With the Yorkshire side back at the Bridge today, we remember a game that ended a previous top-flight stay in dramatic circumstances…
On 7 May 1994, one week before a long-awaited return to Wembley and an FA Cup final for Chelsea, Sheffield United were the visitors to Stamford Bridge for the 42nd and last match of the campaign.
Dave Bassett’s side needed a third successive win at the Bridge to secure top-flight football for a fifth successive season. A draw might have been enough, had relegation rivals Everton or Ipswich lost.
In the old walk-up days, when the size of the visiting support could be unpredictable, the legion of fans from South Yorkshire that day was impressive. They were armed with dozens of red and white balloons, which were inflated and held aloft before kick-off on the north terrace, then open to the elements. With prescient symbolism, the instant the balloons were released in unison, a strong westerly wind swept them across the railway line and into Brompton Cemetery.
However, Jostein Flo (Tore Andre’s older brother) resurrected Yorkshire hopes, outpacing the Blues’ defence to establish a lead before half-time. It took cool Danish centre-back Jakob Kjeldbjerg (whose surname was mis-spelt on his shirt that season) scoring his first goal for the Londoners to square the game.
Glyn Hodges briefly lifted expectations again, only for Mark Stein to equalise at 2-2 with a quarter-hour to go. Then, in the match’s dying embers, the South Africa striker made it 3-2, driving the final nail into United’s coffin.
The three points were barely needed by the Londoners and almost seemed vindictive, but it was nothing personal against the Blades – Chelsea’s no.21, absent through injury for 10 weeks, was simply looking to prove his availability for the FA Cup final, the Blues’ first for 23 years.
Bassett, a boyhood Chelsea supporter, was sanguine afterwards, knowing he had enjoyed a narrow escape the previous season. ‘When you play Russian roulette,’ he observed, ‘sometimes you get the bullet.’
By Rick Glanvill