Tottenham And Chelsea Memories From The 1960s To The Present Day


Memories of the Tottenham and Chelsea rivalry in London derbies through the decades from the early 1960s to the present day and tomorrow’s game which may be of greater significance than any played in that period.

The Early Days

Tottenham v Chelsea 1971 [Photo: Alan Hill]Chelsea have played a significant part in my life and my development as a football supporter. The first top class football match I ever attended was at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge ground in the early ’60s. I was 4 or 5 years old. My Dad took me to see his team Stoke and his hero Stanley Matthews play his favourite London team. Matthews was in the twilight of his career. He must have been about 50 years old. That’s only a few years younger than I am now and double the age when I could last play a half decent game. He wandered up and down the wing for most of the game with his hands on his hips. He seemed to expect the ball to be played direct to his feet and kept shaking his head when his colleagues did not manage to get it to him. When he did get it he went on a couple of trademark runs but was not at his legendary best. I remember crying when Stoke lost and handing back the red and white rosette and my Dad’s embarrassment as the middle aged Chelsea fans around us laughed. Perhaps that’s why Dad never took me to White Hart Lane. A few years later, we went to another Chelsea/Stoke game. The only thing I remember from that is the Chelsea fans chucking firework bangers down on our heads from the back of the Shed as we left, filing out under the back wall.

First Match

Everybody seems to be able to remember the first time they went to see their favourite team and every last detail of the match. Not me. It’s strange, considering I can do exactly that for many matches from the mid ‘70s onwards and as those of you who have read my blogs will realise, I have almost total recall of most home games from the 1980-81 and 1981-82 seasons. I have only just realised – I think – that the very first game I attended at White Hart Lane on my own was the home game against Chelsea on 13 March 1971.

Photo: Alan Hill

A few months ago, the creased and scruffy programme dropped out from a pile of glossy 1980s programmes I had rescued from the loft. It is thin and flimsy, like a relic from a different era, which of course, it was. It cost 5 new pence. Pictures were in black and white. I am not sure why the details of the game don’t stand out in my memory like so many others. Although I think it might be because my view was obscured. What does stand out are the memories of the circumstances and the atmosphere.  I think it is because the whole thing was such an event for me, the overall occasion dominates the match details. It was the first time my parents would have relented and let me travel across London on my own since they had let me off the leash with a chum at the age of 11 and we had used a bus Red Rover ticket to travel all over London in a day. I remember their absolute panic when I had rung them from a ’phone box at the Elephant and Castle for a chat at about 11pm, just before we got the last bus home! We had been up West, Carnaby Street and as far as the edge of Epping Forest. I was grounded for a long time after that. What I do remember is being scared – and excited. I would have walked the mile of two from our home in Heston to Hounslow West station, the terminus for the Piccadilly line at the time (long before the extension into Heathrow airport.) The long tube journey winding through West and North London to Seven Sisters. The seemingly never ending walk amongst a river of fans the length of Tottenham High Road to the ground.

I would have been nearly 14 years old and tried to look confident and older than I really was and like I knew where I was going and what I was doing. I don’t even remember how I got a ticket. Did I go all that way on the off chance and buy it at the ticket office at the Park Lane End? I remember queuing up there plenty of times in the ensuing years. I was on my own, not because I was Billy no mates but because none of my friends were Spurs supporters. There was a small group of Spurs supporters in the same year who were more like acquaintances. I used to hear them talking about going to games and thought that they probably thought how could I call myself a supporter if I didn’t do the same? They seemed cool to me and I didn’t feel it. So, like many other times in my life, I set out into the unknown on my own to “prove myself” – to me and anyone else who might be watching.

It was standing on concrete terracing at the Park Lane end in those days. The crowd was massive by today’s standards. The history books show it was a tad below 50,000 that day. I remember struggling to see the action, the crush of it. Jumping up and down to try and see over the shoulders of the men in front of me. Frustration at missing much of the action as a result. I felt vulnerable and that people were looking at me. Being lifted off my feet a few times as the crowd surged forward every time Spurs attacked into the goal under our noses. Glimpses of Alan Gilzean rising to flick headers off that bald pate on to Chivers. Martin Peters. The guy urinating in a bottle and over the floor a few feet away. Hip flasks and pies. The singing from the Shelf to the right. The roar when we scored. Not actually seeing the goals because I was swamped in the surge. No screens to watch replays on. One of the best bits was spotting the guys from school at half time, 50 feet or so over to my left and down a bit. Having a brief chat with them and behaving as if I was up there all the time. Acting blasé, trying not give away that it was actually my first time, or that I had been crapping myself. We won the game 2-1 with goals from Martin Chivers and Peters. Having no voice left at the end of the game.

The journey home was scarier than the journey up. Of course the tube headed through West London, so was full of dejected Chelsea fans and this was in the days of considerable football violence. I recall being given the eye from a bunch at the other end of the carriage and trying to strike the right pose between not flinching away but not staring them out either and inviting trouble. So relieved when we got past Hammersmith and it thinned out. As usual, when I got back home, I pretended to my parents everything had gone smoothly, no hint of trouble and that I’d had tremendous fun, which was sort of true but I really felt I had been on a tremendous adventure with some narrow escapes. From then on, back at school, perhaps I imagined it but the Spurs clique seemed to treat me with more respect. I’d been supporting Spurs for ten years from a distance. This was the start of the real thing. It would be several more years before I could afford to become a proper regular but this is where it really began.

Recent Times

Before I sign off, a couple of more points about Chelsea games. We were regularly reminded in recent years of how we had gone many years without defeating Chelsea. Admittedly, it was a long time but thankfully we have put these headlines to bed recently with some hard earned victories.

Chelsea 1970-71 [Photo: Alan Hill]In my early years, I thought of Chelsea as strong but friendly rivals. I admired the team of Baldwin, Osgood, Cooke, Hollins and Hudson. Not boring like Arsenal. They didn’t seem like the real Chelsea anymore once the Russian scattered money like confetti for any half decent player that caught the eye. So it surprised me when we beat Manchester City  recently, that an old friend and Chelsea fan sent me a Facebook message to congratulate us and say it showed City that “money can’t buy you love”. Well, we are about to find out. It finally bought Chelsea the European Cup last year. Now with all of Abramovich’s billions they have two first class teams, a multi-million pound squad and are on a roll. As I type this, they have just scored the winner against a lacklustre Man United in the 87th minute. Spurs, just like in 1982 are carrying crucial injuries, sending out a patched up team and staggering towards the finish line. Even if we win on Wednesday night, we will still be way behind Chelsea on goal difference but two more wins would would see us finish ahead of Arsenal.

We can do it though. Our history against Chelsea shows that we have won the most important games. The 1967 FA Cup Final. The 2007-08 League Cup Final. For that game, Chelsea had been all conquering and had an even stronger squad but we still won. So, Spurs players, believe you can do it against the odds once more. Maximum effort, maximum points, just 3 more times. Please give me my 2nd best birthday present ever.  7 May; beat Chelsea, 12 May; beat Stoke, 14 May; my birthday, (remember 1981), 19 May; beat Sunderland and enter Champions League again.

Come on You Spurs.