Chelsea face an away match at RB Salzburg in our next pre-season fixture, but how have we got on during our competitive visits to Austria in the past?
We have travelled to the land of Wolfgang Mozart, Sigmund Freud and Arnold Schwarzenegger twice in European competition, and both occasions resulted in tight games which formed part of memorable runs to a couple of semi-finals.
The most recent came during the 1994/95 Cup Winners’ Cup campaign which served as an early marker for our Nineties renaissance under Glenn Hoddle, being paired with Austria Vienna in the second round.
We were held to a goalless draw by a sturdy defensive performance from the visitors at Stamford Bridge, despite Vienna being reduced to 10 men, meaning we had plenty of work to do when we visited the Austrian capital.
However, with the home side pushing hard for the opening goal before half-time, John Spencer scored a goal which lives long in the memory of every Chelsea fan who travelled to Austria that season.
A kind ricochet from a blocked shot following a Vienna corner left Spencer bizarrely clear of the last defender, but only around 10 yards outside of his own penalty area.
The diminutive forward proceeded to sprint headlong up the majority of the Ernst Happel Stadium pitch with the ball, pursued frantically by seemingly the entire opposition team, before showing incredible composure despite what must have been aching legs to put the goalkeeper on the floor with a dummy and lift the ball into the net.
Austria Vienna pulled one back with a powerful half-volley in the second half, but couldn’t find another, meaning Spencer’s lung-busting away goal sent us through, teeing up an emphatic win over Club Brugge before the heartbreaking 4-3 aggregate defeat to Real Zaragoza in the last four.
Our earlier trip to Austria was nearly 30 years before that tie, in the 1965/66 Fairs Cup, as another pioneering Chelsea team emerged under the guidance of Tommy Docherty. At this point still basking in the glory of our first-ever League Cup triumph, many of the young players who formed this ‘Diamonds’ side went on to claim further glory in the FA Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup with Dave Sexton.
This Fairs Cup campaign became the stuff of legend as we defeated Italian giants AC Milan and Roma, German champions 1860 Munich and took Barcelona to a tie-break before finally succumbing in the semi-finals, but the second-round match against Wiener sometimes gets forgotten.
Facing one of Austria’s oldest clubs, who were still a leading side on the continent in the Sixties, although they have fallen on hard times since and slipped down into the regional divisions, we again made life difficult for ourselves in the first leg.
Playing away in Vienna, we were holding our own in a hard-fought game until Marvin Hinton was sent off with less than 10 minutes left, before a late penalty gave Wiener a hopeful lead to take with them to west London.
However, that Blues side rarely accepted defeat and took just six minutes to level the tie through Bert Murray at the Bridge. The legendary Peter Osgood then put us ahead on the half-hour mark, the teenage striker getting his third goal for the club in just the 10th appearance of his fledgling career, before Peter Bonetti and his defenders did their part to deny the visitors a way back into the match, this time Wiener having a man sent off late on.
There was one huge disappointment from the night despite our progression, though, as it signalled the last appearance in a Chelsea shirt by Ken Shellito. The full-back was attempting to return from a horrific knee injury, but a recurrence effectively ended his career at the age of 25, even if his retirement wasn’t made official until nearly three years and several operations later.