Home and Away: Kerry Dixon
feature Thu 7 Sep 2017
Having made 420 appearances and scored 193 goals over the course of his nine-year Chelsea career, Kerry Dixon is an all-time favourite of the Stamford Bridge faithful.
It was Dixon’s goals which helped inspire the Blues to two Second Division title triumphs in the 1980s and, ahead of this weekend’s trip to Leicester City, we spoke to our former forward about some of his favourite experiences of playing away from home for the club…
Kerry Dixon guaranteed goals. Home or away, rain or shine, he simply possessed a natural ability to put the ball in the back of the net.
After scoring a brace on his Chelsea debut, in a 5-0 win over Derby County on the opening day of the 1983/84 season, he barely looked back. Another two goals followed a week later at Brighton and a memorable campaign would end with John Neal’s side crowned Second Division champions.
The victory which secured the title came on the final day, at Grimsby Town’s Blundell Park. Chelsea won the game 1-0 and it was fitting that Dixon, whose goals had been so instrumental in our promotion push, headed home the clincher, his 34th of a remarkable campaign.
‘It was one of the highlights of my nine years at Chelsea, without a doubt,’ Dixon tells the club’s official website. ‘I have so many special memories of that game, especially the fans. There was just a sea of blue everywhere you looked as we approached Grimsby on the M62, and then during the game there were loads of delays because the supporters kept spilling on to the pitch due to the fact there were so many of them. It was only a small stadium but we had thousands up there.
‘I remember Pat Nevin’s cross coming in and I rose and managed to head it past the Grimsby keeper Nigel Batch. Pat then missed a penalty, although it wasn’t his worst one, which meant we had a bit more time to sweat, but it was just a wonderful day.
‘For us to beat Sheffield Wednesday to the title first time around was amazing. Throughout that season the Chelsea fans were brilliant, it was a wonderful way to win it and the celebrations that night were great.’
Back in the top flight, the Blues faced a huge opening game away at Arsenal. It was a day on which Dixon would score one of his most iconic goals, a volley in front of the Clock End which housed thousands of travelling Chelsea supporters.
Goalkeeping legend Pat Jennings had saved Dixon’s initial shot, but he could do nothing about the striker's follow-up, which earned the Blues a credible 1-1 draw.
‘We didn’t know what to expect because the majority of our side hadn’t played in the old First Division, which is now the Premier League,’ Dixon recalls. ‘We were away against one of the biggest teams in the country who were full of internationals.
‘It was quite incredible when the team bus pulled around the corner to see the amount of Chelsea fans in the streets and queuing to get into the ground. It was an early game and the coach couldn’t get past the fans, there were so many of them and they were making so much noise. We obviously had thousands in the Clock End, but they were everywhere in the ground that day.
‘It was a decent strike and obviously it was enjoyable for me to get the goal. We went on to draw the game, after going 1-0 down, which was a big statement for the team. Arsenal were one of the contenders to win the league so that game gave us an idea of what we needed to do and where we needed to be. We were a growing team, one which was only going to get better.’
On a personal level, it was a wonderful first season in the top flight for Dixon, whose 36 goals helped us secure a sixth-place finish, and he ended the campaign sharing the Golden Boot with a certain Gary Lineker, then of Leicester City, our opponents this weekend.
‘Gary was at Leicester and we had a good battle all season,’ he remembers. ‘They had a good team and Alan Smith was there at the time as well. We beat them 3-0 at home and I scored two.
‘Gary is one of England’s all-time greatest goalscorers. The career he had was absolutely magnificent and it was an honour for me to be up there challenging with him. For one reason or another we were rivals throughout the majority of our careers.’
Dixon was one of those players who thrived on the big occasions, always liable to produce the goods against the best sides. There were certain opponents he always did well against, and specific stadiums in which he generally thrived, one of which was Old Trafford.
There were two seasons in a row where Dixon was the match-winner at the Theatre of Dreams, and one performance in particular which paved the way for a huge moment in his career.
‘The first game, when I scored two (video below), was in 1986 and we won the game 2-1. My performance that night got me to the World Cup because I’d been injured for a few months. I came back, Don Howe (England assistant manager) was at the game and he told Bobby Robson I looked as though I was back to my best.
‘We always used to do well up at Old Trafford in those days. The following season we won 1-0 and I scored the winner very early on. I remember Tony Godden saved a penalty that day and had a great game. They battered us but we held on to win.
‘There were certain grounds, like Old Trafford and White Hart Lane, where we used to do well, and then there were others we’d struggle at a little bit.
‘I scored my 150th goal at Tottenham, a lob from a Graham Roberts pass in a 4-1 win. It was one of those grounds that seemed to bring out the best in all Chelsea strikers at that time.’
With the Blues having been relegated in 1988 via a two-legged play-off defeat to Middlesbrough, a fit and firing Dixon was always going to be needed if we were to gain promotion at the first time of asking.
Fortunately, as in 1983/84, his goals once again went a long way to helping us win the Second Division title with a record 99 points. Dixon scored 25 times, including one in a big away win against Manchester City, our closest challengers.
‘I remember that was a morning game, we started on fire and went 3-0 up,’ says Dixon. ‘I scrambled one in and Kevin Wilson scored as well, then obviously Tony Dorigo scored that famous goal. Man City had a corner and we broke out, I was quick and I managed to keep up with Tony. I was hoping he’d pass to me but he sprinted away and slotted it in. I would have gone mad if he’d missed. They staged a comeback and scored two but we managed to hold on for an important win against our biggest rivals that season.
‘That game, at Maine Road, was another one where Chelsea had unbelievable support. Our away following was phenomenal. They’d always take the full allocation, they were very vocal and there were some games where we’d take up to 10,000 fans away. It was one of the big features of the era I played in.’