Today marks 23 years since the tragedy which ended the life of Chelsea Football Club vice-chairman Matthew Harding. The video above recalls a very special Blues supporter.
Harding was one of five victims when a helicopter returning from a League Cup tie at Bolton Wanderers crashed in 1996. The others were Ray Deane, Tony Burridge, John Bauldie and Mick Goss.
Harding became a member of the Chelsea board of directors in 1994 having been a long-standing fan of the club and one of his first and most enduring impacts was to play a major part in financing a much-needed new stand at Stamford Bridge, at the north end of the ground. It’s a stand that carries his name in tribute to this day.
A wealthy businessman, he also assisted in the purchasing of new players at a time when Chelsea were a rising force which was earning admirers for our style of football under manager Glenn Hoddle, with whom Harding had a close bond.
An FA Cup final and a lengthy European campaign during that time were new to a generation of our supporters, and exciting new signings were being made but tragically, a second FA Cup final in the space of three years and our first piece of major silverware for 26 years came a few months too late for Harding to be there in person.
His name was sung by the thousands of Blues supporters who were at Wembley that day and his presence and contribution have never been forgotten since. His successful professional life might have led Matthew Harding to the boardroom, but he remained fundamentally a down-to-earth dyed-in-the-wool Chelsea fan.
As Hoddle told the Chelsea matchday programme in later years, ‘Matthew will be sitting up there looking down now and loving Chelsea being winners. He’ll just love Chelsea winning’.