COME ON YOU CHELSEA LET’S SCORE …
Towards the end of the previous season a tour of America had been announced for the start of this season, we were to stay in Fort Lauderdale and play some of the local soccer teams. I investigated the different ways of getting out there but by June it had all been called off. It turned out that not enough of us had signed up to go on the official tour, in other words they had looked to the most loyal fans to help pay for the expenses.
I had phoned Chelsea several times during the summer to find out the details of the pre-season friendlies. At the beginning of July I found out that we were booked up to play three games in Scotland but Chelsea were not organising any travel up there. The club provided very little information about these games and could not even tell me in which town Raith Rovers played their home matches. To get as much information as possible I even I phoned the club and pretended that I was going to be in Scotland at the time on business. At this time I had no contact with any other Chelsea who could consider such insignificant games so I decided to make my own way there. I did not question the lack of help from Chelsea regarding these games, looking back I think we were treated with contempt and our support taken for granted. It is possible that Chelsea delayed the news about these games in order to make it as difficult as possible for as many of us as possible to arrange time off work and make the trip. It is more likely that we were not even considered when things were planned.
Due to the late announcement from Chelsea I was unable to take the time off of work to stay in Scotland between the games. On July 26th I queued up at Kings Cross and bought an awayday return to Edinburgh for the match against Hearts. After crossing the Scottish border for the first time in my life I arrived in Edinburgh and transferred to the local train to Haymarket and got to the ground a few minutes before kick-off.
I was amazed to find about 400 Chelsea up there, the police were out in force and we had to be given our own end. We won 1-0, Colin Viljoen scoring our goal from a direct free kick. I ran back to the Haymarket after the match and just made the local train back to Edinburgh. I caught the fast train back to London and was in my house in Kent about 23.30. I later heard a humorous account of some trouble after the match, I have always detested soccer violence but this is worth telling. Some of the Chelsea fans caught an open top bus through Edinburgh after the match; they were shouting things blue from the top of the bus when Hearts fans started throwing stones up at them. The Chelsea fans ducked and trajectory of the missiles took them over the bus so they landed on the other side of the road in the middle of another group of Hearts fans, what’s that about people who live in glass-houses…?
I worked for a few hours on the Monday morning before leaving to get the train to Raith Rovers in Kirkcaldy, Fife. On arrival in Edinburgh I even had an hour to look around the town before catching the train to Kirkcaldy. The local train stations were very pretty and it was a fantastic feeling to cross the Forth Railway Bridge in Chelsea’s name. I bumped in to most of the Chelsea from Saturday’s match outside the ground, it turned out that the unofficial supporters club had known about this tour for some time and had arranged a trip up there and they stayed in Kirkcaldy. There didn’t appear to be too many home fans around and the police made no attempt to usher us anywhere so we stood in the covered end. The home fans ignored us and stood at the opposite end of the ground. Chelsea kicked towards the end in which we stood in the first half. At half time their fans started to walk around towards us, there were no fences or railings along the side to stop them doing this. It appeared that they had come to “reclaim” their end from us and that we were about to be attacked, I considered running away somewhere, but thought I would be safer if I stayed put.
Some fans were shouting out “Stand”, “Stand”, and I started to wish that I had brought clean underwear with me. As they got close to us we realised that they were young kids, 12-14 year olds, but this didn’t make the situation easier. Afraid to come any nearer they stopped about 10 yards in front of us and started to shout abuse. Evidently the home fans in Raith always change ends with the opposing fans at half-time in order to stand behind the goal that their team attacked. None of our lot would ever dream of attacking small kids, but at the same time no one wanted to move away as the outcome would have been “Raith Rovers ran Chelsea!”. The end to this standoff came when the police decided to move us. Some Chelsea argued but then someone had the idea of sitting in the seats and everyone ran to the little stand at the side. I hurried along and became the first one to enter the seats; I paid my 1£ transfer and looked for somewhere to sit. Then most of the other Chelsea entered the seats en masse, refusing to pay the transfer fee, I think it was a retaliation to the fact that we had been ushered out of the end were we had stood. This was harmless compared to many of the other acts of hooliganism that have gone on over the years. I mention it because this was the direct result of the inadequate, unprepared authorities and that is one thing this does have in common with most occurrences of soccer violence. We lost the match 3-2 and I travelled back on the night train, arriving back at Kings Cross in the early morning and going straight in to work for the day shift on the Tuesday. On the Wednesday, I again worked a couple of hours in the morning, before going up to King’s Cross. I am not sure if they had started to recognise me in the ticket office but I was now able to top my awayday returns to Edinburgh and Kirkcaldy; – A day return to Dundee. As no one else travelled up just for that game I claim a Chelsea supporter record. I maintain that I have travelled further by land to an away game on a day return ticket than any other fan at any other time.
