Tommy Docherty

1962 – 1967

On 26 September 1961, first team coach Tommy Docherty, a combative Scottish midfielder until the previous season, was asked to succeed the only man ever to win the league with Chelsea, Ted Drake.

Drake was only four years into a 10-year contract — the longest ever handed to a manager at the time — but the Board felt he fell short in converting brilliant juniors into winning pros. That responsibility now fell to someone who had only just hung up his boots. In keeping with the rebellious Sixties, Chelsea’s new manager was maverick, sharp-witted and thoroughly modern. He would introduce training and tactical innovations borrowed from Europe’s top clubs, and introduce the blue-blue-white strip that is Chelsea’s iconic kit

Yet some players found his unpredictability difficult to take and ‘The Doc,’ in turn, resented the influence the young skipper Terry Venables exerted over his teammates. Life was never ever dull with Docherty at the wheel. Club secretary John Battersby relates the story from a European trip of an air stewardess coming to the back of the airplane to ask if someone in authority might stop the high-jinks of the players at the front, which were disturbing other passengers. Battersby obliged and found the source of the uproar to be the ebullient Docherty.

When this or other incidents occurred, the Scot’s close relationship with chairman Joe Mears spared further action. Mears indulged Docherty’s darker moments because he had, indeed, produced the most exciting Chelsea team for decades, and without breaking the bank. Fast, vibrant, youthful, they suffered relegation in the first few months of his management but roared back with promotion in 1963. The following season ‘Docherty’s Diamonds’ genuinely challenged for the domestic treble (London’s first League Cup success, though welcome, was scant reward for their performances) but is chiefly remember now for the ‘Blackpool Incident.’ On 22 April 1965 Docherty sent eight players home for breaking curfew at their Blackpool hotel; with those men absent the Blues lost 2-6 the following weekend, ending any remaining title chance. ‘Possibly I’m too impulsive,’ he admitted. ‘Possibly I could be more understanding.’ Nevertheless in 1965/66, the Blues enjoyed a fantastic Inter-Cities Fairs Cup campaign, falling to Barcelona in the semi-finals only after a replay. That same year, though, Mears died suddenly of a heart attack and the Doc’s tempestuous side would no longer be tolerated.

After the huge disappointment of losing the ‘first Cockney cup final’ to Spurs at Wembley in 1967, Docherty abused a local official on a Caribbean tour and was handed a lengthy ban from the game. Chelsea swiftly sacked him and Dave Sexton would return to inherit a much-admired squad. The passing of a thrilling, rollercoaster era was widely lamented. One supporter paid for a death notice in the Times: ‘In Memoriam, Chelsea Football Club, which died Oct. 6 1967, after 5 proud and glorious years.’

In those years at the Bridge Docherty had spent £615,750 but recouped £776,000 — a surplus of £160,250. Few Chelsea managers can boast the same.