Chelsea Football Club is greatly saddened by the passing of our former manager Ron Suart yesterday (Wednesday) at the age of 94.
He was in charge of the team for a brief period in the mid-1970s but his long and valuable service to the club, in several roles, stretched over 16 years.
A native of the far north-west of England, Suart joined Chelsea in the summer of 1967 as an assistant at the very end of Tommy Docherty’s stewardship. He remained in his role when 'the Doc' was succeeded soon after by Dave Sexton, and acted as caretaker manager for a few weeks between the two.
Working with Sexton, he helped guide the Blues to FA Cup final and European Cup Winners’ Cup final triumphs against Leeds United and Real Madrid respectively.
When the club’s fortunes later took a turn for the worse, it was Suart (pictured below right) the directors asked to take over the reins in October 1974, initially as a caretaker again but after five weeks on a permanent basis. He promoted former left-back Eddie McCreadie (below left) from reserve-team coach to become his first-team coach.
Suart’s first game as manager was a 1-1 draw away to Manchester City with his first home league match a win over Tottenham. He also enjoyed a Boxing Day victory over Arsenal at Highbury and another derby win at West Ham, and it needed an 89th-minute equaliser at Anfield to deny us a win at high-flying Liverpool, but star players such as Peter Osgood, Alan Hudson and David Webb had departed in Sexton’s final year and this was a struggling Chelsea side, with off-the-pitch difficulties far from helping.
Three places from the bottom of the table when Suart took over, we were one place higher in April 1975 when he 'moved upstairs' after seven months to become general manager. The board had not persuaded Frank Blunstone to give up his job as youth team coach at Manchester United and return to Stamford Bridge, so McCreadie was the former player who become the new team manager although relegation quickly followed.
A fresh, young Chelsea side did return to the top flight two years later and it had been under Suart that players like Ray Wilkins, Tommy Langley and Steve Finnieston began to have runs in the team.
He added chief scout to the list of jobs he fulfilled at Stamford Bridge before leaving after the ownership of the club changed hands in the early 1980s.
Suart later worked as a scout for Wimbledon and his playing days had been as a defender for hometown club Barrow, Blackpool, Blackburn and, as player-manager, at Wigan.
He then managed at Scunthorpe and back at this former club Blackpool (where his eye for talent uncovered future England stars Alan Ball and Emlyn Hughes) before he joined Chelsea. He had a quietly spoken and thoughtful approach and wherever he worked he earned great affection and respect.
Chelsea Football Club sends our deepest condolences to Ron’s family and friends.
Club historian Rick Glanvill writes:
‘Always fit for his age and still as hard as nails on the training pitch as he was in his playing days, Ron was one of those multi-skilled men who were essential to clubs in the 1970s and 1980s. Whether as assistant manager showing new signing Ian Hutchinson the ropes at the training ground, then chucking him a tenner to get a mini-cab to his digs after, or clattering into Ron Harris to test the latter’s fitness before the 1970 FA Cup final, or scouting Paul Canoville at a non-league match in 1982, Ron covered a lot of bases well. He also had that valuable commodity: football wisdom.
‘Much of it went unnoticed to fans but the players really appreciated him. His one unexpected spell in the Iimelight at Chelsea came when Dave Sexton was sacked in 1974 and Suart the assistant briefly stepped up. A few months later he reverted to the shadows, making way for and offering vital support for Eddie McCreadie.
‘Into his nineties Ron still talked passionately and affectionately about his long and interesting spell at the Bridge. Anyone who passed through the club during that time will be very sad to hear of his passing.’