We tell the story of how one of the great Blues sides became paired with part-time minnows in European competition, and of the goal-laden two matches that followed…
A butcher, a baker but sadly no candlestick maker arrived at Stamford Bridge 50 years ago this week, along with a party of others from the small country of Luxembourg who played football for a hobby.
By the time they left London they had against their names the biggest aggregate defeat over two legs in the history of European football competition. Today is the 50th anniversary of Chelsea's 13-0 win over Jeunesse Hautcharage in the first round second leg of the European Cup Winners' Cup 1971/72, to this day our biggest win in a game in any competition.
Two weeks earlier we had won the first leg 8-0 in Luxembourg and we had not rested on our laurels during the rematch. 'Lucky 13 as Chelsea Smash Record!' shouted a newspaper headline after the Stamford Bridge second leg but although it was indeed a historic victory in world football, it must also be admitted it was one of the great mismatches of all-time.
Chelsea in 1971/72 were the holders of the Cup Winners' Cup after beating Real Madrid in the final the previous May having domestically, just finished sixth in the league. It was still very much the 'Kings of the King's Road' side with Peter Osgood, Charlie Cooke, Alan Hudson, Peter Bonetti et al on board, although the successful spell under manager Dave Sexton was coming to an end.
To say Jeunesse Hautcharage had been surprise winners of the Luxembourg Cup the previous season would be an understatement. A club from a village with just 704 inhabitants, they were in Luxembourg's third division when they stunned the country by winning the cup final 4-1 after extra-time against Jeunesse Esch, one of the country's biggest clubs, although they did win promotion to the second division by the end of the season as well.
In the club's 52-year history they had only played in the top flight for one season and their previous best run in the cup had taken them to the quarter-finals. The local brewery celebrated the 1971 cup win by offering free beer to the village for three days and three nights but everyone had sobered up by the time Chelsea came calling in mid-September for the first European match in Hautcharage's history.
'I must admit that we didn't know much about them before we played,' Chelsea's goalkeeper in the tie Peter Bonetti (pictured below) said when he recalled the tie 10 years ago, ‘but it soon became clear it would be an easy game.
‘We were obviously in a different class from them and it was their first time in Europe and we had a bit of experience of playing in Europe.'
Player/coach Romain Schoder was one Hautcharage team member who had played at a higher level in Luxembourg but that was as a goalkeeper. Now he was his team's sweeper. He, like the rest of the players, didn't earn a penny from football, as long as a wrist watch they were given to commemorate winning the cup didn't count. They only trained two nights a week and for their home game against Chelsea, some made the journey to the ground by bicycle, directly from work.
There were a couple of claimants to be the football dynasty in Hautcharage. Joseph Thill was the club chairman and Guy Thill was their youngest and most promising player, despite only having one arm. The club also had four Welscher brothers. Eddy, the oldest, was the captain.
Only 1,500 could have attended the first leg had it not been moved to Luxembourg's national stadium where a 13,000 crowd watched on.
Before the game, a Jeunesse official admitted, ‘We have no hope! If we lose 7-1 we’ll be happy.’
Had any of them secretly harboured highly ambitious hopes that the mother of all giant-killings might be possible, those were surely banished after just two minutes when Osgood scored. Peter Houseman then put away a second goal and Ossie headed another to make it 3-0 inside half-an-hour. He completed his hat-trick before half-time with Houseman, again, plus Tommy Baldwin and John Hollins, with a 25-yarder, added to the scoresheet before the interval. Baldwin and David Webb scored in the second half to complete the 8-0 win.
Five of the goals were headers. Osgood, twice, and Baldwin also struck woodwork. Had the return match been away from home rather than at the Bridge then the Chelsea players might have felt the temptation to go a little easy on the lambs who had been brought to the second-leg slaughter, but the Chelsea match programme for the game carried words on the need to 'put on a show' for the 27,621 supporters who had paid to see it, although it did speculate that the rarest of scorers Ron Harris (pictured below with the Cup Winners' Cup) could find the net on the night, and on the possibility that Bonetti would play in attack at some stage with David Webb going in goal.
The programme also made everyone aware of records that might be set. Chelsea had not hit double figures in a single game before, and the previous best aggregate scoring by any club in a European tie was 18 goals with the best score by a British club 16-0.
'Records were something I didn't even think about before the game,' said Bonetti. 'It was only when we had finished I thought blimey, we might have scored a record amount here but I couldn't have told you what the record score in Europe was anyway. It certainly didn't cross my mind for a minute going into that second leg.
