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European Champions Real Madrid well beaten at Stamford Bridge (56 years ago)

This week's opponents Real Madrid were the 1966 European Cup winners, beating Partizan Belgrade in the final. Though Alfredo Di Stefano had departed of the greats who won five successive European Cups, Ferenc Puskas and Francisco ‘Paco’ Gento remained, though clearly they were both getting on in years, being 39 (or quite possibly older) and 33, respectively.

Real were without doubt by far the biggest name in world club football and had never been beaten in England, but had never played Chelsea. When it was announced that they would be playing at Stamford Bridge in a charity fundraising game there was, understandably, huge excitement. The sides were competing for the exotically titled International Charity Cup, which Chelsea had played for in the 1964 home 4-2 friendly defeat by Benfica.

For some supporters, that excitement was tempered when seat ticket prices were dramatically increased. The most expensive seat was normally 15/- (75p) but for this game the well-heeled punter could pay up to an eye-watering £5 5s (£5.25). Terrace prices remained at 5/- (25p) but there was no reduction for juniors. Real would doubtless have asked a fair-sized fee/expenses, and net proceeds were going to charity, but it was still a gamble by the Chelsea board.

Appetites among the Chelsea support for games against overseas opposition had been whetted during the previous season’s Fairs Cup run. The third round game against AC Milan had attracted 59,500 supporters, with, at that stage, one of the best ever atmospheres experienced at Stamford Bridge. The other home games, against Roma, Wiener Sportklub, TSV Munich 1860 and Barcelona drew good crowds and the whole run through to the semi-final made supporters realise just how exciting European football could be, a passion shared by manager Tommy Docherty and his players.

Real went into the game having lost 1-0 at TSV Munich 1860 in the first-leg of Round Two of the European Cup the previous week. Chelsea had lost just one game of the last five, and were still top, but the previous Saturday had been held 1-1 at home by Sheffield United and their superb unbeaten away record of six wins and two draws was significantly better than their home record of three wins from nine games. Their season had been significantly disrupted the previous month when the mercurial, hugely talented Peter Osgood broke his leg at Blackpool in a League Cup-tie. At that point Chelsea were unbeaten and top of the table, and had looked imperious, like a side with genuine title aspirations.

Much of the pre-match publicity surrounded Puskas, a genuine legend of the game who had so bewitched, bewildered and humiliated the hapless England team playing for Hungary in 1953 and 1954 and had been a key part in the legendary late 50’s Real side. He was somewhat larger than in his prime and not a regular in the Real side by that point. Indeed he had only played an exhibition game that season, but had publicly promised to play at Stamford Bridge, much to the relief of the Chelsea hierarchy.

Docherty observed ‘Two years ago, when we were starting to do well, Benfica beat us 4-2. They showed us exactly where we stood in European football and how much more we had to learn.’ He was hopeful that with a different side and style of play, they could perform better against crack overseas opposition. He took the game extremely seriously, to the extent of spending a few days with the Real party in Germany the previous week. Victor Railton in the Evening News stressed that neither side regarded the game as a friendly and both were ‘determined to uphold reputations.’ Every paper ran previews of the game, indicating how important and significant the visit of the European Cup holders was seen as.

On match day a club spokesman told the Daily Mirror that all 15/- (75p), £2 and £5 tickets had sold out and a crowd of 40,000 was anticipated. In the end, the game attracted just 32,300 to Stamford Bridge, including hordes of London-based Spaniards, and raised £20,200 for charity Had the game been drawn at 90 minutes, the cup would have been decided by a penalty shoot-out, the first ever played in England. Special FA permission had to be granted for this to be permitted, and given their lengthy track record of head-in-the-sand reactionary thinking it is slightly surprising they allowed it.

The same night, Chelsea were playing a reserve game at Coventry. Because of the game at Stamford Bridge, that reserve side included 15-year-old goalkeeper Kingsley Whiffen and 38-year-old schemer and player-coach Tommy Harmer.

Centre-back / sweeper Marvin Hinton missed the game with a knee injury and Peter Bonetti passed a late fitness test, so Docherty selected the following line-up: Bonetti; Kirkup, Harris R., Thomson, McCreadie; Hollins, Boyle, Cooke; Baldwin, Hateley, Tambling.

