1991 - 1993
Scotsman Ian Porterfield’s moment of glory had come as a Sunderland player – he scored the goal that beat Leeds in the 1973 FA Cup final. He was originally brought to Stamford Bridge as assistant to manager Bobby Campbell in 1988 and proved a popular coach, but left to be his own man at Reading.
The Scot returned to be paraded as Campbell’s successor on 11 June 1991 and announced, ‘We should be a top-six side.’ To help facilitate such an improvement the club splashed out on central defender Paul Elliott and midfielder Vinnie Jones, but no replacement for departing striker Gordon Durie. Porterfield also had the foresight to try winger Graeme Le Saux at full-back – a position the Channel Islander initially rejected.
After six matches of the 1991/92 season, Chelsea were second in the First Division but, as it would pan out, that was a high-water mark. With Kerry Dixon becalmed, a lack of goals brought inconsistency.
When the Blues stunned Liverpool 2-1 in February 1992 – our first win at Anfield in 56 years – the goalscorers, Dennis Wise and Jones, were both midfielders. They and others were also big personalities and a challenge to any manager, let alone a young one.
Generally a kindly man, Porterfield was also prone to rashness under pressure. After Dave Beasant’s errors contributed to Norwich coming from 0-2 down to winning 3-2 at the Bridge in September 1992, the manager told reporters the goalie had played his last game for the club. It was the kind of public outburst that can alienate a dressing room and by the following February the Blues were marooned in mid-table and without a win in 12 games.
With seeming inevitably, on 15 February 1993 Porterfield became the first managerial casualty of the Premier League era. The Scot sadly died of cancer aged 61 in September 2007, having coached an array of national teams.