The Clot, The Doc, and The Tickets. Brighton 1967.
Back in 1967 the FA Cup was a huge deal. Each round from the third onwards, the press spent the entirely week building up to the Saturday games, crowds were massive and the chance of a trip to Wembley inspired the players. Giant-killing was droolingly anticipated and, when it occurred, slavishly celebrated. Chelsea, semi-finalists the two previous seasons, won 2-1 win at Huddersfield in the third round that year and faced a highly winnable trip to Brighton, languishing in the wrong half of the Division Three table, in the next round. Giant-killing build-up a go-go.
Unfortunately for Chelsea, the back page headlines the Sunday before the game were not just about the travails of the team, down to sixth after being top in October, or Brighton’s chances of causing an upset.. ‘Chelsea Stars In Big Cup Tickets Row’ screamed a News Of The World headline, as the popular press went to town on perceived player greed. Chelsea players had been offered the chance to buy ten stand and ten terrace tickets for the Brighton game the following week but wanted twenty stand tickets in addition to their two complementaries. After the 0-0 draw with Manchester City they ‘marched off the pitch and into a mass meeting’ to discuss their inadequate ticket allocation. As a result the whole team have decided to hand back their entire allocation.’ The News Of The World were not alone in asking why they required so many tickets. Peter Bonetti, who lived near Brighton, furiously denounced the club to the Daily Mail. ‘It is disgusting. It is a matter of principle. We do all the spadework and the club reap all the benefit. We felt we deserved a bigger allocation.’
Chairman Bill Pratt decided that as the players did not want the tickets they had been allocated, they would be sold to supporters. ‘As far as I know they were sold to supporters and that’s the end of it.’ He later commented ‘there is certainly no suggestion we were afraid of tickets falling into the wrong hands’ after press insinuations that players were selling to touts. In ‘Docherty, Living Legend Of Football’ it states that Chelsea Secretary John Battersby also told Docherty that the allocation would be the same at Wembley should Chelsea reach the final. Docherty was unsurprisingly furious, but Pratt backed Battersby. If this final ticket policy were indeed the case, and it went unmentioned in the press at the time, it would certainly help explain the anger shown by the players.
Controversy-magnet Docherty, inevitably, got involved as the story dominated the back pages, taking the players’ side. ‘I agreed the allocation was unfair. There is such a big demand on them for tickets at these times.’ He returned his own tickets in solidarity and made this clear to the press. He went on ‘I am sickened by the way the board has handled the whole business. I have said I’m going to have this out with the club, and I will, but not now.’ He told The Sun he did not want to sit with the directors. ‘I may have been hot-headed and impulsive in the past, but not this time. I have hammered these boys in the past. Now, when things aren’t going so smoothly, this is the last thing that should have happened.’
The manager publicly criticised Battersby, who was very close to the directors, arguing ‘it is not right that a Secretary of a club should be able to dictate to a manager in this way. I am angry.’ Docherty went on the BBC TV sports programme ‘Sportsview’ and put his opinions over, agreeing with the view that some players’ tickets probably ended up with spivs. He also gave his director’s box ticket to a friend, a move that apparently infuriated Pratt. Docherty and Pratt had enjoyed a rocky relationship ever since the latter took over as club chairman from Joe Mears after his sudden death the previous summer. Docherty and Mears got on famously, but the arrival of his successor meant mutual respect had been replaced by mutual dislike, making Docherty’s position unstable, as in a row between manager and chairman there was usually only one likely winner. This unwanted ticket row nearly brought things to a head.
Though Pratt responded ‘I respect Tommy’s decision, but his gesture does nothing to alter the situation,’ the manager’s public stance and provocative comments went down very badly with the Chelsea board, who held fire until after the game before taking things further. Brighton captain Dave Turner called the Chelsea players greedy, stoking the fire nicely for the cup-tie itself. The increasingly ham-fisted Pratt unhelpfully called Turner’s comments ‘very good,’ thereby continuing to drive a wedge between him and his manager. 20,000 Brighton supporters went to a reserve game to ensure tickets for the big game, which was a 35,000 sell-out in their first ever all-ticket game. Chelsea sold their terrace tickets the previous Sunday morning, so those queuing could read and digest the NOTW ticket story. Four special trains ran from Victoria to Brighton, unthinkable in the modern era.