Once again I travelled to Edinburgh and changed trains, and once again I crossed the Forth Railway Bridge. In Edinburgh there had been some fighting after the Hearts match that I had heard about so I was a bit wary about this trip to another “big” club. A very friendly Dundee fan showed me the way to the ground; indeed this town was very hospitable towards us. After this 0-0 draw we walked back to the station together, the 100 or so Chelsea that had stayed up there for the 3 games were now homeward bound. Waiting for the train on this perfect summer’s evening in west Scotland we sung “Oh! Flow-er of Scot-land, when will we see your lights again?” The locals applauded us for our efforts; alas all too soon our train came in and we were off. That is now 17 years ago, I have not been back to Scotland since, 3 times, 3 trips, and 3 games in 5 days, that is the grand total of my ventures north of the border. Once again I went straight to work from the night train, the trick was to use my holiday wisely, book days off with good notice. I worked up a lot of good-will by not taking too much time off in the summer, that way it was easier to arrange half-days and bunk off early when necessary during the season.
We had 6 more friendlies before the season started, I saw all of them, in particular I remember Portsmouth and Millwall away, whose bright idea it was to arrange a “friendly” against Millwall I will never know. Early in the season we lost away to Cardiff in a league cup 2nd round 1st leg. We were hopeful of overturning the one goal deficit at home, but found ourselves trailing with just minutes to go. Mickey Droy managed to stop a Cardiff attack in our six-yard box, he started running, turning with ball, this huge, but graceful man, now appeared to float up the pitch beating off challenge after challenge. Our players were running for him and being picked up by the Cardiff defence as he evaded yet another sliding tackle and entered the Cardiff half. He ran around 3 defenders, between two more and now had his sights set on goal. We all expected him to boot the ball in to the crowd, or shoot or pass it, but he drew the goalie skilfully.
He then tapped the ball to the right of the Cardiff keeper into no-man’s land, he ran to the left of the keeper and was able to rejoin the ball 2 yards later and slot it in. This goal meant nothing; we lost to Cardiff on aggregate and once again a lesser team had dumped us out of the league cup. However, just for the record, when people start talking about Mickey Droy as clumsy, remember that we that were there that night (and indeed for these years) know him as a man with genuine skill. He could have won international honours if a more successful team had bought him, but his heart was truly and solely at Chelsea, not many goals of that calibre have been scored at the bridge. In the 7 years I watched him play at Chelsea I never saw him lose a heading dual, NEVER.
In the West Ham home programme early in the season there was a letter from a guy called Howard. He referred to the letter from Harri Hemmi that I mention in 79-80 season. Howard had come in to contact with Harri and had been out to see him in “Vasteras”. The reply from Chelsea has always puzzled me, it said, “hmmmm! Sounds like a great place for a pre-season tour”. The seeds had been sown.
Chelsea had now entered the video age and recorded all of the home games. Special video evenings were arranged at Chelsea, where they showed highlights of the previous few home games. I attended all of these, not wanting to miss out on things blue.
We did have some good wins and we were doing quite well by Christmas, promotion looked possible. Then things turned a bit sour and this is the season best remembered for the goal famine after New Year. We scored in 18 of the first 21 games and then promptly failed to score in 18 of the following 21 games. We still had a team capable of firing on all cylinders and turning on the style occasionally.
The 6-0 win at home to Newcastle in January ranks as one of the greatest Chelsea performances and results of all time. We lost away to Southampton in the league cup 3rd round, we stood on that silly shallow bit of terracing they used to have behind the goal. Our lot really took the mick out of Steve Moran, every time he came up for a corner everyone burst out singing “baby face, you got the cutest little baby face”. He didn’t look more than about 12, and he was so affected the singing that he appeared to start crying which made our supporters even more zealous towards him. He stopped coming up for corners because of the abuse he received, I even felt a bit sorry for him by the end of the match. But this is part of football, fans all over the country have always done this to opposing players that stand out for one reason or another. Steve Moran certainly overcame this and had a fairly successful career, remembering this makes me hate Eric Cantona for what he did at Palace even more. It should not have been tolerated in the English game, and the FA should not have copped out to Man Utd.
