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Despite the current era, Sexton’s Chelsea stand the test of time

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IF Chelsea had not got off to a miserable start in 1969-70, they may well have gone much closer to winning the Football League instead of their first FA Cup. Not that the Cup was a consolation, because in 1970, it really meant something and for the Blues, it was their first ever FA Cup triumph. Until 2004-05, the team that overcame Leeds United over two arduous games was widely considered to be the club’s most loved and arguably its most successful line-up.

Any Chelsea fan from that year would be able to reel off the classic team from that period: Bonetti, Webb, McCreadie, Hollins, Dempsey, Harris, Cooke, Hudson, Osgood, Hutchinson and Houseman. Ironically, that wasn’t the team that lifted the Cup. Hudson was injured a few weeks before Wembley and sat out the final. He had been one of the faces of 1969-70 and missing the climax arguably set his career back. Some believe he was never quite the same player after that campaign.

Sexton’s men

Manager Dave Sexton, who took over from the wildly unpredictable Tommy Docherty, had already brought the trustworthy David Webb from Southampton and striker Alan Birchenall from Sheffield United in 1967-68. The following season, he added another defender, Fulham’s John Dempsey, to his squad and pulled off a coup by signing Ian Hutchinson from Southern League Cambridge United. The gangly forward made a claim for a first-team spot in the closing weeks of the season, effectively replacing Chelsea stalwart Bobby Tambling. Sexton had problems with the mercurial Peter Osgood and even tried him out in an unfamiliar midfield role, giving him the number 4 shirt. Hudson had made his debut in 1968-69 but found himself in contention for a starting position as injuries hampered Sexton’s side in the early weeks of 1969-70. In addition, Chelsea could still call on spectacular goalkeeper Peter Bonetti and hard men like Ron Harris and Eddie McCreadie, the workhorse John Hollins and the crowd-pleasing Charlie Cooke. And on the wing there was Peter Houseman, an unsung hero who had found it hard to win over the Stamford Bridge crowd. The 1969-70 season would be his finest.

Slow recovery

Chelsea were invariably slow starters in August and 1969 was no exception, despite ending the previous campaign in good form.  They lost their first two games, both away, at Liverpool and West Ham.  A string of draws did little to convince anyone that Chelsea were title contenders and they managed to win just once in their first nine games. At the end of September, they trounced Arsenal 3-0 and put on a good display. But they were in 10th place and already nine points behind league leaders Everton. If that was a confidence booster  – Arsenal had finished fourth in 1968-69 – a Football League Cup win over Leeds United was a portent of things to come.

By Christmas, Chelsea were in excellent form and Sexton had started to see the partnership of Osgood and Hutchinson reap impressive rewards…and goals. After beating Crystal Palace 5-1 at Selhurst Park, a game in which Osgood scored four times, Chelsea were in third place, but still seven points worse off than Everton.

The Cup that cheers

Such was Chelsea’s mid-term form that Fleet Street predicted they would be a good bet for the FA Cup. With Everton firmly focused on the title and Leeds United barnstorming their way through Europe, Chelsea’s only realistic hope of silverware was the Cup – as long as they avoided Everton and Leeds.

They had gone close in the past – two semi-final defeats in 1965 and 1966, runners-up in 1967 and quarter final exits in 1968 and 1969. There was almost a psychological barrier developing.

But they easily disposed of Birmingham City in round three but a week later, they had a rude awakening when Leeds turned up in London SW6. Don Revie’s men demolished Chelsea mercilessly by 5-2 – after the Blues had led 2-1. If ever there was a game that highlighted the difference between Sexton’s entertaining side and the ruthless efficiency of Leeds, this was it. “Chelsea’s delusions of grandeur disintegrated abruptly at Stamford Bridge,” reported Hugh McIlvaney.

Meanwhile back in the Cup, Burnley were uncomfortably overcome in round four and two London derbies saw Crystal Palace and Queens Park Rangers beaten 4-1 and 4-2 respectively. Chelsea were in the last four and the draw was kind – Watford, conquerors of Liverpool, at Tottenham’s White Hart Lane. The other semi was between Leeds and Manchester United. Predictably, Chelsea beat Watford 5-1 but they had to wait three games to find out who they would play, Leeds eventually beating United 1-0. Visions of January 10 1970 and that 5-2 trouncing came flooding back.

Uneasy finale........




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Chelsea owe East Stirlingshire friendly from 1962 deal


East Stirlingshire FC have requested a friendly with English Premier League giants Chelsea as part of a 52-year-old transfer deal.

The Scottish League Two side want a fixture at Stamford Bridge as part of the transfer deal which saw Eddie McCreadie head south in 1962.

Scotland full-back McCreadie was sold to Chelsea for a fee of £5,000 plus home and away friendlies.

The sides met at Firs Park in 1963, but the match in London was never played.

Shire chairman Tony Ford said he had made a "friendly" approach to Chelsea to see about getting the fixture fulfilled after uncovering documents about the transfer.

He said: "When Eddie McCreadie went from the Shire to Chelsea the agreement was that there would be a couple of friendlies, home and away, and while the one here happened the away game didn't - and now it's 50 years later.

"At the end of the day, we kept our end of the bargain. The ball is in their court, in a friendly way.

"We've enlisted the help of Pat Nevin, who's done some work for Chelsea TV, and he's banging the drum for us.

"You never know what might happen, there's always a chance."

After the transfer McCreadie went on to make over 300 appearances for the Blues before taking over as their manager in 1975, and won 23 Scotland caps.

Last year the Shire managed to recover a Scotland jersey worn by the left-back, which is now on display in the football museum at Hampden.




we need to finish this deal

bad karma to have let it slide for 58 years


East Stirlingshire v Chelsea official programme 28/10/1963


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