Docherty was criticised in the press for cockiness and immaturity, with the directors advised to make it clear ‘who is running the club.’ The players were roundly criticised for their perceived greed and the lack of sympathy for players and manager in the media was almost unanimous, ironically from journalists who never had to pay to watch a game.
Bravely attempting to bring the focus back to football matters, Docherty told the Daily Mirror ‘in eight days we could be left with nothing’ and stressed the need to beat Brighton and, the week after, Burnley. He told the Daily Mail ‘we would be kidding ourselves to say we still have a chance in the League. We’re not playing well, that’s the truth.’ Apart from the FA Cup, a Fairs Cup place was still on the cards if League form improved.
The day before the Brighton game, the Football League Management Committee, in an almost unprecedented move, called in Chelsea directors to discuss ‘certain matters’ including articles written by Docherty. The League were also upset that Chelsea refused to move their forthcoming home game against Fulham, scheduled for League Cup Final day. The League feared, wrongly, that QPR, who had made the final despite being in the Third Division, would lose support with a local derby taking place. Football League Secretary Alan Hardaker claimed this meeting was arranged before the row over cup-tie tickets. After the meeting took place, Hardaker commented ‘they had a frank exchange of views and there is nothing more to say. Chelsea were invited for a friendly chat. They came along and there the matter ends.’ Chelsea made no comment. The Daily Telegraph felt they were called in because ‘Chelsea are not reflecting quite the right image of League soccer at the moment.’
Stories appeared in the press that Docherty might look to leave but he was unequivocal to the Daily Express. ‘Me leave Chelsea? Ridiculous. When Chelsea offered me a three-year contract, I said I would take five. Why would I do that if I wanted away?.’
Docherty’s solution to the on-field malaise was to drop Peter Houseman and Jim Thomson and bring back Tony Hateley and Joe Kirkup for what promised to be a physical encounter at the Goldstone Ground, Chelsea lined up :- Bonetti; Kirkup, Hinton, Ron Harris, McCreadie; Hollins, Boyle, Cooke; Tambling, Hateley, Baldwin.
In the event, it was an extremely physical encounter. The hostility between the two camps ramped up an hour before kick-off when old-school Brighton boss Archie Macauley stopped the Chelsea team warming up on the pitch. The packed crowd, paying record Goldstone Ground receipts of £8,500, were nicely fired up as well.
Chelsea began the stronger and Bobby Tambling’s beautifully taken fifth minute goal, from a Hateley pass after a breakaway, was no surprise. Chelsea could not build on their start and Turner equalised just after half time.
Bobby Tambling gives Chelsea an early lead
By this point, however, much of the action took place away from the goalmouth, and often away from the ball. John Boyle was dismissed after 29 minutes for retaliating to a blatant kick by Wally Gould, who left a gash down the Scot’s leg. Gould, ludicrously, was unpunished. Boyle admitted to the Daily Mirror, under a ‘The Nightmare of John Boyle’ headline, that he had walked two miles from the ground after being ordered off. ‘I was silly, but the damage has been done.’ The Observer felt the home crowd may have swayed referee Jim Carr.
John Templeman was booked for a ‘violent tackle’ on Charlie Cooke, Peter Bonetti was clattered by the errant Gould, who was extremely fortunate to still be on the pitch, and there were a number of running feuds in ‘a scrappy, scruffy’ ‘depressing’ game.
Peter Bonetti remonstrates with referee Mr Carr after a clattering by Wally Gould
Chelsea were praised for the way they coped with ten men for an hour by retaining possession wherever possible, and the draw was fully deserved, though Bonetti, once again, made a string of excellent saves. Ron Harris, who ‘revelled under pressure,’ was given Man Of The Match by the Evening Standard. They were now 11-1 for the trophy,
The People back page headline ran ‘I Accuse Chelsea! They Came To Kick Us Off The Park.’ Macaulay claimed that Chelsea had tried to kick Brighton off the park, that Docherty had sworn at him and that he had ‘lost all respect for Chelsea after the way they conducted themselves. They were dead lucky to get a draw.’ For some reason Pratt, apparently incapable of saying ‘no comment,’ was moved to observe ‘there were the usual brushes. Some of our chaps kicked their and some of ours kicked theirs. Least said, soonest mended, I think.’ Not least by him, it might be argued. Docherty, who was satisfied with a draw under the circumstances, was incensed by Boyle’s sending off, calling the unpunished Gould’s part in the incident a diabolical liberty. He talked of trying to use film evidence to try and mitigate the sentence, but in the end, nothing came of it.
