Season 1988/1989

So, it was relegation. I guess I just immersed myself in the old *aviation* over the summer and with a six game closure of the Stamford Bridge terraces, after the skirmishes the marred the end of the Boro game, it was hardly a season to look forward to. Being a *Sheddite*, the prospect of sitting in the seats was unthinkable & I was one of the many missing thousands as the season kicked off at home to Blackburn Rovers. Six games in, with three draws and three defeats, we sat in a lowly 20th place, with a trip to Leeds United ahead. Of course, this was the turning point as the Blues carved out a 2-0 victory and we drove down to Swindon after 3 consecutive League victories only for the Blues to be denied with a late leveller. Cup embarrassments aside, this was to be a momentous season in Chelsea's history & the terraces were duly reopened in late October and Chelsea celebrated with a 5-0 drubbing of Plymouth Argyle. As the year ended, the Blues rose to the summit and a late late penalty from Graham Roberts saved the day in a top of the table clash with West Brom.

We drove to Oxford to see the Blues see in the New Year with a 3-2 victory at the Manor Ground but with Kevin Hitchcock injured from early season and Roger "Freddie" Freestone looking unconvincing at times, between the sticks, Bobby Campbell pulled off a masterstroke and captured big Dave Beasant from the Toon Army for 750K. His commanding presence gave the boys a real lift and the Blues kept plugging away, despite the odd scare, until the clash of the titans on Saturday 18th March 1989.

Jas hired out the van and Anselm, Fuzz, Steve, Rodney and myself loaded the crates of Stella into the back and had breakfast ! By the time we got to Manchester, we were a little bit worse for wear but it was worth it. Thankfully Anselm had a friend up there who agreed put all of us up & we parked the van and walked to the ground. I tried to walk into the ground with a can in my hand (!) but once inside the party began. Two first half goals up the other end sent us into ecstacy but nothing will ever surpass *that* run by Tony Dorigo (to be fair, maybe John Spencer's effort in the Ernst Happel stadium did finally eclipse it) from just within the Chelsea half towards the massed ranks in the away end. There were probably some 8,000+ Chelsea fans in a bumper 40,000+ crowd and we managed to hold out for a 3-2 victory then celebrated with a curry and a night at The Banshee. The journey home was just as eventful as Jas spun the van around 360 degrees at the M52/M1 interchange ... and we survived !

John salutes some Leicester City fans' reaction to the tragic Hillsborough news

Saturday 15th April 1989, a date forever etched in people's mind. We actually had a bloody good time before the game shooting some pool and knocking back beers in a friendly local. By half time, with the scores still level news began to filter through from the FA Cup semi-final. Ironically, at Filbert Street we were victims of some rather dubious refereeing decisions but nobody really cared about the 27 match unbeaten record but my overriding memory of the afternoon were the side street skirmishes as we left the ground. It was very very sad.

With a final 99 points on the board, and both promotion and the Division Two title wrapped up at home to Leeds United, the season's finish was not so dramatic but it was good to see the Blues win their final three games. I had been working on quite a few Saturday's and therefore wasn't able to go to many of the away games but Chelsea were back, a steelier proposition and after finishing 17 points clear, we looked forward to see how well the Blues would fare in the top flight.

Season 1989/1990

After some queuing, I managed to sneak into Plough Lane for the opener and Kevin Wilson bagged a late winner to send us into raptures. After a disappointing midweek draw at home to QPR, we headed off to the newly revamped Reading Festival over the Bank Holiday weekend and had to listen to the radio as Chelsea duly thrashed Sheffield Wednesday 4-0 to go top of the table !

Jas, Antoni, Rod, Dave & Slum

Jas, Rod, Dave, Steve & Slum

Despite a couple of setbacks at Charlton and Norwich, the Blues form was strong and when Millwall came to the Bridge, we stuffed 'em 4-0 to go top again and stayed there as Steve Clarke steered home the winner at Everton. Then came the nightmare December - all seemed okay after Kerry Dixon rammed home at Shed End after 3 minutes but Wimbledon came back and big Dave had the jitters (even dropping one straight onto Alan Cork's head, thank you very much) and little Dennis Wise scored twice as we were humbled 5-2. A week later we crashed 2-4 at QPR before a rampant Liverpool came to the Bridge as thrashed us by another 5-2 margin. The Boxing Day draw at Palace restored some pride then bizarrely we won 3-0 on the plastic at Luton to close the year.

Your humble circled scribe looks on as 1990 starts badly

High-flying Aston Villa (buoyed on by David Platt and Tony Daley) came to the Bridge on New Year's Day and duly thrashed us again, 3-0. Still, things could be worse, we were 7th in the table.

the "Battle Of Ashton Gate" !

