The stunning moment in Chelseas history which began tir long

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Today marks the 50th anniversary of the first time the Blues won the FA Cup

Chelsea footballers Ron Harris (left) and Peter Bonetti lift the FA Cup during the teams open-top bus parade in front of their supporters, after Chelseas 2-1 victory over Leeds United in the FA Cup final replay (Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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This week, we celebrate the 50thanniversary of Chelsea winning the FA Cup for the first time in their history.

Chelsea may have won their first league title 15 years before this and the League Cup in 1965, but this trophy, more than any other, seemed to define the club for many years afterward and indeed to this day.

The evidence for this comes from the large amount of the current Chelsea supporters who can trace their support of the club back to that day, Wednesday 29thApril 1970. Given that Chelseas average age of season ticket holder is over 55 years of age, theres a distinct possibility that many of them fell in love with Chelsea on that specific date as wide-eyed schoolboys.

In those days it was not unusual for a young child to choose the team they might go on and support in to adulthood from the winners of the FA Cup. It was arguably the most high-profile football match to be televised live and in fact one of the only live broadcasts of a club football match.

The 1970 final certainly caught the publics imagination drawing a TV audience of 28.49 million; still the fifth most watched UK television event of all time, behind only the Apollo 13 splashdown; a Royal Family documentary; the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales and the 1966 World Cup final.

Chelseas Kings of the Kings Road side was not as universally popular as many might think. Seen as flash Londoners, more pre-occupied with drinking, womanising and fashion they, like their Chelsea counterparts pre and post War, were not taken seriously. Chelsea winning a major trophy would in some respects threaten the existing order dominated by Northern Clubs and Spurs and Arsenal in London.

However, no one in football liked Dirty Leeds. Reviled for their professional win at all costs approach and licensed thuggery, when it came down to who to support for the Cup Final, it was an easy decision. Chelseas Cavaliers won out over Leeds Uniteds Roundheads.

But the match and trophy that would define Chelseas core support for 50 years might not have happened at all.

Chelsea were drawn against Burnley in the fourth round of the FA Cup, having beaten Birmingham City 3-0 at home in the 3rdround. They went in to the tie as second favourites for the Cup.

As so often with that Chelsea side, they seemed to believe their own hype and were profligate in front of goal as the first half ended goalless. John Hollins put Chelsea 1-0 up on 67 minutes and Peter Osgood looked to have settled the tie two minutes later with a scrambled goal from close in.

They didnt factor in a certain Martin Dobson, Burnleys centre half who decided to push himself further up field as his side had nothing to lose. Dobson stunned Chelsea with two goals on 80 and 88 minutes to send the match to a replay at Turf Moor.

The replay was a different affair from the first tie where Chelsea had dominated the match. Burnley went ahead on 35 minutes with a Ralph Coates goal and held the lead until the 72nd minute when Peter Houseman equalised. Up until then they had been out-run, out-manoeuvred and out-shot by Burnley and looked to be heading out of the cup.

Housemans goal took the tie to extra-time but his one-man heroics were not over quite yet, with the tie still in the balance. He crossed for Tommy Baldwin to head Chelsea in to the lead two minutes in to extra-time and wrapped the tie up with his second goal with four minutes to go. Chelsea played Crystal Palace in the next round and the rest as they say, is history, as Chelseas progress to the final was fairly untroubled until the seminal clash with Leeds United.

Chelsea footballers Ron Harris (left) and Peter Bonetti lift the FA Cup during the teams open-top bus parade in front of their supporters, after Chelseas 2-1 victory over Leeds United in the FA Cup final replay (Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Peter Houseman, a man undervalued while he was at Chelsea and who sadly died in a car crash seven years later, should receive a huge amount of credit and thanks from all Chelsea supporters for his performance that night at Turf Moor. While Peter Osgood takes the plaudits for scoring in every round of the FA Cup that season; scoring eight in all in a record that still stands to this day, Houseman scored a commendable six goals including one in the Wembley final.

More to the point though, if it had not been for his two goals and an assist, Chelsea may not have won the FA Cup for the first time in their history.

Such are the sliding doors moments of football; the if only; the what could have been. And this is of course why we all love the inherent drama of the game. Supporters are often imbued with the feeling that this year is their year; the clubs name is on the cup; its written in the stars.

That was definitely the feeling when 42 years later, Chelsea defeated Bayern Munich in their own back yard to win the Champions League, or European Cup if you prefer. In many respects Chelsea had no right to win the tournament that year and everything seemed to be against them as they went in to the final as underdogs without captain John Terry, a suspended Branislav Ivanovic and David Luiz and Gary Cahill playing on one leg.

Sometimes its just meant to be with moments that go your way in a game, like Arjen Robben missing a penalty that might have won the game for Bayern. But it is moments like these that can change the history of a club for generations to come.

The same can be said for Chelseas FA Cup win against Leeds United 50 years ago. Leeds were arguably the best side in England and perhaps Europe, ruthlessly professional. Leeds were the current champions having won the league the previous season and would finish runners up in 1970. Chelsea were undoubtedly underdogs. History would have been completely different had Ian Hutchinsons header not flown in to the back of Leeds net with only two minutes to go or Peter Bonetti not kept Leeds out with a string of fine saves in both legs of the final.

Given what happened in a matter of years after this historic FA Cup triumph, it is not inconceivable to think that Chelsea may never have won the FA Cup.

Although they won the European Cup Winners Cup the next season, beating Real Madrid in another replayed final; they conspired to lose a League Cup final in 1972 and the semi-final in 1973. And that was that for 24 years until they reached the 1994 FA Cup final, which they lost 4-0 to Manchester United.

Amazingly enough, many of those young schoolboys who fell in love with the likes of Peter Osgood, Peter Bonetti, Peter Houseman, Ian Hutchinson, Tommy Baldwin, John Hollins, David Webb, Ron Chopper Harris et al in April 1970 waited patiently for those 24 years and beyond until Chelsea celebrated winning the FA Cup again in 1997.

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These supporters endured the ups and downs for a quarter of a century without a sniff of glory, perhaps sustained by listening to the BBC radio match commentary on vinyl LP with friends each year without success, to relive the past glory or perhaps in the belief that Chelsea would do it again, one day.

Whatever it was, it is testament to the importance of that first FA Cup trophy for Chelsea won 50 years ago, that so many of the supporters who fell in love with the club as a direct result can still be found at Stamford Bridge on a match day today.

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