Our trip down memory lane with club historian Rick Glanvill this week goes back as far the mid-1980s and a golden era for watching the Chelsea team, if not for being a travelling fan…
Supporters’ groups may have complained about the scheduling of Chelsea’s trip to Newcastle this weekend with a kick-off time offering few public transport options, but at least they have a platform and a voice these days.
That was not really the case back in 1985/86, when all-ticket matches – where paying at the turnstiles was prohibited – became an occasional hazard of being a fan as a result of fighting on terraces. Some home grounds had already imposed the restriction on travelling Blues that season, and for the game on Saturday 16 November, St James’ Park became the latest.
It led to a smaller than usual crowd, with officially just 700 souls making the journey from the Thames to the Tyne. A number of Blues fans had speculatively journeyed without a ticket to previous away games and gained entry, but word was put out that would not happen in the North-East.
However, this was a fixture that had traditionally gone the way of the hosts: Chelsea would make it one for sorrow for the Magpies in London, while the Blues never had too much joy at Newcastle.
The Geordies’ manager Willie McFaul was looking forward to the fixture. ‘There hasn’t been a poor game with Chelsea over the last few years,’ he enthused, and on the day a first-minute header from skipper Glenn Roeder handed his mid-table side a boost.
Yet their star man, Peter Beardsley, was ineffectual in an experimental role on the left of midfield, and the confident visitors gradually took command. Just before half-time the combative David Speedie beat the offside trap and fired an equaliser.
Then around the 80-minute mark two goals in five minutes killed off the hosts. The first of those, from midfielder Nigel Spackman, was a rarity. The second was a more predictable source: centre-forward Kerry Dixon (pictured top). He and Speedie would manage 45 goals between them that season.
As jubilant Chelsea fans – including the excluded 50 – made their way to Manors Station for the return to London, they could pick up an evening paper showing the comfortable win had pushed John Hollins’ team up to third behind Liverpool and Manchester United.
Also there in black and white was reporter John Richardson revealing he was impressed enough to reckon ‘a richly skilled Chelsea side with craft and vision gives the success-starved capital genuine hope of honours’.
Alas, in the end, the Londoners would have to settle for sixth place and the relative glory of the Full Members’ Cup.
There is more nostalgia in the Retro Blues video box set, exclusive to The 5th Stand app