We’ve Met Before – Southampton
Chelsea first met Southampton in a league game on 4th October 1924 at The Dell with the game ending 0-0, but it wasn’t the first encounter between the two teams.
That had taken place just over a year earlier when Chelsea were still in Division 1. On this occasion it was an F.A.Cup 2nd Round tie at Stamford Bridge that drew a huge gate of 67,105 spectators. A keenly fought contest ended 0-0 and in the replay four days later Chelsea fell to a narrow 1-0 defeat thanks to a 30th minute goal by Charlie Brown, the attendance at The Dell being 15,781.
Two of the more remarkable encounters between the teams both took place during the 1967-68 season. Tommy Docherty’s tenure at Chelsea was almost at an end when Southampton came to Stamford Bridge on 2nd September 1967 for the Division 1 fixture. With 32,726 spectators in the ground, Ron Davies scored a hat-trick inside the first half hour to put Southampton in charge. Peter Osgood reduced the arrears within two minutes of the re-start but the visitors scored another three goals courtesy of a Martin Chivers brace and Ron Davies notching his fourth of the game. Chelsea’s only response was a second for Peter Osgood in a match that marked Paul McMillan’s one and only appearance for Chelsea.
The 6-2 defeat came hot on the heels of a 5-1 hammering at Newcastle United just three days earlier. By the time Chelsea travelled to Southampton for the return game at The Dell on 6th January 1968, Dave Sexton was now in charge of the side. The home side took an early lead through Mick Channon but goals by Charlie Cooke and Tommy Baldwin put Chelsea ahead at half time. Bobby Tambling snatched Chelsea’s third on 56 minutes and two minutes later John Boyle made it four. Although Ron Davies scored twice, Peter Osgood ensured that Chelsea exacted some sort of revenge by winning 5-3 in front of a 27,132 gate.
The next encounter we’ll look at is probably my own personal favourite game between the two sides. With the club now in severe financial trouble, in Division 2 and having to use players who had come through the junior ranks, a promising start saw Chelsea sitting top of the table when Southampton visited Stamford Bridge on 30th October 1976. Prior to the game, speculation in the press was that this attractive looking fixture could pull a gate in excess of 30,000, but the then Chairman, Brian Mears confidently predicted that over 40,000 would be there. He wasn’t wrong as an official gate of 42,654 attended the match. As for the game itself, a very tight encounter was scoreless until the 72nd minute when Ted MacDougall put the visitors ahead. Led by Ray Wilkins, the young Chelsea side rallied and played like a side that was heading back to Division 1. Ken Swain equalised just four minutes after Chelsea had fallen behind and with a raucous crowd behind them scored twice in the final nine minutes, Ray Wilkins getting the third goal after Steve Finnieston had given Chelsea the lead.
The next encounter we will look at occurred at The Dell on 22nd March 1986. On the day of the game Chelsea stood 4th in Division 1 and still had designs on winning the title whereas Southampton were struggling below halfway. Just 15,509 spectators were at the match and it began quite a remarkable weekend for Colin Pates, the Chelsea captain. He scored the only goal of the game in the 61st minute to give Chelsea a vital three points and just twenty four hours later he was at Wembley to lift the Full Members Cup after Chelsea had beaten Manchester City in a nine goal thriller.