Chelsea Football Club is greatly saddened to learn of the passing of our former player Dale Jasper at the age of only 56.
Jasper was a tall, elegant midfielder/defender who came through the youth system at the club to play for first team during the early 1980s. A south Londoner and a Chelsea fan while growing up, he was handed his debut by manager John Neal during the Second Division championship-winning season of 1983/84.His first game, when he played centre-back, could hardly have been more dramatic. Chelsea were losing 3-0 with less than 10 minutes to go before showing incredible fortitude to draw 3-3.‘I can't believe what took place out there, I'm just shell-shocked at the moment. It's hard to believe it was the same match in the second half,’ Jasper said afterwards.
He also started the game at Grimsby when the divisional title was secured at the end of the season and was one of the big hopes for the future.Another famous game in a golden period for the remerging Blues was our first one back in the top-flight after five years away – at a packed Highbury with a massive Chelsea following present. Jasper started that game too as we held our own and drew 1-1.
The trend for Jasper appearing in our most dramatic games of the era continued that season at Sheffield Wednesday. Neal’s team again came back from being 3-0 down to draw a League Cup quarter-final tie 4-4 although the semi-final at Sunderland went less well. Jasper replaced injured Joe McLaughlin early in the game on a frozen pitch but he conceded two penalties, although one was not converted.He retained his place for a few games after that but having barely featured under new manager John Hollins the following season, he left for Brighton in November 1985 having made 15 Chelsea appearances. He later played for Crewe where he made over 100 appearances before moving into non-league football.Chelsea Football Club sends our condolences to Dale’s family, friends and former team-mates.
One of his team-mates during his Chelsea days, Pat Nevin, pays tribute:
'Everyone at the club is hugely saddened by the news that our former player and our friend, Dale Jasper, has died suddenly. For those of us who knew him personally, played with him and trained alongside him day after day, it is particularly painful.'Dale was about as much fun as you could find wrapped up in one person. He had a brilliant personality in the dressing room at Stamford Bridge and was always up for a surreal laugh with all of us, particularly when he was with his great friends Colin Pates and John Bumstead. I looked forward to seeing and hearing the madness that would ensue every single day when they would walk into the changing rooms. I admit openly those were the three whose company I always sought out first.'He delighted in playing the dimwit but he wasn’t that daft. You couldn’t be as classy a footballer as he was and be totally senseless. He played the role perfectly. For those who never saw him, he was graceful on the field in the way Glenn Hoddle was. He could ping beautiful long passes not unlike Glenn or maybe even like David Luiz did in the modern day game for Chelsea. It was harder then with the poorer pitches, but he always tried to play good football, even if those around him were sometimes more likely to just lump it long. Dale was too good for that.
'Because of that I think Dale would have been better suited as a player in the modern era, much better as a controlling midfielder but also capable of playing at centre-back, again in much the same way as many of us think of David Luiz. Because of that love of playing it out from the back, just like David, he could get caught out now and again. I admired him for sticking to that style, especially back then when it was so alien to much of British football culture. My adoration of David stems from the love of Dale and that similar outlook on the game. They also shared a love of a harmless silliness with a big dash of passion in every part of life
'I can only think of him now giggling like Mutley from the Wacky Races, those of our vintage would know exactly what I mean. He seemed to giggle at every given opportunity and it was infectious. I am choked and smiling at the same time as I think about him right now.'There aren’t that many people whose words have stuck with me so vividly. Walking around randomly saying "What’s occurring?" to no one in particular, instead of saying ‘what’s going on’ or ‘what’s happening’ like everyone else would say. Somehow those two words said by Dale me made laugh every time.'He always interested others and delighted in asking me what I was doing on the team coach. I was reading the plays of the Russian literary giant Anton Chekhov one day and Dale, much to my surprise, said he knew Chekhov’s work well. He then said he was surprised that I was a Star Trek fan. Wrong Chekhov, but we had a great chat about Captain Kirk, Mr Spock, Sulu and Chekhov all the same.'He wasn’t always a regular starter in our team at the time (Colin Pates and Joe McLaughlin were a perfect partnership and rarely injured) but we all knew he was as naturally talented as anyone at the club, even if all the fans didn’t always appreciate his cultured style when we were under pressure. They knew like us however that he was "a player" and there wasn’t a better passer of a ball at the club. That is not to say he couldn’t tackle, he was as committed as anyone. Unlike some other cultured players of the time, he could still mix it.'He was also a true Chelsea boy coming through the youth ranks and a Blues fan even as a kid.
'There were some real highlights in his short Chelsea career. He performed with distinction when we came back to the top division and played Arsenal at Highbury in front of hordes of Chelsea fans on a very special opening day. He showed he had the quality to shine at the top level that day
'He was part of the most memorable game in my time at Chelsea, our 4-4 away draw in the cup against Sheffield Wednesday. His debut was also in a cracker against Cardiff City away from home, but you wouldn’t have thought it was the youngster's first game, he looked totally assured on the ball throughout. He just seemed to love being part of Chelsea Football Club and nothing could get him down if he was here.'I recall out of the blue, one day he said to me, "I think I’ll get married." An extremely good looking lad, I wondered who the lucky girl was."I dunno yet," came the answer."So why do you want to get married, Dale?""I think I just want to knock out a sprog," came the dead-pan reply.'From anyone else it would sound almost heartless and a bit stupid, from him it sounded and was meant to be funny and caring. He didn’t seem to have a bad bone in his body and I couldn’t imagine anyone being offended by him. You couldn’t be angry with someone who had such a kind heart. There was simply no negative side to see.'I have always loved the company of these special but rare souls. Dale was funny, disarming and always ready to see the silly side of anything. People like that are a joy to be around. Like everyone else that knew him back in those days I am devastated he will not be around us any more to make us happier and less self-centred people. His memory however will always will be with us.'We miss you Dale and as Colin Pates said to me today, simply and perfectly - "I loved the guy, I’m heartbroken."'