“Do you know you’re 3-0 down?”….”Joseph Jones, Joseph Jones, Joseph Jones, Oh Yah”….”I don’t ever want you in my pub again”….”Just go up that alley, lads”….”That’ll be a fiver each mate”….”Can you please not go on the pitch until the end of the game”….”There’s people in there without tickets”….”They’re more pissed than we are”….”Get yourself an A-Z”
These are events as I, and in some cases friends who were there with me, best remember them. It was 27 years ago, and I was tired and emotional on a number of the occasions described, but I hope what follows is a reasonably accurate depiction of the various events as I saw and experienced them. Others who were there will inevitably have enjoyed different experiences and have different memories. If there are factual inaccuracies (e.g. on whether games were all-ticket or when pitch invasions took place) then I apologise.
I can’t write with any real knowledge about the fashions of the day, as I was never a casual (too old, for one thing). We tended to try and avoid incidents in/around grounds, though sometimes that was difficult. 3-4 of us went to out-of-town away games that season on the club members-only special trains (felt by us to be easier and safer); we used to drink in the Nell Gwynne on the Kings Road before games and stood on the West Side of the Shed or sat in the benches. I went to every home game and 15 aways that season. A lot of the massive regular away support that season were late teens / early twenties, a few years younger than us, and there are plenty of faces I see at away games now who were also regulars then.
Saturday April 28th 1984. A bright sunny day, as I remember. Chelsea had drawn 2-2 at Portsmouth the previous Tuesday in a fractious game on and off the pitch, and now it was the big one. Leeds United, with whom we have had a strong mutual antipathy (a massive understatement) since 1970, were coming to The Bridge. “We all fu**ing hate Leeds”. Indeed. For once, though, it wasn’t the opposition that made the game so special (though that certainly helped). It was the fact that if Chelsea won they were promoted back to Division One after five years away.
Chelsea had drawn at Leeds in October in a highly charged and physical game, where the impressive Chelsea support (7,000+?) had swapped witty banter with their northern counterparts and enjoyed a pleasant stroll back to the station afterwards. I think it was the heaviest escort I had ever been in up to that point.
The Bridge was buzzing early, and we took our place in a heaving Shed. The Leeds end filled up too, and they must have had 4-5,000 fans for what, for them, was a meaningless game. The game kicked off and within 20 odd minutes, Chelsea were 3-0 up and promotion was a certainty. Suddenly, we noticed a load more Leeds fans wandering in to the North Stand, greeted by a joyful “do you know you’re 3-0 down?” from three sides of the ground. What we didn’t realise was that there had been serious disorder on the underground at Piccadilly Circus which was why that bunch of Leeds were so late. Chelsea scored a 4th, and then a 5th. There were inevitably pitch invasions after each goal and at the end, though given there was The Shed, benches and Gate 13 for stewards/police to deal with, as well as thousands of rabid Yorkshiremen, hardly a surprise. Leeds fans responded by smashing up the scoreboard. The scoreboard had a chequered history, and for months on end never worked, but wrecking it seemed a bit drastic. MOTD reported the crowd trouble http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hP-lNcXUTUE (I can’t find any footage of the game, sadly)
After plenty of post-match chanting/goading, and an appearance by the team on the middle tier of the East Stand, we left the ground in pursuit of refreshment in euphoric mood, just as the real heavy police (SPG?) were going into the North Stand. What happened in that end a bit later I shudder to think.
We went round a friend’s flat near Olympia and then out for the evening. Why we chose to go to ‘The Scarsdale’ in Edwardes Square I am not sure. It was close by, I guess. It certainly wasn’t (and isn’t) my natural habitat, being home to the ‘Burlington Bertie’ element of Chelsea society. It is a fair bet that Cameron, Boris and Osborne have all been there, they would fit in perfectly. The four of us did not fit in perfectly, especially after chanting ‘Here One Goes’, ‘One Is Up’, ‘Joseph Jones, Joseph Jones, Joseph Jones Oh Yah’ ‘One Chap Went To Mow His Meadow’ and other adapted Chelsea ditties of the time. Eventually, and unsurprisingly, we were asked to leave and asked not to return.
Sometime after midnight (probably well after midnight) I phoned The Scarsdale to apologise / wind up the pub still further (probably the latter). Having woken the landlord I was informed in no uncertain terms that I was banned for life, as were any other football fans. Bit harsh, but there we go. I have never been back but frankly wouldn’t want to anyway.
