Thursday, 18 May 2017
EDDIE MAC EDDIE MAC life and times at Chelsea under Eddie McCreadie
EDDIE MAC EDDIE MAC
life and times at Chelsea under Eddie McCreadie
Published by Gate 17, 20 May 2017, to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Eddie McCreadie's promotion-completing season as Chelsea manager in 1977, and also a very special tribute event in honour of the great man himself held at Under the Bridge, Stamford Bridge, Eddie Mac Eddie Mac is the definitive account of Eddie's time as Blues boss.
Below is an article I wrote for the commemorative programme associated with the tribute evening.
There are a limited number of copies of the special collectors edition of the Eddie Mac book available to buy via the cfcuk stall or the Gate 17 website.
FOR THE LOVE OF NOSTALGIA
Nostalgia: A sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past. As far as dictionary definitions of words go, this one pretty much hits the nail squarely on the head. The older we get, the stronger that yearning for by-gone days and the personalities and events that shaped them becomes. Places, people, music, films… books… all of these things and more are capable of evoking what has become for many of us a powerful emotion.
The feel good factor that comes with wallowing in nostalgia has a medicinal quality to it that cannot be underestimated. No surprise then to find out that the word was coined by a 17th Century student doctor by the name of Johannes Hofer who amalgamated the Greek words nostos and algos (homecoming and pain) and used it to describe the anxiety and homesickness felt by mercenaries from his Swiss homeland who were fighting in foreign lowlands… which in a round-about half-random way brings us very nicely to another army… Eddie McCreadie’s Blue and White Army… and the Eddie Mac Eddie Mac book which spawned tonight’s event at Stamford Bridge.
The idea had been floating around for a while. cfcuk fanzine editor David Johnstone first suggested to me that we should consider writing a book about Eddie McCreadie’s time as Chelsea manager four or five years ago on a rainy Autumn afternoon at the stall as we sheltered from the elements and watched the world go by at Fulham Broadway. The idea resonated with me deeply. I looked along the Fulham Road and shut my eyes.
18 September 1976 The unique mid ‘70s football fragrance of horseshit, hamburgers, Carling Black Label and Players No.6 pervades my nostrils. I’m clambering up the weed-encroached steps at the back of The Shed terrace. 2.55pm. Can’t miss kick-off. I go two steps at a time. Everyone has the same idea. Feral-looking kids with straggly hair, flares and blue and white scarves tied around their wrists jockey for position with Harrington and Sta Prest-swathed older youths who are viciously keen not to get their highly-polished cherry reds smudged just yet. A group of men in their 20s and 30s who don’t dress to get respect push past. Nobody says anything. The anticipation builds… and suddenly there it is… the Stamford Bridge pitch. The rain is beating down hard, large puddles forming on the asphalt track that surround it. Momentarily, I think about the well-being of the disabled people who drive the pale-blue, three-wheeled, AC Invacars which are allowed to park on the track in front of the terrace. I’m distracted. A copy of Bulldog, the teenage orientated newspaper of the Young National Front, the youth wing of the far right NF whose leaders John Tyndall and Martin Webster see football terraces as prime recruitment territory, is thrust at me by a persistent skinhead who glares at me when I ignore him. I make my way along the top concourse of The Shed and then down the terrace… white wall to my right, tea bar over to my left. I’ll head for the middle today. The dry bit! I look at the pitch again and pick out the Subbuteo-sized players. Chelsea’s team are young, well most of them. Lads I identify with. The Wilkins brothers; Graham and the prodigious Ray. Marauding centre forward Steve ‘Jock’ Finnieston. Dynamic midfield carrot-top Ray Lewington. Kenny Swain. Swashbuckling centre-half Stevie Wicks. Garry Stanley… he’s the one all the girls seem to like. Gary Locke. Wizard of dribble Ian Britton. Record signing Davie Hay, and the one concession to youth illustrious custodian of the Blues goal, ‘The Cat’, Peter Bonetti, making his 650th appearance, still as agile as ever. The team are managed by Eddie McCreadie. I know I love the bones of the gaffer. Along with Bonetti, he’s a link to the fabulous kings of the King’s Road Chelsea side of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. The team that snared my interest… CHEEE-ELSEA! One voice. Loud, rasping, cuts through the chitter chatter. CHELSEA! clap, clap, clap… I join in. Everyone does. CHELSEA! clap, clap, clap.
“So what do you think then Marco?” Back to life, back to reality. David tapped me on the shoulder. I pulled the collar of my jacket up and looked up at the leaden sky which was still throwing down skin-soaking stair-rods of rain. “Definitely mate,” I replied. “It’s the greatest Chelsea story never told… a worthwhile project.”
To be honest, I don’t like the use of the word project when it comes to football-related matters… mainly because it reminds me of the way A*dre Vill*s-Bo*s continually used to refer to managing Chelsea. A project! Behave! Mind you, if V*llas-Bo*s hadn’t made a pigs ear out of his ‘project’ and got sacked, the Blues might never have won the Champions League!
So yeah, anyway… about the Eddie Mac Eddie Mac book project. David and me along with Kelvin Barker had co-authored a book called Chelsea here, Chelsea there which focussed itself on a Blues away game with Arsenal in August 1984. At that time we were Johnny Neal’s Blue and White Army. As many as 20,000 of us packed in the Clock End and dotted all a round the Gunners fabled old ground Highbury. We tracked down the players and interviewed them. We wrote about the life and times of the day, about a world with no mobile phones, no internet and therefore no social media. Nostalgia wrapped around us like a warm comforting cloak. It seemed like a good idea to use the same structure for Eddie Mac Eddie Mac and see if we could get the same sort vibe going.
Kelv got a phone call. Around the same time, Mark Meehan had been thinking along the same lines as David… he was in. Mark’s sleuth-like powers and persistence proved invaluable in tracking down and interviewing not only the players but the man himself… Eddie McCreadie. We decided it would be great to publish the book on 20 May 1977, the 40th anniversary of Chelsea’s promotion back to the old First Division under Eddie. The date was four years away. Plenty of time! We invited Neil Smith, whom I would back against any contender in a Chelsea Mastermind competition, to join the party and cracked on. The time flew by. And guess what? We only just made the deadline!
Eddie Mac Eddie Mac is the 22nd title to be published by Gate 17, and already it has a special place in my heart simply because it recalls a time when I was growing up. Football, music and fashion coloured a dreary world that was quite often fraught with danger. It’s often said that a picture paints a thousand words… but maybe that’s because the words don’t convey enough detail. I hope we’ve managed to that for you with Eddie Mac Eddie Mac because we didn’t have a budget for any pictures!
Finally, the book would not have been the same without Mr McCreadie’s willingness to participate and provide what I personally believe is the most insightful and honest account of a life in and out of football I’ve ever read. So thank you Eddie, I hope that tonight’s special event is filled happiness for you… and for everyone attending, enjoy the trip down memory lane and reliving the days when Eddie McCreadie’s Blue and White Army was the glue that bound so many lives together.
London May 2017