Chelsea were once involved in relegation play-off dubbed ‘battle of the Bridge’
It's been a long time since Chelsea fans have seen their club in genuine jeopardy, but with Todd Boehly's takeover all but confirmed, they can finally breathe easy.
Save for a few momentary on-field wobbles and the occasional owner getting sanctioned, it's been nothing but sunshine and rainbows in SW6 for the last two decades. But prior to their 2003 Russian revolution and their continental facelift in the mid-90s, Chelsea were a team in peril.
The late-70s through to the 80s was a turbulent period for the club which saw them drop out of the First Division three times – the most recent of which came after a relegation play-off (the last of its kind in the English top flight) against Middlesbrough, a match that was later dubbed 'the battle of the Bridge'.
Despite losing the first-leg 2-0, the west London side fancied themselves to overturn the deficit and keep themselves in the top flight. After all, Middlesbrough had only just been promoted to the Second Division 12 months prior, and Stamford Bridge's hostile 80s atmosphere would surely give them an edge.
Well, the fans played their part in the end alright – but for all the wrong reasons.
Gordon Durie grabbed an early goal for the hosts, but they couldn't find an equaliser and Chelsea lost 2-1 on aggregate and were booted down to the Second Division for what would be their final spell there.
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For Middlesbrough fans it was Christmas come early. Back-to-back promotions weren't as rare then as they are today, but Bruce Rioch's men had nonetheless pulled off a monumental feat. But for Chelsea fans, all hell broke loose.
After the final whistle, hundreds of home supporters broke out onto the pitch and started a riot, hurling missiles at Middlesbrough's fans and players who were quickly ushered out of the stadium.
Police soon arrived, but it took them around 40 minutes to get the carnage under control, by which point 45 people had been injured – including 25 officers. In total, 102 arrests were made, and Chelsea were later found guilty of failing to control their supporters and had to close their terraces for the first six matches of the subsequent season.
Once everything had calmed down that evening, a bold journalist found himself holding an elevator for Chelsea chairman Ken Bates. "Going down, Ken?" he asked.
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