A game called off because of a tropical storm, a 15-0 thrashing and 11 matches in 17 days, this is the story of Chelsea’s Caribbean tour in the summer of 1964.
There isn’t much detail on the back story of how this Caribbean tour came about apart from the fact that Wolves were also involved in organising and facilitating the post-season trip. Cricket tours to Caribbean islands had been common for this time period and even before the 60’s, however this footballing trip in the summer of ’64 was one of the first of its kind.
Game 1 : Chelsea vs Barbados
Chelsea played their first match of the Caribbean tour against the international team of Barbados on the 21st May in the capital city of Bridgetown. I can only assume the blistering heat of southern Barbados was a well deserved treat for the hardworking Chelsea squad. Chelsea had finished 5th in the first division of English football after just being promoted the season before and definitely deserved an easy run of games in a hot climate. An easy game is what the Chelsea squad got as they proceeded to destroy the best of Barbados 7-0. Dennis Brown got a hat-trick, Eddie McCreadie scored two and Frank Upton also scored two. A crowd of 7,000 was in attendance at the Kensington Oval ground that was primarily used for cricket events.
Game 2 : Chelsea vs Wolves
Two days later on the 23rd May, Chelsea played their second match of the tour against Wolves. Strangely, this would only be the first of five meetings between the two teams as they would continue to play matches throughout the entirety of the tour. Chelsea would lose the match 3-1 and Barry Bridges scored the only goal for the Blues. Fatigue and tiredness was not as well researched in the 60’s and the scheduling of this Caribbean tour definitely proves it. Games two days apart in this blistering heat would be frowned upon by the modern day player and physical team but it didn’t stop this Chelsea team from fighting until the final minute. This disappointing defeat was witnessed by 9,000 at the same venue as the game against Barbados. It is not known how many Chelsea or Wolves fans travelled to the Caribbean to see the games however I presume the number is very low and could even be none.
Game 3 : Chelsea vs Trinidad
Two years after it was granted independence from the United Kingdom, Trinidad played Chelsea on the 26th May 1964. On the records of this Caribbean tour, the team we played on this day are just referred to as ‘Trinidad’. I can only assume that exclusively players from the island of Trinidad competed in this game and not the full international team of Trinidad and Tobago. The break of 3 days to travel from Bridgetown, Barbados to Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago, was one of the longest breaks the Chelsea squad would get on this exhausting tour and it would certainly help out. Chelsea would run rampant over Trinidad and win 5-0, Terry Venables opened the scoring within five minutes and Bobby Tambling got the second by the twelve minute mark. After half time Dennis Brown would secure the game with his second hat-trick of the tour. This game would have been monumental for the footballing scene in the Trinidad and would have introduced a lot of new people into the world of football. 20,000 fans packed the Queen’s Park Oval in the capital of Trinidad to watch Chelsea defeat a resilient Trinidad side and our next game would be just round the corner.
Game 4 : Chelsea vs Wolves (For the second time)
On the 27th May Chelsea would play Wolves for the second time and this time the outcome would be better than the first meeting. Chelsea would come out victorious in this match, winning 3-2 in an excellent back and forth match. Eddie McCreadie scored one goal, Barry Bridges got another one and Terry Venables scored from the penalty spot two minutes from time to win the match for the Blues. Similar to the day before, the crowd was 20,000+ at the same venue in the capital of Trinidad. The weather was still blisteringly hot, however the appearance of rain certainly helped to cool the players down during this fiery affair. Wolves striker Ray Crawford was involved in a collision with Chelsea keeper John Dunn, he was only playing in the match due to Peter Bonetti being sidelined over a temperature. With our backup goalie now injured and requiring three stitches near his eye, desperate times called for desperate measures and Wolves agreed to loan their backup goalkeeper Jim Barron to Chelsea for the remainder of the match. Incredibly, the Chelsea playing days of Jim Barron didn’t end there, his performance would impress Chelsea manager Tommy Docherty so much that he would bring Barron to West London in 1965 for a fee of around £5,000.
Game 5 : Chelsea vs Wolves (For the third time)
The Blues travelled over 1000 miles to Kingston, Jamaica to face Wolves again on the 29th May at the National Stadium. Immediate revenge would ensue upon Chelsea as we were beaten 4-2 in front of 13,000 fans. Terry Venables and Bobby Tambling would provide goals, but it would not be enough to defeat the Wolves team out for revenge. Ray Crawford, who scored two in this match, wrote in his book, ‘Curse of the jungle boy’, “It was the most luxurious tour you could imagine but all the matches were nothing short of full-blooded.” This solidifies the fact that friendlies were never really friendlies between English clubs during these times. This match was contested for the ‘Four Aces Trophy’ which was donated by the Machado Tobacco Company.
Game 6 : Chelsea vs St. James
Chelsea travelled from the south to the north from Kingston to Montego Bay to face off against local side St. James on the 31st May. It’s safe to say that the Blues bounced back from the loss to Wolves just two days before as we would proceed to obliterate the local opposition in a 15-0 showcase of excellence. Tambling would score five, Bridges would score three, McCreadie would also get three, Marvin Hinton would get a double, Brown would add another and Venables would seal the deal with a penalty. There is no record of attendance at this game similar to the fact that there is no venue listed on any official recordings of this tour.