In the FA Cup 4th Round we were drawn away to Bristol City. It sounded like a good one. We got there easily enough but then we struggled to find a drink. Somehow we (Steve, Anselm & myself) managed to find a *snug* room, in a fairly rowdy pub, where we were able to have a few pints. Thankfully we were befriended by some geezer who knew members of Bristol's legendary Vice Squad punk band and was quite impressed to be chatting with the brother of Silverfish's guitarist ! Outside, it really was *riot city* as things were going off big time (and the driving rain started) - somehow we managed to sneak out and safely reached the ground even though the simmering violence was never far away. On the quagmire of a pitch the match was a disaster & City deservedly knocked beat us 3-1. Drown & out !

The Barclays League Division One campaign ended well with a superb fifth place mainly aided by Kerry Dixon's 7 goals in the last 4 games, including a hatrick at relegated Millwall. In retrospect, the highlight of the season probably was the 1-0 win at Highbury on St Patrick's Day. Little did we know that John Bumstead's rare strike would be the last League success at Highbury for over a decade.

ZDS Cup Final vs Middlesboro 1990

Before the season was out, we did enjoy some success. The much maligned Full Members Cup (now renamed the Zenith Data Systems Cup) took us to Wembley where Tony Dorigo's freekick sent us all home very happy. The day was more memorable for the scuffles outside the stadium where Fuzz obliviously walked through the pre-match carnage much like Lt Colonel Kilgore in Apocalypse Now (with beer bottles flying overhead) without receiving as much as a scratch !

Season 1990/1991

After scraping a 2-1 win against Derby on the opening day, three London derby away defeats in a row, suggested tough times ahead despite two quality signings in Andy Townsend & Dennis Wise. After a dour 0-0 home draw with Pompey in the League Cup 3rd round, somehow the Blues scored 3 times in a dramatic last 10 minutes at Fratton Park to go through 3-2 in the replay.

A midweek trip to the Manor Ground - November 1990

A few weeks later, after I'd driven down to Oxford to see to late Durie goals take us through to the Quarter Finals, the Gazza-inspired Spurts came to the Bridge for the League game, after being stuck in the West London traffic, were depatched 3-2 to move Chelsea up to 9th. By Boxing Day, we'd moved up to 6th, as a 5 game winning sequence (including the crazy 6-4 win at the Baseball Ground) was extinguished at Leeds. 1991 - New Year's Day at the Bridge and Pat Nevin sneaks in a deflected injury time winner (1-2) for Everton - an outrage !?! A few days later, Oxford revenged their League Cup defeat by dumping us out of the FA Cup (3-1) at Stamford Bridge.

Wednesday 16th January 1991 - the night the Gulf War started !

After 4 defeats in a row, two Durie goals gave a 2-0 win over QPR and as our League Cup tie with Rottenham Hotspurts approached, the London press were already making excuses as their new messiah (Paul Gascoigne) would be absent. Some 34,000 fans witnessed a remarkable evening as young Graeme Le Saux, playing as a rampaging left winger, roasted Terry Fenwick time after time, but somehow the ball wouldn't go into the Tottenham net and it ended 0-0. This was an evening never to be forgotten because we zoomed home quickly to see the match highlights on ITV's Midweek Sports Special but the program was bizarrely interrupted as the first allied bombs rained in on Baghdad & the next few hours were spent watching the unfolding Gulf War from the comfort of your living room.

Undaunted by the prophets of doom, we headed off to White Hart Lane, and spurred on by a mighty Townsend peformance (which prompted Gazza to poke him in the eye), Chelsea cruised to a 3-0 win. Due to the FA Cup exit, the next weekend was free but then with Killing Joke and Silverfish both on the road, I managed to miss the next home game with unbeaten Arsenal where memorable goals from Graham Stuart and Kerry Dixon inflicted the Gooners' only League defeat of the season.

Not for the first time, after a thrilling League Cup run, we would lose in depressing circumstances as we tamely went down 1-5 to Sheffield Wednesday over two legs in the Semi Final. Even though we could seemingly beat anyone on their day, the consistancy was not there and the Blues finished in a disappointing eleventh place. We did have a strong batch of youngsters coming through (with Gareth Hall, David Lee, Le Saux, Jason Cundy, Frank Sinclair, Damien Matthew and Graham Stuart all playing at U21 level plus Andy Myers, Craig Burley and Ian Pearce made "sub" appearances for Chelsea before the season had ended). Surely a bright future ahead ?

