History and friendship between Chelsea and Glasgow Rangers

Chelsea and Glasgow Rangers

Most of us won’t be aware of this but Glasgow Rangers and Chelsea, the ‘Blue Brothers’, have a long and storied relationship that stretches back to the very foundation of the club. A good history lesson for those who want to learn about the club as told by a user on the Chelsea forums.

Blue Brothers: The History

As far back as I can remember I was bumping into Rangers fans who were down south supporting Chelsea, definitely in the 60s, but growing in the 70s. There were even some out in Athens in 1971 at the Cup Winners Cup Final and I met up with some of them again at the Rangers game in Barcelona the next year. Some trace the association of the 2 clubs back to the origins of the club and it first manager, who, with his Rangers background, got some old Rangers shirts as the clubs first kit. Others trace it to the same colours and similar badges. Others to some of the Chelsea players who had strong Rangers connections, examples being Charlie Cooke, who was an out and out Bear and, later, Jon Spencer who would “never eat greens on a match day”! Whilst there are some pure football reasons there is no doubt that there are other background factors.

In the sixties it became fashionable at English games to chant Rangers or Celtic during the half time interval on the terraces. Sounds crass, but true! At Chelsea this was heavily steered towards Rangers even then. I think it was to do with the disproportionate amount of serving and ex servicemen (and their patriotic leanings) who frequented Chelsea. Remembering also that the old nickname was the ‘Pensioners’ referring to the proximity of the old servicemen home near the ground. They receive a number of complimentary tickets even today and can be seen in attendance, resplendent in their red regalia.

The seventies saw a dramatic shift towards the Rangers allegiance. This was definitely due to the IRA bombing campaign in London and North Surrey, from where Chelsea drew the bulk of its support. The Guildford bombing and its fatalities in particular signaled an outcry against the IRA and anything associated with it. Many of us knew of someone injured or killed that night, myself included, with a friend whose only crime was to be in the TA and having a drink with some Army mates. Celtic fans were seen as sympathetic to the republican cause and the IRA. Overnight any Celtic chants disappeared.

There is however no doubt that the Chelsea fanbase’s ‘bias’ towards anything Loyalist come ‘Unionist’ was also to do with right wing links which grew and which became more evident and visible in the later 70’s with the growth of the NF, with Chelsea being a known recruiting ground. Nothing to be proud of, but a fact and factor nonetheless.

Rangers Matchday programme taking a look at the Chelsea Rangers connection

Rangers Matchday programme taking a look at the Chelsea Rangers connection

The late 70s and 80s were described as the dark days of Chelsea FC when the hooligan element dominated the headlines. At least 2 of the Chelsea ‘firms‘ at the time had their ‘leadership‘ drawn from ex-servicemen, who had served in Ulster. This strengthened the anti-IRA, anti-Celtic feelings even further. Many of the ex-servicemen had formed personal relationships with Ulster Loyalists and also Rangers supporters serving in various parts of the world at the time. Before it became fashionable (and when it still had dangers), there were groups of Chelsea fans who visited Belfast for the 12th July march. Chubby H also arranged a protest march to Westminster (Chelsea Fans Say NO) at the time of the Northern Ireland vote. Some 300 marched including some Rangers and Linfield fans.

Meanwhile these ‘friendships’ between Chelsea and Rangers ex-servicemen developed into them (and ever expanding groups of mates) attending Chelsea and Rangers games together, sometimes for ‘positive’ reasons (have a beer, a sing song and a laugh) and sometimes, admittedly, for ‘less positive’ reasons (i.e. ‘assists’ such as a trip to visit the Aberdeen Casuals in the late 80s). Again, nothing to be proud of there, but a fact nonetheless and a factor in the ‘bonding’ that was taking place between many Chelsea fans and their Rangers counterparts at the time.

