1977 - 1978
A decade at the Bridge as an international player before nurturing the youngsters in the youth system had produced a man steeped in the club’s culture and ready to do his best in any role for Chelsea.
However Ken Shellito was not expecting to succeed his more effervescent former team-mate and fellow full-back, Eddie McCreadie, as first team manager and had no experience at that level.
The Blues’ financial concerns demanded a dependency on players from the juniors scheme, though, and no one knew them better than their former coach.
With an honest, low-key approach, Shellito successfully achieved his key objective of retaining the club’s top-flight status in 1977/78 thanks largely to the goals of homegrowns Tommy Langley and Clive Walker.
Shellito’s buzzing, bustling side put five past Ipswich and Birmingham, and blissfully scalped Liverpool 3-1 in the league and 4-2 in the FA Cup.
Yet the latter part of season, notably an embarrassing cup exit to Orient and a 0-6 thrashing at Goodison Park, suggested all was far from hunky dory.
Chelsea reached the middle of December 1978 with just two league wins to their name, with four successive losses. Worse, from the economic perspective, gates were tumbling to around 19,000. Yugoslav coach Miljan Mijanic had been sounded out about helping – or replacing – Chelsea’s young boss. Expecting miracles from an inexperienced manager had failed again, and Shellito left his post.
‘Genuine managerial talent has a price beyond their strained pocket,’ warned the Mirror. Yet the penniless Blues’ board would again be forced into a compromise appointment: Danny Blanchflower.
Happily, Shellito went on to have a long and successful career in coaching and is technical director at Chelsea FC’s Soccer School in Sabah, Malaysia.