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My Blue Days: Nigel Spackman


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My Blue Days: Nigel Spackman

https://www.chelseafc.com/en/news/2018/12/1/my-blue-days--nigel-spackman?cardIndex=2-7

My Blue Days: Nigel Spackman

The latest former player taking part in our feature recalling past Chelsea careers is Nigel Spackman, the dynamic midfielder who was a vital cog in the engine room of our famous promotion side which then impressed in the top flight in the mid-1980s.

Then, similar to Graeme Le Saux featured in another recent My Blue Days, Spackman returned for a second spell at the club in the mid-1990s when he again made his mark. Here are his memories…
 

Tell us about how you came to sign for Chelsea? Both times!

The first time is well-documented. Ken Bates [Chelsea chairman at the time] still had some interest in Wigan [where had been previously] and needed to take some money out but they did not have any, so they were trying to do a deal on players.

John Neal and Ian McNeill, the Chelsea manager and his assistant, came to watch a game with Ken, Wigan against Bournemouth, and John Neal told him he liked the no.4. Ken said ‘What, the Wigan no.4, he is 30 years of age, that is no good!’ And he replied, ‘No, the Bournemouth no.4’, so in the summer of 1983 I signed for Chelsea and it was a very exciting time. I signed the same day as Pat Nevin.

The second time I had been playing up in Glasgow at Rangers and had a fantastic time up there, winning three league titles, but there was still at the time the ‘three foreigner rule’ for European games and I was classed as a foreigner being English. I was lucky enough to play in all the European ties and had a great experience doing that. I had had a couple of injuries but played in a cup final to do the Double. I think Ken Bates was there watching.

I was still fit for my age and my agent at the time got a phone call from [Chelsea managing director] Colin Hutchinson to ask if I would be interested in coming back. I thought and thought about it and I felt with new players coming in at Rangers and me not being Scottish, it was going to be more and more difficult to be playing in the European games. I thought maybe it is time to move back south, nearer my family with my mum and dad not get any younger, these things you take into consideration, and in the end Rangers reluctantly let me talk to Chelsea. I saw the redevelopment that was going on with the ground at Chelsea, it was impressive and although the team was struggling a bit at the time, they had some very good players so that is how I came to sign.
 

What were your immediate impressions of the club?

Turning up at Stamford Bridge, this great stadium where when you came through the gates off the Fulham Road then suddenly there was this beautiful old building that is unfortunately no longer there, with all the ivy growing up the outside of it, it was very impressive for a young guy who has just come from Bournemouth.
 

 
The old ivy-clad office at Stamford Bridge

The first impression was the sheer size of Stamford Bridge because when you had been playing in the old third and fourth division, from a tight little ground like Dean Court to suddenly come to a ground like Stamford Bridge, it was massive. You would walk out of that tunnel and see the pitch and at the start of the season it was in great condition, it didn’t last very long though, a couple more weeks if you were lucky! But you would think I would love to get out there and play. And you knew the history of Chelsea – Peter Osgood, Ian Hutchinson, Dave Webb.

There was also the step-up in class, the bigger squad, the more established players. Micky Droy was still there, Alan Hudson had come back, there were good young pros likes of Colin Pates and John Bumstead who had come through there and it was exciting times with the signings of Joe McLaughlin, Kerry Dixon and Eddie Niedzwiecki, John Hollins coming back as well. It was a case of being in the right place at the right time I think.

I don’t think the training ground impressed anybody though. We didn’t even have a gym there in those days, the canteen was not open. You were lucky to get hot water.
 

 
Nigel Spackman on the right during his first pre-season

What do you remember about the backing the team received from the fans, both home and away, during your time at the club? Any particular games stand out in terms of atmosphere?

Obviously the first game, scoring on my debut and winning 5-0 against a Derby side that was full of top, experienced players and favourites for promotion, that was superb. But the game that followed when we went to Brighton was just incredible for a player who had been playing for Bournemouth which at the time was not a hot bed for football, although it is amazing what they have done there now.

At Brighton it was like a home game, it was full of Chelsea and the atmosphere was absolutely brilliant. That was a special early feeling that Chelsea is a big club with great support and can we as new players push the club forward, and history shows we did.

The hard-core support that went to away games at the time had a bit of a reputation but playing away the atmosphere was superb. The way Stamford Bridge was laid out, the fans were such a long way from the pitch because of the old dog track, but going to away games with all the fans behind the goal, it was a really good experience. You felt with these boys behind us today we have got a great chance of winning this game. Luckily more often than not we were winning. People paying all that money to go up to Sheffield Wednesday, those games were really top notch and then when you went to Man City, Newcastle, Derby, it was really exciting for us who had not been at that level before.
 

