TEAM HISTORY - 1980s

Long seasons were spent in Division Two, crowd trouble was a continuing headache and gates plummeted. Just 6,009 watched a London derby against Orient in 1982. Those who did turn up despaired at the quality of football played.

Crisis point was reached with the players unpaid and the bank not cashing Chelsea's cheques. Ken Bates, a businessman who had previously been involved with smaller clubs up north was asked to invest.

He bought the football club plus debts for a nominal £1. The stadium remained with a separate company.

What he found he was later to describe as 'a social club with a little football played on a Saturday'. Even the club's supposed fund-raising lottery was losing money!

While Bates went to work off the field, it was the left existing manager, experienced John Neal, to sort out matters on it.

The next season didn't go well. Chelsea teetered on the brink of relegation to the Third Division - a drop that could well have been fatal. A do-or-die game at fellow strugglers Bolton was deadlocked until, in the dying minutes, Clive Walker unleashed an unstoppable shot for a lifeline victory. A draw in the final home game that followed secured Second Division status.

In the close season, a large number of players were shown the door. With a modest budget, the shrewd Neal set about finding replacements. He worked wonders.


Six players were signed in the summer of 1983 for minimal money and the new-look team gelled instantly, winning the first game 5-0. It stormed to the Second Division Championship in style.

In tricky winger Pat Nevin, prolific striker Kerry Dixon and battling David Speedie, signed a season earlier, the fans had worthy idols once more.

The rapid climb continued with a sixth place finish in the first season back in Division One, Dixon sharing the Golden Boot with 24 League goals and 36 in all competitions. He was destined to become the club's second highest scorer after Tambling, finding the net 193 times.

Yet as with the previously promoted side, progress was again hit by the loss of a manager. Ill-health forced Neal to stand down.

John Hollins had been brought back to Chelsea as player/coach. Now our third highest appearance maker behind Ron Harris and Peter Bonetti was handed total control of the reigns.

A second sixth place-in-a-row was consolidation and the squad was strengthened by some quality players including full-backs Steve Clarke and Tony Dorigo, midfielder Micky Hazard and pacy Gordon Durie up front.

But the dressing room spirit was dissolving, important players were sold and the team tumbled down the table. Hollins paid with his job.

After four years back in Division One we were relegated once more, with a talented squad still there. This they proved by cruising to the Second Division Championship a year later with 99 points and a club record unbeaten league run.

Now under the guidance of Bobby Campbell, it was followed up by an impressive fifth place on the First Division return.
Similar progress off the pitch was proving problematic. Disloyal actions by former directors allowed ownership of Stamford Bridge to fall into the hands of property developers.

A long war of attrition followed. Millions that could have been spent on players were used up in legal fees as Bates refused to give up in the fight to keep Chelsea playing at a ground so integral to our history. Eventually a collapse in the property market dealt the speculators a fatal blow.