Chelsea Legends #8 - Ron Harris
Step forward - Ron Harris
Ron Harris made an astonishing 795 appearances for Chelsea between 1961 and 1980, a record that is unlikely to ever be broken, especially with the days of one club players virtually confined to history.
Born in Hackney, London, in 1944, Ron Harris established himself as a first team player as a teenager. After only a handful of appearances Ron Harris captained the England Youth team as they lifted the Little World Cup at Wembley in April 1963 (I wonder whatever happened to that tournament)
Seen as a player with a fierce will to win it was Tommy Docherty that gave Ron Harris his big break, selecting him for first team action, a spell that was to last close to eighteen years.
Ron Harris was a centre back but wasn`t averse to filling in at full back when the need required. A no nonsense tackler, his nickname of Chopper was seen by many as a very suitable moniker. Ron wasn`t afraid to get stuck in and he left his mark on many a centre forward.
But Ron was a decent footballer as well using his strength, speed of thought and tackling prowess to keep opponents quiet. He relished playing against the big names, especially the likes of George Best and Geoff Hurst and he seemed to have the Indian sign over a certain Jimmy Greaves who, in more than twenty matches against his former club only managed to score once.
Ron Harris, after replacing Terry Venables as Chelsea captain in 1966, led Chelsea to four major finals. A sign of his versatility came in the 1970 FA Cup Final against Leeds at Wembley. Eddie Gray, the flying Leeds winger, was the man-of-the-match that day and Dave Sexton, recognising the danger Gray would present in the replay at Old Trafford, asked Ron to switch to full back and the rest, as they say is history.
Television pictures of Ron running towards the Stretford End, FA Cup in hand, still make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck just as the grainy black and white pictures from Athens do a season later when Chelsea again needed two games to claim a major trophy, this time against Real Madrid
1971 European Cup Winners Cup replay
But, there was to be a blip in his Chelsea career in 1972. Chelsea were knocked out of both domestic cup competitions inside a week and Eddie McCreadie was given the captains armband. As his Chelsea career progressed, Ron Harris often found that he wasn`t in the starting eleven and in the 1976/1977 season he was named substitute on no less than 30 occasions but, when called upon, did his stuff.
In fact, at the age of thirty five Ron Harris was deployed as a midfield destroyer, Geoff Hurst and proceeded to have an outstanding season. But it was to be his last and the following season the career of a Chelsea legend was over as Ron moved across West London to become player-coach of Brentford. His career finished after a spell at Aldershot Town as player manager.
Post his Chelsea career, Ron Harris went on to become a successful football pundit but his love of Chelsea continues to see him heavily linked with the club. To put it mildly, Ron Harris is a blue through and blue and often travels away from home to support the team. A couple of years ago, when Chelsea played Liverpool in a FA Cup semi-final, at Old Trafford, I was fortunate enough to bump into Ron and he charmed the support clustering around with by signing autographs and posing for photographs.
Lurking away though, we found a little clip of Ron as he attended a Chelsea fixture in Barcelona, once again Ron is comfortable in the company of fellow Chelsea supporters but instantly recognised as a hero.
For more memories of his time at Chelsea, please take time out to play the clip below as Ron Harris, a Chelsea legend, recalls his time at Stamford Bridge, the most special of clubs.
Ron Harris - Chelsea Legend #8
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