The next instalment in our series of interviews with some of Chelsea’s most noteworthy goalkeepers over the past few decades is Tony Godden, who once saved two penalties in as many minutes at Old Trafford.
In the 115-year history of Chelsea Football Club, only three goalkeepers have ever saved two penalties in the same game, the first two of which took place within 30 years of the club’s formation: Willie Foulke against Burslem Port Vale in 1906 and John Jackson versus West Brom in 1935.
Godden added his name to this exclusive club in September 1986 and, what’s more, he saved them both in the space of two minutes. Considering the year this took place in, the Hands of Godden was an appropriate description of this headline-grabbing act.
His performance that day was the highlight of his time at Stamford Bridge, which lasted for just over a year – so you’d be forgiven for not recognising his name, unless you were a Blues fan in the mid-Eigties.
During his time at the club he appeared only 38 times, as regular first-choice Eddie Niedzwiecki fought against the knee injury which would eventually end his playing career, before moving on to Birmingham City.
Here are some of the best bits from an interview he did with Chelsea magazine a few years back.
You were a Chelsea supporter as a boy, weren’t you?I was. The likes of Peter Bonetti, Bobby Tambling, Peter Osgood and Charlie Cooke were my idols. Bonetti was obviously my favourite. He had the nickname the Cat and lived up to that on many occasions. I had a pair of his green gloves and the ink would run on them as soon as they got wet!
Can you remember your first visit to Stamford Bridge?When I was a kid my dad and one of my uncles took me along to a game – my whole family were Chelsea fans. I can’t remember who we played, but the thing that stood out at Stamford Bridge was the size of the crowd. I’d been to see my local team Gillingham play and it was a world away from that! Then there’s the famous Shed End. I’ve got to say, the Chelsea supporters were brilliant.
Does anything stand out from when you first signed?As soon as I opened my mouth I remember Johhny Bumstead and Colin Pates just staring at me. 'What’s up with you two?' I asked them. 'You’re one of us...' they replied. They were expecting a thick Brummie accent because I’d been associated with a Midlands club for so long, but I was immediately accepted by those two when they heard I was a southerner. Colin became my best mate at Chelsea and I’m actually godfather to one of his twins and he’s godfather to one of my daughters.
It's something most of us Blues fans will never experience, so tell us: what’s it like to play for your boyhood club? Does it add more pressure, because it means more to you?I didn't feel any extra pressure because of it, none at all. The only extra pressure I had was getting hold of tickets for everybody! I had a great time there, I played in a good side and when I went there I was 30 years old anyway, so I was experienced enough not to worry about the pressure.
Were you a confident goalkeeper in general?I never really thought about potentially making mistakes or whatever, and I was never anxious before a game. I was just so concentrated on the 90 minutes ahead of me. If you spoke to any back four I played behind they’d all tell you they were fed up of hearing my voice! I was always a good talker and organiser, even if we had a corner in the attacking third.
As we touched on in the intro this piece, you have a place in Chelsea folklore after your star turn up at Old Trafford. Let’s go through it…It was one of the first live Sunday games, so obviously it was a massive day for all of us. I started off well – the first corner came over and I took it at the back stick, which was a positive and exactly how I’d have wanted to start. Then Kerry Dixon scored after two or three minutes and it was like the Alamo from then on!
The two penalty saves in as many minutes were obviously what made the headlines, but that’s doing a slight disservice to the rest of your performance.I just had one of those purple days where everything went for me. They absolutely murdered us the whole game and I must have made six or seven of the best saves of my career. Saving the penalties was the least of it – I’m most proud of my punching, catching and kicking because we were pummeled by their attacks. It was my perfect day. But it wasn’t just about me – the whole team grafted like mad and worked their socks off to keep out Man United.
We’ve got to ask about the penalty saves. Had you done your research?We always had a little chat about it before each game. With Olsen, I knew he wasn’t going to hit it hard, so I decided to wait. With the second kick, I felt Strachan was under pressure and would blast his shot. It was just lucky that I just chose to dive the right way.
How did you celebrate?I was still living in Birmingham at the time and my wife Linda and I went for a meal afterwards. At the end of the night this guy came over and shook my hand, told me he was a Chelsea supporter and he’d thoroughly enjoyed the game, which had been shown live on TV. When I came to pay my bill, he’d already paid it for me!
Of course, a few weeks later Ron Atkinson, who was managing Man United and was your old boss at West Brom was sacked. Sir Alex Ferguson was chosen as his replacement…Ron is a smashing bloke, one of the best managers I worked for, but I think he always blames me for getting him the sack! I said at the time that I think he was umming and ahhing whether to sign me for Man U before I joined Chelsea permanently. Obviously he didn't go down that route, but I think it would always have been Chelsea anyway with me being a Chelsea fan.
Your time with us was short and sweet, lasting just over a year. Why wasn’t it longer?When I signed for Chelsea, I was 30 years old so I wanted to get the No.1 shirt first and foremost and I intended to finish my career at the club. It was nothing to do with me or Johhny Hollins, the manager; an offer came in from Birmingham City and the chairman said I could go, even though the manager said I couldn’t. And managers come and go but chairman tend to stay put, so that’s why I left. I was very disappointed to move away – it’s probably my biggest regret in football.
This was the fifth part of our Hands On series. The first explored the modern history of Chelsea goalkeeping and the mentality needed to make it as the last line of defence, which was followed by interviews with Kevin Hitchcock, Eddie Niedzwiecki and Ed de Goey. We’ll be back soon with the thoughts of another former Blues goalkeeper.