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Chelsea on the up, Spurs in decline - FA Cup 3rd Round 1964

In late 1963 Chelsea were starting to play with the style, verve and efficiency that was to bring them close to a treble the following season. An excellent December with three wins and two draws (including at champions Everton), meant they were seventh, just five points behind leaders Blackburn Rovers. The first game of New Year 1964 was a trip to Tottenham in the FA Cup 3rd Round on 4th January, a massive game that attracted newspaper previews days in advance.

Chelsea manager Tommy Docherty, never averse to having his name in the paper, announced he had put cold-stricken Eddie McCreadie and Barry Bridges on a ‘raw eggs and steak’ diet to build them up for the cup-tie, an interesting nutritional approach. Both were fit to play, but young Peter Houseman’s cold kept him out, so Dennis Brown came in as Bobby Tambling recovering from a knee injury. Chelsea lined up :- Dunn, Hinton, Harris, Mortimore, McCreadie; Upton, Venables; Murray, Bridges, Brown, Blunstone.

Bert Murray’s header equalised an early goal from Terry Dyson and Chelsea hung on in a hard-fought game with thirty-six fouls, twenty-two in the first half. John Dunn, in for the injured Peter Bonetti grew in confidence as the game went on and Docherty was delighted with the whole team. ‘I’m well satisfied with the result. The whole team gave the lot, and no manager can ask more than that. Once again, we saw young players coming into the side and fully justifying themselves and the faith the club has in them.’ Experienced winger Frank Blunstone commented how well moving Frank ‘The Tank’ Upton to wing-half, and Terry Venables to link man, had worked. Ron Harris's attentions negated the goalscoring threat of ex-Blue Jimmy Greaves.

Bert Murray equalises at White Hart Lane

Murray celebrates scoring at WHL

The News Of the World view was summed up by their ‘Football? This Was A Brawl’ headline, though they praised ‘a tigerish fight by these supremely fit Chelsea youngsters’ and referred to a ‘desperate’ Spurs manager Bill Nicholson. The Daily Telegraph referred to an ill-tempered and negative game and optimistically hoped the replay would have less midfield spoiling, fewer petty fouls, more skills, and greater boldness. At the same time, they praised McCreadie, Ron Harris and Marvin Hinton and the way Chelsea’s keen tackling and close marking brought Spurs attack to a halt. The Sunday Express felt Chelsea hunted the ball ‘like a pack of snapping hounds’ but called it ‘a lamentable cup scuffle,’ The Times dourly seeing it as ‘a match of chilling mediocrity.’ No matter, the result was all that counted to manager, team and the ‘highly voluble faithfuls of Chelsea.’ Docherty was predictably unrepentant about his team’s competitive approach. ‘I shall tell them (before the replay), as I always do, to go in hard. Saturday’s game was not vicious. It was hard and there were lots of petty fouls.’

Interestingly, The News Of The World had clear misgivings about the loyalty of Spurs fans, commenting that the match was ‘a hard luck story to pacify even those spoilt brats who pass as Spurs fans.’ Spurs wing-half Tony Marchi had asked to be left out of the team because of the abuse he got from his own supporters every time he touched the ball at home. Graham Moore and Derek Kevan had had their critics among Chelsea supporters, but it never descended to that type of abuse. The Spurs fans were an unhappy lot. At the replay, a ‘Nicholson, This Is Lunacy’ banner was paraded on the pitch.

Chelsea expected a massive crowd for the replay four days later and doubled the number of policemen on duty in the ground but, ludicrously, chose not to make the biggest London derby for years all-ticket. In the event the game attracted an astonishing attendance of 70,100, the biggest domestic crowd in England that season, the biggest at Stamford Bridge for nine years, the biggest-ever floodlit crowd at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea’s fourteenth biggest crowd ever and bigger than any crowd at Chelsea since. Marchi returned for Tottenham, Nicholson presumably hoping the travelling support would not get on his back. Docherty took a gamble, bringing back Tambling earlier than anyone expected, replacing Dennis Brown. Spurs were 11-1 for the cup, Chelsea 25-1, showing that Spurs were seen to be clear favourites despite playing away.

The gates were closed fifteen minutes before kick-off in utterly chaotic scenes as at least ten thousand supporters were locked out. Stand ticket-holders could not get through the locked-out masses and some, including Transport Minister Ernest Marples, did not reach their seats until nearly half time. Supporter Bob Barlow remembered supporters being crushed like sardines at the front and people having to pee where they stood, as there was no chance of getting to the toilet. Supporter Peter Gray recalled as a boy getting in early and getting a good spot on the North West corner terrace but being gradually pushed off the terrace and having to watch from behind a pillar.

