informed David Webb that he wouldn’t be keeping the manager’s job on a permanent basis. In early June Glenn Hoddle was named as our new player manager.

Oh p.s. Tony Cascarino was on our books in the 1992/93 season. If he was still playing for us now I doubt he would have accumulated career goals in double figures!

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