On a weekend when the Blues would have been playing West Ham United away, we recall a famous past meeting at Upton Park when Charlie Cooke scored the winner…
A packed Boleyn Ground, and the BBC’s cameras, were bathed in sunshine on 20 August 1966 as almost 36,000 representatives of a grateful nation hailed West Ham United’s England World Cup heroes for the first time since that famous July afternoon at Wembley, with Tommy Docherty’s Chelsea the visitors.
In an attempt to entice novice viewers into a lifelong love of the game, television commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme would blend his usually urbane dialogue into baby food banter for the ‘Match of the Day’ highlights, pointing out the most basic aspects of the game with enthusiasm.
Even the programme for the season-opener against the Blues was dubbed a ‘World Cup Souvenir’ for the day, and its cover and page after page of the content inside lauded their Three Lions: Geoff Hurst, Bobby Moore, and Martin Peters.
‘All three at the start of the match came out on to the pitch for a rousing tribute from the spectators,’ reported the Illustrated London News. After the final whistle, though, the chatter was all about how Chelsea’s new Scottish winger Charlie Cooke (pictured top) had nailed the Hammers.
Under the predictable headline ‘Oh, Charlie’s The Darling’ the People newspaper was ready to crown the Blues’ bonnie prince. The sparkling league debutant, they reckoned, showed ‘deceptively casual and cheeky dribbling’ and ‘moved intelligently into the few open spaces, contributed to the general teamwork, and certainly showed he can look after himself. He has the potential to be one of the game’s personalities.’
After Ronnie Boyce had equalised John Hollins’ worked free-kick (earned by Cooke), the 23-year-old grabbed an impressive winner, ‘gaining possession about the centre circle and weaving his way past defenders before netting a 25-yard shot,’ as the Aberdeen Press put it.
A sub-text to the match had been allegations that Peter Bonetti was tapped-up by his team-mates from the claret-and-blue camp while away with England, and the Hammers’ goalie on the day, Jim Standen, gave a poor account of himself.
Not so the unsettled ‘Cat’, whose agility and shot-stopping denied Hurst three times and left the hosts’ manager Ron Greenwood in awe. ‘How do you beat a goalkeeper like that?’ the former Blues defender marvelled.
Travelling fans were already singing Cooke’s name on the way home, though sadly the goalscoring prowess evident in east London returned all too rarely for a man of his ability. Never the less the victory was Chelsea’s – and it was our first ever in the league on the Hammers’ own patch.