With the ban on English clubs playing in Europe in the 80’s, many more Chelsea fans started traveling with Rangers in Europe, some admittedly for the wrong reasons but the majority for the camaraderie that was now growing between the fan groups. The fanbase at the Jolly Malster pub, just off the Fulham Road would arrange trips to Europe and sometimes to Rangers’ home games. The pub became a meeting place for Chelsea and Rangers fans, and until the recent pub upgrade it still did. There were 50 or 60 Rangers fans there when Chelsea played Celtic in a pre-season “friendly” in August 2006. (That’s another story by the way!)

Chelsea vs Glasgow Rangers Matchday programme

A number of milestones stick out in my memory. Firstly, the 2 friendlies in the early 1980s. The first at Stamford Bridge in aid of the Bradford Disaster, when it was party time on the Fulham Road before and after and when the Shed end cheered every Rangers goal and the Rangers fans every Chelsea goal! The second at Ibrox in what I think was the following year, (and the floodlights failed for a period!) and when it was almost impossible to buy a drink in the pubs due to the generosity of the Rangers fans.

There is no doubt that the Bradford Disaster game was a major stepping stone in what became known as the Blue Brothers concept and the attendance in greater numbers at each others games. Chelsea/Rangers hats and scarves became commonplace at Stamford Bridge and the Blues Brothers fanzine was born. At this time the Linfield connection joined into the Blues Brothers fraternity as reflected in the fanzine. The Rangers & Linfield connection was already there but the Chelsea Linfield one definitely grew from the Chelsea servicemen out there and the attendance at the 12th July marches. The fanzine completed the circle.

Another set of milestones in my memory were the sheer number of Rangers supporters that attended many northern based league games in the 1980s and early 1990s, before all ticket matches and lower away fan ticket allocations made it more difficult. A game at Liverpool in particular, (1985 I think, but may be wrong) when an estimated 2000 Rangers fans traveled to Anfield for a Saturday morning kick off. After the local police worked it out, we shared the visitors terracing together for a memorable morning of singing and chanting together. Having kept us all back in the ground for an hour afterwards, the roads were cleared and some of us shared a few beers together in the pubs on the route back to the Rangers buses. Another would be at Everton when large numbers of Rangers turned up. But for many years there were hundreds of Rangers at Chelsea games when the Gers were not playing themselves that day. And still are! Sunderland, Blackburn, Everton (league cup) etc etc in the past few years.

Chelse Rangers And Linfield Banner

There is still a stand outside Stamford Bridge (near the Methodist Church) that sells many joint Chelsea/Rangers and Chelsea/Rangers/Linfield merchandise and a whole range of Blues Brothers metal badges are on sale in several pubs. These were seen in abundance in Barcelona a few seasons back when loads of Chelsea and Rangers fans met up in Barcelona on the day before the respective Euro matches in Spain. The massive ‘Blues Brothers’ Chelsea, Rangers and Linfield flag was hoisted in the centre of the main road in Barcelona! A great time was had by all before heading off to our respective matches (and defeats!).

The heyday of the Blues Brothers may be over and we may never see again the attendance in such large numbers at each others games, but the memories are something for many of us to treasure. It is easy to understand why younger supporters cannot understand the relationship (and why should they?) and why some – particularly younger Rangers supporters – will hold animosity towards Chelsea given their external funding and “overpaid” players.

The times are changing at the Bridge too. The new influx of prawn sandwich supporters know nothing of our fanbase history and few of the Blue Brothers connection. They are feasting purely on match results, but are poorer for it in my opinion. For those of us who lived through those great years we are richer for it and the bond is there forever.

Please note that we don’t take any responsibility about the correctness of information above. If you have a credible source, please inform us to make any corrections/addition/deletions.

  • William Ramsay Snr

    we are rangers ,Chelsea, linfield no one likes us we don’t care .

  • John Hardie

    Excellent article, thanks a lot. WATP.

  • alantomkins

    It started for real at Chopper Harris’s Testimonial game, back in 1971, when Rangers played at Stamford Bridge. On the North Stand (the away end) we started chatting to the many Rangers supporters that had made the trip down; and realised we had the same passions. So some of us went up to Glasgow, for the Rangers v Celtic game, and we got a tremendous reception. Then some Rangers boys made regular trips to the Bridge, with us going back to Glasgow. Then we popped over to Belfast to a Linfield game, and again the reception was brilliant. Oh I see you put down being Right Wing as something bad, so what’s wrong with being proud of your country and what’s so wrong with being Right Wing?

