John Hollins

1985 - 1988

The legendary midfielder returned from spells at QPR and Arsenal to take up a playing and coaching role at his boyhood club in summer 1983 — ‘He was out of work and we thought it would be nice to bring an old boy back to the club,’ said John Neal a year later. ‘We didn’t expect him to play long.’ Sadly, Neal’s time in the dugout would be equally brief because of ill-health. Hollins took full charge in 1985 and initially carried on in the same rich vein as his predecessor, matching his fifth-place finish.

March 1986 even delivered longed-for silverware to supporters, if only in the poorly-regarded Full-Members Cup, after a 5-4 Wembley thriller against Manchester City. Yet Hollins, hard-running, wholehearted and clean-living in his heyday, was frustrated at the lack of consistency in his squad and began to chop and change seeking the right formula. Flair players were asked to do more weight-training in a very physical league, and some buys — and the training methods of his coach, Ernie Walley — were questioned. The team spirit built up since ’83 began to ebb and Chelsea lurched dramatically downwards, the usually prolific Dixon, with 10 league goals, the only man to reach double figures.

Hollins’s final season, 1987/88, was all the more agonising to fans because of his status as a member of the ‘King’s Road’ team. To his surprise, Walley was sacked as coach and replaced by Bobby Campbell but with results continuing to send the club towards relegation, with typical pride and dignity the manager resigned. Now, happily, reconciled with the club, the amiable Hollins is a regular at Chelsea events and a frequent face in the media.

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