“With the closed season now upon us, the CSG has decided to re-post some excellent articles (and pictures) that our friend ‘Corby’ put together many seasons back. We hope you enjoy them once again”
This is ‘Part Seven’
I was 19 years old. Young, free and single. Money to throw away and most of it was heading down various Pub toilets in SW6. Pre-season, amongst others, Chelsea had a friendly at Millwall. We decided to pop down, and see if all this ‘F-troop, treatment and half way line’ business was true or not. I’d never been to Millwall before, so I rang my Granddad in Camberwell and asked him what was the best tube to get etc etc. He started going on about the ‘bottle’ fights that used to happen down there when he went Millwall in the 1930’s. Gulp! Fark it, we’re Chelsea – New Cross here we come! No problem at all, a 1-1 draw was watched sitting on the near empty terraces in the sunshine. Millwall? F-troop? What a load of balls…
For the first game of the season at home to Wrexham, we hired a mini-bus. Due to the reputation of Chelsea fans at the time, not many companies would take us. After ringing round, we managed to persuade ‘Martins of Kettering’ to do this trip. Needless to say they never took us again…
The previous season I’d took various routes by train to avoid being stranded in some miserable northern/midland station overnight. I didn’t give it a second thought when I jumped on the Derby bound train at Kettering for a mid-week clash. It was great when Chelsea played someone on the St Pancras line north of Kettering, for when the train pulled in, it would be full of Chelsea. Before I knew it we’d lost 3-2, there was no train back to Kettering, it was midnight and I was all alone on Derby station. I looked around for somewhere to kip, but everywhere was locked up. I resigned myself to waiting for the first train south at around 06.30.
Anyone who’s ever been stranded at night at a train station before will agree to what I say next. You walk up the platform dozens of times. You walk down them. You look at your watch and compare it with the station clock. You read all the advertisements and glance at the timetables. You check if there’s any coins left in the phone booths. You re-enact Finnieston scoring a goal with an empty can of coke or try and hit a rail by kicking a stone at it. You are totally bored out of your mind…
At around 02.30, when I’d counted numerous goods wagons trundle by, a train driver came up to me and asked me where I was going. I said ‘Corby, via Kettering’ He replied there was no train until 06.30, but if I wanted to jump in his cab, he’d give me a lift to Kettering! He asked to see my ticket and then said ‘jump in!’ I did, and I didn’t say a word until we got to Kettering! I was s*it scared!! We were doing 70/80/90 miles an hour in near total darkness, and all I could see were these two silver rails and the odd red/green light. I think he might have been *hitting it as well – he never said a word either!!! When we got to Kettering I said ‘thanks’ jumped out and hitched a lift home to Corby. I got to bed at around 05.00 and woke up at my desk at 09.00.
The trip to Cambridge was done in a white transit van. No one would hire us a mini-bus, so we decided to hire a van ‘for a house move…’ Even though we’d got off to a poor start that season the numbers we took away were amazing. In a crowd of 9,474, there must have been a good 4,000+ Chelsea. To get in the away end you had to negotiate a hike through a field, dodging the cow pats, over a little wooden bridge to 3 or 4 turnstiles. The queues were not moving, so we went in the home end… so did a fair few hundred other Chelsea. Needless to say after saying ‘hello’ we were escorted down the pitch to an already packed away end. The away end itself was barely 12 steps of terracing that went from behind the goal to about 30 yards along the side. Behind the terrace was an allotment, with various vegetables in. A few lads who hadn’t got in decided to lob a few of them over the back wall onto the pitch. Maybe this was the first time Celery made its Chelsea debut….the vegetable, not the song! It was a regular thing on future visits to Cambridge to see the odd Onion fly onto the pitch, in fact on one visit you could’ve set up a market stall with what was thrown over.
The win at Cambridge (1-0, Lee) started a great run of results, out of the next 14 games, we won 11, drew 2 and lost 1, at home to Derby. I felt in my bones that we were on our way back to Division 1. We had stormed up to second place. In that run were some great days out, Bolton and Cardiff away to name two.
To get to Bolton I caught the train to Sheffield then changed to Manchester. At Sheffield I met another Chelsea lad from Doncaster. He said we’d have to change stations in Manchester, something I didn’t know! To get to Bolton we’d have to either get a bus or walk from Piccadilly to Victoria. We decided to walk, which very nearly cost us a hiding. Half way down the road we could hear a lot of shouting, and as we turned a corner we found 100’s of Man City fans having a bundle with Liverpool fans. Luckily Victoria was the other way to where this was happening, so we managed to get up to Bolton to see the 3-2 win.
