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Big Sam's Bridge own-goal

Sam Allardyce will be co-managing the England side this summer when Soccer Aid comes to Stamford Bridge, and he won't want to be reminded of his unfortunate role in one of the greatest comebacks ever seen at our west London home.

Last week we recalled a remarkable fightback by Chelsea against Cardiff City, in which John Neal's side came from 3-0 down in the final five minutes to salvage the unlikeliest of draws in the 1984 – and exactly 35 years later, Maurizio Sarri's men pulled off a late turnaround against the Bluebirds.

That blog sparked a debate over social media regarding the best comebacks ever seen involving your beloved Blues and it seems a game against Bolton Wanderers back in October 1978 ranks highly with supporters who remember a lost cause which was turned around in similarly thrilling circumstances.

Unlike in the 1983/84 campaign, which ended with the club lifting the Division Two title and returning to the big time, 1978/79 was a largely forgettable season for those of a Blues persuasion. Indeed, it ended in the relegation which saw us spend the subsequent five campaigns in the second tier, thus making the promotion all the more special.

There was, however, one major highlight in a season in which we won only five matches out of 44 in all competitions – and we owe it all to a Chelsea TV pundit and the man who will be in the dugout taking charge of England at Soccer Aid on Sunday 16 June here at the Bridge.

Back then, Big Sam was an uncompromising centre-half for the Trotters and he and his team-mates were enjoying a carefree afternoon in west London after racing into a three-goal lead by the 40th minute.

They were cruising to victory in the second half and as much as the fans were pleased to see flying winger Clive Walker, who has long been a regular presence in the Chelsea TV studio, finally get the nod from Ken Shellito to enter the action with 20 minutes remaining, no one could honestly see what was about to unfold.

'I'd been warming up from about half-time onwards and was just thinking, “What can I do if I come on?”' recalled Walker in an interview with the matchday programme a few years ago. 'It's almost a lost cause and I think it was more of a token effort from Ken to try to see if we could get a bit of pride. I don't think there was much hope of us going on and winning it, but obviously the picture changed as soon as I got on the pitch.'

He wasn't wrong there. Within a few minutes he'd set up Tommy Langley, another CTV favourite, to pull one back. Suddenly, everyone in the stadium started to see a turnaround could be on the cards, and Walker notes that the supporters had a part to play in the comeback as well.

'The one good thing, for me, was that throughout my warm-up, which seemed almost endless, I recall the fans asking for me to be sent on,' he said. 'In those days you were only allowed to use one substitute, so it was the change they wanted. There was a bit of a buzz from the crowd when I came on, which was lovely, and then for us to score quite quickly gives you an instant lift. You start to think that if you can just get another soon after, who knows what will happen.'

Instead, it took until the 84th minute for the Blues to pull back a second, courtesy of Kenny Swain, but suddenly the fans were rocking as Walker got the equaliser after being set-up by a pass from Ray Lewington which the midfield would later suggest was the best of his career.

'It was at the Shed End and that always gave everyone a bit of a lift because of the feeling of the fans behind that goal,' Walker added. 'The Shed was the ultimate end to score and I was fortunate to get quite a few goals there.

'I'm led to believe by fans who've told me this, that some were leaving when we were 3-0 down and they heard the roar from the first goal and some of them came back in. It was just a total reversal of emotions... So when the roar went up for the third goal I'm sure they were coming in off the King's Road!'

Those who turned back around witnessed Walker at his flying best, and there would be one final twist in this remarkable tale. The Trotters defence simply could not live with his pace and when he broke free down the flanks once more in stoppage time, he sent a low cross into the box...

'At the time, Sam was a big, solid centre-back with no inhibitions at all – he'd kick anything that moved, including you, the ball and everything else,' joked Walker. 'So I was grateful when he got that size 15 boot of his on the ball to send it in. It was a low, hard cross in between defenders, where they hated it, and in trying to block it he sent it into the back of the net. I'm very grateful to Sam and it's one of those I've never let him forget!'

Somehow, in a season which would be filled with misery, the Blues had produced the performance of a lifetime in those final 20 minutes to salvage what had appeared the most hopeless of causes. There was Big Sam, head in his hands, while Walker and co. jubilantly celebrated in front of a raucous Shed End.

Walker is best remembered by Blues supporters for three performances in particular. That two of them came against Bolton Wanderers – the other was an FA Cup tie against Liverpool – suggests he is perhaps not the most popular with Trotters fans. It was his goal against them, of course, at the end of the 1982/83 season which effectively secured our Division Two status while condemning them to relegation.

And while Big Sam may have enjoyed the odd victory over us in his managerial career, to Chelsea fans of a certain vintage, he'll always be synonymous with that own-goal.

Years later, having provided punditry for a Blues away game in Europe, Allardyce just so happened to be on the same plane back as many of our supporters who had been in attendance, many of whom took great pleasure in reminding him of that moment. To his credit, he handled it in good humour – but we wouldn't have liked to have been in the visiting dressing room shortly after the final whistle had blown on this sensational comeback.

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