The Year of the Pig arrives on the Chinese zodiac calendar every 12 years and it has often been an eventful time for Chelsea Football Club whether the Blues have been challenging for honours or battling for survival.
As we welcome the Lunar New Year, we reflect on the successes and disappointments which the Blues have experienced on the last five occasions we have celebrated the Year of the Pig.
A youth movement was underway at Stamford Bridge when future Chelsea stars Barry Bridges and Bobby Tambling made their first-team debuts in February 1959 with both 18-year-olds scoring in a 3-2 league win over West Ham United. Bridges went on to score 93 goals in 205 appearances for the Blues, while Tambling notched 202 goals, a club record which stood until it was broken by Frank Lampard in 2013.
Greaves on fire: Jimmy Greaves was in a prolific scoring form for the Blues with Preston North End suffering most against the 19-year-old, who got 10 goals in three games against the Lilywhites in 1959 including all five in a 5-4 victory in December.
Chelsea enjoyed continental success for the first time in the 1971 Cup Winners’ Cup. Victories against Belgium’s Club Brugge in the quarter-finals and holders Manchester City in the last four set up a final against Real Madrid in Athens with Peter Osgood giving the Blues the lead after 56 minutes before the Spanish side levelled in the final minute. The replay took place at the same venue two days later with John Dempsey and Osgood getting our goals in a 2-1 victory.
Webb goes in goal: David Webb displayed his versatility in December 1971 when he became our starting goalkeeper for a league game against Ipswich Town following injuries to Peter Bonetti and John Phillips. The defender duly kept a clean sheet in our 2-0 win.
After narrowly avoiding relegation to the Third Division in the 1982/83 season, Chelsea brought in several new players in the summer of 1983 including goalkeeper Eddie Niedzwiecki, midfielder Nigel Spackman, winger Pat Nevin and striker Kerry Dixon. It resulted in a remarkable turnaround in the club’s fortunes as we beat Derby County 5-0 on opening day, suffered only one defeat in our first 17 league games and won promotion back to the top flight as Second Division champions.
Walker’s crucial strike: With the club facing the real threat of relegation, Clive Walker netted a late winner in an important 1-0 victory at Bolton Wanderers in May 1983 to preserve our place in the second tier at the expense of the Trotters
In Chelsea’s first European campaign for 24 years, Glenn Hoddle’s side reached the last four of the Cup Winners’ Cup after a fine comeback win against Club Brugge in the quarter-finals. Trailing 1-0 from the first leg in Belgium, the Blues roared back at Stamford Bridge with goals by Mark Stein and Paul Furlong sending us through to a semi-final meeting with Real Zaragoza. However, the Spanish side ended our run in the semi-finals with a 4-3 aggregate win before beating Arsenal in the final.
Gullit arrives: In a big statement of intent by the club, Chelsea signed former Ballon d’Or winner Ruud Gullit on a free transfer in the summer of 1995. The Dutchman went on to become our player-manager and led us to our first major success in 26 years as we lifted the FA Cup in 1997.
Chelsea missed out on a third consecutive Premier League in the 2006/07 season but there was still fresh silverware in the trophy cabinet as we completed a domestic cup double. Didier Drogba was the key man in both of our triumphs as the Ivorian netted a brace in our 2-1 comeback victory over Arsenal in the League Cup final before scoring our extra-time winner against Manchester United as the Blues became the first team to win the FA Cup at the new Wembley.
JT’s knockout blow: John Terry was taken off unconscious and sent to hospital after he was accidentally kicked in the head during the League Cup final. The Chelsea captain missed the trophy presentation but discharged himself and returned to the stadium to join the celebrations with his team-mates.