Colin Lee: How times have changed – promotion celebrations with a difference

Programme cover for Grimsby Town v Chelsea, Saturday, May 12, 1984

Programme cover for Grimsby Town v Chelsea, Saturday, May 12, 1984 - Credit: Archant

In front of 10,000 traveling fans at Grimsby Town FC on Saturday, May 12 1984 we - Chelsea FC - gained promotion back to the First Division (Premier League).

It went to the final whistle as our close rivals Sheffield Wednesday also won on the day but our superior goal difference secured our place back into the First Division as Champions and the celebrations began.

In the changing room following the game the atmosphere was electric with everyone congratulating each other and a few bottles of Champagne being sprayed everywhere – then suddenly it dawned on us that the gaffer John Neal wasn’t in the room.

Due to an injury that day I didn’t play so I decided to go and find him.

I assumed he was with the press or being interviewed on TV or radio but unfortunately this wasn’t the case. John had suffered chest pains during the match and was in trouble. Unknown to everyone at the time his condition was critical and in the summer of 1984 following promotion, he required urgent heart surgery which resulted in cutting short his career in football management at the age of 52.

After hearing the gaffer was comfortable and in safe hands, it was agreed that everyone would contribute towards a drinks kitty for our journey back to Stamford Bridge.

I was elected to look after the kitty and responsible to make sure the drinks were on tap.

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We had travelled to Grimsby on Friday afternoon in a double-decker coach and the upstairs soon became our celebration area. After stopping off to pick up our pre-ordered fish and chips in Grimsby it was then a case of finding the nearest off-licence where we bought every bottle of Champagne available and plenty of bottles of beer for the journey back to the Bridge.

I can remember seeing Ian Mc Neill, assistant manager, coming up the stairs to the top of the bus celebration area still dressed in his suit and collar and tie and as he entered, he was drenched with Champagne and typical of Ian, smiled and sat down with the lads for a drink and a chat as if nothing had happened.

The journey home seemed to go quickly with many songs always remember the way the lads had perfected firing Champagne corks out of the roof lights on the coach from their seats. By the time we got back, I think everyone was covered in Champagne and a little tipsy, to say the least.

I got home and can remember more or less standing my suit up following several Champagne soakings.

On the Monday, we reported for a debrief and it was agreed that everyone would meet later in the week to spend a day at Brighton races followed by an evening in London to complete our promotion celebrations.

Micky Droy, our centre half celebration organiser who owned a car sales site in Battersea, arranged a minibus and a driver to pick up the squad at Stamford Bridge on the morning of the races. Crates of drinks were loaded onto the bus and off we went.

The journey was interrupted by numerous stops and without exaggerating we must have stopped at every pub on the way to Brighton.

On arrival, we were met and escorted into a private bar area which Micky Droy had organised where the racing was being shown on TV and you were able to place bets without going outside.

It was the first time and last time I’d been to the races and never saw a horse and I think this went for most of the squad.

On our way back to London thankfully we never stopped and ended up in a wine bar in Putney and following a few beers, Micky Droy and Johnny Bumstead decided to present each player with a celebratory bottle of wine.

A further whip around to increase the drinks kitty and we were off to Valbonne nightclub in London. On arrival, the place was empty - we didn’t realise it was only 8.30pm.

After spending a few more hours celebrating Dave Speedie (Speedo), my close friend and I decided we’d had enough and would make our way home - Dave and I lived near each other in Camberley.

As we were walking to get a Taxi a police officer was arresting someone and typically Speedo shouted ‘unlucky mate’ to the guy being arrested. The officer reacted and suddenly the officer is asking Dave for his name and warning him of his behaviour. Speedo refused to give his name and from nowhere a police van arrived and Dave was being escorted into the van.

I didn’t know what to do so I started to get in the front of the van to stay with Dave but I was quickly informed I wasn’t being arrested.

I was told the police station was close by so I made my way there to find the door was closed and I couldn’t see any sign of the van.

After a while, the door opened and I entered to be informed that it had taken several officers to get Dave into the cell and he would be there for the rest of the night.

After thinking through what to do next I made my way home. I decided not to tell his wife as I thought she would be worried so I told her Dave had stayed in a hotel near Stamford Bridge for the night.

This backfired on me when Dave phoned her from the police station the following morning to tell her what had happened and how he was due in court at 11am.

I pick up Speedo following his hearing where he was fined £9 and we made our way home. Celebrations over. What a day - nothing in the papers - how the game has changed.

Make the most of the changes to Lockdown hopefully we will be in Tier 1 soon.