Acceptable In The Eighties: Part One – The Bad & The Ugly 87/88

1987 wasn’t the best of years for me; the only year I really loved with any kind of memory during the 80’s was 1984.

However, for this nostalgia trip, I’m going to forsake the good and move to the bad. Don’t give up reading just yet, because it gradually gets better.

I honestly wouldn’t want to depress anybody with my torturous scything events of 1987; still, what do they say, better out than in? I suppose it depends upon what we’re really talking about; anyway, this is a family site and above all a Chelsea site. So for now, it’s out and definitely not in.

So, in 1987 I was firstly working at an Insurance company in Romford; for anybody who knows Romford, it’s on the Southend Victoria/Liverpool Street line by train. I was never the best at waking up in the mornings (I’m still not!) let alone getting the train; in fact sometimes I’d cut it so fine that my train would arrive at Shenfield from Billericay at 0837, with the train from Shenfield to Romford leaving at 0837.

I blame British Rail, how could they have a train come in only for one to depart from another platform at the same time? Running from one platform to another was not a happy experience for me and the worst part about it? if I was truly late from Billericay I’d end up on a train going straight through to Liverpool Street, purely by mistake (ahem!) then I’d have to come all the way back again to Romford.

Considering that I was supposed to start at 0900, the mission was implausible, let alone impossible. I don’t think that my boss appreciated, that on occasions, I’d roll in at the earliest, sometimes at 1030. Still, with lunch at 1200, the morning seemed to fly by.

In 1987/88 under the leadership of John Hollins, we were in the First Division as it was back then, the Premier League as it is now. The season had started well with two wins in the first two games against Sheffield Wednesday (H) 3-1 and Portsmouth (A) 3-0. In fact, our record up until the end of October 1987 wasn’t that bad.

However, October and November of 1987 were not good months; firstly there was “The Great Storm” I call it a Hurricane, which caused damage to London and the South-East. There was also the stock market crash, nothing has changed much there. Then later on in October my best-mate, who was at Warwick University had to come rushing back down to Essex as his Dad passed away suddenly. On top of that, there was the Kings Cross Rail disaster in November; not a happy time for anybody concerned.

By the November, I had left my job in Romford; getting on a train to London nearly every morning and coming back to Romford was getting to be a right old pain in the arse, plus my boss had been putting pressure on me to get in earlier “Once is a mistake, twice is an oversight, but Mr Bully, when it gets to seven or eight …” I’ll let you guess the rest.

So, with all of the above problems, Chelsea were the shining beacon of light, as they always have been for me, but wait, what’s that I remember? Let’s take a look at the season from October 31, 1987 to the end of the season; count how many bright, sparkling wins there were:

Oct 31 (H) Oxford United (Won) 2-1 *Sparkle*
Nov 3 (A) Arsenal (Lost) 3-1
Nov 22 (A) Derby County (Lost) 2-1
Nov 28 (H) Wimbledon (Drew) 1-1
Dec 6 (A) Liverpool (Lost) 2-1
Dec 12 (H) West Ham (Drew) 1-1
Dec 20 (A) Charlton Athletic (Drew) 1-1
Dec 26 (H) QPR (Drew) 1-1
Dec 28 (A) Norwich City (Lost) 3-0
Jan 1 (A) Luton Town (Lost) 3-0 (Happy New Year)
Jan 2 (H) Tottenham (Drew) 0-0
Jan 16 (A) Sheffield Wednesday (Lost) 3-0
Jan 23 (H) Portsmouth (Drew) 0-0
Feb 6 (A) Nottingham Forest (Lost) 3-2
Feb 13 (H) Manchester United (Lost) 1-2
Feb 27 (A) Newcastle United (Lost) 3-1
Mar 5 (A) Coventry City (Drew) 3-3
Mar 12 (H) Everton (Drew) 0-0
Mar 19 (A) Oxford United (Drew) 4-4
Mar 26 (H) Southampton (Lost) 0-1
Mar 29 (H) Watford (Drew) 1-1
Apr 2 (H) Arsenal (Drew) 1-1
Apr 9 (H) Derby County (Won) 1-0 *Sparkle*
Apr 23 (A) Wimbledon (Drew) 2-2
Apr 30 (H) Liverpool (Drew) 1-1
May 2 (A) West Ham United (Lost) 4-1
May 7 (H) Charlton (Drew) 1-1

Isn’t it lucky that Social Networks weren’t around at that time? Imagine all of the fools back then who moan about a draw, let alone a defeat these days?

The form guide in the league showed two wins; eleven defeats and fourteen draws, during that period of time, above. The club finished 18th, which you may think was lucky in a league of 21 as we were out of the relegation places. This particular season however, the 18th placed club went into the play-offs, seven points away from Portsmouth who were relegated on 35pts. Had we beaten Charlton on May 7 then we would not have been in the play-offs as both clubs ended on 42pts, unfortunately for Chelsea we ended with a goal difference of -18 while Charlton ended with -14.

The play-offs gave us a small glimmer of hope as we beat Blackburn 0-2 at Ewood Park and then 4-1 at Stamford Bridge. Unfortunately because of other circumstances I couldn’t get to the home leg, but thanks to Clubcall, I listened to some of the commentary; when I say some, it was probably for 20 minutes. With the going rate of about 80p per minute over the phone, I was glad that I wasn’t paying the bill!

Our next game, the play-off final was again over two legs: our opponents were Middlesbrough with the first game at Ayresome Park. Hope was high for a result there so that we could bring them back to Stamford Bridge and finish them off. Back in those days, the play-off final was over two legs played both home and away, not over one game at Wembley like these days.

By this time my own life had changed, London was no longer my work venue as I was now working just five minutes away from home. After those days of being late and the journey’s I could leave home at 0755 and start work at 0800, did this work though? I hate to admit this but even being five minutes away from work I would roll in at 0815. Not quite as bad as previous employers, but late all the same.

The new job gave my fellow colleagues room for laughter, after all they supported Spurs and West Ham, oh and one particular chap supported Celtic and Southend, as you do. The away leg at Middlesbrough was tough to take as we lost 2-0. Although I had to work part of the Saturday, the day of our second leg, I was able to get to the game.

After the 1983/84 season, the promotion, the exhilaration and the joy, came the doom and gloom. A solitary Gordon Durie goal gave the 40,000+ crowd hope, but it wasn’t enough as we lost 2-1 on aggregate and we were relegated. The defeat gave way to abuse of the away support with various items thrown at the travelling fans.

The 1987/88 season was definitely bad and ugly, but if relegation had not have happened, would we have enjoyed the 1988/89 season as much?

To be continued…

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