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Speedie, David (1982-1987)

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David Speedie (1982-1987)

Written by Loz in September 2007

David Robert Speedie, a man who could have, and probably has, started a fight at a Church Fete. He just about fitted every stereotype that the English had of the Scottish before Charlie Nicholas shattered them all by showing up and being a total pansy!! He snarled, he sneered, he got in everyone’s face and his temper exploded without any warning! Oh and he was a half pint measuring an unimpressive 5ft 7. Anyone who has been in a rough bar in Scotland can probably picture such a man playing pool and drinking lager!

jan%2083%20david%20soaring%20over%20leic However despite being born in Scotland (more specifically in Glenrothes on February 20th, 1960) Speedie was actually raised in Yorkshire and was a coalminer (which may go some way to explaining why he took little, or no, sh*t from anyone!) before Barnsley spotted his potential and offered him a professional contract in 1978. He never really impressed at Barnsley failing to register a single goal in 21 appearances (he was still just a lad at this point) and when Darlington expressed an interest in 1980 Barnsley didn’t take much persuading to let him move on for a fee of £6,000.

He spent two seasons at Darlington and scored 21 goals for them in 88 appearances. Not a shabby return from a player who was only 20 when he joined and was more of a support striker than an out and out centre forward. In fact in his first season at Darlington he was predominantly used as a midfielder, it wasn’t till his second season that he was used as a striker and notched up 17 league goals. Whilst at Darlington he came to the attention of Chelsea manager John Neal. Given Chelsea’s somewhat precarious position in the old second division at the time I would guess it wasn’t just Speedie’s goals that persuaded Neal to sign him but also the fact that he played every football game as if it were his last and as if the survival of the world depended on him winning the ball back! He was a terrier and opposition defenders must have hated playing against him. Just what we needed in a dogfight to avoid dropping into the old third division, something we may have never fully recovered from.

speedie_david_1984_gh_r.jpg Neal persuaded brand new chairman Ken Bates to part with £80,000 for Speedie’s services in May 1982. Given that the club was in financial ruin at the time and losing £12,000 a week (which was a lot then!) it was certainly a lot of faith shown in Speedie’s potential. As it turned out it was definitely money well spent. On his Chelsea debut against Oldham Athletic on Saturday, 18th September 1982 he scored a brace in 2-0 win at the Bridge. Although he only scored a total of seven goals in that season his all round contribution played an integral part in Chelsea successfully avoiding the drop. To say we were close to being relegated is like saying Phil Thompson had quite a big nose. We beat the drop by a mere two points and this was only because we somehow managed to avoid defeat in each of the last four games of the season.

One of those games was a 1-1 draw with Sheffield Wednesday in which Speedie scored a far post header for which he must have leapt about five times his own body height! How a man of such average height could get up so high for headers I will never know however thank God he could, and it wasn’t a one off either – we were to see Speedie do it time and time again over his career.

Despite his contributions in the 1982-83 season, and the fact that the Chelsea faithful already adored him, Speedie was left out of the team by Neal at the start of the 1983-84 season. It took an illness to Colin Lee to open the door for Speedie and from that point on he never looked back. He scored twice in his first appearance of the season against Charlton even more significantly it gave Chelsea fans their first glimpse of what was to become a breathtaking ‘threesome’ for Chelsea. Neal had brought in Kerry Dixon and Pat Nevin in the summer and the combination of Nevin’s wing wizardry, Speedie’s tenacity and Dixon’s finishing was breathtaking for Chelsea fans to witness. Over the next three seasons they notched up just shy of 200 goals between them (Speedie scoring 65 goals in a total of 205 appearances in his Chelsea career).

200px-speediedixon.jpg At this juncture it is worth pointing out that Speedie’s relationship with Dixon on the pitch was not always mirrored by their relationship off the pitch. It is safe to say they weren’t exactly drinking buddies. They had a huge bust up in the dressing room after playing against Manchester City and both players point towards that bust up as being the turning point in their relationship. Dixon said of it, “We had a fight and it settled things down” and Speedie stated:

"We had a barney after the City game and John Neal hauled us in to sort it out. He told us we both had our ways of doing things and that we were both passionate about our game. But we had to learn to live with each other's strengths and weaknesses. John told us we would be the best in the country if we sorted our differences out and I believe, at that time, we were."

Fisticuffs between Speedie and Dixon would have been a spectacle. Dixon, tall, blonde and powerful and Speedie short, unkempt hair and a fury of energy – I must admit my money would have been Speedo however he would have needed a punt up from Nevin to have connected a punch on Dixon’s chin!

Chelsea romped to the title that season with Speedie scoring 13 goals along the way. So to 1984/85 and back in Division One where Speedie found the refereeing not to his liking! He missed a stack of games through suspensions however when he was available for first team duties he was nothing short of excellent and helped Chelsea to an impressive 6th place finish. We also reached the semis of the Milk Cup losing over two legs to Sunderland, Speedie was suspended for the first leg and marked the second leg with a goal and a red card. Despite his issues with suspensions Speedie was voted as Chelsea’s player of the year.

speedie%20scotland.jpg 1985 saw him break into the Scotland team, his debut coming in a memorable (well at least for the Scots) 1-0 win over England. He was also actively involved in one of the happiest and saddest nights in Scottish football history. September 10th, 1985 was the night Scotland drew 1-1 against Wales in a World Cup play off which ensured qualification for the 1986 World Cup. The goal was a penalty won by Speedie (well not exactly won, Speedie played it forward and Welsh defender David Phillips was harshly adjudged to have handled in the penalty area) and scored by Rangers wing legend Davie Cooper. It was also the night that Scotland manager Jock Stein had a heart attack pitch side and died shortly afterward. Stein was replaced, on a short term basis, by Alex Ferguson who promptly dropped Speedie thus shattering his hopes of playing at a World Cup.

colin%20lee%20and%20david%20speedie.gif In 1986 Speedie scored a hat-trick at Wembley (which hadn’t been done since Geoff Hurst did it in the 1966 World Cup final) when Chelsea beat Manchester City in the final of the Full Members Cup (possibly the most prestigious domestic trophy in the history of English football, we won it twice, Liverpool never won it, a little like the Premiership).

However this marked the beginning of the end for Speedie’s Chelsea career. Chelsea’s form slumped and against QPR, Speedie’s temper once again got the best of him and he was red carded for elbowing someone (can’t remember who). Chelsea lost that day and although we still finished the 1985-86 season in 6th place there was a feeling that it could have, and maybe should have, been better.

In 1986-87 Speedie, like he has done with a lot of people throughout his career, fell out with John Hollins and was relegated to the reserve team for extended periods. His final game for Chelsea was a 3-3 draw with Liverpool at the Bridge and he marked his farewell with a volleyed goal. He was sold to Coventry in July 1987 for £750,000. It was a sale that disappointed me at the time and disappointed a lot of other Chelsea fans.

dixon%20and%20speedie%20at%20southampton After leaving Chelsea Speedie got around more than Steven Gerrard’s bird. A four year stint at Coventry was followed by short spells at Liverpool, Blackburn, Southampton, Birmingham, West Brom, West Ham and Leicester. Before retiring he also had short spells at non league sides Stamford AFC and Harrow Borough. Of all those stints the season he spent at Blackburn was the most successful as he scored an impressive 26 goals in 43 games. Why did they let go after only one season? I’m not too sure however it may be worth remembering that the deal that took him to Southampton was the same deal that saw Alan Shearer move to Ewood Park.

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