 
Kerry Dixon has just scored at Brighton early in the '83/'84 season, with Nigel on the left and the celebrating Chelsea fans in the distance

Of all the managers you worked under here, who had the biggest influence on you, your game or your career?

I have to say that while John Neal signed me, he was not really a coach, he was an old-style manager. John Hollins was a very good coach, I really liked the way he coached, very Don Howe-ish in the way he did things, very upbeat, interesting. But the biggest influence even though I was coming towards the end of my career was Glenn Hoddle.

The game was starting to change a little bit from the 4-4-2 most teams played. Glenn wanted to play more with the three at the back but he would change tactically, maybe play a diamond in midfield and as an older player, suddenly you are being asked to do things that you have not grown up on and that was the big challenge, and I enjoyed that. Some of the others didn’t, they preferred getting forward quicker and getting it in the mixer and it took time to educate some but I enjoyed it. I texted Glenn last week and he said he would let me know when he is well enough to catch up and I will pop across to see him, but he is doing well at the moment.
 

Tell us about some of the most memorable games you were involved in for Chelsea…

All the European games were very positive, especially when you are coming to the end of your career, those games are what you want to be involved in and challenge yourself in. The whole process of travelling and pitting your wits against players you have never played against before, those are interesting.
The one away in Vienna, Jacob Kjeldbjerg had dislocated his shoulder so I had to play back in defence and I always remember John Spencer breaking away to score the goal. I am thinking go on wee man, go on little legs, you can do it, and once he came up on the keeper I knew he was going to feint to left and go right and smash it in. That was a brilliant game. Having not played in European football for so long, there was fantastic support. It was a feeling of Chelsea are back, this is a special time and we are going to make the most of it.

There was the game against Grimsby when we won the second division title, the games against Man City and Sheffield Wednesday. They are all great memories.
 

 
 
 
 
Spencer's goal against Vienna
 
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John Spencer's goal against Vienna

Which team-mates were you closest to during your time here? Are you still in touch with them now?

Eddie Niedzwiecki was my room-mate most of the time but then he got the horrendous knee injury which was devastating because he was a top, top goalkeeper. It is good to see he has made a career as an assistant with Mark Hughes, he has a very good reputation as a coach. Pat Nevin I roomed with as well but most of the ‘83/’84 squad got on really well together, the mix was really good. Colin Pates and John Bumstead were fantastic, they helped all the new players really settle in. On match days now if I do get time to come to the Bridge I see some of the boys from then but not as many times as you wish, but that is just life really.
 

Were there any opposition teams or players you particularly disliked facing and, if so, why?

All of them! I just think you want to do the best for yourself and for your team whoever you are playing against. Those games against Sheffield Wednesday at the time were tough, they were a hard-working Howard Wilkinson team, tough to play against. But you try to rise to the challenge in front of you, whether it is physical or technical. Whichever it is you just try to be better than the opposition, whoever you are playing against.
 

What about opposition fans, were their intimidating stadiums to play at?

I loved playing at White Hart Lane for some reason and normally getting a positive result. With Chelsea, you used to get the hardcore away support with you as well so you didn’t feel you were on your own. Wherever you went the fans were there.
 

 
An away day at White Hart Lane in 1984

How do you look back on your time at Chelsea overall? Is there anything you would change or do differently?

There are always things you look back on and say I would change that but I was very fortunate to come in to Chelsea when they were struggling, along with Pat, Kerry, Joe and Eddie and we had an exciting time and it was a real buzz for us. We were young players and Chelsea gave us a journey which was fantastic, getting into the top division. Everyone remembers that first game at Highbury, an 11.30 kick-off and all the Chelsea fans queuing up to get in as we were turning into the ground. That made all of us on that bus say ‘Well, we’ve made it into the big time’ and we went on from there.

Then I was lucky enough to come back and be part of the rebuild with Glenn Hoddle and play in the Cup Winners’ Cup. Unfortunately I did not play in the 1994 FA Cup final which was a real downer but I was just coming back from injury. I still think I should have played in that game but those are things that are out of your control.

Then probably when Glenn left to become England manager and Ruudi took over, maybe instead of going to Sheffield United I should have stayed and been one of the coaches but you make decisions in life and work and you have to just get on with those. Hindsight is a wonderful thing! If you don’t make wrong decisions you never learn anything.
 

