Back in the mid-1960s an infamous decision by the Chelsea manager of the time led to a forgettable outing at Turf Moor, as recalled here...
It is redolent of the Chelsea many know and love that defeat could always be snatched from the jaws of victory. There are few better examples than the week that ended with the Blues’ self-inflicted wound of a 2-6 thrashing at Burnley in April 1965.
Tommy Docherty’s youthful side had been promoted two seasons earlier and developed a thrilling brand of football based on attacking pace and incisive passing.
On their return to the top flight the Londoners had secured fifth place, just seven points behind champions Liverpool, and the second season looked likely to exceed all expectations.
As late as the end of March, Docherty’s ‘diamonds’ were genuine challengers on all three domestic fronts: leading Leicester in the League Cup final ahead of the second leg, semi-finalists against Liverpool in the FA Cup, and top of Division One, albeit on goal average.
A 0-0 draw at Filbert Street brought the League Cup trophy to London for the first time on 5 April, but by then Liverpool had confounded the form book to reach Wembley in place of the disconsolate Blues.
However, two weeks after the success at Leicester the Blues headed to Anfield still leading the pack with a ‘double’ still on. The team were tired, though, and Docherty resolved to stay up in Blackpool for some downtime afterwards, ahead of a trip to Turf Moor the following Saturday.
A derailing 0-2 loss on Merseyside meant a slip to second behind Manchester United with two games to go, after which the wheels really came off. The Doc had told his players to enjoy themselves in the seaside resort for two days, but then imposed a curfew before the Burnley match.
Some of what happened next remains disputed, but eight players slipped out of a fire exit and went for drinks, returning in the early hours. A more experienced manager may have reacted with less impetuousness when tipped off, but Docherty immediately sent those responsible home, calling up reinforcements from the Juniors.
The Chelsea team, stripped of first-team stalwarts Barry Bridges, George Graham, Marvin Hinton, John Hollins, Eddie McCreadie, Bert Murray, and Terry Venables, plus reserve Joe Fascione, were taken apart by a grateful, mid-table Burnley. William Sinclair and James Smart made their one and only appearance for the Blues.
The treble, double and the championship dream were all dashed in a mad matter of weeks. It would be a further 40 years before the league title was eventually won again.
Read: A preview of this weekend's game at Burnley