After the game we had to do the reverse, and walk back to Piccadilly. Instead of just the 2 of us, there were several hundred of us. Those who hadn’t gone up on the Club special had to get to Piccadilly for the normal service train back to Euston, or in our case, Sheffield. What the locals thought of “CHELSEA, CHELSEA, CHELSEA CHELSEA” filling the air I don’t know, but it sounded and looked great as we walked through the traffic. Any stray Man City/Liverpool fan soon hid their colours, apart from 4 unlucky lads who had just came out of a Chippy…
October was an expensive month for me. I had 2 mid-week trips to London – home to Bristol Rovs and away at Orient – on top of the 4 Saturday games, away at Bolton and Blackburn (another fun walk through Manchester!) and home to Grimsby & Newcastle (the 6-0 game). Money was getting short, and the only way I could afford to get to Cardiff away on the Friday night, Oct 31st, was train to London, then catch the Official (yawn) Supporters Coach. The train fare from Paddington to Cardiff was sadly out of reach! It was going to be a long night, as I knew I’d miss the last train home from St Pancras to Kettering.
Nobody seemed to talk on the 3 hour trip there; it was if we were going to a funeral!
A talking point on the way home was Chris Hutchings scoring after 8 minutes on his debut after coming on as Sub. I got chatting to 3 lads from Cambridge, they were in the same position as me – they’d gone to Cardiff knowing quite well they wouldn’t get home that night.
Arriving back in SW6 at around Midnight we found ourselves outside a closed Fulham Broadway. For some reason I always thought the Tube ran all night. I was wrong, but these lads knew that there were night buses, so we jumped on one which took us to Liverpool St, where they needed to catch a train home in the morning.
Another night spent on an empty station, but this time I had company. We started kicking an empty lager can around, using a massive wooden door as a set of goals. Just as I hit the top corner with a screamer Garry Stanley would’ve been proud of, the door opened, and a couple of guys came out and told us to fark off. It turned out that behind the door was a rest room for Drivers who drove the first trains out in the morning. The rest of the night was spent walking the platforms, reading timetables, checking phone booths etc etc etc. As a souvenir (!) of the night, I still have a poster I swiped from a hoarding which proclaimed “GOODBYE LONDON” a reference to the last ever edition of the London Evening News.
Wrexham away meant another long trip to Wales. It was a pain to get to, bus to Kettering then train to Leicester, train to Birmingham, train to Wolverhampton, train to Shrewsbury, then onto Wrexham. We left Corby really early and found we had a bit of a wait at Wolverhampton. Into to the station Bar for a pint, I met up with Chap and a few of the lads from the Forest of Dean (Gloucester) who sometimes stood up by the West, near to where I stood. We had a fair few pints, as we sung all the way to Wrexham, where we saw a fine 4-0 win. I haven’t seen Chap for ages, though I met one of the FOD lads at Southampton two years ago. He knew my face, but couldn’t place it; he thought I was one of the Swindon blues. Can’t believe there’s another one of me out there!!!
That great run placed us well in the battle for promotion, I was getting the ‘76-77’ feel back again. Division One, here we come…Then things started to take a turn for the worse. Swansea came down and nicked a point in 0-0 bore draw. What is it with the Welsh and the underground? Do they get excited at being able to travel by means of Electricity instead of a horse and cart in the Valleys of South Wales? Like some Cardiff lads a few years previous, they were very loud, abusive and boisterous on the Chelsea bound tube from Paddington – the one I was on, my scarf hidden away. And like those Cardiff lads they were ‘dealt with’ by the Chelsea waiting on Platform 4 at Earls Court. Out came my scarf, along with a smile.
Up to Swansea, we’d scored in 15 league games on the trot. We were the highest scorers in the 2nd Division with 38 goals in 20 games, 2 a game, nearly. Value for my dwindling money. Then the drought happened. The goal drought from hell. December’s results were 0-0, 0-2, 0-1, 0-2 and 0-0. Five league games with no goals. January wasn’t much better, 0-0 at Sheff Wed and 0-1 at QPR though normal(!) service returned with two 3-0 home wins over Shrewsbury and Cambridge.
Then came the St Valentines Day massacre. West Ham away, Feb 14th. For some reason we drove down, and parked near the then FA HQ at Lancaster Gate. The week before, at the Cambridge home game, leaflets*** were being given out in various Pubs around Fulham Broadway saying ”Chelsea fans – meet at Kings Head 11.30am for West Ham Game.” It seemed a good idea; I’d never been to West Ham, so safety in numbers as they say!!
