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WE’VE MET BEFORE – Tottenham Hotspur

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Paul Waterhouse of Bygone Chelsea 1905-99 recounts some of our famous encounters over the years with our next league opponents, Tottenham Hotspur.

Although the rivalry between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur is one of the most intense in English Football, certainly as far as supporters of both clubs are concerned, it is only a fairly recent phenomena, largely arising from the 1967 F.A. Cup final when both teams met at Wembley.

However, Tottenham had the rather irritating habit of sending out congratulatory postcards to supporters whenever they did beat Chelsea. A sort of forerunner of the modern day DVD.
The North London side were formed in 1882 and in 1901 they became the first and only non league team to win the FA Cup, beating Sheffield United 3-1 in a replay after a 2-2 draw.
Despite this early success they weren’t elected to the football league until 1908 and in that first season they gained promotion to Division 1. Waiting there for them was a Chelsea side that had gained a place in Division 1 two years earlier, but had found life to be tough among the elite. Having finished in a mid table position at the end of the 1908-09 campaign, a poor start to the 1909-10 season led to the side struggling for positive results. One bright spot occurred when the two teams met for their inaugural meeting at Stamford Bridge on 18th December 1909 in front of a 40,000 gate. James Windridge gave Chelsea a 40th minute lead and a 75th minute goal from Joe Bradshaw seemed to settle the game for the home side. A goal in the 89th minute from Billy Minter gave Spurs some hope, but Chelsea held on for an important victory.

The F.A. Cup of that season brought the teams together again with the 2nd Round Tie taking place at Stamford Bridge with a 31,776 gate in attendance.

This time the visitors came out on top thanks to a solitary goal from ex Chelsea player, Percy Humphreys who would also strike again against his former employers when the return league fixture took place at White Hart Lane on 30th April 1910.

Both teams were in a dire situation, knowing that only victory could prevent either side from relegation and in front of a 35,000 gate for the final fixture of the season it all looked fine for Chelsea when James Windridge scored after 5 minutes. Just before half-time, Billy Minter levelled for Tottenham and Percy Humphreys gave the home side the lead in the 57th minute. Despite throwing everything at the home side, Chelsea couldn’t retrieve the situation and tasted relegation for the first time in their history.

After finishing a very promising 3rd place in Division 1 in 1920, optimism was high when the 1920-21 campaign got underway. However, old habits die hard at Chelsea and once again inconsistent form proved the undoing of the side. Chelsea travelled to White Hart Lane on 9th October and in front of a 50,000 gate they went in a goal down at half-time, Bert Bliss scoring the goal for Tottenham. The second half was a disaster as Bert Bliss completed his hat-trick and Charlie Wilson and Jimmy Dimmock accounting for the other two goals, the result leaving Chelsea at the foot of the table.
As was the custom after World War 1, the return fixture took place a week later and 76,000 spectators, one of the largest crowds recorded at Stamford Bridge attended the match. Behind to two Charlie Wilson goals at half-time, Chelsea faced an uphill task to rescue anything from the game and two further goals from Jimmy Dimmock and Bert Bliss sealed an emphatic 4-0 win for the visitors.

During the latter half of the 1953-54 season Chelsea exhibited the kind of form that champions are made of and after being stuck in the all too familiar places at the foot of the table, a final placing of 8th was the best finish in eighteen years. As the 1954-55 campaign progressed the usual inconsistent form dogged the side and there was certainly nothing to suggest that this would be a successful season.

It all seemed to change when Tottenham Hotspur came to Stamford Bridge on 13th November 1954, along with a 52,961 gate. Although they occupied a mid table spot Chelsea would still be favourites to overturn a Spurs side that were struggling just a place off the bottom, and so it proved. Jim Lewis opened the scoring for Chelsea in the 7th minute and a minute later Roy Bentley doubled the lead. John Harris hit the post from the penalty spot and despite Johnny Gavin reducing the arrears for the visitors late on, Chelsea held on to win. The result was part of a twenty game run that included just three defeats by the time Chelsea went to White Hart Lane for the return fixture on 2nd April 1955.

Tottenham had recovered somewhat to stand in mid-table, but Chelsea proudly occupied top spot and it stayed that way after Chelsea romped to an impressive victory. In front of 53,159 spectators, Len Duquemin put the home side ahead on 23 minutes, only for Johnny McNichol to level matters shortly afterwards. After the break, Len Duquemin restored Tottenham’s lead but again it was short lived as Stan Wicks equalised two minutes later. Two quick fire goals from Johnny McNichol and a Peter Sillett penalty just after the hour set the seal on a marvellous day out in North London as Chelsea edged towards a first league championship in their jubilee year.

