Chelsea 5-4 Manchester City: 'I don't know if there's ever been a more open and mad game'
Former Chelsea winger Pat Nevin recalls the 1986 Full Members Cup final ahead of Saturday's Champions League showpiece
When Manchester City face Chelsea for the biggest prize in club football in Saturday's Champions League final it will be the third final the two clubs will have contested.
The most recent - the 2019 League Cup final - was a dull affair, with City needing penalties to retain the title.
Their first final, however, was one of the most entertaining British football has ever seen.
Granted, the 1986 Full Members Cup final is hardly on a par with the European Cup, but then few matches are.
The brainchild of then Chelsea chairman Ken Bates, the Full members Cup was open for teams in the top two divisions of the Football League.
Dismissed by most as a needless competition created purely to swell the coffers during difficult times with English clubs banned from European competition following the 1985 Heysel disaster, participation was voluntary. Not surprisingly the inaugural tournament was snubbed by 'The Big Five' of Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham and Everton.
Even supporters of the teams who did enter were far from convinced by its merits, as some pitiful crowds in the regional group stages and knockout rounds proved.
"Sadly, it was a bit like the FA Cup now, you took it more seriously the closer you got to the final," Pat Nevin, Chelsea's wispy winger and Scotland international, told The National.
"Man City and Chelsea didn't regularly get to finals in those days. For Chelsea it had been a long time - maybe two decades since they had been to Wembley. We were a young team, so Chelsea fans must have thought this is a great opportunity to win something."
Two games in two days
The numbers support Nevin's analysis: 68,000 fans packed Wembley on a sunny Sunday afternoon on March 23 - a healthy turnout by any metric - in a time when supporters could just turn up and buy a ticket on the door.
A common refrain of managers today is to bemoan the number of matches they have to play in any given week, but City and Chelsea both fulfilled Division One fixtures the day before the Wembley showpiece. City eked out a 2-2 draw at Manchester United to aid their survival bid while a 1-0 win at Southampton took Chelsea up to fourth. "Player burnout" was not in the football lexicon.
"We weren't bothered by it at all," Nevin recalls when asked about player fatigue. "People nowadays say: 'Two games in two days! What?' But actually that wasn't uncommon. I did that a few times in my career. Don't get me wrong, at the end of the second game you were a bit tired, but if you were one of the younger players, like me, it was easier.
"It was lovely going to Wembley. I'd played there before, but every time you go to Wembley it's special. We played the day before but when we got to the stadium the adrenalin kicked in. Seeing that number of people, the noise, the passion and the desperation to win, that was absolutely brilliant."
The game itself was a humdinger; the 5-4 scoreline only telling part of the story.
City led through an early Steve Kinsey strike, but David Speedie headed an equaliser courtesy of Nevin's cross. Speedie and Nevin were club and international teammates who had an almost telepathic understanding on the pitch that belied their pathological hatred for each other off it. Speedie would score twice more, the first hat-trick at Wembley since Geoff Hurst's in the World Cup final 20 years earlier. Stand-in striker Colin Lee helped himself to two more, giving Chelsea a four-goal advantage going into the final 10 minutes.
"One thing I'll always remember is being stood on the halfway line after Chelsea had scored, looking up and seeing where my family were and then looking round at the big scoreboard showing 5-1 and thinking: 'Oh God, I can't go back to Manchester now. I'll just get hammered by my family and everyone else'." City midfielder Mark Lillis told the BBC.
City manager Billy McNeill turned to his bench and his own wispy winger Paul Simpson to try and conjure some magic. It proved inspired. Lillis headed home a sumptuous Simpson cross to reduce the arrears before Chelsea defender Doug Rougvie headed another centre from the City sub into his own net on 88 minutes.
"When it was 5-2 we really weren't too bothered," Nevin says. "When it's 5-3 you start to think 'well wait a minute, steady on.' And then the referee gives a penalty."
'I went mental'
The decision to award a spot kick can probably be best described as "generous". Clips of the aftermath show Nevin berating referee Alan Saunders. "I went mental," Nevin admits. "I screamed at him: 'This is a joke! What are you doing? Are you trying to make a game of this?'
Lillis converted what must be the quickest penalty ever taken to make it 5-4 as City dreamed of pulling off the greatest of all comebacks.
By that point, though, Nevin's angst had already subsided. In a moment of levity rarely seen with match officials these days, Nevin said Saunders revealed to him that he was just letting the theatre play out for the fans' entertainment.
"Don't worry, Pat, I'll blow for full time after this.'" Nevin said. "And I thought, 'well, go on then, I hope he scores'.
"I don't know if there's ever been a more open and mad game than that one between the two teams."
Fast forward 35 years and Nevin doubts we will see a similar scoreline in Porto.
Published: May 26, 2021 08:30 AM