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April 28, 1984 goes down in the annals of Chelsea FC as one of the most pivotal days in the entire 100-plus-year history of the

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April 28, 1984 goes down in the annals of Chelsea FC as one of the most pivotal days in the entire 100-plus-year history of the club. Reggie White Jersey . Simply put, without that moment, Chelsea’s supporters across the globe would not have experienced the elation of May 19, 2012, when, of course, Didier Drogba single-handedly rallied his team to Champions League glory in Munich. The architect back in 1984 was club manager John Neal, who dragged Chelsea by the heels from a last-day escape from dropping into the third tier of English football in spring 1983 to promotion to the top tier just the following season. The majestic manner in which Chelsea gained promotion and the football produced the stuff of folklore. Making Neal’s feat all the more unlikely was the fact this was all achieved at a time ‘austerity measures’ reigned supreme at Stamford Bridge. With great sadness Chelsea announced Sunday the passing of John Neal. It is no exaggeration to suggest there might not be a Chelsea Football Club today had he not made such a success of dealing with crisis and getting the team back on its feet, read the final sentence of a highly emotional tribute to John Neal on the club’s website Monday morning. Neal was appointed manager at Chelsea in April 1981 following the sacking of Geoff Hurst, England’s hat-trick hero from the 1966 World Cup Final. Neal inherited a tired and aged squad with the club still under the ownership of the founding Mears family, who had sunk vast sums into the reconstruction of the East Stand just as the price of steel hit a record high. With loans required to complete the work and interest rates at the time more synonymous of loan-sharking rates, Neal was fully aware his transfer budget going into the 1981-1982 season was less than the price of a cup of tea at Stamford Bridge. Things did not improve in Neal’s first season in charge, but the highlight was an outstanding 90-minute performanc, and 2-0 victory in the FA Cup against a legendary Liverpool side, which at the time was the current European Champions. The club finished that season in mid-table mediocrity. Remember, Chelsea is not even in the top tier of English football, but playing in the old Second Division. With a change of ownership in late 1982, which saw Ken Bates buy the club for a princely sum of £1 from the Mears family, winds of change were finally in the chilling Stamford Bridge air. As can often happen to achieve success, you have to take one step backwards to enable you to take those two steps forward – this happened during the 1982-1983 season. Chelsea came within a whisker of falling into the third division for the very first time in the club’s history. Only a win and draw in their final two matches saved them from the drop. Survival gained, the expectation was Bates would relieve Neal of his managerial duties, but with money available and Neal’s canny eye for spotting raw talent and bargain basement experienced players, the owner and the coach cast away the Chelsea driftwood and brought in players who weren’t even famous in their own households. Pat Nevin was one player bought in under Neal. Rejected by Celtic, he got his start in professional football at Clyde, a club playing in the Scottish Second Division. Wee Pat - as he was affectionately called by Neal - went on to mesmerize and turn defences inside and out well before Eden Hazard was even a twinkle in his old man’s eye. Chelsea’s 1983-1984 season could not have gotten off to a better start as they pulverized Derby County 5-0. Winning five of their opening six matches set the tone for the season, where they ended the season going unbeaten in the final 17 matches, winning 13 of those. A number of club legends were born under Neal. None more so than Paul Canoville, who was the very first black player in club history. This coming at the time racism in the guise of the National Front had infiltrated sections of Chelsea support. Canoville, plucked from non-league football and a possible lifetime of petty crime by Neal, would suffer horrendous racism from his own supporters and, shamefully on one occasion, even from a teammate. Neal famously pulled him aside in the locker room and told him to ignore the thugs, but take comfort from the fact it was those very thugs who were paying his salary. Canoville would go on to play a pivotal role in Chelsea’s push for promotion that season and had a starring role back on April 28, 1984. It is not an exaggeration to state that of all the memorable occasions ever witnessed at Stamford Bridge over the many decades the club has existed that Saturday afternoon in late April from 25 ago stands out foremost. The atmosphere profound, thanks in part to the 10,000-plus Leeds fans who traveled down to London to witness what, for all intents and purposes, turned out to be John Neal’s coronation. Even the weather co-operated, as a sun drenched Stamford Bridge welcomed by far its largest crowd of the season. When at the time, attendance averaged only 15,000, the official attendance that game was 33,447. With the knowledge that victory would finally secure promotion back to the top flight, it felt like 50,000 had packed the standing-room only terraces. The supporters were not to be disappointed - 3-0 up at half-time, Ken Bates, the owner, proceeded to walk around the pitch at the half with a megaphone pleading for the crowd not to invade the pitch and celebrate until the final whistle. Following Canoville scoring a fifth and final goal, deep into injury time, bedlam of the best variety broke out right all around Stamford Bridge and the man who made it all possible, John Neal, disappeared down the tunnel so as to allow his players to receive the adulations and congratulations. That summer Neal underwent heart surgery, but returned as Chelsea took their bow at Highbury to kick off their return in the top flight. Neal’s team drew that day and went on to finish a very credible sixth and managed a semi-final berth in the League Cup. At season’s end, and for health reasons, John Neal retired and took a place in that very same director’s box where he watched tens of thousands of Chelsea supporters celebrate him down on the pitch that previous April. Following Neal’s passing, Nevin, in an interview with a local Chelsea newspaper, said it was Neal’s wisdom, which