Game 7 : Chelsea vs Wolves (For the fourth time)
Back in Kingston on the 2nd June, Chelsea once again battled Wolves in the second leg of the ‘Four Aces Trophy’. Chelsea came into the game at a small deficit of 4-2 and with a trophy in sight, Chelsea were ready to put on a good performance and upset their English counterparts. Chelsea put on a clinic in Kingston and defeated the outclassed Wolves side 3-0 to win 5-4 on aggregate to win the ‘Four Aces Trophy’. McCreadie scored one goal, John Hollins scored another and Bobby Tambling finished off the match with one more goal. With ‘The Cat’ Peter Bonetti back in goal, it helped to secure a clean sheet and propel us to victory. One of the most meaningful and impressive performances of the whole tour resulted in the 13,000 fans packed into the National Stadium seeing Chelsea lift a trophy.
Game 8 : Chelsea vs Unknown Local Side
The match we played on the 3rd June is the opposition we have the least amount of detail on. Somehow there is three different teams recorded on various sources of who we actually played in this match. The three teams include, St. Elizabeth and Manchester combined XI, St. James (who we played in game 6) and St. Mary’s. You may be surprised to hear that Manchester would be involved in a Caribbean tour to play one game and I was a bit shocked by the site of that name. However, Manchester is a Parish in West-Central Jamaica and has nothing to do with Manchester United or Manchester City and is therefore a local team that very well could have been involved in the game. The scores of the game are also varied in these sources with some sources having it as a 12-0 win to Chelsea and others having it as 12-1. We know for certain that Bobby Tambling scored five, Eddie McCreadie scored another hat-trick, Hinton and Brown would both score two also. The game was played at the Kaiser Sports Ground in the Jamaican village of Alligator Pond. The peculiar named village is located on the southwestern coast of Manchester, so it is plausible that they put up a local side to face the Blues.
Game 9 : Chelsea vs Jamaica XI
Three games in three days culminated in a showdown between the best of Jamaica and Chelsea in the Jamaican National Stadium in Kingston. Bobby Tambling continued his excellent taste for goals in the Caribbean by scoring two, likewise an inform Eddie McCreadie added another goal to his ever-growing tally and Dennis Brown finalised the game by getting another goal. The game finished 4-1 to Chelsea, a valiant Jamaican side put up a good challenge and Syd Bartlett would score their lone goal. Bartlett is one of the most celebrated Jamaican footballers of all time and after his death in 2009, his legacy was honoured in the form of a league being named after him. The ‘KSAFA Syd Bartlett League’ is still active today and is the fourth division of Jamaican football. An estimated 6,000 fans watched the best of Jamaica battle against Chelsea and definitely got their moneys worth in terms of watching the best of the best play to the top their ability.
Game 10 : Chelsea vs Wolves (For the fifth time)
The time spent in Jamaica was successful but now two games in the capital of Haiti loomed. Chelsea travelled to Port au Prince and their first match was against Wolves on the 6th June. The two matches played in Haiti would be for the ‘Tournoi Angleterre-Haiti’ trophy which was provided by La Maison Dubonnet. It’s doubtful that either set of players cared about a meaningless trophy, but it may have added a bit of extra incentive for both teams. Chelsea would continue their excellent run of form by beating Wolves 2-0, completely shutting the opposition out. The two scorers for Chelsea were Tambling (who would’ve guessed!) and Venables. Nothing else is known about this match, the venue or the attendance were not recorded online.
Game 11 : Chelsea vs Haiti
One of the most bizarre games Chelsea would play in this era would come against Haiti’s international side. Haiti is not a nation known for its footballing talent but they caused Wolves and Chelsea some serious problems. Haiti would draw to Wolves 1-1, battling back from a 1-0 deficit and proved themselves worthy challengers with their fight and spirit. In the game Chelsea would play against them, the weather would perfectly match the Chelsea performance, abysmal. Haiti would defeat the outclassed blues 2-1 in peculiar fashion. Venables would score a penalty at some point throughout the game, however with the score set at 2-1, the match would be abruptly stopped at the 68th minute due to the tropical storm that was occurring overhead. The torrential rain and obnoxious wind led to the match being abandoned. The 30,000 Haiti fans saw their beloved nation defeat one of the elite sides in England at the time and not even the storm surrounding could stop them celebrating their win. For Chelsea this was a disappointing way to end a seemingly great tour that featured great weather and great footballing spectacles.
WolvesHeroes reported that during the Chelsea 2-0 Wolves game in Haiti, the groundsmen were seen carrying revolvers around the pitch. Reasons unknown, they continued despite the torrential rain pouring down constantly.
Despite being a left back, Eddie McCreadie would score 11 goals in 11 matches on this tour.
In the match that Chelsea lost 3-1 to Wolves, Chelsea manager Tommy Docherty would start the game and then be subbed off at half time and replaced by his assistant manager Dave Sexton in the second half.
In the first match of the tour, accomplished test cricketer Keith Boyce featured as a goalkeeper for the struggling Barbados team. Boyce is regarded as a cult hero amongst Essex cricket fans as he made over 350 appearances for the side.
Written by Frankie