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Remembering Peter Houseman


Picture credit – Reading Evening Post. 21 st March 1977.


Peter Houseman was an instrumental part of the Chelsea squad of his era, but he did not always get the credit that he deserved and very sadly died in tragic circumstances at the age of just 31.


A winger, he was born in Battersea, South London on Christmas Eve 1945. He grew up on Battersea Bridge Road, attending Latchmere Road Primary School and Spencer Park, Wandsworth. Peter started his football career with the Chelsea Juniors, having written to them for a trial and being taken on as an apprentice (Czucha, 1969). On the 21st of December 1963, four days before his 18th birthday, Peter made his debut in front of a crowd of 19,505 at Stamford Bridge in a 3-2 win over Sheffield United (Stamford-Bridge.com, c.2023). Initially, a regular place in the squad for Peter was not forthcoming, with manager Tommy Docherty selecting other players – he only made a handful of appearances in his first three years with the club (TheChels.Info, 2010).


In his book ‘Chelsea FC in the Swinging ‘60s: Football’s First Rock ’n’ Roll Club’ Football Agent Greg Tesser writes of Peter “He was like a throwback – and I mean that as a compliment. He was modest almost to a fault, very polite, quiet, and in all respects the complete antithesis of the King’s Road hellraisers so beloved by the red tops.” Describing his character on the field, Tesser says “As a player he was a tireless worker and a clever winger; there were not many more proficient crossers of a ball in the game.” (Tesser, 2013, p.164)


Peter was described as shy and reserved with a warm personality and genuine sincerity by journalist Francis Czucha, who interviewed him in 1969 for the Westminster & Pimlico News. Czucha wrote that Peter was overshadowed by his teammates and as a result was subsequently overlooked (Czucha, 1969). Peter did not receive many plaudits but could always be counted on when he was needed, a solid performer (Yates, 1970).


Peter was often under-appreciated by some of the Chelsea fans, often he was unfairly referred to as ‘Mary’ (Tesser, 2013, p.165). He was however described as a player’s player who was popular amongst, and admired by, his teammates (Fulham Chronicle, 1977).


After John Boyle was injured, Peter featured more regularly (TheChels.Info, 2010). On top of this, Dave Sexton saw Peter for the talented and reliable player that he was (Tesser, 2013, p.165). In the 1969/70 season, Peter featured in every match and of course was part of the 1970 FA Cup winning team (TheChels.Info, 2010). Peter scored twice against Watford in the semi-final (Express & Star, 2020). In the final, Peter scored a goal in the 41st minute, contributing to a 2-2 draw with Leeds which resulted in a replay (Chelsea FC, 2020).

Peter was again instrumental when the team won the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1971 (TheChels.Info, 2010).


When asked by Francis Czucha in 1969 what Peter had learnt as a professional footballer, he said “To take care of myself and stand on my own two feet. You give as much as you receive.” Peter described the Chelsea team at that time as “The hardest working side that I have ever known.” (Czucha, 1969). Peter was not impressed with the large transfer fees of the era, as much as £150,000 describing it as “ridiculous and out of hand” in contrast to the sport today (Czucha, 1969). He was also sceptical of sports writers and commentators as they did not take into account the elements of football that counted. Away from foot ball, Peter enjoyed his time with his family – his wife and sons– and enjoyed gardening (Czuzha, 1969).


After departing Chelsea where he made 343 appearances and scored 39 goals (TheChels.Info, 2010), Peter moved to Oxford United in May 1975, making 65 appearances and scoring two goals (Sporting Heroes, c.2023).


Peter’s life was tragically cut short at the age of 31. On the 20th of March 1977, Peter along with his wife Sally, 29, and their two friends, Allan and Janice Gilham were driving along the A40 near theGodstow Flyover, returning from a fundraising dance for Oxford football club, when a car ploughed into them from the other side of the road. All four of them were killed. (Reading Evening Post, 1977).


The driver who caused the deaths of Peter, Sally, Allan and Janice was 22-year-old Bartholomew Smith, son of MP John Smith (Reading Evening Post, 1977). Smith was estimated to be driving between 90 and 100mph and was considerably intoxicated (Alchetron, 2022) He received a £4,000 fine and a ten-year driving ban – despite killing four people and orphaning six children he was not sentenced to time in prison, an injustice which is still felt strongly today (Reading Evening Post,1977).


