Jimmy Greaves: Title won on free fags and fry-ups


If Chelsea win the title, their players will celebrate with Cristal champagne and a hefty bonus.

Carlo Ancelotti's men will be worthy champions of the richest league in the world, so who could honestly begrudge them? But it is fair to say that, unlike Chelsea's first title-winning side of 1955 (pictured above), the current team will not have to cadge luncheon vouchers worth three shillings and sixpence from lightfingered apprentices like me.

They will not have to supplement their vast incomes with extra jobs as insurance salesmen, cattle farmers, or even undertakers. And they won't have to travel home in disguise on the bus alongside irate supporters, if they have had a bad match.

I was a 15-year-old schoolleaver, starting my apprenticeship at Stamford Bridge in the summer of '55, immediately after Chelsea's first title success. Indeed, it was the club's only championship until Jose Mourinho turned up.

Biscuits Luckily, I landed a plum job as the club's office boy, putting me in a position of some power and influence. I was in charge of the biscuits and, more importantly, the luncheon vouchers.

The players were entitled to one 3s 6d voucher per day but I would quite often hand them a second one - I think the assistant club secretary knew what was going on, but turned a blind eye.

So some of the senior players, the champions of England as they were, would head out of the Bridge and turn right to Annabel's Cafe and spend their first luncheon voucher on a nosh up.

Then they would head back towards Fulham Broadway tube station to Charlie's Cafe, where they would spend the blackmarket voucher on fags. Charlie's was owned and run by Charlie Cazali, a man who had last changed his apron as a mark or respect when Queen Victoria died and who would chain-smoke while he cooked your fry-up, usually ensuring a spot of cigarette ash in your egg yolk.

I don't think it's quite the same at Marco Pierre White's gaff at Chelsea these days. The maximum wage was just £17 a week then, so it was hardly surprising that many players had second jobs.

In that 1955 Chelsea team, a forward called Seamus O'Connell was the real beauty. He was classed as an amateur, and would travel down to matches from Cumbria, where he kept cattle, was put up in the Ritz and still pocketed his seventeen quid. Some bleedin' amateur!

That Chelsea side was almost certainly one of the least talented teams ever to win the title. They were big, strong, ugly and a nightmare to play against.

One exception was Johnny McNichol, the ball player of the team, who had worked as a funeral director when he was a Newcastle player.

Big Ken Armstrong had a sideline in insurance. He sold me a policy, telling me that if I paid a fiver a week - almost a third of my income - then some time in the 21st century I'd received £1,000, a princely sum that would apparently keep me housed and fed until my dying day!

Then there were the Sillett boys, Peter and his kid brother John, who went on to manage Coventry to the FA Cup.

John had a debut to forget - scoring an own goal and having a total nightmare. It was so bad that he hid in the dressing room for an hour or so after the final whistle before heading off with his hat pulled down and his collar up.

But when he reached the bus stop, four or five punters rolled out of a pub and joined him in the queue. As John pulled the brim of his hat further down over his face, one turned to him and said: "What about that new leftback? F*** me, he was useless." "Yeah", said his mate, "What a w****r."

John nodded in agreement as the bus arrived and let the group of fans on first, so he could make for the upper deck.

Ashley Cole, we trust, will have no such problems.

Greavsie was talking to chief sports writer Dave Kidd