2019/20: An Incredible Journey – In the beginning by Steve Blighton
Saturday 16th August 1969, my Dad, Uncle Jim, and me walking down the Kings Road – the 6 year old me staring agog at the huge amounts of men and boys around me all moving in one direction.
The smell of fried onions and a hint of burgers fills the air as I rush to keep up with my Dad and Uncle that Saturday afternoon around 2.30pm, after walking from my Nan’s house along Lots Road, stopping off for a coke en-route in a smoke filled pub.
Chelsea versus Ipswich Town, the first home game of the 1969/70 First Division campaign, started my football journey that season beginning at Stamford Bridge and culminated nine months later, being allowed to stay up late to watch what has since become billed as ‘the most brutal game of football’. Wednesday night 29th April 1970, Chelsea versus Leeds United in the FA Cup final replay at Old Trafford – they don’t make them like that anymore. And then after the brutality came the beauty of the 1970 World Cup and that amazing Brazil team. I was now hooked on the game!
Like most boys, and pretty much throughout their lives, their Dad is their hero, and my Dad was mine. He had taken me to my first ever game of football and would continue to do so on many occasions. I loved going to football with my Dad which we did throughout my life, and my last memory of him was watching Chelsea demolish Tottenham Hotspur 4-0 on Sunday 8th March 2014 – 4 days later he died in his sleep.
My Dad was quite a good footballer himself. He had trials at Chelsea, which I only ever found out after he died. He was rejected by the Blues because his heading was weak. However, he got signed by Arsenal but decided to stay part-time and remain in the Air Force. He was stationed in Lincolnshire and spent some time at Scunthorpe United and was good enough to play Representative football for the Air Force. During that time he was dedicated enough to change his preferred foot. He was a right-half and his competition at the time was an amateur international, so he taught himself to kick with his left foot and a new career as a left-half was born.
So in honour of his memory I decided I would attempt to get to 50 games during the 2019/20 season – homage to my first game with my dad fifty years ago. My original criteria was that I would go to games at grounds of teams that had either been a full member of the Football League (or phoenix club) or had won the FA Cup. However, as the season progressed, I revised my criteria as it was obvious, I wouldn’t reach my goal that way, so I lowered the net to include games as far down the football pyramid as Step 10. For those unfamiliar with the pyramid, the Premier League is Step 1, the Championship is Step 2 and so on. Step 10 is the North West Counties League Division One North and is where AFC Darwen ply their trade. I got to see Darwen on my journey, who are the current incarnation of the club that played in the Football League from 1891 to 1899, with the original Darwen FC featured recently in the excellent Netflix series, The English Game.
However, the story of that trip to Lancashire and the wonderfully named, Anchor Ground, is for another time. So let’s go back to where this all started with the match details of that Saturday in August 1969.
Chelsea 1 (Hutchinson 74’) Ipswich Town 0
Venue: Stamford Bridge
Chelsea: Bonetti, Dempsey, Houston, McCreadie, Hinton, Cooke, Hollins, Houseman, Hutchinson, Baldwin (Osgood), Tambling
Ipswich Town: Best, Carroll, Mills, Morris, Baxter, Jefferson, Woods, Viljoen, Wigg, O’Rourke, Brogan. Substitute: McNeil
So the journey begins
Love you Dad x