Already promoted, Chelsea were now closing in on the Division 2 title, which would be the club’s first trophy of any kind since 1971. The next game was away at Man City the next Friday night. It was live on BBC1 and there were concerns this, coupled with the game being on Friday night, might affect the Chelsea travelling support, concerns that were totally unfounded.
Euston early on Friday afternoon was chock full of Chelsea, catching a mix of specials and service trains. Alcohol had been banned from specials since the legendary Bolton 76/77 trip (to be the subject of a later reminiscence all of its own) but in those days alcohol was banned from all trains that might contain football fans and a list of all such dry trains was displayed at mainline stations.
When we got to Manchester Piccadilly about 18.00 they didn’t initially have enough coaches to take us all on to Maine Road so we had to hang round the station for ages before getting to the ground. We had got seats in advance, which turned out to be in the main stand at the very far left of the Chelsea section. Even City fans (e.g. Mickey Francis in ‘The Guvnors’) reckon Chelsea took 7,000 out of a crowd of 21,700 and I reckon it was more like 8-9,000. Truly magnificent support.
Chelsea won comfortably 2-0 (here are the goals and a small pitch invasion) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOFeoWjMLBM&feature=related and our block was kept in afterwards. This was OK, until we realised the away terraces were emptying and, worse, so were the Chelsea seats further up our stand. For reasons never explained (and I tried asking police and stewards) our block (a couple of hundred at most) was kept in for 20 minutes or so and let out onto the darkening streets of Manchester. It became very clear, very quickly, that whatever escort there was had gone and we were on our own with no idea where we were going. There were City fans milling around and chanting, and the five of us tried to merge in with them. Unfortunately one of our number, Pete, was wearing a Chelsea sweat shirt (bad enough), had a number 3 crop (worse) and walking with a stick after getting injured playing football (worse still).
The police were, predictably, unsympathetic. “Just go up that alley, lads and follow the crowds” was the suggestion of one bright spark PC when asked how we should get to Piccadilly station. That alley was dark and long, and we could guess what (or who) was waiting at the other end. Somehow we managed to lose two of our number (including our limping man in the sweatshirt) while shuffling round outside the ground in the confusion.
After wandering round for about half an hour avoiding alley ways, fretting more and more and wondering how the hell to away from the area safely and get home that night at all, eventually the three of us found a main road and, joyfully, a car park full of Chelsea coaches next to a large pub. We found a coach with empty seats, paid the organiser a fiver each and got on. I recognised a few faces and it was clear some had battled their way back to the coaches and were very hyped up. We were just very relieved to have reached safety. A few beers and things got more relaxed, and I got home about 4am. Hopalong Pete and his sidekick had managed to get a normal bus to Piccadilly and got on a half empty Chelsea special. God only knows how some Chelsea got home that night
Watching the game again on video the following day and since, it was a reminder a) that Chelsea played some great football that night and b) that “Chelsea here, Chelsea there, Chelsea every fu**ing where” had never been more apt. Basically, if Chelsea won the last two games – Barnsley at home on the Monday and Grimsby away the following Saturday – they were champions.
In retrospect, the Barnsley game seems memorable for very little apart from pitch invasions, including a massive one at the end where it seemed half the ground were on the pitch (there is a photo in the History section of the Chelsea website). A 3-1 victory meant thoughts inevitably turned to Grimsby and potentially being champions. Chelsea had not won a trophy, of any kind since 1971 and those 13 years meant a lot of fans had never seen the club win anything.
We had tickets on the special train and, unless I am very mistaken, the match itself was in theory all ticket (although this became irrelevant). Kings Cross on the Saturday morning was, inevitably, heaving. The two specials were full and there were a heck of a lot of fans on service trains, which inevitably involved changing at Doncaster. The special as ever took ages. It went to a small station near the ground but didn’t get there till about 14.15 and when we got off the train it was total chaos.
There were huge queues to get in the away end and having a ticket (as I think the five of us did) made no difference whatsoever. After a real scrum, and increasing acrimony between fans and police, we finally got in about five minutes before kick-off, a lot of extra people had climbed in / paid at the gate and it was clear that the whole end was rammed, highly dangerously so. It was probably the most crushed I have ever been inside a ground. The stewards response when we pointed out what was going on was along the lines of “if you don’t fancy the crush, don’t come in”.