Docherty was told to attend a ‘surprise’ board meeting on the afternoon of the replay. Bullish as ever, he told the Daily Mail ‘It is news to me. I don’t know what it is all about, but I suppose I shall be told tomorrow. I imagine this meeting will bring up the subject of tickets.’ He did not need to be Nostradamus to realise the likelihood of that. Docherty approached the meeting not sure what to expect, and maybe slightly fearful of the sack. The meeting last ninety minutes, Docherty was present for half an hour. The club statement on the meeting and verdict was terse. ‘At a Director’s meeting today Mr. Docherty, the team manager, received a severe reprimand for statements made to the press and TV relating to the management and officials of the club, and he was warned as to his future conduct.’
Chelsea Secretary John Battersby made it clear the reprimand related to what he had said the previous week and not what he had written prior to that, which was the subject of the meeting between the board and the Football League Management Committee. Doubtless biting his lip, Docherty responded to the Daily Mail ‘I had a fair hearing. Newspaper articles were read out to me, and I stand by most of the things I said in them. The board have not gagged me, and I must have time to think about what I am going to do from now on.’ He told the Daily Mirror ‘I have not been gagged. This is not Russia’ but it seemed as though Pratt had tried to do exactly that. Battersby further, and ominously, commented that the club had never had to discipline its manager in this way before. Docherty was understandably very unhappy at the timing of the meeting, as he had a crucial game to prepare for that evening.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the ticket allocation fiasco, Docherty’s already cold relationship with the board, and particularly Pratt, became even more fractured, especially after the unwanted and embarrassing intervention by the Football League. A comparatively minor issue, which should have been dealt with in-house, received widespread coverage for days and reflected little credit on Pratt, Docherty, or the players. As the Daily Mirror commented, it smeared the reputation of all concerned. Pratt volunteered the opinion to The Sun that ‘some people might think me a clot,’ which was probably considerably understating the position. The Shed chant ‘Our chairman is a Pratt’ made their position clear.
Pratt’s unerring ability to exacerbate matters every time he spoke to the press did him and the club no favours and the club was undoubtedly missing the steady hand and wise head of Joe Mears. They press clearly saw Pratt as being out of his depth and almost trying to provoke a man who had just been awarded a five-year contract. It is, however, also clear from reading articles about Chelsea in early 1967 that many football journalists were losing patience with Docherty, feeling he needed to calm down.
The replay itself was not all-ticket but the gates were closed on 54,852 spectators, who paid £15,571. ,A further 3,000 were locked out, including many late-arriving Brighton supporters. Chelsea players received twelve stand tickets each. Docherty shocked supporters, and probably his team, by dropping Charlie Cooke to the bench. He made the change ‘because I wanted all-out attack.’ He also dropped Joe Kirkup, moving Marvin Hinton to right-back. Reserve centre-half Allan Young came in, allowing Ron Harris to move further forward.
Young duly scored his first goal in over five years at the club as Chelsea easily won 4-0, Tambling with the first two, including a 25-yard bullet, and Hateley the third. It transpired it was to be Young's only goal for the club before he left for Torquay the following year.
Tony Hateley nets Chelsea's third replay goal
There were chants of ‘Charlie Cooke, Charlie Cooke’ when the team changes were announced pre-match, and cheers when he came on for the injured Tommy Baldwin with 20 minutes left. Though nothing like as physical as the first game, Boyle also limped off at the end with a badly swollen ankle. High profile Daily Express journalist Desmond Hackett was utterly dismissive of Chelsea’s chances in the competition, saying he would walk barefoot from Wembley if they won the Cup, a challenge that received significant publicity as the competition went on. Supporter Peter Gray remembers that the FA Cup ‘was such a big trophy to win in those days’ and Chelsea seemed ‘desperate to win it.’
Allan Young (No.5) celebrates his first Chelsea goal
Chelsea went on to reach the FA Cup Final where, with Docherty engulfed in another ticket row, his side lost 2-1 to Tottenham. Docherty’s departure seemed inevitable and, after FA disciplinary action over incidents on a summer tour of Bermuda, he left the club in early October.
This is an expanded version of a section of Tim’s ‘Diamonds, Dynamos and Devils’ book, which covers The Doc’s tempestuous six-year reign at Chelsea.