THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Division One

CFCvSaints15015 April ~ No wonder people think football was better in the old days. Chelsea were bottom of the First Division, and hadn't won in 11 games. Crowds that had started the season around the 30,000 mark had dwindled to the teens, though chairman Brian Mears went out of his way to thank fans for their continued loyalty. Especially after Chelsea had lost 6-0 at Forest two weeks earlier: “It was a night when we were heavily beaten, a night of drenching rain and even snow, yet, those Chelsea fans were cheering the team from first whistle to last.

Well, if there's nothing nice to say about the team, why not praise the fans instead? Or the opposition? Mid-table Southampton are lauded in the programme as "a fascinating blend of age and youth, experience and zest". Manager Lawrie McMenemy "has even had the vision to look abroad for players, paying £50,000 for Yugoslav full-back Ivan Golac". Imagine that, Chelsea. Though in fact goalkeeper Petar Borota had come to Stamford Bridge from Golac's old club Partizan Belgrade just the month before.

Borota cost a reported £70,000, a fee all the more surprising when you read the club's sobering “Financial Progress Report – Year 3” on page 15. Chief executive Martin Spencer outlines how the club's debt has been reduced from £3.4 million to £2.21m since 1977, but lower gates and the rising cost of over-ambitious ground improvements meant that "it has only been possible to repay a much smaller sum to the bank from profits earned this season". These were staggering debts at the time, and eventually lead to cuddlesome Ken Bates buying the club for £1 in 1982.

An application form for the Player of the Year Dinner-Dance ("Book NOW... applications are rolling in") gives the programme a feel of just wanting to get this miserable season over and done with. Indeed, Chelsea finished bottom, winning just one more game and conceding 92 goals in total. "I am sure [manager] Danny Blanchflower and the team will give you plenty to cheer in 1979-80," writes Mears unconvincingly. Blanchflower was gone by September, replaced by Geoff Hurst, and never managed a professional side again.

Targeting the fan demographic “Join the team that supports London: Working for London Transport, you'll be playing an important part in the capital's vital transport system.” To further lure you into applying, the London Underground symbol is depicted within a rosette. So, working for London Transport is kind of like going to the Cup final, right?

Result Chelsea 1 (Stanley) Southampton 2 (Holmes, Peach)
Crowd 18,243
Chelsea Borota, Harris, Sitton, Wilkins G, Stride, Fillery, Wilkins R, Bannon, Langley, Osgood (Stanley), Aylott
Southampton Wells, Waldron, Nicholl, Golac, Peach, Holmes, Williams, Hayes, Baker, Ball, Boyer

Ian Plenderleith

You can save £2 on Ian Plenderleith's "Rock n Roll Soccer: The Short Life and Fast Times of the North American Soccer League", published by Icon Books

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