Chelsea Football Club would like to express our enormous sadness and send our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Dave Sexton who has died aged 82.
Sexton is without doubt one of the greatest managers in Chelsea history having led the club to our first FA Cup in 1970 and the Cup Winners’ Cup a year later – our first European trophy.
Sexton took over the Stamford Bridge reins following the departure of Tommy Docherty in 1967 and although losing to Leeds United in his first game, he was soon overseeing an impressive string of results in the second half of the campaign which saw us finish sixth in the First Division table.
The capture of striker Ian Hutchinson from Cambridge United prior to the start of the following season turned out to be a masterstroke, and Sexton, to the delight of the Stamford Bridge supporters, improved our fortunes further, leading us to a fifth-place finish.
The squad were widely viewed as one of the most impressive in the league, and it wasn’t long until Blues supporters saw their side lift the FA Cup for the first time in our history at the end of the 1969/70 campaign.
Sexton’s stock was rising, and a side littered with talent were a joy to watch. Peter Bonetti, Charlie Cooke and Peter Osgood stole the headlines, but players such as Ron Harris, David Webb and Hutchinson were the unsung heroes.
After finishing third in the league, Sexton led his side out at Wembley for an FA Cup final against Leeds in a game that will be mostly remembered for its brutality.
There was no shortage of quality on offer, however, with both sides producing moments of brilliance, but a replay was needed to separate the teams following a thrilling 2-2 draw under the Twin Towers.
The replay took place at Old Trafford a few days later, and after going behind the Blues recovered to win the match 2-1 thanks to an injury time header from Webb, which sent those supporters who had descended on Manchester in their droves into dreamland.
As well as securing our first trophy in five years, Sexton had ensured European football would be coming to Stamford Bridge the following season, and what a memorable journey that proved to be.
In terms of our final league position, the 1970/71 campaign saw us finish sixth, dropping down three places from the previous season, but success in the European Cup Winners’ Cup more than made up for it.
Having already disposed of the likes of CSKA Sofia and Bruges, we secured our place in the final by eliminating Manchester City in an all-English semi-final.
The mighty Real Madrid stood in our way but after the initial match, which was played in Athens, ended in a 1-1 draw, the Blues emerged victorious from the replay, winning 2-1 courtesy of goals by John Dempsey and Peter Osgood to claim our first European trophy.
The following season, however, failed to hit the heights of the previous two. A seventh-place finish was a commendable achievement, but having seen his side eliminated from the FA Cup by Leyton Orient and knocked out in the Second Round of the European Cup Winners’ Cup, alarm bells began to sound.
Sexton then had a high-profile falling out with striker Peter Osgood, which the pair were unable to recover from, a dispute that would ultimately lead to the departure of the fans’ favourite.
The 1972/73 campaign began well, but a slump around Christmas, coupled with a string of poor results during the second half of the season saw the Blues finish a lowly, disappointing 12th. Sexton’s decision to relieve Ray Wilkins of the captaincy and sell Charlie Cooke to Crystal Palace merely added to the supporters’ discontent.
The following season started badly and gradually worsened, but the manager’s decision to sell Osgood to Southampton in March 1974 was a decision that all but sealed his fate.
He was allowed to remain in charge into the following campaign, but after another poor start he was dismissed in October 1974, before going on to manage both Queens Park Rangers and Manchester United.
Peter Bonetti, the club’s keeper during the Sexton era, today paid tribute to his former manager.
‘He was fantastic, I’ve got nothing but praise for him,’ Bonetti says. ‘He passed away peacefully last night. I’ve spoken to his wife and it’s come as a complete shock because he was such a lovely man.
‘Everybody loved him and everybody respected him here at Chelsea and he will go down in the club’s history as being such a fantastic guy who brought us so much success.
‘He was a football fanatic, it’s so sad and I really can’t believe it.
‘Everything he did was fantastic, the fact we won the FA Cup in 1970 was a big memory.’
Clive Walker says: ‘It is very sad news because he is the manager who brought me into the game. He was an inspiration to football in that period because of the way he coached which was totally different to how it had been the generation before.
‘There was a legacy at Chelsea from his involvement and when he came to coach us kids as we were then, it certainly helped us a lot.’
Chelsea club historian Rick Glanvill writes:
‘Dave Sexton took the dynamic, volatile, much-loved side of Tommy Docherty and made it a more pragmatic and versatile team, equipped to win trophies.
‘He was a pioneer in the use of technology in coaching and brought a flexibility to tactics and line-ups that we’d never seen before.
‘Unforgettably, he stewarded the ‘King’s Road swingers’ to glory in the 1970 FA Cup and 1971 Cup-Winners’ Cup – that replay, outfoxing Real Madrid, being arguably his finest tactical game.
‘It was not his fault that in the early 70s the club encountered insurmountable financial problems, though he and the likes of Peter Osgood and Alan Hudson would probably all agree the solution to problems of indiscipline that also arose at that time lay in both camps. They were sold, he was sacked, and dark years followed.
‘In later years it was a tragedy that such a brilliant mind was clouded by dementia. He remained and will always be a hero to fans of the 60s/70s Chelsea, and everyone will extend enormous sympathy to his family and friends.’