DERBY DEBATE - PAST AND PRESENT
The Chelsea Pitch Owners' annual lunch is a perfect opportunity to look forward as well as back and former players were doing just that at this year's event - with eyes on Sunday's big London derby.
The fortunes of the two clubs have varied over the generations but for Chelsea, playing our rivals from north of the capital has always been one of the major fixtures. For some of our past players it was also one of the most profitable.
'We had a fantastic record against Arsenal,' recalls Bobby Tambling (pictured top right), Chelsea's all-time record scorer and star striker in the 1960s.
'Especially at Highbury we used to do well. I've been speaking to people here [the CPO lunch] and they remember games when we used to score four goals there, which was fantastic.'
In fact during the 1960s, Chelsea won 14, drew two and lost just two of the meetings between the clubs both home and away. Tambling scored 10 times in those games and in 1964 hit all four in a 4-2 win at Highbury.
'I can remember playing against them the first time when I was very young and winning 4-1 at Highbury. I scored in that game and it continued. Even after I left Chelsea and went to Palace, we knocked them out the League Cup and I scored.
'Arsenal have always been a big club and although Fulham was a closer derby, Arsenal was big for us.
'I am going to be there on Sunday at Stamford Bridge and I just know that we are going to do well. I honestly think that Chelsea are mentally stronger than they are. Arsenal are a fantastic footballing side, we also play good football, and I think we will get the result we want.'
Another old boy at the CPO lunch with a particular memory of a Highbury game was Paul Canoville (pictured below in Old Boys action). He played the day Chelsea made our return to the top flight in 1984 after a five-year absence.
'To find out I was starting that game was a great thing,' our former winger remembers.
'Doug Rougvie was our left back and Viv Anderson was flying down the line for Arsenal and I had to do my bit covering. The first half was a bit quiet for me but second half I opened out.
'Arsenal had Brian Talbot and Paul Davis in midfield, I loved watching him play, so calm, and Paul Mariner up front. Pat Jennings was in goal. For me it was like, these are the big boys, what are our chances?
'But we stood our ground and even though they went 1-0 up, we came back and Kerry Dixon scored the goal (pictured below) and second half, I thought we deserved to win. I will never forget that game. That showed a lot of character and that we were going to live in Division One.'
As a resident of north London, Canoville obtained special permission to make his own way to Highbury that day and even now, finds himself at times an isolated Blues follower in sea of Arsenal locals.
'For years I walked amongst them and tried to hide,' he smiles,' but now we have won a couple of leagues, they are quiet as anything so I am enjoying myself.
'I definitely think we will win on Sunday. I am not looking at the troubles Arsenal are meant to be having. I am just saying how strong we are. Anelka is on form and we need it.
'Against Liverpool we may not have deserved to win but I didn't think we deserved to lose and I don't think we'll allow that to happen again.'
Captain of the Chelsea side in the Highbury game Canoville has been discussing was Colin Pates (pictured below in Old Boys action). The central defender later became an Arsenal player in 1990.
'You've got to go for Chelsea this weekend,' Pates reckons.
'Arsène Wender is saying the right things as a manager, saying there is no crisis and everyone is together but there could be a little more going on behind the scenes than he is letting on.
'Arsenal are a bit of an unknown quantity at the moment, capable of going away in Europe, producing a fantastic performance and then getting done in a domestic fixture by a team in the lower half. Chelsea are pretty consistent at the moment, they have the odd slip-up but they are going well.
'In the 1990s when I was at Arsenal you could accuse them of playing defensively in some games but now Arsenal go out to win every match. I am looking forward to this Sunday's game.'
Peter Brabrook (pictured top left) played in Chelsea v Arsenal matches back in the 1950s and early 1960s, once scoring twice in a 4-1 win at Highbury. London derbies continued to be part of his life when he later moved to West Ham then Orient.
'They were always a main game,' confirms our former winger. 'Arsenal were always in the top half of the division and it was always a hard, negative game against them - but we always did well. Even at Highbury the record was pretty good.
'I am not an Arsenal lover - they are not one of my favourite teams - and I only hope it goes one way this weekend. But it will be a hard, tight game. I think Chelsea being at home will have that bit more about them, wanting to win after a draw away in Europe.'
This year's CPO lunch was attended by over 60 ex-Chelsea players and part of the proceeds go towards the Past Players' Trust which, it was announced on Friday by chairman Bruce Buck, has now raised over £100,000 towards helping the club's former players and employees.
An auction at the lunch raised £27,500 more with lots including the chance to be chairman for the day, the opportunity to take on the Chelsea Old Boys team in a match and dinner with Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Entertainment was provided by comedian and Chelsea fan Omid Djalili and Marcel Desailly, the guest of honour, was inducted as an honorary vice-president of CPO.
He spoke to host Matt Lorenzo about his time at Chelsea.
'I was lucky in my career. I caught the great moments,' said our former captain.
'You could feel that Chelsea wanted to have a boost in their ambition and I think I came at the correct moment when we were having all those Italians and I brought some frog legs into the team.
'It was great and strange at the time,' he continued, recalling Chelsea's notorious former training ground.
Milanello [AC Milan's training HQ] was bling, bling and coming to Harlington was a strange experience for me. But you could feel that the supporters wanted something different from the past.
'It is such a pleasure being a football player but I can also enjoy it now being a supporter, able to watch Chelsea with my beer or my glass of wine by my side.'