It’s a short journey to Stamford Bridge for the game against Chelsea on Saturday.
As a starting point for this column, it’s always good to look back on the history of the fixture. Unfortunately, the twelve meetings between us don’t make for pleasant reading.
Our solitary victory came in the very first meeting, an FA Cup Third Round tie in January 1933. The 2-1 victory for Albion that day was part of an incredible journey that season.
Following an administrative blunder by club secretary Albert Underwood, our entry for the 1932/33 FA Cup was received late, meaning we had to play in the qualifying competition. As a Premier League club, the third round would be our first game in the competition but in January 1993, it was our EIGHTH fixture!
We defeated Chelsea with goals from Arthur Attwood and Tug Wilson, in front of a crowd of 23,580 at Hove. We went on play a total of eleven games in the competition, eventually going out to West Ham United in the 5th Round.
Our next meeting with Chelsea also came in the FA Cup, 45 years later. We were a team struggling in the third division whereas Chelsea were about to embark on one of the most successful periods in their history. The 4th Round tie in February 1967 attracted huge interest on the South Coast. Albion decided to make tickets available at the Reserve fixture against Notts County. This led to a rather dubious record. With queues stretching all round The Goldstone, the 22,229 crowd became the record for a reserve team fixture at the ground.
Chelsea boasted players of the calibre of Peter Bonetti, Eddie McCreadie and Charlie Cooke, as well as centre-forward Tony Hateley. The crowd of 35,000 was the second-largest in Goldstone history and they saw Bobby Tambling give the Londoners a fifth-minute lead. They held on to this lead until half-time, despite having John Boyle sent off for kicking Wally Gould.
Just after half-time, Albion skipper Dave Turner levelled the score and we continued to take the game to Chelsea as the half wore on. With minutes to go, Brian Tawse sent a thunderous volley past Bonetti and into the net, but the strike was ruled out for offside. The game finished 1-1 and we headed off to Stamford Bridge for the replay four days later.
Another huge crowd gathered in West London and the gates were shut with 54,852 inside the ground. Albion were determined to carry on their good work from the first encounter and again took the game to Chelsea. With the score at 0-0, a Wally Gould cross was just out of the reach of Jim Oliver and after that, the London side began to show their superior skill. Two goals before half-time gave Albion a mountain to climb and Chelsea put the game out of reach with two more in the second half.
Albion were far from disgraced, as Chelsea were one of the favourites for the competition. They went on the reach the final where they lost 2-1 to Tottenham Hotspur. The attendance for the two games was just short of 90,000, generating gate receipts of just over £24,000. This is equivalent to just under £440,000 today.
Since that day we have failed to register even a draw against Chelsea and our record at Stamford Bridge has been poor to say the least. Our five visits have all ended in defeat, with 12 goals conceded and we have yet to score a goal. Saturday would be a great time to reverse that trend!