1978 - 1979
‘I came to Chelsea because of my friendship with [chairman] Brian Mears,’ said Danny Blanchflower, ‘and my regard for the history and the meaning of the football club. There is so much about Chelsea that is wrapped up in the romance of the game; Chelsea is much more than a football club, it is a state of mind and that is worth fighting for.’
Double-winning footballer turned cerebral journalist, Blanchflower was an unusual choice as boss of the near-bankrupt London club. His wistful musings on the spirit of the game were a hard sell in the dressing room with hard-bitten modern pros and fragile youngsters eager for guidance.
Appointed when Ken Shellito’s hand was removed from the tiller on 13 December 1978 (the ship chugging slowly but steadily out of Division One), his first job was to explain away a 2-7 defeat at Middlesbrough. That was soon followed by a 1-5 against Ipswich, 0-6 at Nottingham Forest and 2-5 at Arsenal. Relegation by a huge margin of 11 points duly followed and, equally depressing, the jewel in the crown of Chelsea’s youth scheme, Ray Wilkins, was sold to Manchester United.
That summer, the ambitious Geoff Hurst came in to provide a more robust interpretation of Blanchflower’s kindly, other-worldly manner. The formula was not to last: after a poor start and a home defeat by Birmingham, Hurst supplanted the Northern Irishman.
Sadly, Blanchflower passed away from Alzheimer’s disease on 9 December 1993.