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Don Howe 1935-2015

Chelsea Football Club sends our deepest condolences to the family and friends of our former coach Don Howe who has passed away at the age of 80.

Howe worked at Chelsea for one season, the 1992/93 campaign, brought in to assist manager Ian Porterfield in his second year in charge and arriving as the most respected English coach of his generation, especially due to his work at Arsenal, with Wimbledon when they won the FA Cup and with the England national team that reached the quarter-finals of the 1986 World Cup and the semi-finals at Italia ’90.   

Porterfield allowed Howe complete control of training and he had no problem gaining the respect of a squad containing the likes of Andy Townsend, Steve Clarke, Dennis Wise and Mick Harford as well as several promising youngsters.

A 10-game unbeaten run with good football played had the Blues well-placed in the top division and promised much. However the reoccurrence of heart problems that had required surgery a few years earlier took Howe away from the Harlington training ground and Stamford Bridge for a spell and the team’s form took a dive, costing Porterfield his job before the season’s end with David Webb the short-term replacement.

In the summer of 1993 one of Howe’s former England players, Glenn Hoddle, arrived to take charge but Howe chose not to accept a new scouting role and left Chelsea. He later worked again with England including at Euro ’96.

Club historian Rick Glanvill writes:

Don Howe’s time at Chelsea was a case of what might have been. He joined as an experienced coach to assist young manager Ian Porterfield. With his tactical shrewdness, emphasis on strict discipline and organisation, and understanding of the footballer’s mind, Howe played a fundamental role in the Blues’ ascent to the top six in Division One of November that year.

Chelsea actually nudged up to fourth in the table with a 2-1 win at White Hart Lane on 5 December. Howe told the players on the way back to enjoy themselves because they had earned it – but to be ready to continue the hard work on Monday. By the time the players turned up for training, though, Howe had been taken seriously ill.

He would never return to full effect, and the club’s fortunes suffered accordingly. ‘When we lost Don Howe,’ Dennis Wise later recalled, ‘our hopes for that season went with him.’

Who knows what that talented early Nineties side might have achieved had Don not suffered such a sad personal setback.