An end-of-season collapse in the league – during which Docherty expeditiously sent home eight players from Blackpool for breaking a team curfew – ended title aspirations, but a third-placed finish, the emergence in the side of 17-year-old John Hollins and the promise of European football the following campaign suggested our future had rarely been brighter. And on a post-season trip to Australia, the fast-talking, fast-thinking Docherty gave another teenager, Peter Osgood, his first chance in the first team. Needless to say, the rest is history.
Docherty was fashioning a sharp, fast, young side that appealed to the showbiz of the King’s Road during the glitz and glamour of the mid-Sixties. Season ticket sales reached new heights and gate receipt records were broken as the youthful culture of creativity that exploded in London found an epicentre at Stamford Bridge.
The gregarious Scot’s willingness to bring through young players was supplemented by his eye for unearthing rare talent, often in players yet to reveal their full potential. This was aided by his extensive scouting network. Players acquired for small or knock-down fees during his time as manager included George Graham, Eddie McCreadie, Tommy Baldwin and Charlie Cooke.
In our first proper tilt at European football, in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1965/66, we enjoyed a dramatic run to the semi-final. The Italian giants Roma and AC Milan were seen off en route, the latter by a correctly-called Ron Harris toss of the coin. Agonisingly, we fell short in a play-off game to Barcelona after two legs failed to separate the sides.
That year we again reached the semi-final of the FA Cup and we would go a step further in 1967, but our first final under the Twin Towers ended in defeat to Tottenham.