I maintained my now 2-year long record of attending all first team games by going to the Isle of Wight for the friendly against Newport. I met a few other Chelsea there that I recognised from the video nights and the trip(s) to Scotland, but I still didn’t really know any of these people. I went on my own and kept myself to myself. To catch the last ferry home to the mainland it was deemed necessary to leave the game early and 6 taxis had been ordered at half time. I NEVER left a game early; it just wasn’t done in my book. All the other Chelsea left 15 minutes early, I stayed to the end (we one 3-1), and ran out of the ground. I found a mini cab outside, jumped in and said “Cowes, fast”. I made it with minutes to spare, I put this in here because I was never believed, everyone there said that there was no way that I had stayed to the final whistle.
At the end of February we played away to Preston and I did not expect any trouble up there. It just didn’t seem like the sort of ground where we would meet any rough fans. I wore a jumper with a Chelsea crest and went up for a change on the normal service train. The previous season I had gone on the special and the police had marched us around the entire town, which had made the walk 4 times longer than necessary and upset me. I followed the other Chelsea out of the train station and thought we would be walking straight to the ground. The group I followed was about 20 strong but they split into two groups of ten and then four groups of five and then they all seemed to disappear. I later learned that this was the only way to enter pubs up there, in twos and threes. Having lost everyone I went back to the station and awaited another train, the same thing happened, I just couldn’t find anyone walking to the ground. I knew that things were getting critical for me, this was still over two hours before the match and more and more gangs were forming around the town. My jumper had a very obvious Chelsea crest and I had no jacket on. I attempted to follow yet another trainload of Chelsea but they also split in small groups. I decided I would walk to the ground by myself anyway and then I spotted a man and woman wearing blue scarves, I followed them down the High Street. In my predicament I had forgotten that Preston play in blue and white. As I walked past Dixons a load of Preston supporters spotted me from the other side of the road and charged over. Fifty angry northerners ran at me, the first one tried to kick me between my legs and the second one threw a punch to my head, which missed because I was already assuming my position. I lent back against the window and put my hands behind my back, I started to cry like a baby as emotionally as possibly. I cried out that I had just come to see the football and that I didn’t want to fight. They ran off and left me alone, I had survived again by turning on the tears. Minutes after this a small group of Chelsea were chased by a large mob of Preston, one of the Chelsea fans slipped and died during this cowardly attack by Preston.
This was very sad, his mother was a regular steward of the away specials and I remember her on numerous occasions being concerned for the safety of her son. This is football, a game; no one should ever die because they don’t support the same team. What makes it so silly is that when England play away matches Preston and Chelsea will stand side by side and cheer on their country.
By the end of the season things were really drying up, we failed to score in the last eight league games. The final few games we came very close to scoring quite often, we’d hit the bar, or the post 3 or four times in every game. We started to sing things like “we’ll never score…again, we’ll never score…again” It became quite comical. Why I found it so important to go to these games I can’t really explain. I would not have been any less a supporter if I had missed a couple. I think it comes from the time I was younger when it was agonising not knowing what was happening to Chelsea. I had now been working 2 years, and I was in control, I had the money and the possibility to go. I told myself at the time that I would never ever miss another Chelsea match and I may have killed myself if I had been made to miss a match at this time. With two months to go of the season hope of promotion was just a memory and second division status was assured for the following season. We had been knocked out of both cups in the first games so there was nothing left to play for. But I just wanted to go and see the football, always believing that today was going to be the day of the BIG win. Football is Belief. The final position of 12th was Chelsea’s worst ever in the entire history.
Geoff Hurst was sacked with 1 game to go assistant manager Bobby Gould was going to be given the chance, but that idea later sizzled out. It was clear to all of us there that we would win the league the following season, a new manager would come in and get this team to play as one every week.
On the last day of the season a little notice in the home programme told us that Chelsea would be playing a tour of Sweden the following pre-season, in the Vasteras area. My life was about to change.
Produced with permission of the author of the Missing Link website. More tomorrow … To Sweden … and beyond …