Chelsea lined up :- Dunn, Hinton, Harris, Mortimore, McCreadie; Upton, Venables; Murray, Bridges, Tambling, Blunstone. The replay, predictably, was as physical as the first tie. The Daily Mail saw Chelsea as ‘ruthless, restless,’ and snapping in with tackles that shook the stand whereas the match 'lacked grace, skill and dignity'. Not that any of that mattered to the jubilant fans, who chanted ‘Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea’ as their team won the right to face Huddersfield Town at home. Goals came from Tambling, who Barry Holmes remembered as having one of his very best Chelsea games, and Murray. Spurs were unable to breach the Chelsea defence, meaning a penalty miss from Terry Venables, and a Frank Upton thunderbolt controversially disallowed for offside, did not matter. Chelsea dominated, the Spurs forwards were completely ineffective with Harris again man-marking Greaves and the Daily Telegraph felt Chelsea should have scored six. A famous victory, the first time Chelsea had ever knocked Spurs out of the FA Cup, celebrated with a post-match pitch invasion and mocking chants of ‘Glory, Glory, Hallelujah, As Chelsea Go Marching On.’ Tottenham had no monopoly on ‘glory, glory’ nights, and in fact their glory, glory years were fast coming to an end.

Bobby Tambling opens the scoring at Stamford Bridge

Murray never received the recognition he deserved. An industrious winger happy to track back when his full-back overlapped, he also has the happy knack of scoring goals. 12 League goals that season and 17 the following were superb returns for a wide-man. In all he played 183 games for the club, scoring 44 goals, before departing for Birmingham in the same mid-1966 Docherty cull as Venables, Bridges and George Graham.

Chelsea dominated play but received criticism for their physical play over the two games, when a total of fifty-eight fouls were committed. Spurs boss Bill Nicholson commented ‘it was too hard.’ Docherty clearly could not care less what Nicholson thought and made what, for the time, were outspoken comments to the Daily Mail. ‘I don’t give a damn what people say. Nor do my players. Some Spurs players squealed after that replay but that is because they lost. Tackling is part of the game and tackling is what we are good at. We are not a big enough side to be dirty. If the other side is chicken, that is their problem.’ Exactly the sort of comments to enrage opponents and endear yourself to your own players and supporters. He later denied his team were bruisers, stating ‘let me say bluntly, we’re not thugs at Stamford Bridge.’

The likes of Harris, Upton and McCreadie could certainly tackle. However, every side had their physical players, even Tottenham had Dave Mackay and Maurice Norman, so the bleating does seem a classic case of sour grapes. The Evening Standard commented that Spurs played ‘without heart.’

The chaos outside and inside the ground could have been a lot worse. Steve Lloyd remembered being ‘terrified’ leaving the ground as a nine-year-old in the ‘awful crush,’ losing his dad and his feet hardly touching the ground until he reached Fulham Road. Barry Holmes stood on the West Bank Terrace and recalled the ‘crush getting a bit scary’ and Tottenham fans round them making confident noises before the game. He remembers that many of these same fans slunk away long before the end, knowing that the Cup favourites were out. The Times referred to ’70,000 violently partisan supporters from either end of London (working) themselves into a frenzy’. Three crash barriers gave way, people fainted, and club secretary John Battersby commented ‘one of the barriers went as the crowd surged forward after we scored our first goal. It could have been dangerous.’ It could indeed. The club called in an architect to inspect every crash barrier and the police expressed concern. There was utter chaos on the underground too, not helped by a circus at Olympia and an exhibition at Earls Court taking place the same evening.

That win firmed up the realisation that Docherty had created an exceptionally talented, highly promising team, thought they were surprisingly beaten at home by Huddersfield Town in the next round. Tottenham were European Cup Winners’ Cup holders and were second in the League, but had been deservedly beaten and, in some eyes, humiliated.

As The Times put it ‘Farewell to a Tottenham side that once was great, and is now in the shadows.’ The Evening Standard headline the following day, ‘Be Tolerant While We Rebuild – pleads Nicholson,’ spoke volumes and there was talk of them having £200,000 to spend. Arguably, that Stamford Bridge defeat marked the end of Tottenham's claims to be at the pinnacle of English football. They had won trophies in each of the previous three seasons but bitterly disappointed, their season rather imploded (they finished fourth) and critical articles about their future regularly appeared in a previously fawning press. By the following season Chelsea, Leeds, Manchester United, Liverpool and Everton were all more likely title contenders and Chelsea again knocked them out of the FA Cup. I know they beat Chelsea in the 1967 final and have won a few cups over the succeeding decades, but I bet none of their support trudging dejectedly away from Stamford Bridge that January night thought that 58 years later they would have won no more League titles, whereas Chelsea would have won five, and that The Blues would be 2-0 ahead on European Cups.

This is an expanded extract from ‘Diamonds, Dynamos and Devils,’ which covers Chelsea from 1961-67 by Tim Rolls and is available from eBay and on Amazon.

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