King Canners

As the Blues prepare to host Swansea City, we remember our biggest-ever win over the Swans and pay tribute to our hat-trick hero that day, Paul Canoville.

The winger’s Chelsea career spanned five years and in that short space of time, there were enough incidents to last a lifetime. Enough, at least, to fill a large part of an autobiography: the award-winning Black and Blue, co-authored by the club’s official historian, Rick Glanvill.

He played over 100 games for Chelsea in the early 1980s and has a special place in the club’s history as the first black player in our first team, overcoming prejudice at the time.

At his best, Canoville was an artful dodger of tackles, blessed with lightning-quick pace. The issue, which has dogged many a winger throughout the history of the beautiful game, was finding a level of consistency. However, as Swansea City were to discover in December 1983, when it clicked for Canners there was simply no stopping him.

The Welsh side were on their way down having briefly dined at the top table of English football under the guidance of John Toshack, but the legendary centre-forward was long gone by the time Chelsea’s promotion chasers welcomed them to the Bridge.

On a mild December night where only 12,389 supporters were in attendance, our lowest home crowd in a Division Two fixture that season, and those who stayed at home missed out on an early Christmas present.

Indeed, by half-time the biggest surprise was that we only led by three, with The Times describing Pat Nevin as being ‘at his most impish, taunting Swansea defenders in groups.’ The dazzling winger curled home a sumptuous free-kick, sandwiched between two goals for Canoville.

 Canoville opened the scoring in our biggest-ever win against Swansea City

‘After the first, I was flying all evening,’ recalled Canners in Black and Blue. ‘Some games you just feel like you could zip through defences. They were so weak, too – any time we attacked we could have scored.’

Further goals were added by Kerry Dixon, with his 18th of the season, and Johnny Bumstead either side of an Ian Walsh consolation effort. But on this occasion, the spotlight was to shine brightly on only one man.

With just seven minutes remaining, the moment Canoville and the Chelsea faithful had been waiting for finally arrived – the hat-trick goal.

 Canners fires past Chris Sander in the Swansea goal

‘I have to say, I was a bit fortunate with the third goal,’ said the man of the hour in the matchday programme for the following game, ‘and it was actually a far-post centre. But it was with my left foot, so it always had a chance of bending towards goal.’

Willian will certainly share that sentiment after his equaliser against Liverpool at the weekend.

For Canoville, the goal ensured he took home the match ball for the first time as a professional footballer – little did he know it would be the only treble of his career.

‘I'm not a great one for records, mementoes and stuff,’ he added, ‘but I'd only been a professional footballer a little over 18 months and I'd got my first hat-trick for Chelsea. I was given the match ball to take home, signed by all my team-mates. It was an honour.’

The match ball, initially given to his mother, was later handed over to the museum here at Stamford Bridge; the memories, however, will forever belong to Canoville.