Hailing from the wilds of Buckinghamshire where he was born in the mid 1950s, Smiffy, as Neil is known to many Chelsea supporters, can trace his lifelong love of the club to the door of cousins who lived on the World’s End Estate less than a mile from Stamford Bridge. By the time he was 10-years old young Smiffy had been indoctrinated into the true Blue faith… and the rest as they say is history.
The 1970 FA Cup Final against Leeds United at Wembley? Smiffy was there along with a dozen family members. The replay at Old Trafford? Smiffy wasn’t there. “You’ve got French that day,” his mother had advised him while wagging her finger. As he grew into his later teens, freedom from lessons beckoned and Smiffy became a regular at Chelsea away games, travelling in silence on football specials out of fear that his country bumpkin accent might be deemed unacceptable.
A fully paid up member of Eddie McCreadie’s Blue and White Army, Smiffy missed only two games of the fabulous 1976/77 promotion season and went on to chalk up a 100% record in the 1983/84 campaign seeing all 42 matches when Johnny Neal steered Chelsea to the Second Division title.
Not content with regularly ‘going through the card’ for domestic fixtures, Smiffy also took in many of Chelsea’s pre-season tours. A trip to Ireland in 1992 saw him share a taxi and then a pizza with one-time fabled Blues striker Joe Allon after a night on the town in Cork. Of his many European jaunts, Smiffy holds dear the memory of proposing to his wife Cheryl after fearing her foot had been broken when one of his friends landed on it celebrating that very good goal Dennis Wise scored in the San Siro.
Smiffy is world-renown for his encyclopaedic knowledge of all things Chelsea. In 1992 he was invited by Neil Barnett to become a columnist for Bridge News (forerunner of the official Chelsea magazine) after continually pointing out factual errors in the publication. Entitled Those Were The Days, Smiffy’s column revisited previous and upcoming fixtures. He currently writes a similar article for the cfcuk fanzine.
In 2017, the late great Ray Wilkins name-checked Smiffy as the Chelsea Statistician on talkSport, a touching moment that ranks alongside being reunited with Eddie McCreadie the same year when the former Blues boss returned to Stamford Bridge for the first time in four decades. Eddie was back in town to attend a tribute event held in his honour that marked the publication of Eddie Mac, Eddie Mac, a book which Smiffy co-authored.
As a trivia buff, Smiffy would like to see the BBC TV programme Pointless revamped to cover purely football and Chelsea FC… who else would know the date, opposition, attendance and score when Paul McMillan made his only Chelsea appearance?*
Follow Smiffy on Twitter @SmiffyEastStand
*the answer is nobody and very impressively 2 September 1967, Chelsea 2 Southampton 6, 32,726.
Amazingly Smiffy is in this clip, around 3.42, the kid in the bobble hat watching the street vendor with my brother Martin behind me.