To those with an understanding of medieval history, the Battle of Stamford Bridge conjures up images of Vikings and chain-mail.
For fans of Chelsea and Middlesbrough, the memories are somewhat different. And much less distant.
It is almost 30 years since Boro dumped the Blues out of the First Division amid scenes of violence in west London – no axes and arrows but more than enough to leave a stain on both clubs’ recent history – and, with Chelsea well-poised to exact revenge by relegating their north-east opponents from the Premier League, there’s an added edge to Monday’s meeting.
Should Middlesbrough‘s torrid season be dealt its terminal blow, however, it’s unlikely their fans will take the news with the same, savage vitriol shown by some Blues supporters three decades ago.
The stage was a relegation play-off in 1988. The short-lived concept had been introduced the previous season to determine the final available place in the top tier for the next campaign.
Having finished fourth from bottom, Chelsea were entered into a post-season mini-tournament along with the third, fourth and fifth-placed teams from the Second Division – Middlesbrough, Bradford and Blackburn.
Boro and the Blues met in a two-legged final and the first match, at Ayresome Park, resulted in a comfortable 2-0 home win.
Gordon Durie cut the deficit in half for Chelsea in the return fixture in the capital but the hosts could not find a second. Boro were up. Chelsea were down.
Some fans reacted angrily, breaking through the fencing around the perimeter of the pitch at the Shed End, past the meager police presence and charging towards the visitors at the other end of the stadium after the final whistle.
They threw makeshift missiles at the away supporters before being herded up by police. One officer was injured in the fighting and was taken from the pitch on a stretcher.
Late Middlesbrough MP Stuart Bell described the several hundred-strong pitch invasion as ‘the hordes of Ghengis Khan‘
‘Chelsea fans in the tier above us had their faces contorted with hate,’ Bell said at the time.
‘They were pelting us with oranges and one youth threw a bottle of beer which sprayed everyone.’
Middlesbrough mayor Bryan Lonsbrough, who was also at the game, like Bell criticised the reaction of police and stewards as he hit out at the ‘animal’ behaviour of those Chelsea supporters involved in the incident.
The Blues were penalized by the Football Association for the disorder.
The first five home games of the following season were all-ticket, none of the terracing was opened and away fans were banned.
Chelsea won Division Two at a canter despite the sanctions. Boro dropped straight back out of the top tier.
Culled from Mail Sport