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Diamonds, Dynamos and Devils – Tommy Docherty’s six years as Chelsea manager.

It is February 1961. Tommy Docherty has just been appointed first-team coach at Ch...


It is February 1961. Tommy Docherty has just been appointed first-team coach at Chelsea. Ted Drake, who managed Chelsea to the league title six years earlier, and had made real efforts to shed the club’s music-hall joke image, was still in charge but the club, and team, had declined sharply in those six years. There was no first-team coach before Docherty arrived. Training had been a few laps of the dog track and a kickabout in the car park. Drake saw training as an interruption to his office work. Some days training had to finish at mid-day to allow the greyhound people in. Many of the first team squad were either too old, too lazy or too inept. Some were all three. There were two shining lights. Goal-machine Jimmy Greaves and an exciting crop of youngsters. But for Greaves regular 20+ league goals, the club would almost certainly have been relegated three or four seasons earlier. The sense of drift, of stagnation, was palpable.

Docherty set about sorting out the coaching but met with resistance from senior players used to a comfortable life under Drake. Seven months later Drake was sacked. Docherty took over as caretaker manager and, three months later, got the job permanently. The lazy, old and inept got short shrift and ‘The Doc’ moved them on. Sadly, the club had sold Greaves the previous summer (after 41 league goals in 40 games in the 1960/61 season), leaving The Doc with a small core of experienced players and a lot of promising youngsters. Try as he could, relegation was inevitable, but with the appointment of Docherty the days of mediocre complacency were over. 

In six years Docherty transformed and modernised the club, built a highly-regarded young team from the ashes he inherited but over time he fell out with, and sold, key players. He cleared out the old guard, developed a string of fine young players, innovated tactically (overlapping fullbacks, a deep-lying centre-forward and a sweeper were each first used in English football by Docherty’s teams), reached five semi-finals and two finals, won the League Cup, achieved three top five finishes and a promotion, introduced the iconic mid-60’s shirts and significantly increased the profile of the club.

Between 1961 and 1967 he got hired, relegated, promoted, lauded, vilified, backed, victimised, fined and sacked. Garrulous, volatile, unpredictable, impulsive, intensely competitive, innovative, highly talented and much-loved by Chelsea supporters, The Doc won one trophy for The Blues and was close to winning plenty more. In the end, amid gathering controversy, his parting was probably inevitable.

I have spent the last four years researching and writing ‘Diamonds, Dynamos and Devils – the Transformation of Chelsea FC under Tommy Docherty’ which chronologically reviews Docherty’s tempestuous six years in charge -

The players – Docherty’s Diamonds.  Peter Bonetti. Eddie McCreadie. Ken Shellito. Allan Harris. John Mortimore. Frank Upton. Ron Harris. Marvin Hinton. John Hollins. John Boyle. Terry Venables. Frank Blunstone. Bobby Tambling. Barry Bridges. Bert Murray. Graham Moore. George Graham. Peter Osgood. Charlie Cooke. Tommy Baldwin. Tony Hateley. And more. The swathe of home-produced talent, the bargain buys and the expensive flops.








The famous victories.  Sunderland ’63. Portsmouth ’63. Tottenham Hotspur ’64 and ‘65. Leeds United ’64, ‘66 and ‘67. West Ham United ’65 and ‘66. Leicester City ’65. Roma ’65. Liverpool ’66. AC Milan ’66. Villa ’66. Man City ‘66 and plenty more.
The numbing defeats. Stoke City ’63. Manchester United ’65. Forest ’65. Liverpool ‘65. Sheffield Wednesday ‘66. Barcelona ‘66. Tottenham ’67. Southampton ’67 and, sadly, quite a few more.


The ground and the supporters.  70,000 home crowd v Tottenham. The lock-outs and crushes. The building of the West Stand. Doc’s ‘they’re useless’ criticism of the Stamford Bridge atmosphere. 5,000 to Anfield. Mick Greenaway’s programme letters. The great European nights. The Blue Submarine. The naming of The Shed. 


The controversies and the rows.  There were plenty. Blackpool and Bermuda – the incidents, the fall-outs and the aftermaths. The Roma riot. Cup ticket disputes. Doc’s Cup Final speech. Controversial substitutions. Pay disputes. Clearing out the old guard. The outspoken press interviews. The frequent transfer requests. The Bridges march, petition and St Pancras mobbing. Ossie’s televised v-sign. The player sales to prop up precarious club finances. Flooding the pitch to postpone a European semi-final. The growing feud with Leeds United. Doc’s fall-outs with Venables, Bridges and others, leading to the premature break-up of the 1965 team. Tottenham whinging about excessive physicality.  Rows with the Football League and Football Association. Doc’s close relationship with chairman Joe Mears and his volatile relationship with replacement chairman Charles Pratt. His departure from the club. And plenty more. 

The book draws on extensive research to examine all of these and more, and draws a series of conclusions about one of the most exciting periods in Chelsea history. It includes an exclusive author interview with Tommy Docherty, which took place in April 2017. Even at 89, his memory is still sharp, his passion for Chelsea undimmed. 

It is clear from talking to supporters from that era, whose reminiscences are included in the book, that their affection for The Doc is similarly undimmed.
The Doc and The Author, April 2017
'Deluxe' Hardback Version
I am trying to try and crowdfund a hardback version of the book, incorporating twenty-four photographs and a slip cover. This will be a special edition, limited to orders placed during the crowdfunding campaign. After that campaign closes, no further hardback copies will be on sale.

Crowdfunding is a means of financing a product, in this case a book, through the producer receiving advance pledges from individuals interested in purchasing it.  Kickstarter is the most well-known and globally-recognised web platform for crowdfunding projects, and will be used to try and raise the necessary money to produce the ‘Deluxe’ hardback version.  More info on Kickstarter here https://www.kickstarter.com/about?ref=footer .
I need to raise £5,000 to produce the hardback version. This would mean that a minimum of 200 pledges of a cover price of c£25 (which includes UK p&p) will need to be made to enable publication to take place. Pledges are of course welcome from worldwide Chelsea supporters, and differential international costs (£30 for Europe, £35 for US & ROTW) are made clear on my Kickstarter page.  The Kickstarter page is open for pledges until 20th June. Here is a link to that page : https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/timrolls/diamonds-dynamos-and-devils
In essence would-be purchasers make a pledge during that forty day period, entering their card details into the secure Kickstarter system. If the fundraising target is reached, then once the campaign closes, the pledgers become backers, the money is deducted from their credit card and a firm order is placed with the printers for the requisite copies of the hardback book. If the target is not reached, no money is deducted from pledgers’ accounts.
I have chosen a provisional set of twenty-four photographs for the ‘deluxe’ version that try and encapsulate Chelsea in that period, and the photo order will be firmed up if the target sum is reached.
The plan is that the hardback books will be dispatched to backers in good time for Christmas, hopefully earlier. Pledgers will receive regular progress updates until the dispatch date.
The Kickstarter page link, to enable you to pledge, is here :   https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/timrolls/diamonds-dynamos-and-devils
More information is available in my blog :   https://diamondsdynamosanddevils.wordpress.com/     
Twitter: @docsdiamonds        Any questions to: @docsdiamonds@hotmail.com

Tim Rolls

Tim first watched Chelsea in 1967, three weeks before Tommy Docherty left the club. He has been a regular match-goer since 1976 and is a home and away season ticket holder. He writes for cfcuk fanzine and is ex-chair of Chelsea Supporters Trust. ‘Diamonds, Dynamos and Devils’ is his first book.

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