Just 72 hours into his job as manager of Chelsea, former left-back Eddie McCreadie axed his former team-mates Marvin Hinton, John Hollins, Peter Houseman and Steve Kember and drafted in fledglings John Sparrow, 17, Ray Wilkins and Teddy Maybank, both 18, and Ian Britton, 19.
That team selection for a crunch game at White Hart Lane in April 1975 vividly set out his brief, thrilling time in the Stamford Bridge hot seat. The Scot fashioned a pragmatic blend of still-viable oldsters and young men keen to please; some had genuine qualities, others were blooded early as the money was simply not there for higher wages.
He could do nothing to prevent relegation but soon forged a vibrant team full of running and verve, its younger men hanging on his every word and the seniors swept along for the ride. He was also persuasive enough to have all the players accept a salary cut as financial strife threatened the club’s very existence.
The talented midfielder Wilkins had been made skipper in the first team selection and he became the conductor in McCreadie’s orchestra. A porous defence and lack of firepower rendered the 1975/76 season a disappointment. But with Peter Bonetti still performing in goal, Ray Lewington fetching and carrying, Kenny Swain adding the style and Steve ‘Jock’ Finnieston finishing fearlessly, the 1976/77 promotion campaign became one of the most memorable for years, the young Blues finishing second with a huge away following everywhere they went.
McCreadie, the poetry-writing, tinted glasses and fur coat-wearing young boss was the epitome of cool too. Top-flight status was regained in flamboyant fashion with a 4-0 drubbing of Hull City in May. Then, within a few months, Chelsea supporters’ dreams were dashed as the club announced no agreement with McCreadie, who had been working without a contract, could be reached. By July1977 the Scot was gone, soon to find his way to a new life in the USA, where he still lives.