The last part of the 1990/91 season was memorable for at least 5 other moments. March saw an exciting and always welcome 3-2 win over Manchester United when super Kenny Monkou looped in a last minute header at the Shed End (to complete a well deserved *double* over the Red Devils) then *the kids* coming back from 0-3 down at home to nick a point off Luton but things really came crashing down at the City Ground when a rampant Forest slaughtered the (somewhat inexperienced) Blues 7-0 ... yes, no typo ... 7-0 !?! I hoped they that would win the FA Cup but, even after Gazza's tackle, fate conspired against Clough's boys. Oh well ... so after Dixon's superb brace at Everton and a fine 3-1 win at Norwich so to the final home game at the Bridge which saw David Speedie return and score for Liverpool but that was about the best of it for the title chasing Scousers as Chelsea pulled out one of the typical mighty peformances, with an early Dixon goal at the Shed End and a rampant Blues finish by Dixon and Durie to win 4-2 after the Reds had come back to 2-2 ... an epic !

Season 1991/1992

If the previous season had been painful, it had nothing on 1991/1992. Before the season started, it was announced that Bobby Campbell was *moving upstairs*. The highly regarded coach Ian Porterfield would be the new manager and, like most fans, I was very happy with the appointment. Big names to leave were Tony Dorigo (who inevitably went to Leeds United, who duly won the League) and one-time highly reverred Gordon Durie, who wanted to go north of the border & regrettably ended up at Spurs. In came the legendary Paul Elliott, Tommy Boyd and high-scoring Joe Allon from the mighty Hartlepool !?!

24/08/91 - Tottenham Hotspur 1 Chelsea 3 - business as usual !

Despite debut goals for Elliott and Allon, the first week was a big disappointment but the trip to White Hart Lane will live in everyone's memory, especially Gordon Durie's. Even at 2.2M, there would be no forgiveness and the *JUDAS* chant was born. From the opening moment's when Erik the Viking spilled Dixon's header over the line, the Chelsea hordes were on Durie's back. After a while, and seemingly shattered by the chanting, he cut a fairly pathetic figure and was eventually replaced and only a second half Lineker effort saved Spurs from utter humilation.

As I headed off to Tenerife for a week in the sun, Porterfield splashed out 700K on Vinny Jones. It was a worrying act but the manager was obviously worried about Alan Dickens' midfield fragility. A great fightback at QPR with cracking a Townsend drive and Wise overhead kick was followed by a sickener at Highbury where Chelsea took a 2-0 lead through Le Saux & Wilson, only to have Arsenal given a lifeline as weak referee Alf Buksh gave them a first half injury time penalty. In front of 42,000 poor old Chelsea capitulated in the second half to Wright and Campbell and crashed 3-2. A vision of the future was seen in November when Norwich swaggered into town and won 3-0 with a brace from Robert Fleck, including an absolute barnstormer in front of the Shed. Sign him up, we said !

Into December and the goals had dried up for Dixon and Wilson, so Porterfield pulled off the bargain of the season with Clive Allen. An instant success & crucial goals too. As per usual though, some days Chelsea were world beaters and other days we lost away to Notts County & Luton. We had dipped out of the League Cup at Tranmere but progressed in the ZDS before another Semi Final (or Southern Final) two legged 5-1 capitulation to Southampton & Le Tissier bagged a hatrick at the Bridge as Jason Cundy was sent off. In true Chelsea style, all that was forgotten the following weekend when Chelsea saw the "This Is Anfield" sign and Vinny Jones said "I'm Not Bothered" - of course he meant it & duly hit in a dipper at the Kop end & even a Grobbelaar penalty save couldn't deny Chelsea a famous 2-1 win.

After two recent meetings with the Saints in the ZDS, not many supporters were looking forward to a freezing mid-week League game. A late strike from Andy Townsend saved the day, but the headlines were saved for the crowd, or the lack of one. It was mightily empty in the Shed as only 7,148 bothered to turn up - thankfully, I was one of them. Meanwhile we had progressed past Hull City, Everton and Sheffield United in the FA Cup & met 2nd Division Sunderland in the 6th Round at Stamford Bridge. The atmosphere was electric and Allen struck again but somehow John Bryne's late effort bobbled in and we all headed off to Roker Park but not before a muppet ref sent off both Townsend and Allen whilst we crashed 0-1 at home to Coventry in the League. By this time Tony Cascarino had been signed from Celtic (probably as Dixon's barren spell continued) in a straight swap for Tommy Boyd, which utterly bemused the football purists amongst us.

The longest journey - coming back from Roker Park - 18/03/92

The game at a windswept Roker Park was one of those truly great Cup nights, when anything could happen but the inevitable did. Not for the first time, Beasant parried and the rebound was lashed in. Chelsea threw everything AND the kitchen sink at the Black Cats but somehow wookwork, defenders on the line and the inspired Tony Norman kept Chelsea out. Allen and Stuart came on for Cundy and Le Saux and the Blues pressed harder & harder. Finally, with four minutes to go, the ball broke to Wise and he steered it under Norman. I've never gone so mental in all my life. The prospect of extra time did not scare us as we bellowed out "We shall not be moved". Then the ball bobbled off Sinclair and went for a corner. The cross came in, Armstrong rose & the world stopped. It was (pardon my awful pun) an absolute choker at Roker Park. A nightmare journey home followed and we arrived back at Kings Cross after 3am to be greeted by the back page headlines.

