top of page
  • tjrolls

Speedie Treble As Chelsea Hold On For Chaotic Wembley Triumph

On Saturday, Chelsea play Manchester City at Wembley. The first time the sides met there, in 1986, produced a memorable, nerve-shredding game.

After the Heysel disaster in 1985, English clubs were banned from European competition. To compensate, the Football League introduced a Football League Super Cup for the 1985/86 season, for the six sides that would have qualified for Europe. Every other side in the top two divisions was invited to play in the equally new Full Members Cup (FMC), a competition that was the brainchild of Chelsea chairman Ken Bates.

No suitable sponsor could be found, reducing the revenue possibilities for competing clubs. Of 38 sides eligible for the first FMC, only 21 entered, including Chelsea, whose first game in the competition, a October 1985 3-0 home win against Portsmouth, attracted just 6,833 spectators. As Chelsea progressed in the competition, they beat Charlton Athletic (Away), West Bromwich Albion (Home) and (in a two-legged Area Final) Oxford United. No crowd in any of those games reached five figures but by beating Oxford 4-2 on aggregate Chelsea reached the final, where they were to play Manchester City, who beat Hull City in their Area Final.

The final, originally planned for Saturday March 1st 1986, until Oxford complained about their game with City being postponed, was eventually scheduled for Sunday March 23rd, 1986. The importance the Football League gave to the competition was illustrated by the fact that both sides had to play Division One games the previous day. Chelsea were at Southampton, City had an away Manchester derby to contend with.

To ensure the final could be played at Wembley, Bates and City chairman Peter Swales had to underwrite to £150,000 stadium hire charge. Chelsea had not played there since 1972. For a whole generation of Chelsea supporters it would therefore be their first trip to the national stadium, so despite the less-than-stellar tournament, interest in the final among the support was huge and the 46,000 allocation sold out.

In the games played the day before the final, City achieved a highly creditable 2-2 draw at Old Trafford, coming back from 2-0 down. Skipper Colin Pates scored as Chelsea won 1-0 at Southampton so both sides went into the final in confident mood. As an aside, Chelsea were not given any tickets at The Dell but a few hundred die-hards, inevitably, got in anyway.

Kerry Dixon, so prolific since his Summer 1983 arrival from Reading, had not scored that year, through a combination of injury and loss of form. Goalkeeper Eddie Niedzwiecki had severely injured a knee the previous week at QPR, so Steve Francis was in the side.

Chelsea had beaten City 1-0 in a tedious match at Stamford Bridge a fortnight earlier, but approached the final with just two wins in nine games. They were, however, still in a creditable fourth place in Division One, just four points behind leaders Everton with two games in hand, whereas City were thirteenth.

Dixon was ruled out for Wembley late on with a groin strain, so Colin Lee came in for his first centre-forward appearance since Dixon had arrived at the club. Apart from that, manager John Hollins picked the winning side from the previous day, as Chelsea lined up in white shirts :- Francis; Wood, Pates, McLaughlin, Rougvie; Bumstead, Spackman; Nevin, Lee, Speedie, McAllister.

City made one change from the side that drew at Old Trafford, Mick McCarthy coming in. On their left wing was Clive Wilson, scorer the previous day and later to make 100 appearances for Chelsea. With both managers resisting the temptation to start squad players, twenty of the twenty-two starting players had therefore played in highly competitive matches the day before.

The crowd of 67,236 contained an estimated 50,000 Chelsea supporters and the £508,000 revenue it generated meant each club made £90,000 net profit, more the justifying the risk they took in hiring Wembley. Supporters could pay on the day and many present thought the crowd may have been larger than officially declared, with supporters climbing walls and squeezing through turnstiles to get in. Certainly, my section of the terracing was ridiculously packed. Hollins’ players were on a hardly generous £1,000 a man bonus to win at Wembley, a feat the club had never previously achieved.

Before the game, Chelsea supporters slightly optimistically sang ‘And now you’re gonna believe us – we’re gonna win the League.’ City started on top, and Steve Kinsey put them ahead inside ten minutes, but Chelsea regrouped, and David Speedie equalised after 23 minutes, rising high to convert a Pat Nevin cross.

Speedie heads his first

Lee turned in the box and fired home his first goal of the season to put Hollins’ side ahead and they went in at half-time 2-1 up and on top. For much of the second half it was the Speedie and Lee show. The Scot scored twice in the first fifteen minutes, first turning and shooting home then touching another Nevin cross in at the far post. Speedie’s treble was the first at Wembley since Geoff Hurst’s rather more significant one twenty years earlier, and only the second there in a club final, the other being Stan Mortensen in the 1953 FA Cup Final.

Speedie nets his third

And he duly celebrates his hat-trick

When Lee shot superbly home from outside the area to make it 5-1 with ten minutes left, it looked all over.

Lee celebrates putting Chelsea 5-1 up

Both sides were, unsurprisingly, tiring at this stage and errors were frequent as both sides continued to pour forward. The Manchester side had taken off Nicky Reid, who Nevin had tormented, and brought on winger Paul Simpson. He started to attack Darren Wood on the Chelsea right flank and crossed for Mark Lillis to pull one back. There were only five minutes left so it was surely just a consolation. Another Simpson cross was then inadvertently headed into his own net by Doug Rougvie, under pressure from Lillis. 5-3. Chelsea’s growing air of on- and off-pitch panic then grew exponentially when Lillis hit home a penalty to make it 5-4 with a minute still to go.

To the huge relief of the Chelsea masses, referee Alan Saunders blew the final whistle before those supporters blew a collective gasket. A remarkable finish to a thrillingly attacking, open game. They stayed to cheer their players on a triumphant lap of honour. A relieved Hollins observed ‘If football is dying, I hope it is dying like that. I’ve never seen a better Cup Final.’

The victorious Chelsea side

The Chelsea hordes had a wonderful day, thoroughly enjoying the novelty of a trip to Wembley. The Evening Standard, reflecting a media apathy and cynicism about the Full Members Cup, called the early rounds an ‘unmitigated disaster,’ with average crowds of just 4,000, and questioned whether it should survive for a second season. Bates, obviously keen to talk up the competition, maybe had a point when he observed ‘maybe the fans do want sudden death occasions and the see their team play at Wembley.’

Chelsea, seemingly using their indisciplined late defending at Wembley as a template, lost their next two games 0-4 and 6-0 over Easter, faded badly and finished the season in sixth place. City ended fifteenth, just four points off relegation.

The Football League Super Cup never caught the public imagination (I must admit I had completely forgotten about it) and it was scrapped after that one season. The Full Members Cup struggled on until 1992 with a couple of different sponsors (Simod and Zenith Data Systems). Chelsea reached the final again, beating Middlesbrough 1-0 in 1990. Crowds generally remained low, and it was no surprise when the competition quietly disappeared once English sides were back in Europe and the Premier League had been created.

Supporters may have seen greater triumphs at Wembley in the past thirty years but will still reflect fondly on that crazy March afternoon. As the song goes 'When Pates went up to lift the Members Cup, we were there'. We were indeed.

Tim Rolls

(Information for this piece was taken from various newspapers plus 'Celery: Representing Chelsea In the 1980's' by Kelvin Barker).


262 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page