It’s hard to imagine now but if all had gone well for Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final against Sheffield Wednesday in April 1966, blue might not have been the colour for us. Or rather, not our only colour.
There was a colour clash with Wednesday’s blue and white striped shirts and according to the competition rules, both teams had to use their change kits. But instead of opting for the regular yellow change strip, Chelsea manager Tommy Docherty decided that his team would wear blue and black stripes.
Don’t forget that it was the mid-1960s – a time of great experimentation – and the Doc, then in his 30s, was a pretty innovative character in keeping with the spirit of the era.
The Scot had introduced the iconic blue shorts and white socks to our home kit at the start of the 1964-65 season – a distinctive colour combination is now synonymous with Chelsea Football Club. But things might have turned out differently if fate had dealt us a kinder hand at Villa Park in 1966.
According to former Chelsea chairman Brian Mears in the book Football Under The Blue Flag, Docherty was keen to adopt the Inter Milan colours as our permanent strip and he would have done so if we had won the game. But on a horrible bog of a pitch, relegation-threatened Wednesday beat the high-flying (Black and) Blues 2-0 and essentially put paid to that idea.
“Everyone blamed the kit and though maybe we shouldn’t wear it again,” said former Chelsea midfielder John Hollins in the book Blue is the Collar.
“That shirt got an absolute hammering from the players,” he added. “Looking back at it now, we did look good in it, very good. But forget it. After that it was no more – gone, out the window.”
Footballers are a pretty superstitious breed but the trauma of that 1966 semi-final defeat must have cut pretty deep because it would be another 36 years before we would get another shirt in which black featured prominently.
It was at the start of the 2002-03 season when the club introduced a new ‘midnight’ kit, which was basically an all-black number with royal blue trim. It looked great but more importantly, we also enjoyed much better fortune in it than we did with the Inter-style kit, coming from behind twice to win 3-2 at Blackburn Rovers in its first competitive outing and going on to finish fourth in the Premier League and securing a spot in the Champions League at the end of the season.
Black may have been utilised prominently in our kits before 2002 but it has since become a popular choice for our change strips, featuring in nine of the past 11 seasons.
There have been some pretty sharp Chelsea shirts during the past decade with my personal favourite being the 2008-09 away kit – a stark black outfit with a simple white trimming which looked tough and intimidating. The players certainly looked the part and they did the business in it, winning six and drawing once in the seven matches in which it was worn.
Which brings us to the recently introduced third kit for the 2013-14 season, a stunning looking silver-trimmed outfit which was introduced with the rather clever ‘it’s not black, it’s blue’ advertising slogan.
Chelsea fans can understand that sentiment although it seems to have has been completely lost on clueless non-supporters who still seem to think that we have no history. Yes, we know it’s really black but it’s still a great-looking Chelsea shirt that will hopefully be worn in some memorable matches as we chase down more honours in the new campaign.
What has been your favourite third kit over the years?
Please note : the views in many of our blogs are written by fans of Chelsea FC and are not necessarily the views of the club