We only won 2 of the last 8 league games but it was more the off-field actvities which had the fans in heated debate. On transfer deadline day, out went Jason Cundy (loaned to Spurs !?!), Kevin Wilson (to Notts County) and, quite unbelievably, Clive Allen to West Ham. Typically Allen scored against us though blushes were saved by a late Cascarino header. What the heck, was going on ? Excuses were given about Cundy's apparent poor form but he was Chelsea through and through. Of course, Erland Johnsen was back after long term injury but many people thought the sales had more to do with what went on behind the dressing room doors. I'll guess we will never know about that.

Season 1992/1993

Welcome to the FA Premier League. So, I guess this is when it really got grim. Our pre-season appetites were whetted by arrival of Robert Fleck for a princely sum of 2.1M. Whilst Kerry Dixon (575K) and Ken Monkou (800K) left for The Dell, Mick Harford (300K from Luton), Mal Donaghy (150K from Man United) and the diminutive John Spencer arrived. An expectant crowd of 20,000 turned up to see Chelsea take on Oldham and Harford duly delivered with late strike only for big Dave Beasant to scuff a clearance allowing Oldham to equalise. Despite a Fleck strike at Aston Villa (where Chelsea won 3-1), Harford got the early goals but tragedy struck at Anfield where Dean Saunders disgraceful challenge ended the playing career of Paul Elliott. Liverpool won 2-1 after a late Beasant fumble but big Dave really got the headlines the followng week after his two dreadful howlers at home to Norwich when a 2-0 half time lead was turned into 2-3 reverse. Chelsea with the returning Nigel Spackman replacing the departed Vinny Jones were playing well but even a Dennis Wise header in front of the North Bank mural (making somewhat more noise than the usual Highbury output) couldn't stop Chelsea going down 1-2. By December the battling Blues had made steady progress up the table, bouyed by wins at Coventry, Everton and Spurs (a steady Eddie double). Despite holding the Champions elect to a 1-1 draw at the Bridge, after Cantona cancelled out David Lee's long range free kick, the Blues struggled on Boxing Day against the Saints and Le Saux's petulant outburst after being replaced by Burley, showed signs of dissent in the camp. Eddie Newton saved the day and we looked forward to the League Cup tie at Palace.

Blues hopes sunk on Lake Selhurst

It just rained and rained and rained. For some reason the game still took place but Chelsea couldn't cope. Sinclair's back pass got stuck in a puddle and, even after Captain Townsend struck a mighty equaliser, Palace scored twice more and won 3-1. Suddenly Chelsea found themselves in the middle of a poor run. Even at rock bottom Forest, we managed to get turned over 3-0.

Oh dear - Blues sunk at rock bottom Forest

After three home defeats, only interspersed by a 0-0 with Liverpool (in front of only 20,981 - surely the smallest attendance for this fixture in modern times), Bates decided to stop the rot and Ian Porterfield was relieved of his duties. The Blues had gone 13 games without a win and sat in 12th place. Chelsea legend David Webb was drafted in on a short term contract & picked his first team for the televised clash with Arsenal. Beasant & Johnsen were brought back and, in front of only 17,725 (for a London derby !?!), Graham Stuart scored the priceless goal to earn Chelsea the 3 points. Steve Clarke was back in the team & John Spencer started to feature. No away wins followed but 4 home wins (out of 5) ensured safety for Chelsea. Probably the worst decision taken was to sell Graeme Le Saux to emerging Blackburn Rovers for a paltry 700K (with Steve Livingstone as a 250K makeweight, later sold on for 125K, that's 125K spent for only half a game at Old Trafford !?!). The aged but big hearted striker Mick Harford was also sold on transfer deadline day to Sunderland.

During the summer of 1993, the most important news at Chelsea concerned the manager's seat. Ken Bates decided to go for quality. Glenn Hoddle had brought unfashionable Swindon Town into the Premiership but he answered the call. With a fairly large squad available, Gavin Peacock (at 1.25M) was the only big name to initially come in but quite a few went out the other way. To be fair to Andy Townsend (2.1M to Villa) and Graham Stuart (tribunal 850K to Everton) they wanted a fresh challenge. Also out went Ian Pearce, Damian Matthew & Steve Livingstone (thank god) plus Dave Beasant (who was surplass to requirements with both Kharine and Hitchcock fit).

So, the Hoddle era at Chelsea FC, as player/manager, was about to commence.

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