What are your thoughts on the current Chelsea team and the season so far?

I have commentated on all of the games in the Europa League for BT Sport and it has been fantastic. On Thursday night Chelsea wanted to do the professional job, which they did – they are through, top of the group, won all their games with the so-called fringe and younger players playing. It was great to see Callum Hudson-Odoi play and the likes of Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek playing together, it looked really good for the future.

Over the season, Maurizio Sarri has come in and done a fantastic job with the help of Gianfranco and we must remember Chelsea has a Champions League squad, not a Europa League one, and therefore have the strength in depth to fight on all fronts and that is what they are doing at the moment. I think the result against Tottenham was just a blip. Tottenham played very well on the day and maybe Maurizio found out more about the players in defeat than he has in all the wins. But to be up until that point one of three teams unbeaten in the Premier League is unheard of and that is the standard of Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea, and Tottenham deserve credit that they have come into it.

It bodes well for the future, and playing football in an entertaining way that most Chelsea fans want to see.
 

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26 minutes ago, erskblue said:

Tell us about some of the most memorable games you were involved in for Chelsea…


The one away in Vienna, Jacob Kjeldbjerg had dislocated his shoulder so I had to play back in defence and I always remember John Spencer breaking away to score the goal. I am thinking go on wee man, go on little legs, you can do it, and once he came up on the keeper I knew he was going to feint to left and go right and smash it in. That was a brilliant game. Having not played in European football for so long, there was fantastic support. It was a feeling of Chelsea are back, this is a special time and we are going to make the most of it. 

What about opposition fans, were their intimidating stadiums to play at?


I loved playing at White Hart Lane for some reason and normally getting a positive result. With Chelsea, you used to get the hardcore away support with you as well so you didn’t feel you were on your own. Wherever you went the fans were there.
 

What are your thoughts on the current Chelsea team and the season so far?

I have commentated on all of the games in the Europa League for BT Sport and it has been fantastic. On Thursday night Chelsea wanted to do the professional job, which they did – they are through, top of the group, won all their games with the so-called fringe and younger players playing. It was great to see Callum Hudson-Odoi play and the likes of Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek playing together, it looked really good for the future.

Over the season, Maurizio Sarri has come in and done a fantastic job with the help of Gianfranco and we must remember Chelsea has a Champions League squad, not a Europa League one, and therefore have the strength in depth to fight on all fronts and that is what they are doing at the moment. I think the result against Tottenham was just a blip. Tottenham played very well on the day and maybe Maurizio found out more about the players in defeat than he has in all the wins. But to be up until that point one of three teams unbeaten in the Premier League is unheard of and that is the standard of Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea, and Tottenham deserve credit that they have come into it.
 

Liked the way he described Spencer's goal in Vienna I thought similarly at the time.

Interesting comment on our hardcore support and its effect on the players.

Good to hear he thinks the Spurs result was just a blip.

 

 

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 I had some vague memory of Nigel being called up for Scotland (!) during his time at Rangers and so checked it out !

It was true !!

'NIGEL SPACKMANThe former Rangers midfielder was selected for Scotland's squad to play the USSR at Ibrox in 1991 but later removed following an objection from England's FA. Although English-born Spackman had a grandparent from Edinburgh the four home nations did not agree to the grandparent rule until 1993.'

Read more at: https://www.scotsman.com/sport/scotland-v-brazil-out-of-the-blue-and-then-into-the-dark-blue-the-shock-picks-for-scotland-1-1545492

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6 hours ago, Boyne said:

@erskblue Thanks for posting. A great article about a fine player. Part of that great side of the eighties.  I was at the 1992 Scottish Cup Final in 1992 when the 'Rangers beat Airdrie. He was highly thought of by Rangers supporters.

He scored against Celtic at Parkhead, in one of his first Rangers games. Perhaps his Rangers debut ?

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13 hours ago, erskblue said:

He scored against Celtic at Parkhead, in one of his first Rangers games. Perhaps his Rangers debut ?

Yes, it was his debut for Rangers. Against Celtic in the New Year game. Rangers won 1-0. His only goal for Rangers but what a game to score it in. 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 04/12/2018 at 11:57, erskblue said:

Made his debut v Derby County at The Bridge on 27th Aug 1983.

We won 5-0.

Think that game's been mentioned 'once or twice'...

Also making their debut's for us that day were :Eddie Niedzwiecki, Joe McLaughlin, and 'King' Kerry Dixon

I was on the benches for that one..

 

nana nana nana nana Spackman...

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