'And I was never going to play elsewhere in the team. We weren't going to muck around. It was a serious game and to start changing positions wouldn't have been very professional.
'When you are playing a side like that who might not be as experienced as we were you can't let them off the leash, you have to go out and play your best because you have a duty to yourself and your team and to the fans. I don't think we took the mickey at all, we played our stuff and got the goals and were very professional about the whole situation.'
All four Welschers brother were in the Hautcharage team at the Bridge; there were also two Thills in the side and one of the visiting team wore glasses during the match. Osgood declared before the game that he would score six goals, which would have set a new best for a player in Europe, but was positively sluggish at the start compared with the first leg, taking four minutes to open the scoring although he had two goals by the sixth minute when keeper Lucien Fusilier dropped a cross.
John Hollins's successful penalty meant the Blues were already 4-0 up after 13 minutes and as in the first leg, the half-time score was 6-0. As speculated in the programme, the sixth was scored by Harris who ended a 20-minute ‘goal drought’. The eighth goal gave Osgood his second hat-trick of the tie and it was Houseman who struck the historic 10th in the 77th minute, taking Chelsea beyond the nine-goal hauls put past Glossop and past Worksop way back in the first three seasons of the club's existence.
When Osgood made it 11-0 Chelsea had set a new European record. Our no.9 headed in goal no.12 from a corner for a personal five goals on the night and there he would stick. Baldwin completed his second-half hat-trick with the last kick of the game and Chelsea had won 13-0. Those had come from a huge 54 goal attempts, five of which hit the post or crossbar.
It seems strange to talk of eight-goal Osgood (pictured above) falling short of targets but in 'only' scoring five in the second leg he had equalled rather than surpassed the eight-goal record for individual scoring in any European tie and had also lost a bet with team-mate Bonetti.
'Ossie had said to me in the dressing room before we went out that he was going get six having got three in the first leg, and I was winding him up by saying I bet you don't. In the end I said I'll bet you a fiver.
'Later on after the game he told people that when we got the penalty, I came up to him and said you can't take that because John Hollins is our penalty-taker but I don't remember that at all!
'Fair enough though, he came into the dressing room and gave me the fiver straight away.'
In 2006, Hautcharage's Guy Thill spoke to Chelsea's club historian Rick Glanvill about the game. 'I was a student and there were steel and railway workers, a hairdresser and a butcher in our team,' he said.
'None of our work experience was any use to us against Chelsea, not even the butcher's!
'We knew what to expect from Chelsea. I'd watched them beat Real Madrid in the final the previous season, which was a good game, and I remember we were really happy to be drawn to play Chelsea, a big London club. We never ever thought we would win the tie. The manager spoke to us before the game and told us to try not to lose too high.
'Chelsea were too strong for us obviously. We had hardly any opportunity even to shoot,' the former midfielder recalled.
'I had one chance to test Bonetti, a free-kick, at 2-0 [in the first leg] - it would have been a sensation to score. He caught it.
'We had a good time in London, looking around, doing the big sights. The players were great with us, and signed autographs as we wished. It was a great atmosphere and we never thought they'd be gentle with us and they weren't.
'Thirteen goals to nil there, and 21-0 overall, it's quite a lot. We weren't upset that it went in the history books, though - Luxembourg teams, we are used to it.
'After the game there was a dinner, and we met all the players. None of them said "hard luck" though! We really enjoyed the day.'
Chelsea's outright European victory margin record lasted just a season. Feyenoord beat Rumelange from…you've guessed it… Luxembourg by the same score in the 1972/73 UEFA Cup first round, but we still hold that joint record to this day.
Jeunesse Hautcharage no longer exists as team name. The club merged with another some years ago and plays in a different, larger town. The new outfit rose to mid-table in the Luxembourg top flight although they currently play in the second tier.
With hindsight, Chelsea's thumping of the minnows from the middle of Europe can be viewed as a last hurrah for Sexton's team that had captured the hearts of so many. In the next round of the Cup Winners' Cup we did suffer a giant-killing, on away goals at the hands of Swedish club Atvidabergs.
Although a far bigger team than Hautcharage (they were soon to be crowned national champions), Atvidabergs were part-timers. We wouldn't compete in Europe again until 1994.
Before the 1971/72 season was completed we were knocked out the FA Cup by second division Orient and the following weekend lost the League Cup Final at Wembley to underdogs Stoke, missing out on three different trophies in three years. Soon the team would break up, but they left behind winning margins in European competition which it is hard to imagine any Chelsea side of the future managing to surpass.