PAST PLAYERS RETURN FOR ANNUAL LUNCH

Posted on: Fri 30 Nov 2012

A host of former Chelsea players from down the years gathered earlier today in the Great Hall to celebrate the club's Annual Lunch.

The likes of Frank Blunstone and Peter Brabrook, who were part of the 1954/55 title-winning squad, along with John Hollins and David Webb, who helped the club to domestic and European glory in the 1970s, were joined by more recent names in the shape of Graham Stuart, Erland Johnsen and Tore Andre Flo.

The event, from which proceeds raised were split between the Chelsea Foundation and the Past Players' Trust, was hosted by Jonny Gould, who was joined on stage for an in-depth chat by Graeme Le Saux [pictured above].

The former Blues left-back, who enjoyed two spells at Stamford Bridge, spoke about the manner in which his big break at the club came to fruition.

'My absolute hero, and the man who took a chance on me, was John Hollins,' Le Saux told a packed audience.

'He was in Jersey presenting an award, and on the night a few people happened to mention my name to him.

'Fortunately, he took down somebody's telephone number, so when he came back to England he phoned up the secretary of the team I was playing for, and a week later I was on trial at Harlington.

'During that time, I pretty much just ran around like a lunatic for a week, and probably hassled him so much he ended giving me a two-year deal.'

The event was opened with a wonderful performance from a Beatles tribute band, while Gould's quick wit gave the charity auction - where prizes included presenting an award at the end of season Player of the Year event and taking part in a penalty shoot-out during half-time of a first team game at Stamford Bridge - a humorous twist.

There was also a touching tribute to former Blues manager Dave Sexton, who sadly passed away last weekend, with the tributes led by Webb.

'Dave was one of those managers who encouraged you to play football and helped you become a better player,' he said.

'People like myself, Ian Hutchinson and John Dempsey, players who he brought to the club, he allowed us the time and the space to come through.

'He would undoubtedly have been one of the best coaches around today because he was a very thoughtful man, and one that allowed us to become better players within the framework of the team.'

Meanwhile, Emma Wilkinson, head of communications and community affairs, was presented with a cheque for £4,500 by Steve Frankham, CPO chairman, from money raised by the sale of Champions 1954/55, bringing the total raised to date from sales of the book to £39,500.

The afternoon, which was also attended by club chairman Bruce Buck, ended on a high, with the pivotal moments from last season's unforgettable Champions League campaign played out across the big screens, with those supporters present screaming in delight as Didier Drogba's winning penalty hit the back of the net.