On Sunday, Chelsea visit West Ham where, inevitably, there will be a pre-match marking of the Hammers winning a European trophy at the end of last season. This is not the first time West Ham's opening League game of a season, against Chelsea, was preceded by celebration. It happened exactly 57 years ago on Sunday.
While England were still busy winning the 1966 World Cup, Chelsea were back in training preparing for a pre-season tour of Germany and Switzerland. Ironically, they played a friendly in Eltingen the day before Germany were in the World Cup Final, winning 10-1 against a local side, Bobby Tambling scoring six. Chelsea’s only representative in the World Cup squad was goalkeeper Peter Bonetti, so new signing from Millwall Alex Stepney was in goal for much of the tour. Manager Tommy Docherty still assumed the unhappy Bonetti would probably leave (Stepney had been signed on this basis), and the Kensington Post felt this was the most likely result. Indeed, at one stage terms were agreed with West Ham, though the deal fell through. If he stayed, there was talk of rotating the pair, which clearly was not a satisfactory solution for either player.
If Docherty thought the player relationship problems of the previous season were ended by the sale of Terry Venables and Barry Bridges, he was soon disabused of this notion. George Graham asked for a transfer three days before the West Ham game. ‘My reasons are personal’ he told the Daily Mail. Graham later said in a TV interview that one reason he wanted to go was that the team had been broken up. In a rare piece of good news for Docherty, Tambling sorted out his differences with the manager and withdraw his transfer request. The Evening Standard prediction for the season reckoned that ‘Chelsea are an enigma. I cannot see them challenging for the title, but they will surprise many teams, especially away from home’.
Their first League game of the 1966/67 season was at West Ham, a club still basking in the World Cup glory generated by Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters. The away side selected that day was the strongest Docherty could put out :-
Bonetti; Hinton; Kirkup, Boyle, R. Harris, McCreadie; Hollins, Osgood, Cooke; Graham, Tambling.
They lined up in a 1-4-3-2 formation with Marvin Hinton as sweeper, a tactic Docherty regularly used in away games that season, utilising his talents on the ball and the side’s ability to win the ball and quickly counter-attack. Bonetti was selected but told the Daily Mail he intended again asking the club directors for a transfer.
Match Of The Day commentary was by Ken Wolstenholme, just three weeks after his finest hour at the World Cup Final. The footage shows a packed Upton Park cheering the three World Cup winners onto the pitch on a gloriously sunny day, the Chelsea team clapping them at the same time. Whether the Scots in the visiting team - John Boyle, Charlie Cooke, Graham and Eddie McCreadie - were as vigorous in their appreciation as their English colleagues is not recorded. This was the first Match Of the Day shown on BBC1, after two seasons of broadcasting on BBC2, so it is logical to assume the programme had then-record viewing figures for English League highlights. There were plenty of Chelsea supporters in the ground before the gates were locked. Chelsea had not won there in the League since 1923, though had won a famous FA Cup victory there eighteen months earlier.
Chelsea were happy to counter-attack using the pace of Bobby Tambling and the skill of Cooke and Peter Osgood to break from deep, a tactic West Ham struggled to deal with. Captain Ron Harris got really tight on Hurst, reducing the effectiveness of the man who three weeks earlier had become a national hero.
Bonetti made a top quality save from Hurst but Chelsea were generally comfortable early on. After 36 minutes, and with prescient visiting supporters chanting ‘In The Net’, John Hollins worked a clever free-kick decoy routine with Cooke, Tambling and McCreadie, and hammered the ball past the helpless Jim Standen. It was a surprise when Ron Boyce equalised just before the hour when astonishingly slack marking from a John Sissons corner gave Boyce a completely clear header, giving Bonetti no chance.
Cooke crowned his performance with a quite brilliant winner scored by the Scot after a long, mazy counter-attacking run where he left defenders floundering, his left-foot shot completely deceiving Standen. Osgood hit the bar as Chelsea dominated late on, the heat seemingly affecting the hosts more than their opponents. The News Of The World raved about Cooke and Bonetti and asked the pertinent question ‘What chance has Stepney got of replacing Bonetti?’.
Watching the TV coverage of that West Ham game, available on YouTube here https://youtu.be/XXdJW85ksZ8?si=IvtxJRZ3dD4r_h_1 one thing is immediately noticeable. Viewers could not help but hear a lot of chants and songs, and all of them are from the hordes of Chelsea supporters, mainly standing on the terrace under the West Stand (thanks to lifelong supporter Charlie Brooks-Watson for that information). Even when West Ham, equalised, it was Chelsea supporters who were singing.
The Kensington Post referred to hearing two new chants ‘We All Live In A Blue Submarine’ and ‘Charlie Cooke, Charlie Cooke.’ Yellow Submarine had gone to number one that very week so the Chelsea songsmiths (quite possibly famous supporters Mick Greenaway, Clifford Webb and their friends) were very quick off the mark. Cooke’s was in tribute to his goal, and an inspired performance on his Chelsea league debut. The Daily Telegraph pointed out that Cooke ‘was not yet an integrated part of the Chelsea machinery’ and it was a challenge for Docherty as to how best to utilise the Scot’s manifest talents.
Other songs and chants in the travelling repertoire broadcast in the 30 minutes of shown highlights included :-
‘Chelsea <clap> <clap><clap>, Chelsea <clap> <clap><clap>’
‘Attack, Attack, Attack, Attack, Attack,’
‘In The Net’
‘Ee-Aye-Addio, West Ham’s On The Run’ (when Chelsea were dominating play),
<clap> <clap> <clap><clap><clap> <clap><clap><clap><clap> Chelsea’
‘Osgood Is Good’
‘Ee-Aye-Addio, You’re All Going Home’ as Hammers supporters drifted silently off before the end,
and a celebratory ‘We Won You Bums.’
Quite a repertoire, especially for 1966, when football songs and chants were in their comparative infancy. It is highly likely Greenaway led a series of Zigger Zagger chants, as happened when Chelsea visited West Bromwich the previous season (a game also on Match Of The Day), but that chant was not recorded on the coverage from Upton Park.
Graham left for Arsenal the following month. Stepney quickly left for Manchester United. Chelsea were top of the League until October when Osgood broke his leg. They then fell away in the League and lost the FA Cup Final to Tottenham.
Bonetti’s final appearance for the club was thirteen years later. Cooke had a superb career at the club, the inspiration behind trophy wins in 1970 and 1971. Sissons, sadly an injury-affected shadow of his former self, played a dozen games for Chelsea in the 1974/75 relegation season. Hurst had an unsuccessful spell as Chelsea manager from 1979-81. The author went to the opening of Jim Standen Sports on the Old Dean Estate in Camberley in the early 1970s, with guest appearances by West Ham’s World Cup trio. They were mobbed by hundreds of local schoolkids, despite the estate being a Chelsea stronghold.