set him apart from all other managers. A genuine wisdom is the best way to describe it, Nevin told West London Sport. And that’s rare – not only in football, but quite rare in life too.” With the same newspaper, Canoville spoke of the trust and respect Neal commanded. “He had everyone’s trust, Canoville said. He made brave football decisions, but did things in the right way and treated people with respect. He added, “I could not say one bad word about him and don’t know anyone else who could either.” John Neal’s funeral is scheduled to take place on Thursday. His spirit likely over the Stadion Gelsenkirchen this past Tuesday night, as a majestic Jose Mourinho-inspired Chelsea ripped FC Schalke apart, throughout a match where the Chelsea supporters paid their own special tribute and homage to a gentleman with the refined and so very unassuming character – the like of which is so extremely rare in football today. Chelsea’s gain certainly, football’s loss absolutely - John Neal was 82. @TheSoccerNoel on Twitter Jamaal Williams Jersey . However, the 38-year-old is in no hurry to sign with another team. "Im not in a rush. This will be my last contract, so I want to do it right," said Burris on Thursday. Richard Rodgers Jersey . On Wednesday, Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas hit back. In a passionate defence of himself and the London clubs medical staff, the Portuguese coach rebuked the "incompetent people" who have attacked Tottenham for allowing Lloris to continue playing after being briefly knocked unconscious against Everton on Sunday. . DeGrom outpitched Jake Peavy in a tantalizing hitless duel that carried into the seventh inning Saturday night before the New York Mets broke loose and beat the San Francisco Giants 4-2.ARLINGTON, Texas -- Good thing for the AL West-leading Texas Rangers that they wont have to face Kevin Correia any more down the stretch. They cant beat the Minnesota Twins right-hander. Correia pitched seven strong innings Sunday as the Twins won 4-2 to clinch their first series victory at Texas in four years. "He mixed it up well," said Mitch Moreland, whose 21st homer leading off the third was the only run off Correia. "Used both sides of the plate, kept us off balance, and we didnt really create a whole lot of opportunities." After throwing eight scoreless innings in a home victory over the Rangers in April, Correia (9-10) scattered five hits on a steamy day in Texas. He got 14 outs on the ground, including a pair of double plays. Correia has won all three of his career starts against the Rangers, with an ERA of 1.61. In a brief stay at home, the Rangers lost two of three while scoring exactly two runs in all three games. Texas plays its next six games on the West Coast, starting Monday with the opener of an important three-game series in Oakland. Even though the Rangers finished August with an AL-best 20-7 record, they lost their September opener and have only a one-game division lead over the As. Oakland wrapped up a three-game sweep against Tampa Bay with a 5-1 victory Sunday. "Were not looking for help from anybody. We played these three games against the Minnesota Twins with the intention on winning," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Im not concerned with what Oakland is doing right now. Well face Oakland on Monday when we get there, and well play it and when we finish, well leave." A.J. Pierzynski also homered for the Rangers in the finale against the Twins, with a pinch-hit shot in the eighth. Texas starter Travis Blackley (2-2) was gone after giving up three consecutive run-scoring hits with one out in the fifth. Josmil Pinto, the catcher making his major league debut a day after being called up from Triple-A Rochester, had an RBI double before Doug Berniers ground-rule double, a ball that bounced just fair down the right-field line and then went into the seats. Alex Presley, acquired from Pittsburgh when the Twins traded Justin Morneau on Saturday, followed with an RBI single that made it 3-1. Glen Perkins, the second Twins reliever, pitched a perfect ninth with two strikeouts for his 32nd save in 355 chances. Vince Biegel Jersey. He saved both Minnesota wins in the series. The Twins didnt let Correia go back out for the eighth because he was cramping in his ribs on a day when the temperature was 99 degrees at first pitch and rose to triple digits. "I could have gone back out, but the coaches wouldnt let me," Correia said. "You cant say anything if you want to go back out there." Neftali Feliz pitched 1 2-3 scoreless innings with two strikeouts in his first appearance for the Rangers since sustaining a torn elbow ligament in May 2012 that required Tommy John surgery. Feliz was the closer for the Rangers during consecutive World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011 before moving into the rotation and going 3-1 in seven starts last year. He is returning as a reliever. "He threw all his pitches. He looked comfortable," Washington said. "All we can do is build off it." Feliz got a nice ovation when he ran from the bullpen to the mound and then got two outs while facing one batter. Presley was thrown out trying to steal before Darin Mastroianni took a called third strike. Mastroianni was thrown out trying to score in the first inning after a deke by second baseman Ian Kinsler when Brian Dozier doubled. Running toward second, Mastroianni slid into the bag when Kinsler acted as he was turning a double play. But the ball was in left-centre field. Mastroianni got up and started running again, but couldnt beat Kinslers relay throw from centre fielder Leonys Martin to catcher Geovany Soto, who blocked the plate from the sliding runner. It was Martins 12th outfield assist this season, the most for a Texas player since Ruben Sierras 15 in 1991. NOTES: Rangers SS Elvis Andrus was feeling better but didnt play a day after coming out of Saturday nights game with tightness in his lower back. Washington said he likely wouldnt play Andrus on Monday. ... Jim Adduci, among seven players added to the Rangers roster on Sunday, made his major league debut after 10 minor league seasons in three organizations. He started in left field and singled in his first big league at-bat. ... The Twins added only Presley on the first day rosters could expand. Their top farm team is still in playoff contention. ... Left-hander Derek Holland (9-6, 3.00 ERA) starts the series against the As, who are scheduled to throw righty Dan Straily (7-7, 4.41). 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