BIG TURNOUT FOR BRITTON'S NIGHT
Ex-players and fans gathered on Friday to attend a benefit night arranged by supporters for the former Chelsea midfielder Ian Britton, who has prostate cancer.
Among those in attendance at the North Cheam Social Club were team-mates from Britton's 10-year spell at Stamford Bridge, including Tommy Langley, Ray Wilkins, Steve Finnieston, Garry Stanley, Ray Lewington, Gary Chivers, Steve Kember, Micky Droy, Colin Pates and Paul Canoville, while there were also appearances from Jason Cundy, and Kerry Dixon.
The event was held to raise funds to aid Britton's battle against his illness and the 59-year-old, who played 289 games for the club, was overwhelmed by the turnout from his former colleagues and supporters of the club he played at for over a decade.
'The turnout has been absolutely fantastic,' he said. 'It's nice to get all the players together and the supporters have been brilliant so it's been a great night. I'm so proud of Chelsea Football Club and the supporters. People have been coming up and saying they watched me when I made my debut so that's been fantastic.'
Langley, who played in front of Britton for six years in the 1970s, has fond memories of him both as a player and a friend. 'It's been a great night,' he told the official Chelsea website. 'It's obviously sad that we're here for this occasion, that Ian isn't well, but he was a great team-mate, a great friend and you've seen from the turnout here what he means to the boys.
'He was a really good player, he'd give you everything. He had great energy, a great touch. He was very small but combative and didn't mind a tackle. With him being a few years older than me, he helped me along as a young player. In fact the goal against Liverpool I scored was down to him because he lost possession to Phil Neal but instead of giving it up he chased Neal who then passed back to Ray Clemence and I nipped in and scored [the third goal in our 4-2 FA Cup win in 1978].'
Canoville made his debut with Britton in the team and they lined up in various Chelsea Old Boys matches after the pair hung up their boots.
'The evening has been emotional,' he said. 'It's sad to hear of Britts' condition and I would know, having been through it myself, but the turnout has been supportive and the fans have been great.'
A silent auction and raffle were held, with donated prizes ranging from a pair of John Terry boots to a signed Steven Gerrard England shirt brought along by national team assistant manager Lewington. The former Blues midfielder was full of praise for a player he spent four years working with in west London.
'Being here is absolutely brilliant,' he said. 'I've not seen Ian for a little while to be honest, it's lovely to see him although it's not great circumstances but he's a fantastic lad and as a player he was just perpetual motion.
'As well as being a gifted player his work-rate was phenomenal, from the first whistle to the last he was always running. I was friends with him when we were young and we had a great group, we were all together and Britts was certainly a favourite of us all.'
By Sam Poplett.