Chelsea Football Club were born in 2003. Before the oil money pumped in by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, Chelsea were a nothing club. We have no history, no culture, no iconic sides. That’s what rival fans would have us believe. However, it couldn’t be further from the truth.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of one of the greatest FA Cup finals in history as Chelsea took on Don Revie’s mighty Leeds United side. The Blues were a flamboyant attacking outfit, with a truly great spine including the late, great Peter ‘the cat’ Bonetti between the sticks, appearance record holder Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris at the back and prolific Peter Osgood up front. A replay was needed as the two teams drew 2-2 at Wembley before the Blues won 2-1 after extra time at Old Trafford in the most viewed FA Cup final in history at the time. It was a game famed for its physicality, despite only one yellow card being shown: modern day referee David Elleray reviewed the match and said he’d have awarded 6 red cards and 20 yellows!
In the 1970s the FA Cup was the most coveted trophy in England, every team was desperate to win it and every fan wanted a memorable day out at Wembley, meaning the competition was fierce. Chelsea were an exciting side; a mix of youth and experience under the stewardship of Dave Sexton who promoted a style of football that meshed together attacking play and a short-passing style with steel and determination in the spine of the team. Attacking output came largely from Peter Osgood, known as the ‘wizard of Os’ (he’s the only Chelsea player to have a statue outside Stamford Bridge), who was one of the most sought after talents in England. He scored the equaliser goal in the replay, as well as scoring in every single round on his way to victory, the last player to have done so. However, it was the defensive steel in both games that gave Osgood a chance to steal the show. Peter Bonetti famously made some fantastic saves, playing through injury after being bundled into his goal by an opposition player, living up to his nickname with his feline agility keeping Leeds forwards from putting the game to bed. Tough tackling captain and talisman Chopper Harris was in impressive form throughout and kept winger Eddie Gray quiet throughout, subduing him with a subtle kick to the back of the knee early on in the Old Trafford tie. These two stalwarts made an incredible combined 1524 appearances and bled Blue: they were truly inspirational in this incredible side. The recently departed Bonetti will remain a Chelsea legend forever.
For a while, Chelsea and its football club seemed to be the very epitome of Swinging London. Any Chelsea fan from that era would be able to reel off the classic team from that period: Bonetti, Webb, McCreadie, Hollins, Dempsey, Harris, Cooke, Hudson, Osgood, Hutchinson and Houseman. Hudson, one of Chelsea’s key men, actually missed the final with an injury so the squad has to be more resilient than ever.
Truly great sides are remembered not only by their results but also by their playing philosophy and this great Chelsea side, although occasionally physical, were often described as a joy to watch on their way to the final of the European Cup Winners Cup in 1971 which was again won after a replay against Real Madrid, once again Osgood scoring in both ties. It was the club’s first taste of European success: Arsenal had to wait another 23 years for theirs.
So not only did this great Chelsea side entice the crowd with their exciting playing style, they fought their way to the biggest trophy in England at the time as well as going on a European adventure which ended in success against the most iconic team in the world. Next time Chelsea’s apparent lack of history is mentioned think back to this supreme side, one which is still talked about by neutrals today, think back to the reflexes of Bonetti, the tough tackles of Harris and the dancing feet of Osgood, and you’ll realise just how flawed that statement is.
Written By Daniel New
Images sourced from These Football Times