Bobby Tambling will be the new Chelsea legend honoured with a place on the Shed Wall at Stamford Bridge.
We can reveal today that our former star scorer won a poll of supporters to choose a former player to be added to the wall, and will be present before our Europa League game on Thursday for the unveiling. We also interview him below.
Tens of thousands of fans cast their votes last month to select from a list of five greats from the club’s past which also included Roy Bentley, Jimmy Greaves, John Hollins and Charlie Cooke. Tambling was the most popular choice so at 5.30pm before our game against Slavia Prague, he will be at the Shed Wall for the unveiling ceremony which will be introduced by BBC TV presenter Chris Hollins, whose father John made the case for his ex-team-mate’s inclusion on video at the time of the vote.
Tambling’s Blues career spanned the 1960s and having scored on his debut in 1959, he went on to find the net 202 times in total, having taken on the main goalscorer’s duties from Greaves. He held the record as the club’s leading scorer for almost 50 years until surpasses by Frank Lampard in 2013.
Tambling was the young captain of a team that won promotion, and he found the net as Chelsea won the 1965 League Cup, our first major knockout trophy. He also become the first player to score for Chelsea in an FA Cup final and in a 6-2 win away at Aston Villa he contributed five of the goals. No one has scored more for Chelsea in a league game.
The Shed Wall at the southern end of Stamford Bridge dates back to the early days of the stadium and although no longer part of the large standing terrace for supporters it once was, it is nowadays an impressive boundary alongside a busy walking thoroughfare on both matchdays and non-matchdays.
Along its length a collection of all-time greats in the Chelsea story are celebrated, with images, biographies, honours and quotes, and even QR codes which allow you to find out more. Not a day goes past without hundreds of people stopping to look or have their photos taken next to one of their favourites.
Those featured are Peter Bonetti, Petr Cech, Ashley Cole, Marcel Desailly, Kerry Dixon, Didier Drogba, Ron Harris, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Branislav Ivanovic, Frank Lampard, Peter Osgood, John Terry, Gianluca Vialli, Ray Wilkins, Dennis Wise and Gianfranco Zola.
And soon Tambling as well. We spoke to him about being the fans’ choice to fill the space available on a wall he frequently walks by due to his role as one of our hosts on home matchdays.
‘It is an honour to be up on the wall when you see the other players there,’ he said. ‘This is a nice way to be remembered by the club, to know you have left a footprint.
‘I have always had a great deal of respect for the fans. In our day the fans kept us in a job, the fans paid for football to be there for everyone. It is a two-way street as when they say nice things about me, I can only say nice things about them because they gave us a life that is just a dream.
‘It is still nice to meet them every home game and have a chat. Some of them are my age so know what I was like, and the youngsters know your name from programmes and books, so it is nice to meet them all and have a chat and tell them what it was like in our day.
‘My job back at Chelsea is a pure pleasure, to able to talk and laugh with the fans and let them see we are just normal guys.
‘Being classed as a legend and winning this vote has to go a lot down to the fact I played in a very good Chelsea team. We were a bit like the Man United team of ’92 when there were a group that had all come through together as youngsters. We had a tremendous togetherness. We got on well with the fans. The fans liked to watch us and they had seen us from an early age.’
For Tambling, there is special significance in being honoured at the Shed End of the ground…
‘People used to ask which end we preferred to play towards and it was always the Shed, it was the one all the players preferred. The roar from the fans who were in there, it made a big difference to the lads in my day, they could lift you when things weren’t quite going your way.’
As an ace goalscorer, he chooses his most memorable strike in front of the Shed...
‘The one that stands out was after John Boyle and myself stayed behind one afternoon practising free-kicks with Peter Bonetti in goal, trying to bend them as in those days the balls were not that easy to do that with. We had a good afternoon and a good laugh about it. We had been trying this free-kick where John moved it slightly and I was to curl it around the end of the wall. We used cones for that.
‘The game was against Sheffield Wednesday and we got a free-kick at the Shed End, so John just touched it and I hit it, and it was one of the few balls I managed to curl like the lads do regularly now. The crowd loved that one as much as I did, but I never did the same again, it was a one and only!’
His debut goal, scored 60 years ago when he was 17 years old, was also a Shed End strike…
‘Both Barry Bridges and myself, we made our debuts together against West Ham that day. The week before Barry had played for the reserves in front of about 1,500 fans and I had played for the juniors in front of about 12 people. To suddenly be selected for the first team, there were 55,000 there and for us both to score, we were walking on air coming out of the game. Afterwards the older lads in the dressing room were having a laugh and asking us what we were going to do with the bonus we had just won, and we asked what the bonus was. We then could understand why they were laughing because it was £4. We were not going up the West End on £4!’
Accompanying each legend on the Shed Wall is a shirt number displayed. As Tambling was from the era before squad numbers, he wore several numbers during his years at Chelsea, no.8, no.10 and no.11 the most frequent. He explains his preference…
‘As the style of play changed so did our shirt numbers. I was happy to have any number apart from 12! In the first game I wore 11 and when I started getting into the team I was more of a left-winger than anywhere else. Then as we changed the system and Frankie Blunstone came out on the left, I wore the no.8. I wore 11 again later in my career. People ask which season means most to you and after we had been relegated following Jimmy Greaves leaving, the year we won promotion back into the First Division is the one. So many of us youngsters were in the team, I wore 8, so that is the number I prefer.’