I never got a decent view all game and given that I am almost 6 foot 3, some people must have seen practically nothing all game. Photos of that day show just how ridiculously crowded it was and inevitably the crush caused pitch encroachments. “Not our fault” was chanted on a couple of occasions as the police/stewards waded in to try and restore order. They’d have been better getting Grimsby to give Chelsea more tickets and policing things properly at the turnstiles. The inadequacy of some clubs (e.g. Cambridge, Grimsby, and Shrewsbury) in that Division to cope with the travelling Chelsea hordes makes me think in retrospect we were lucky there wasn’t a very serious accident.
Kerry Dixon scored as Chelsea saw out the victory that assured the Championship, winning the title over Sheffield Wednesday on goal difference. At the end everyone stayed in the ground chanting for ages (there was no trophy presentation), with yet more pitch invasions, including a foolish and truncated one from the Grimsby end. Eventually, back to the station and onto the train. At this point, no alcohol has been consumed by our group, and rather than travel straight away to Fulham Broadway we decided to have a drink in Kings Cross (where I used to live) when we got back to London.
What we had forgotten was that Man U had played at Spurs and Arsenal at Watford that day and as we got onto the Euston Road there were groups of fans all over the place, many clearly not Chelsea. We tried to go in the Malt & Hops in Caledonian Road (an old haunt of mine) but there were United in/outside there and all over two other pubs nearby (including The Scottish Stores, possibly the roughest pub I have ever been in and the focus of a London Programme documentary on vice in Kings Cross) so we gave up and drove to Fulham Broadway. Later we heard that there were running battles involving Chelsea, United, Spurs and others in and around the Euston Road for ages that night, so I guess we made a wise choice.
We went in the Britannia (now the So Bar) at I guess about 21.30 and tried to make up for lost time. There were plenty of Chelsea there, many of whom hadn’t been able to go to the game but increasingly augmented by pockets of Grimsby refugees. Things got progressively livelier, and the atmosphere, unsurprisingly, was fantastic. Around 11.00, when the pub should have been closing a ragged cheer went up outside – the players coach had arrived.
Cue about 80 drunken punters emerging from the pub and chanting in the street with a bunch of euphoric, and equally drunken, players. I would have loved to have had a camera there but nobody did so patchy memory will have to suffice. I remember talking to Pat Nevin about The Cure and John Bumstead about, well frankly I’ve no idea what about. This went on for about 10-15 minutes before they went into the ground, doubtless to carry on partying, and we eventually drifted off home.
Another memorable day in a season full of them, especially sweet after several years of failure and false dawns. So that was it, the end of the season. Well, nearly. Three of us had booked tickets for the Player of the Year do, to be held the following Friday, Cup Final eve, at a hotel in Lillee Road.
Tickets would only have been a few quid (unlike the £140 for this season’s do) and there were far more younger, grassroots fans than at the 2011 prawn-sandwich-brigade orientated event. Attendees had to wear a suit, which presented a challenge to a number of those present, including me.
Somewhere I have a series of photos of that night which I have ransacked the loft looking for, but without success. The players were very happy to have their photos taken with fans, to talk to them and drink with them. How times change. Joey Jones posed for dozens of clenched fist photos, and basically a fantastic time was had by all, players and fans alike. I had to look up the fact that Pat Nevin won the award, deservedly. Interesting looking back that Chelsea fans had such a reputation as boneheads at the time, yet they chose the first post-punk footballer as Player Of The Year in his first season.
My only memory of the latter part of that evening was arguing with a cab driver who couldn’t find Borough (I was too far gone to be able to give directions) and when he asked for a tip, told him to buy a new A-Z. I slept through the following day’s Everton v Watford Cup Final.
All in all, as good a two weeks as I have ever had supporting Chelsea. “We’re the Boys In Blue, Division Two, and We Won’t Be Here For Long” (a song I think I first heard at Leeds that season). Indeed. The experiences of that season could realistically never be repeated now. The fact that most of us stood on terraces (though a determined element preferred seats), the fact that most games were not all ticket, the relatively youthful age of the travellers (photos of Chelsea fans in those days compared with now underline the age difference), the sheer chaos our huge travelling numbers caused, the rigour of the police escorts – none of those are likely to happen now.