Twenty-six years ago a remodelled Chelsea side hosted former European Footballer of the Year and England captain Kevin Keegan who had chosen the challenge lifting Newcastle out of the second division. What followed was a game to remember for the London club…
In mid-November 1983 John Neal was urging his promotion hopefuls to bounce back after a midweek League Cup defeat and to close a four-point gap between the resurgent Blues and visitors Newcastle, as-yet unbeaten in Division Two.
Keegan approached the game on a run of nine goals in 10 league games and with a ringing endorsement from former team-mate Joey Jones, now of Chelsea, in the press. ‘He was brilliant against us last season,’ the Wales defender warned.
In the event, Jones and co. kept Keegan in check and the Blues ran out 4-0 winners thanks to a 25-yarder from Nigel Spackman, Peter Rhodes-Brown’s drilled effort and two goals for David Speedie. A young Chelsea star also made his mark in emphatic fashion.
‘Kevin Keegan didn’t know what hit him and Chelsea’s destruction of his famed Newcastle was crushingly spectacular,’ reported Nigel Clarke in the Daily Mirror. ‘The little man can hardly ever have had such an ineffective game and he was overshadowed completely by Pat Nevin, his opposite number.’
The Blues have usually been better off for a Scot in our midst, and Nevin, reviving memories of an earlier north-of-the-border maestro, Charlie Cooke, announced his coming of age with a string of mazy dribbles. One sensational run took him the length of the field, past five opponents, with a final pass that should have ended in another goal.
Ever the good sport, Keegan was first to congratulate the young winger at the final whistle. ‘The referee should have inspected his boots to see if he had glue on them,’ joked the Newcastle legend afterwards. ‘I was very impressed with him.’
A more maudlin take came from the Geordies’ under-fire manager Arthur Cox. ‘That’s the worst beating we’ve had since Chelsea put six past us three years ago,’ he groaned. Fortunately for viewers in the north-east, an industrial dispute meant no ‘Match of the Day’ that night.
Even local Newcastle newspaper the Journal was impressed with the hosts, though, observing that ‘Newcastle were swept up in this regeneration of a Chelsea side now becoming part of the fashionable London footballing scene once again.’
For the Mirror’s reporter, too, the 30,000-plus crowd and Chelsea’s football were a throwback: ‘a reminder of the good old days: the flavour, the flair and the fun of a side that ruled London for almost a decade.’
Read Pat Nevin's own recollections of the game