When we got to Fulham Broadway there seemed to be thousands of Chelsea milling around, so many that we couldn’t even get in the Kings Head for a bit of Dutch courage. A couple of lads, who seemed to be organising it all, kept shouting “5 minutes!! 5 minutes!!” Soon after that, everyone went down to the platform and got on the eastbound train. As we got nearer to West Ham, I noticed a couple of smaller groups getting off as more and more Plod got on. I stayed with the numbers. On arriving at Upton Park, there was a strange silence as we climbed the steps towards the exit. We turned right and headed up towards the floodlights. We’d only gone about 200 yards when total chaos erupted. West Ham, who had been walking along on the other side of the road from our Police escort, just ran into us. The Police didn’t have a clue as the two groups fought toe to toe.
Luckily(!) I was at the back of the main trouble, so I inched my way towards the floodlights in the distance. Just as I thought I was safe, a metal bar stool came flying through the air – and missed my head by 0.0000001 of an inch. At that point Chelsea seemed to group up again and ran West Ham up the road a bit. I then noticed “AWAY SUPPORTERS ONLY” on a sign by the ground, so I left the main mob and started queuing up. Bad move. After a couple of minutes West Ham gathered across the road from the queue, and then ran straight into it. After a few punches given and taken, I found myself by an empty turnstile. In I went, only to realise I was in the West Ham end. I kept quiet as they hammered us 4-0. I didn’t cheer any of the goals, no one noticed – they were more concerned with shouting abuse at the Chelsea.
After the game I casually walked with the West Ham back down to the tube, and made my way back to the car. Out of 5 of us who had gone down from Corby, only 3 had actually made it into the ground, and only one of them had got into the Chelsea end. The other 2 spent the afternoon walking around the West end after heading back to the car!
The ‘nil’ at West Ham was followed by a ‘nil’ at home to Watford, then a ‘nil’ at Preston – the day of my brothers wedding, I hadn’t missed a league game all season and wasn’t going to let that stop me! The following week the legendary Alan Mayes scored the second in a 2-0 win over Bolton at Stamford Bridge. That goal was the last we scored that season, and it was only the start of March! The following sequence is pathetic. It got to a stage where we’d take the pi** out of ourselves by singing “don’t score Chelsea, Chelsea don’t score!” (To the tune of ‘same old Arsenal, always cheating’)
Lost 1-0 at Bristol Rov
Drew 0-0 home to Blackburn
Lost 1-0 at Newcastle (where I sat next to someone wearing a Celtic shirt and a kilt!)
Lost 1-0 at home to Cardiff
Drew 0-0 at Oldham
Drew 0-0 at Bristol City
Lost 2-0 at home to Luton
Lost 3-0 at Swansea
Lost 2-0 at home to Notts County
I suppose the best thing about 80/81 season was the continuation of the Persil voucher promotion, which had started during 79/80. They offered 2 train tickets for the price of 1, which was a great saving for anybody having to travel a distance into London for home games. It also meant trips to far flung places like Newcastle and Swansea were much cheaper. To get a ‘Persil’ you had to send away some tokens that were on boxes of soap powder or bars of soap. I can remember going into Boots in Corby and buying at least 80 bars of soap! The lads up the Pub laughed when I told them what I’d done, but it wasn’t long before they were asking me for some… Fark off! Another great saver was the Young Persons railcard, half price travel for under 26’s. I used one of them until I was about 32…
From the 35p programme…
A ‘Police requirement’ meant that all bars in the ground must close at 3pm…
11,073 watched Essex beat the West Indies in a floodlit Cricket match at Stamford Bridge on 14 August…
VHS videos of each home game could be bought for £35, yes, £35….
Chelsea lost 3-0 to Aston Villa in the final of the much missed Daily Express 5-a-side at Wembley…
The scoreboard held ‘races’ at half time where you could ‘place your bets with your friends and have fun(!)’… Race 1 – Car & Truck, Race 2 – Dog & Deer, Race 3 – Plane & Train, Race 4 – Ship & Fish….
Half time entertainment v Blackburn was ‘the Horsham Royal British Legion Military Band’….
Gary Lee, son of Breda Lee.
Programme binder £1.50
Chelsea ‘gilt’ mirror £8.00
Giant Chelsea Lollipop 50p
Members got 15% discount on purchases over £5…
Front centre £5.25
Front wings £4.25
Rear centre £3.50
Rear wings £3.00
Inner wings £5.25
Outer wings £4.25
*Benches transfer 50p
Membership £3 (£2 renewals)
Born during 80/81
Wayne Bridge 5-8-80
Luca Percassi 25-8-80
Scott Parker 13-10-80
John Terry 7-12-80
Asier Del Horno 19-1-81
Sam Dalla Bona 6-2-81
Michael Forssell 15-3-81
Tiago Mendes 2-5-81
Posted by Corby
(Cover photo posted with many thanks to John Ingledue / Lower Block)
[These excellent photograph prints, including many not shown here, will be available to purchase very soon]