To the modern day Blues fan such as myself, Gavin Peacock is an absolute legend. Despite only spending three seasons with Chelsea, Gavin did as much in that time as anyone in turning Chelsea into the force we are today. Hence he is being rewarded for his services to both Chelsea and QPR with a testimonial match next month at Loftus Road.
But more on that later… When Glenn Hoddle snapped up Gavin Peacock for a shrewd £1.5 million from Newcastle in 1993, it was the start of big things for both men. But Gavin was leaving behind a team that he had just helped gain promotion to the Premiership. He told us, “It wasn’t a football decision to leave Newcastle, it was purely down to family reasons, but in Chelsea I hadn’t realised just how big the club was and is. It was incredible to be part of the Newcastle promotion team, but that was on a regional basis. I was amazed how many Chelsea fans there were and that playing for the club seemed to get you national exposure.”
Indeed, he certainly got plenty of national exposure during his first season with the Blues. Before I mention anything about FA Cup heroics, let us not forget that Gavin scored the winner against Manchester United that season- not once, but twice!
“It was quite incredible. Scoring the winner in the first game was great, but to do it again at Old Trafford was beyond all expectations. I remember the first, a Clarke shot rebounded to me off Schmeichel and I chipped the ball over him into the net.
“At Man Utd Craig Burley and Mark Stein had opened up the play and as the ball came to me I looked up and once again lobbed it over Schmeichel. I also remember getting back to London and having a great night out!”
That season saw us reach the FA Cup final for the first time in 24 years. West London was alive again! But what did Gavin make of the 1993/94 season as a whole… “It was certainly the most memorable for the big games. I’d had the terrific promotion season with Newcastle, but with Chelsea I also got into a few of the England training squads – so I was doing well and getting the recognition.
“Scoring the goal in the semi-final was also fantastic, we drove back to the Bridge and fans were all over the place, it was quite an experience.”
And as most Blues fans will remember, he was a matter of inches away from sealing his place in Chelsea history. For in that FA Cup Final against Manchester United, with the game evenly poised, Gavin struck a sweet volley that agonisingly came back off the crossbar.
“Well, without doubt it was a turning point in the game. If we’d got that one I’m sure we’d have won the game. Instead they got a goal and we were chasing it after that point. I also think that if it’d gone in, psychologically they may have thought ‘Peacock scoring again’ and wonder if history was going to repeat itself?”
On the pitch Gavin was certainly a very popular player, but how about off it? Who were his mates at Chelsea?
“I was good mates with Tony Cascarino, Scott Minto, Paul Elliott and Dennis Wise. I used to travel into training with Johnny Spencer and we maintained the friendship at QPR and to the present day.”
In his next season, Gavin played a crucial role in helping the Blues to a European Cup Winners’ Cup semi final and he even took over the captaincy after Wisey’s disciplinary and injury problems. Unfortunately, that was almost as good as it got…
A hat trick against Middlesbrough the following season was the highlight of a disappointing season for Gavin and Glenn Hoddle leaving for the England job certainly didn’t help his cause. His replacement as manager was Dutch legend Ruud Gullit.
“The only reason I left was because of Ruud - nothing else. He didn’t play me and he didn’t talk to me. If he’d taken me to one side and told me that he saw me as a squad player, I could have accepted it.
“Perhaps I’d have hung in and fought for my place, but there was no communication and I simply had to move on. It was the same with Johnny Spencer (who I still keep in contact with – he’s in the States with Colorado Rapids). I did see them win at Wembley and I was genuinely pleased for the boys.”
And what did Gavin make of Ken Bates- irritable ogre or gentle giant?
“I always got on very well with Ken, he was always fine to me. I think he looks for honesty in players and if he sees it, then they have his respect. It’s his club, he pays big money to the players and I don’t think it’s unreasonable that he should expect commitment from his players.”
His thoughts on the current Chelsea set up are also very positive: “The three players that really stand out are Zola, Lampard, and Terry. What can you say about Zola that’s not already been said? Lampard has come on very well this season and John Terry will get even better. There’s quality all through the side and they deserve to be up there with the best.”
Gavin will get to find out just how good some of them are in his testimonial. One of his heroes will also be taking part in that match- the very same man who brought him to Chelsea. We asked Gavin who he used to idolise as a youngster…
“Two players that were later to become managers and sign me! Kevin Keegan being the first and Glenn Hoddle the second. I also rated Bryan Robson very highly and had all three of their posters in my bedroom.”
But what of his own career- what were the highs?
“For goals and a wonderful time it was Newcastle. For the big games and recognition it was Chelsea. But I spent the longest time at any club with QPR and after having spent two spells there, it’s probably QPR who I hold the greatest affinity with. Saying that, I’m proud to have played for all the clubs I’ve been with. I look for the scores of all my teams and enjoyed a good relationship with all the fans.”
“I don’t. I’ve enjoyed every part of my career and the time spent at all the clubs. I was lucky enough not to have picked up any serious injuries and I suppose the only thing that’s missing was an international cap.”
And finally, dare I say it; is Gavin Peacock destined for the world of coaching?
“I’ve learnt never to say never, but I’m enjoying my media work and have no plans to go into coaching or management at present. Kevin Keegan played golf for seven years in Spain before coming back to football, so who knows?”
You’d be welcome back at the Bridge any day!
Now all that’s left is to reveal the details of Gavin’s testimonial match- QPR vs Chelsea. It will be played on Tuesday 20th May at Loftus Road with kick off at 7.45pm. Tickets are £10 for adults and £5 for children, OAPS and students, which is an absolute bargain for the entertainment you’ll get.
The first teams will play each other, but a few of Gavin’s old friends will be joining him- Dennis Wise, Ray Wilkins, Glenn Hoddle and Les Ferdinand will all be making an appearance!
For more information, visit the Official Queens Park Rangers site at www.qpr.co.uk.
And to hear all of Gavin’s thoughts on a regular basis visit his website at www.officialpeacock.com.