Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughThe flight of the ‘Chopper’ - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough The flight of the ‘Chopper’ - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

The flight of the ‘Chopper’

AS THE PREMIER league reached its conclusion on Sunday 22 May 2011, it witnessed another battle between two sides that have always had an interesting history.

As Jermaine Beckford popped in a late winner at Goodison Park, the home ground of Everton, it was a reminder of the fascinating ‘battles’ that have taken place between Chelsea and Everton.

We rewind. 50 years ago. 1961 FA Youth Cup final. These two very sides in action against one another, for the coveted prize of establishing themselves as the best youth team in England.

The game itself

The game was a two legged affair with the first leg being played at Chelsea’s home ground, Stamford Bridge. Chelsea won the first leg 4-1. With a comfortable lead established in the first leg, Chelsea went to Goodison Park four days later knowing they were in the driving seat, and most likely to lift the trophy.

Everton managed to win the second leg 2-1 but Chelsea’s young stars were victorious because of the aggregate score of 5-3. It wasn’t the first time they had won the cup in recent years, having beaten Preston in the final of 1960. Two successive final victories were massive for Chelsea football club. The players that had been involved in the final had proved how good they were in their ability to win the trophy back to back.

For many of the players involved in the winning Chelsea team of 1961 had also been victorious the previous year. Dennis Butler, Allan Harris, Terry Venables, Terry More, Bert Murray, Colin Shaw and Gordon Bolland had all remained in the youth side for the 1961 FA Youth Cup after winning in 1960. Terry Venables is perhaps the name that sticks out the most to general football fans.

The young east Londoner went on to form a very successful career in both playing and management of the game. ‘El Tel’ as he is nowadays affectionately known, spent 6 years with Chelsea before moving onto Tottenham Hotspur in 1966.

He was an integral part of the youth set-up, rather impressively captaining Chelsea to the 1961 youth cup final victory. This success made him a strong candidate to become Chelsea first team captain. After becoming captain, success continued when four years after youth cup success, Venables lifted the English league cup in 1965.

Had it not been for a fall out with manager at the time Tommy Docherty, Venables’ Chelsea career could have spanned even further.

Venables is an example of a player emerging from the youth set-up and being successful within football. More specifically, he is one of the few players in the 1961 youth team that would go on to have a successful career at Chelsea football club.

He is, of course not alone in this feat. Bert Murray, who managed a hat-trick in the first leg of the youth cup, went on to make 160 appearances in five years for Chelsea. Allan Harris also enjoyed a decent four years at Chelsea, making over 70 appearances.

The Man himself

It is Ron Harris, however, who made the biggest impact on the club. Playing his first youth cup final in 1961, 17 year old Harris went on to spend the next 19 years at Chelsea, making 795 appearances in all competitions for the club.

I spoke to Ron about the final, the team and how his career developed after being part of the victorious 1961 team. He spoke of his experiences as a young 17 year old and how the cup final matured him and allowed him to develop as a player.

“It was a brilliant feeling to win the trophy, school competitions and finals didn’t even come close to the feeling. I’ve played in finals before as a kid, in various cup finals but this, to us, was the equivalent of an FA cup final. It was that important. At the end of the day, it was a great feeling to win with such a great side”
He spoke passionately about how this experience, at such a young age put him in “good stead” for his future career. He also spoke about the atmosphere of the team at the time and perhaps how that compares to the youth team of today. As ‘Chopper’ Harris points out, the team of today is completely different to the team that he played with in 1961.

“Most of the lads had been together one or two years, so there was a good relationship amongst us. With no disrespect intended to the foreign players, but all the lads were English and I think that also brought us closer.

“I don’t think the atmosphere amongst the lads is quite the same these days, the team we had back then is completely different to the team at Chelsea now.”
It’s a good point to be raised. When looking at the current youth squad, as a outlined by the official club website, it can be seen that there is a mix of nationalities in the squad. Ranging from Swedish to Portuguese, Ron raises the point that all the players being English enhanced the atmosphere because most of the team were from in and around London, and they’d had a similar journey to getting to Chelsea.

Ron’s experiences were also helped by the fact that his brother Allan had already been part of the youth set-up and was indeed part of the 1960 youth cup winning team as well as the 1961 team. He also spoke of how when he was a young player, cleaning boots and cleaning the terraces was no strange thing for young players to do: “it taught me discipline”.
But what did Ron remember of the final itself?
“I remember there was a good turn-out at the bridge, about 10,000. There was just as many at Everton so it was a nervy occasion. I’d played for the England schoolboys with a bigger crowd at Wembley, but it was hard not to be nervous because it was like the FA Cup to us”

The Legend, himself

When Ron Harris picked up a Special Achievement award on Thursday 19 May 2011 for his services to Chelsea, it was a reminder of what ‘Chopper’ Harris had done for the club. He poured his heart and soul into Chelsea football club and will be forever considered a Chelsea FC legend.

He, himself admitted that being in the youth side allowed him to mature as a player and the victory inspired him to go and do big things for the club. He went on the captain the club for 14 years, winning various honours, including the FA Cup, the European Cup Winners’ Cup and of course, the 1961 Youth Cup.

“Chelsea always gave me the opportunity ad I was lucky that Tommy Docherty put me in the team. Every manager got from me, 110 percent.

“When you’re in the team at a young age, you’re obviously playing against bigger guys, much more physical players and you get knocked around. You have to learn to look yourself”

Remembered for his tough tackling, and ‘hard man’ persona on the pitch, Ron Harris certainly did look after himself, and as a result enjoyed a successful and memorable career, predominately at the club he won the youth cup with, Chelsea FC.

Tom Brett

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