I was very sad to hear about the death of former Chelsea manager Dave Sexton who will always be the real “special one” to Chelsea fans my age. Before the club became the plaything of a Russian gazillionaire and started racking up the trophies, the “glory years” had been way back in the early 70s when Sexton was manager and the team contained names — nay, legends! — like Osgood, Bonetti, Harris, Cooke, and Hudson.
Chelsea and Fulham were my two local sides growing up but the latter seemed like the team of Brylcreemed old men going on about Johnny Haynes — the first player to make £100 a week! — while Chelsea were all King’s Road flash, sideburns, and Raquel Welch. No contest really, especially when they won the FA Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup (beating the mighty Leeds and Real Madrid in the process) which made them all heroes in my young eyes. Little was I to know they wouldn’t win another trophy for nearly 30 years.
Like those kids in the picture above I used to hang around outside Stamford Bridge waiting for the players to come out from training in the hopes of getting an autograph. A lot of them would just walk out of the ground on foot so it was easy to get an autograph, these days they’d probably zoom right past in their Bentleys and Ferraris, knocking over old ladies on their way to shag a Page Three girl or meet with their accountant. But player’s lives were less opulent then, I used to see Chelsea players in local pubs and our silky winger Charlie Cooke lived down the road from us in a regular terraced house. When they retired a player’s biggest dream was to have enough money saved to buy a pub.
The one autograph I still have is of Ray “Butch” Wilkins who was the golden boy of the team at the time, having been made captain when he was only 18 and being a bit of a handsome pin-up star (hard to believe when you see him now), so it was a real thrill getting him to sign my 1975-76 Fixture Card, like being a teenybopper and having David Cassidy sign your boob.
Thrilled though I was, I remember being a little disappointed that he signed his name Ray and not Butch which was his nickname back then. Who was this Ray fella? No one called him that!
1975 was a crap year for Chelsea (and there were many more crap years to come), Sexton had been sacked the season before and we were in the Second Division. Sexton’s replacement Eddie McCreadie eventually quit himself because the Chairman wouldn’t get him a company car (this after he had got Chelsea back to the First Division) so it seems like our owners have always been arseholes. But whenever friends talk to me now about how the money we have is destroying the game, the bad behaviour of our players, our owner changing managers like socks etc. etc., I always reply “Sure, it’s terrible. But what am I supposed to do, start supporting another club?”
Download: Pass, Shoot, Goal! – Gracie Fields (mp3)