At the time of their deaths, Peter and Sally were living in Blenheim Drive, Witney (Collins, 1977). Their three children Matthew, 7, Daniel, 5 and Nathan, 2 were orphaned by the tragedy as were Allan and Janice’s children (Fulham Chronicle, 1977). The day after the crash, a fund was set up for them (Daily Mirror, 1977). A match at Stamford Bridge in April 1977 raised £20,000 for the six children (Wasbrough, 1977).


Upon hearing of Peter’s death, the Oxford United Manger Mick Brown said “We are all completely devastated. We have lost a tremendous player and a wonderfully good natured person.” (Collins,1977). Peter’s former teammate Ron Harris said “Nobby was a very underrated player. Many of the goals scored by Peter Osgood and Ian Hutchinson originated from Nobby on the left.” (Beam, 1977).


Prior to Peter’s death, he had played an active role in youth football, starting both the Oakley Village Boys’ Club and the Basingstoke Boys’ Sunday League (the under-14 league trophy being named after him). Peter was President of both, and his wife Sally was Secretary (Collins, 1977).


Speaking to other Chelsea fans about Peter, it is clear that he will be remembered as a kind, quiet and reliable player who was not always in the limelight but was well-respected and an instrumental character in the history of our club.


Rest in peace, Peter. Never forgotten.



What are your memories of Peter – did you ever meet him? I would love to hear from you.

You can contact me on Twitter: @AnnaLauraWelsh



For the research behind this blog, I found The British Newspaper Archive in partnership with the British Library a valuable source. You can create an account and view three articles for free:


Information on Peter’s burial site can be found here through The Chelsea Graves Society:


The YouTube channel Chelsea F.C. Lookback has created a compilation of Peter’s goals:


Footage of Peter and his teammates recording ‘Blue is The Colour’:


Chelsea fans shared their memories of Peter in The Shed End Forum in 2010:


The electronic version of Greg Tesser’s book ‘Chelsea FC in the Swinging ‘60s: Football’s First Rock ’n’ Roll Club’ can be purchased here through Google Play:


References:


Alchetron (2022) Peter Houseman. Available at: https://alchetron.com/Peter-Houseman


Beam, R. (1977) ‘Car pile-up Kills a Football Star’, Daily Mirror, 21st March 1977, p.3. Available at:


Chelsea FC (2020) Match Centre Rewind: 1970 FA Cup Final Chelsea vs Leeds. Available at:


Colins, C. (1977) ‘Soccer Star and Wife Killed in Horror Crash’, Reading Evening Post, 21 st March, p.9.Available at: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0002471/19770321/148/0009


Czucha, F. (1969) ‘It’s a Tough Life – Behind the Glamour’, Westminster & Pimlico News, 12th

September, p.6. Available at:


Daily Mirror. 22nd March 1977, p.11. Available at:


Express & Star (2020) On This Day in 1970: Chelsea Win FA Cup Replay against Leeds. Available at:


Fulham Chronicle (1977). Soccer World Stunned by Houseman Death, 25th March, p.3. Available at:


Reading Evening Post (1977) June – A Month of Jubilation, 29th December, p.4. Available at:


Sporting Heroes (c.2023) Peter Houseman. Available at:


Stamford-Bridge.com (c.2023) Match Detail: Chelsea v Sheffield United – 21/12/1963. Available at:


Tesser, G. (2013) Chelsea FC in the Swinging ‘60s: Football’s First Rock ’n’ Roll Club. Stroud: The History Press. Please note that I am referencing the Ebook version.


TheChels.Info (2010) Peter Houseman. Available at: http://thechels.info/wiki/Peter_Houseman


Wasbrough, J. (1977) ‘Thousands Pay Tribute to ‘Nobby’ Houseman’ Marylebone Mercury, 1 st April. Available at: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0003128/19770401/236/0023


Yates, L. (1970) ‘Division 1 Spotlight’, Coventry Evening Telegraph, 28th March, p.22. Available at:



You can find Anna's other beautifully researched blogs at https://thelittlebluechelseablog.wordpress.com/

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