The 1963-64 season saw Chelsea back in Division 1 after a twelve month absence and the two games in the league saw both teams win the away fixture. Tottenham winning 3-0 at Stamford Bridge on 21st September 1963 and Chelsea winning 2-1 at White Hart Lane on 1st February 1964. The games that were the real talking point between the two sides also took place during the 1963-64 season, this time in the F.A. Cup.

The draw for the 3rd Round handed Chelsea the difficult task of facing Tottenham at White Hart Lane and after falling behind to a 3rd minute Terry Dyson goal, Chelsea silenced the majority of the 49,382 spectators by drawing level through Bert Murray in the 20th minute. Neither could force a winner so the two teams reconvened four days later at Stamford Bridge.

An incredible gate of 70,123 turned up to watch the game, the last occasion in which a gate in excess of 70,000 would attend a game at Stamford Bridge. As for the game itself, Bobby Tambling put Chelsea ahead on 17 minutes and the prolific marksman then had a penalty saved two minutes later. A tight encounter was finally settled when Bert Murray scored on 74 minutes to secure a 2-0 victory for the home side.

As the 1974-75 campaign got underway it was clear to all that a decline that began after the Cup Winners Cup triumph in 1971 had gathered pace. Shorn of confidence and laden with debt due to the re-building programme at Stamford Bridge, it was always going to end in tears. There was of course the odd highlight, especially when Tottenham visited Stamford Bridge on 12th October 1974. A gate of 32,660 saw a game poor on quality, but at least a positive result as a 7th minute penalty from John Hollins was enough to snatch the points for Chelsea.

As the season progressed both teams were involved in a desperate struggle for survival at the foot of the table and with just three games remaining, the clash at White Hart Lane on 19th April 1975 was vital. Defeat would mean disaster either way and with so much riding on the result it’s no surprise that 51,064 spectators attended the match, although many of the Chelsea contingent were strangely locked out. Amid shocking scenes off the field, Tottenham scored twice through Steve Perryman and Alfie Conn to virtually seal Chelsea’s relegation that was confirmed after the failure to beat both Sheffield United and Everton in the final two home games.

As Chelsea headed for an uncertain future, games between the sides lacked any great importance, but one that really caught the imagination occurred at Stamford Bridge on 6th March 1982. At the time Chelsea were occupied with trying to stay in Division 2 amidst ever lower attendances, but an excellent FA Cup campaign that included the improbable 2-0 victory against Liverpool brought Chelsea and Tottenham together again. The visitors were defending the trophy they had won a year earlier and were odds on favourites for the quarter final clash. However, Chelsea didn’t read the script, especially in the first half as a Mike Fillery thunderbolt free kick set the ground alight with 42,557 present. The stadium rocked during the interval but within twenty minutes of the re-start, Tottenham scored three times through Steve Archibald, Glenn Hoddle and Micky Hazard. After that 3rd goal, Alan Mayes responded for Chelsea and despite a valiant fight it was the visitors who came out on top after a magnificent encounter.

After Chelsea regained their Division 1 status in 1989, games against Tottenham were highly anticipated, especially as the side from N17 had become extremely benevolent towards Chelsea. During that time a Tottenham victory was as unlikely as a trophy win is now but the encounter between them both that occurred at Stamford Bridge on 26th October 1996 had special resonance for Chelsea fans.

Four days earlier, the club was rocked by the news that Director and benefactor, Matthew Harding was among those killed in a helicopter crash after the league cup tie at Bolton Wanderers. A pint of his favourite tipple, Guinness, was placed on the centre spot and supporters of both teams in the 28,373 gate observed the minutes silence prior to kick-off. Ruud Gullit scored for Chelsea on 27 minutes, only for Chris Armstrong to draw Tottenham level just before the break. David Lee restored the lead from the penalty spot on 52 minutes and an emotional day came to a happy conclusion when Roberto Di Matteo wrapped up the victory by scoring in the 80th minute.

As the season progressed, Chelsea also embarked on what was to prove a successful FA Cup campaign and six days before the visit to Three Point Lane, as it had been christened by Chelsea fans, they had recovered from a two goal deficit to beat Liverpool 4-2.
An attendance of 33,027 spectators was at White Hart Lane to see Tottenham open the scoring inside the 1st minute, much to the delight of the travelling fans as Sol Campbell put through his own goal. Chelsea dominated proceedings but didn’t get the decisive second goal until Roberto Di Matteo netted in the 53rd minute. Chelsea kept the hosts at bay until a late slip on 83 minutes allowed David Howells to reduce the arrears but the visitors held on for what by now had become a routine win against bitter opponents.

Reproduced with permission from Paul Waterhouse, Bygone Chelsea 1905-99

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