Trophy winners from campaigns spanning almost half a century came together at Stamford Bridge to reminisce and celebrate all things Chelsea at the Annual Lunch.
The event has been a festive fixture in the calendar for years and traditionally marks our start to the Christmas countdown. A host of former players mixed with supporters in the West Stand’s Great Hall on Friday afternoon to eat, drink, mingle and raise money for the Chelsea Foundation and the Past Players’ Trust through auction, raffle and donations.
Four months prior to the 50th anniversary of our 1970 FA Cup triumph, a number of the team who featured in that memorable campaign were present and in reminiscent mood. Ron Harris, Tommy Baldwin, John Hollins and Marvin Hinton all attended and Harris reflected so fondly on the achievement.
‘It was a fantastic day for the lads and for me personally I’m proud of the fact that I was the first Chelsea captain to lift the FA Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup the following season,’ he told the audience.
‘Even when we had the replay at Old Trafford and we came back to Euston, we drove from there up the Kings Road and the support was fantastic.’
Comedian Jerry Kaye and band The Skatonics provided additional entertainment, with presenter Sam Matterface hosting question and answer sessions with some of our former greats on the stage.
Here are a selection of photos and quotes from the Q&As…
Cech was first up to discuss the goalkeeping colleague who sparked his passion for drumming in slightly unconventional circumstances.
‘I got into it thanks to Carlo Cudicini, believe it or not. Carlo plays piano and one day after we went out for dinner, we ended up in his flat and he had a small drum kit for his Playstation. I grabbed the sticks and since then I realised I really enjoy it so I started practising and got into it at a good level.’
Inevitably, given his role as the club’s technical and performance adviser, Cech was asked how the news of our transfer embargo being overturned would affect squad planning in January.
‘We believe that we have laid a great foundation for the future but if the manager wants to strengthen the squad then we have the opportunity.' he said. 'You have to do the right thing at the right time. We’ve prepared everything the same way as if the transfer ban had never been so if he wants to make some changes to the squad then obviously we will sit down with him and find the best solution for the club to go forward.’
Makelele was next up to reminisce about his first Chelsea goal. ‘It took about three minutes to decide because all my team-mates were pushing me,’ the Frenchman said of the penalty he saw saved but then turned in on the rebound.
‘I picked up the ball and looked at the goal and thought ‘what do I do?!' but it was my first goal so it doesn’t matter how it comes!’
With the drinks flowing at the Bridge, former Chelsea Women defender Claire Rafferty recalled a previous occasion when a few pints of beer at a football ground had caused her far more serious bother.
‘I can now share this story with everyone because I’ve retired. It was a couple of years ago and I went to a game at Wembley when Spurs were playing there. It was a cold January evening so I volunteered at half-time to go inside and get the drinks. This was a Saturday and we [Chelsea Women] had a game the next day so I wasn’t drinking but I was being a Good Samaritan.
‘So I went up to the concessions, bought four beers for my friends, put them in the tray, turned around and the first person I saw was Emma Hayes, my manager! It’s safe to say I didn’t play the next day but it was a learning curve for sure.’
Harris offered more insight into that 1970 FA Cup final and admitted the team enjoyed some unusual downtime on the night before the replay at Old Trafford.
‘We travelled up on the train the night before and we went to the dog racing on the Tuesday night,' he revealed. 'As long as we were back at the hotel by 10pm, nobody seemed too bothered.
‘We had fantastic camaraderie,’ he continued on the group. ‘There were six or seven of the lads who had come through the youth side and they were brought up together. I was just privileged to captain a fantastic bunch of lads and a great side. We put Chelsea back on the map.’
Hollins was another who featured in that special side and he admitted he still got emotional thinking back to the achievement.
‘It’s still in me. Every time I watch the game on TV now, I think to myself ‘that was us 50 years ago’. We were all pushed into the team together and that FA Cup was the cream that we wanted. I still get goosebumps when I think about because to win the FA Cup in those days was something really special and we won it!’
Carlo Cudicini discussed his new role working with our loan players: ‘It’s a new challenge, new things to learn, a lot of people to meet and on top of that obviously looking after our young players. They’re doing quite well but it’s only half of the way so hopefully they carry on like this.’
Big Blues fan Boris Becker was another of the guest speakers and the former German tennis star told how he had come to be such an avid Chelsea supporter.
‘I got my first flat in London in Chelsea and I befriended Frank [Lampard] and John [Terry],' Becker said. 'We had some nights out and they talked so much about football. I told them I wanted to go to a game and asked them which team to watch and they said ‘there’s only one place to go – come to Stamford Bridge’ and I’ve been coming back ever since.’
Having himself burst on to the tennis scene as a prodigiously talented teenager, Becker was asked for his thoughts on our current youthful squad and his advice to them.
‘Don’t believe what you hear, don’t hype them up too much, don’t kill them when they don’t hit the targets. It’s a fascinating squad, the most popular Chelsea squad in a long time and I think that’s great. It looks like they enjoy themselves playing with each other and that’s the core right now. The way the season has started has been unbelievable so we just need time and patience.’
Finally, and with our trip to White Hart Lane on the horizon in just over a fortnight, Cech reflected on the special rivalry between the London clubs.
‘Before the Tottenham games you always got a little message from the people who had been at the club for a long time to tell us we have to win this one. I don’t know what it is but I played for two London clubs and everybody hated Tottenham!’