Spotlight: Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris

It was in February 1962 that Ronald Edward Harris made his first team debut in a 1-0 win against Sheffield Wednesday. He went on to make a further 654 league appearances for Chelsea, cementing his place as a legend of the football club and becoming renowned as one of the toughest defenders of his era.

“Chopper” was part of the Chelsea side that won the FA Youth Cup in 1961. He graduated to the first team the following year and went on to hold his position for a further 18 years.

In 1965 Chelsea beat Leicester City in the League Cup final, Harris’ first trophy. A year later, he became Chelsea captain after the departure of Terry Venables and in 1967 he became the youngest ever captain of an FA Cup final side. Unfortunately, Chelsea lost 2-1 to Tottenham Hotspur.

Chelsea were known most for their flair and charm. Peter Bonetti, Charlie Cooke, Alan Hudson and most of all, Peter Osgood, made names for themselves under the management of Dave Sexton, and the leadership of Harris. It was Harris though, who was the foundation upon which the flair took place.

In 1970, Chelsea made it to the FA Cup final against arch rivals Leeds United. This final turned out to be one of the most physical of all time and unsurprisingly Harris was a stand out as his quick free kick led to Ian Hutchinson equalising at 2-2 with only minutes remaining.

The replay took place at Old Trafford and once more Harris was a star as the Blues won 2-1 after extra time, courtesy of David Webb’s famous back post “header”.

In the following season Harris led Chelsea to their first major European trophy, the Cup Winners Cup. This was achieved after another replayed final, this time in Athens against the Spanish giants Real Madrid. Peter Osgood scored in the final proper and the replay whilst the winner in the replay was scored by the unlikely figure of John Dempsey.

Harris’ last major cup final was the League Cup final of 1972. However, despite being strong favourites Chelsea were defeated by unfancied Stoke City 2-1, George Eastham scoring a late winner.

“Chopper” remained ever present at right back and centre half for Chelsea throughout the 1970s, a tumultuous period which saw the Blues relegated twice and promoted once. Towards the end of the decade though, he lost the captaincy to young star Ray Wilkins, now assistant coach at Chelsea.

Harris left Chelsea in 1980, after nearly two decades as part of the Blues defence. He currently holds the record for most league appearances for Chelsea, with 655, as well as the most appearances in total, with 795.

The legend that is Chopper Harris will never diminish and his legacy as a tough and uncompromising defender and fearless leader can be seen today in our very own John Terry. But for all Terry’s bravado and commitment, there will only ever be one Ron “Chopper” Harris.