Frank Blunstone happy to have a boot in both camps as Chelsea and Brentford prepare for replay


"I've been very lucky," says 78-year-old Frank Blunstone of a life in football that sees him revered by supporters of both Chelsea and Brentford, who meet again in the FA Cup at lunchtime, after the League One side unexpectedly held their more fashionable neighbours 2-2 three weeks ago. In the programme for that game he was described as having "fashioned one of the most exciting Brentford sides of all time", the one that won a rare promotion against the odds in 1972.

At Stamford Bridge he was part of what was, pre-Mourinho, the only Chelsea team ever to win the League. He is welcomed back whenever he makes the trip down from his native Cheshire. The warmth is reciprocated for "a fantastic club, the way they look after the old players" and there is no trace of the bitterness in this happy-go-lucky character of the sort that understandably afflicts many of his contemporaries when they read of the riches lavished on modern players.

Heading down south in 1953 from Crewe, where he was born along with eight brothers and five sisters, was an adventure but not a road to opulence. Chelsea offered a £10 signing-on fee – taxed – the same wages as in the Third Division North and, when they became champions two years later, a choice of £20 or two new suits: "I chose the suits."

Initially he shared not only digs but a double bed with Bobby Smith, later a Double-winner with Tottenham. By the time both became England internationals, they did at least each have a house of their own; Blunstone appeared five times on the left wing, including a 7-2 demolition of Scotland in 1955.

He had clocked up almost 350 games, despite suffering two broken legs, when he was forced to retire aged 29; medical care not being the best, an ankle injury was diagnosed initially as "badly sprained" but spotted by his own doctor as a ruptured Achilles. Tommy Docherty, Chelsea's manager, gave him a job with the youth team and after seven years, fancying a shot at management, he bravely took on Fourth Division Brentford.

"It was tough," he recalls. "They were in a terrible state financially and had no reserve team, no youth team, just 16 pros and me plus a part-time trainer I knew from Crewe, who ran a newsagent's in Ealing." Yet there was success and fond memories.

"I enjoyed it. A lovely club, good supporters. We had two gates of 18,000 in the Fourth Division, averaged nearly 12,000. Then I went to see the chairman and asked if we were going to be a bit more ambitious, start a reserve team and youth team. But he wouldn't, so I told him I'd been offered a job at Manchester United with Tommy Doc."

Chelsea sacked Dave Sexton and the chairman, Brian Mears, offered Blunstone the job. "They were struggling financially with the new stand, selling players left, right and centre. I'd only just moved house, my daughter was at school and Tommy said he'd pay me the same money as Chelsea, so I stayed."

He also worked with Docherty at Derby and Jack Charlton at Sheffield Wednesday, had a lively interlude with two Greek clubs and returned briefly to Brentford with the taxi-driving manager Fred Callaghan. "It was tough times again there. We'd had a fire at the ground and were changing in little huts behind the goal. Then Fred got the sack and they brought in Frank McLintock from Arsenal, so I packed it in."

These days he is just as likely to watch Nantwich, literally at the end of the road, as the Premier League, and does not regret missing today's replay. Always big-hearted, he would only want both teams to win.

Chelsea v Brentford is on ITV1 today, kick-off 12pm

'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella


Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
The last great picture - Winner 'Black and White' and overall 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year'
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London