Tony Hateley, signed for £100,000 four weeks earlier to replace the injured Osgood, was known to be superb in the air but less so on the ground. He had a lot to prove to home supporters dubious as to how effective he would be as a direct replacement for Osgood, a hugely talented ball player.

There had been six Real Madrid players in the Spanish World Cup squad that summer, which had failed to get through the group stage. These included winger Gento (the captain), midfielder Pirri and Amancio, who was recognised as one of the very best forwards in Europe. Sadly, all three were injured in the victory over Barcelona two days earlier and were not fit to play at Stamford Bridge. In the end, only five of the players who won the European Cup the previous summer started the Chelsea game.

Ron Harris and Ferenc Puskas exchange pennants

Chelsea started the game on top and it was no surprise in the 36th minute when Bobby Tambling evaded two lunging tackles and passed to Tommy Baldwin who crossed for Hateley to rise imperiously and score his first Stamford Bridge goal.

Hateley heads the first

Somewhat bizarrely, two senoritas dressed in Iberian costume presented oranges to the players as they left the pitch at half-time. Doubtless if the FA had been asked, they would have refused permission for this stunt to happen.

The orange senoritas meet the Chelsea squad

The game got more competitive after the interval, more like a cup-tie, and McCreadie’s trip on Rovira sparked retaliation, summarily dealt with by imposing Scottish referee Tiny Wharton. Bonetti had a couple of saves to make but was not unduly stretched and Hollins clinched victory from 25 yards six minutes from the end, from a Hateley pass.

Hollins fires the second

Puskas, delighting the crowd by unexpectedly playing the whole match, made a series of pinpoint passes but, unsurprisingly, struggled for pace against the young, quick and energetic home side. The Daily Mirror sub-headline ‘Twenty Magic Minutes – Then Puskas fades’ summed up his performance and Peter Lorenzo in The Sun reckoned that by the end it was an ‘embarrassing farewell’ to London for the ‘galloping major.’ To be honest, it was unrealistic to expect more from a 39-year-old playing against a fired-up, mobile opposition.

Docherty, keen to talk up Hateley, enthused to the Daily Mirror ‘Hateley’s first goal at Stamford Bridge was a beauty. Why can’t we always play like this at home?’ The Daily Telegraph felt Chelsea ‘ran the legs’ off the European champions and picked out Hollins for especial praise, referring to his authority and confidence he could hold his own with the best.

So Chelsea picked up the International Charity Cup, which the Daily Mail called the Silexine Trophy (after the paint company who donated the cup) and a programme advert called the British ORT Cup. It was presented to Ron Harris by Sir Stanley Rous, FIFA President, maybe demonstrating the wider importance of the game.

The thought remains that if the crowd figure was correct then maybe if ticket pricing had been a bit more sympathetic then a larger crowd could have roared their side to victory, while raising more for charity. One person the Real game did not help was John Mortimore, loyal and long-time centre-half who had left the club the previous year, whose testimonial game the following week, a Chelsea XI against a London XI, drew just 6,267 spectators.

Real beat TSV Munich 1860 3-1 in their second-leg the following week, thereby qualifying for the European Cup quarter-finals, where they lost to Inter Milan. Real’s first defeat in England was a great result should have been a great confidence boost for Docherty and his side, but Chelsea promptly went on run of seven winless games and ended the season in a hugely disappointing ninth place. Osgood’s absence was keenly felt both on the pitch and on the terraces. They did reach the FA Cup Final the following May but lost 2-1 to Tottenham.

Though it was supposedly, according to the Daily Mail, ‘the first in a series of (annual) charity games between London and the rest of Europe’ this seems to ignore the Benfica game. It has also proved hard to identify any follow-up games. As far as I can discover, the International Charity Cup was never competed for again, presumably meaning Chelsea have retained it for the past 56 years.

Whether Chelsea, without a Hateley let alone as Osgood, can get a similar result this week is highly doubtful but who knows?

This is an extract from a book covering Chelsea in Europe 1945-71 by Tim Rolls, as yet untitled, which it is hoped will be published in the autumn.

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