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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Ex-QPR Mike Fillery on His Time at Chelsea and QPR

The Times - Fillery still ready to work his ticket for cause closest to his heart Andy Lines -
Almost 25 years ago to the day, in an FA Cup quarter-final against Tottenham Hotspur, a young Chelsea midfield player scored one of the best goals seen at Stamford Bridge. A minute before half-time — against a team including Glenn Hoddle, Osvaldo Ardiles and Garth Crooks — Mike Fillery smashed a 25-yard free kick past Ray Clemence, the England goalkeeper.

Chelsea, who were languishing near the foot of the old second division at the time, had gone a goal up thanks to Fillery. But the lead did not last long against their London rivals, who were riding high in the top division, and Tottenham ran out 3-2 winners before going on to lift the Cup.

For Fillery, now 46, it was the highlight of his Chelsea career. Tomorrow, he will be back at Stamford Bridge, having paid for his ticket just to be part of the game. Now working as a £23,000-a-year school maintenance man, he looks back fondly on the match. “We won the free kick just outside the box,” Fillery said. “I normally took the free kicks, but Clive Walker was hovering around. He was a bit of a glory-hunter when it came to the big games. But I just said, ‘I’m having this’.

“I hit it and it went in — past Ray Clemence. It was just before half-time and we walked off 1-0 up and the atmosphere was just amazing, unbelievable. Any Chelsea supporter I meet always says, ‘Remember that goal you scored against Totten-ham?’ It’s nice to be remembered for something like that.”

With his silky midfield skills and powerful long-range shooting, he was voted player of the year by Chelsea fans that year and when he looks at the list now and sees his name alongside those of subsequent winners such as Gianfranco Zola, Frank Lampard and John Terry, he feels nothing but pride.

Fillery was such a talented prospect as a teenager that, according to him, Bertie Mee, the Arsenal manager at the time, tried to “bribe” his father to make him sign for the North London club. Later, Terry Venables signed him for Queens Park Rangers, building his side around the midfield player.

“I never wanted to leave Chelsea,” Fillery said. “But I went with Terry Venables. Chelsea wanted me out because they could get some money for me. They offered me a £25 rise. I was earning £275 a week at the time — a bit different from now.
“But it turned out to be a good move. I played in Europe. But my happiest memories were at Chelsea. When I was younger, Arsenal tried to sign me. Bertie Mee tried to bribe my father. He took my father aside and offered him a few quid — it was quite a lot of money in those times, but to be fair to my dad, he didn’t take it.”

Now a grandfather, Fillery cannot wait for tomorrow’s match and is hoping that he will see a free kick by Lampard to rival his own from 25 years ago. “This time I think Chelsea will win,” he said.

Fillery recalls playing alongside Ron “Chopper” Harris against Leyton Orient in the old second division. “He used to be my minder in the middle of the park,” he said. “That day, Orient had a big centre half called Bill Roffey. I nutmegged him and he said, ‘I’m going to f***ing do you — I’m going to break your leg’.

“Ron turned to me and just said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll sort him. In the 83rd minute, in a 50-50 tackle, Ronnie smashed his nose to pieces and they stretchered him off. Ronnie came running back to the halfway line, looked at me and said, ‘I told you I’d get him, Mick’.”

Highs and lows

— Mike Fillery, a midfield player, suffered relegation from the top flight in his first seasons with Chelsea (1978-79) and Portsmouth (1987-88)

— He scored the first league goal of the 1980s, for Chelsea away to Luton Town on January 1, 1980

— He scored in 6-0 wins for Chelsea over Newcastle United and for Queens Park Rangers over Stoke City

— After leaving Portsmouth in 1990, aged 30, he managed only seven more league appearances, for Oldham Athletic, Millwall and Torquay United (the last two on loan)

— He played for England schoolboys and England youth League appearances (and goals): Chelsea 161 (32); QPR 97 (9); Portsmouth 67 (6); Oldham 2 (0); Millwall 1 (0), Torquay United 4 (0) The Times

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