  • Iain munro

    Fuck Chelsea scum.

    Mon the famous Glasgow rangers

  • Shaun Stevens

    Found this article through a FB link, and I have a big smile on my face seeing you mention the flag at Barcelona. Because that is my flag. We got to the Ramblas in Barcelona early that day, practically every bar / cafe was empty, so we picked one where we could put up the flag lamp posts by the tables outside, (the owner said it would be ok), and proceeded to drink our breakfast. Within minutes we were getting people stopping and either joining us, or having pics taken with the flag. Both Chelsea and Rangers fans. The bar owner was in heaven because his was the busiest bar in street and was giving us free drink at the end because of all the trade we had brought in for him.

    Oh and I was at the friendly at Ibrox, it would have been about 1984 I think. It was my first trip to Ibrox. (I was in the Merchant Navy study at the Nautical college in Glasgow), a mates girlfriend got me a ticket, (she was a ST holder at Rangers), and every bar we went to as soon as they heard my english accent, they were buying me a drink. They refused to let me buy a round. .

    I sat in the Rangers end for the game, and when Chelsea scored I jumped up and cheered, and a guy sitting a few rows in front of me stood up and gave me a mouthful of abuse, (not everyone was aware of the BB connections it seemed), to which the 20 or so Rangers fans I had been drinking with and now sitting with, all got up, told him to shut up (or language to that effect), because I was with them. He left the ground a few minutes later.

    WATP – KTBFFH

  • Hunter Cloud

    I used to play for a soccer club that was affiliated with Rangers and I have always been a Chelsea fan so I thought it was natural to root for both. Thanks for the article. I’m transferring to a club affiliated with Sporting KC now but I will still support my Blues and Rangers

  • Ashley

    I’m a Chelsea fan of the newer generation. 30 years old and had a season ticket for 20. Luckily my dad taught me about the Rangers connection and how close are fans our. Chelsea Matthew Harding stand (where I sit) still sing Chelsea Rangers songs. I’ve got all the time in the world for Rangers and I still see them at every home game in my stand. Ok not in large numbers as meantioned above but a fair few turn up at every home game. I will get myself a ticket for a game at the Ibrox soon. Although I don’t wear colours to football. I will wear a Chelsea hat or something like that just to let you know I’m a Chelsea Ranger

  • Wullie mitchell

    I was always aware of the rangers. Arsenal connection but the chelsea thing is new to me i personally prefer man city always have

  • Danny

    Went to both the Bradford fire fundraising games and had a great time up in Glasgow. And a bunch of us attended the ‘old firm’ game the day before the Full Members Cup Final at Wembley in 1986. 17 goals in two matches, great weekend. I’m happy to drink and chat with any other fans that are friendly enough and we were made more than welcome in Glasgow.. I do though draw the line at singing another clubs songs. I’m Chelsea and only Chelsea. There’s no room for divided loyalties and folk should remember that not all Rangers fans have any affinity with us and vice versa. Blimey, I’ve even seen Rangers-Tottenham flags.
    For the record, the historic Rangers stuff regarding the founding of CFC is wrong on here. John Tait Robertson, the first Chelsea manager was indeed ex-Rangers but the club’s kit in it’s early years was ‘Eton Blue’ the racing colours of the club’s president, the Earl of Cadogan. By the time of the switch to royal blue, Robertson had long gone. The lion on Chelsea’s badge is similarly taken from the club president’s coat of arms. It is a lion ‘rampant regardent’, that is to say standing and looking back. Rangers lion is of the Scotland standard flag. Aston Villa and Middlesbrough lion’s are more similar to it.

  • Kevv

    I’m Celtic, Chelsea and I’m Glentoran. Don’t give a fuck. I just enjoy football.