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I relegated Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, it was the most scared I’ve ever been at a football match

THIRTY-SIX years on and “the battle of Stamford Bridge” still sends a shiver through Middlesbrough legend Bernie Slaven.

“It was the most frightened I’ve ever been on a football pitch,” said the former Republic of Ireland international of the play-off clash between Chelsea and Boro in 1988.

Bernie Slaven helped clinch Middlesbrough promotion against Chelsea in 1988

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Bernie Slaven helped clinch Middlesbrough promotion against Chelsea in 1988Credit: Rex
It was a fiercely contest clash at Stamford Bridge

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It was a fiercely contest clash at Stamford BridgeCredit: Getty
Horses stormed onto the pitch after the game

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Horses stormed onto the pitch after the gameCredit: Alamy
It was an ugly scene at the end of the 1988 play-offs

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It was an ugly scene at the end of the 1988 play-offsCredit: Alamy

When the two sides meet on Tuesday night, a place in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley awaits the winners, with the Championship side holding a 1-0 lead from the first leg.

Back then, a top-flight ticket was the prize.

Chelsea, who had finished fourth-bottom in the old Division One, needed to overhaul a two-goal deficit from the first game at Ayresome Park to avoid relegation.

The Boro squad sensed they were in for a rough night two hours before kick-off.

Goalkeeper Stephen Pears revealed: “The team bus came under attack.

“People were banging on the bus and even throwing stones. And when we got off, you should have heard the boos.

“It was really nasty and I remember being worried for members of my family who were there.”

Though Gordon Durie reduced the deficit early on, Bruce Rioch’s young Boro side hung on grimly to clinch promotion 2-1 on aggregate.

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Chelsea fans broke onto the pitch at the end of the game

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Chelsea fans broke onto the pitch at the end of the gameCredit: Alamy
Blues supporters rushed the field after missing out on promotion

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Blues supporters rushed the field after missing out on promotionCredit: Alamy

The final whistle should have sparked mass celebrations. Instead all hell broke loose with Middlesbrough players fearing for their own safety.

Especially striker Slaven, who had been so focused on the game, the increasingly ugly mood of the home support had passed him by.

He recalled: “I remember running towards our supporters on the final whistle.

“There were thousands of them packed behind one of the goals and, as our centre-forward, I was the nearest player to them.

“But as I got closer, the look on their faces was one of fear rather than joy and they seemed to be pointing behind me.

“I turned around and there were hundreds of Chelsea fans charging towards me.

“All of my team-mates were heading towards the tunnel so I just took off in that direction.

“I’ve never been the quickest but it’s funny what adrenaline and fear does to you.

“I swear I must have broken Linford Christie’s 100 metres record in that dash to safety. I only just made it thank God because those thugs wanted to give us a good kicking.

“One of our lads had a brick hurled at him and there were quite a few close shaves.

“I’ve never witnessed anything like it. It’s gone down in Boro folklore as ‘the battle of Stamford Bridge’.

“In those days, it was always a hostile place but on this particular night, it was absolute mayhem.”

Chelsea is a very different environment today and win, lose or draw, there is no chance of those disgraceful scenes being repeated.

Just like they were in 1988, Middlesbrough will again kick off as underdogs despite Hayden Hackney’s goal at the Riverside a fortnight ago giving them the advantage.

Slaven, now 63, believes that for his former club to make the final for the first time since they won the League Cup 20 years ago, they will have to display the same resolve Rioch’s side did.

Scotland-born Slaven said: “Had we gone there trailing or even with the scores level, I’d have given us little chance of making the final.

“But the boys have something to hang on to and will make it very difficult for Chelsea again.

Michael Carrick got his tactics spot on for the first game and I’m sure he’ll have the boys well prepared again.

“But I don’t think we can afford to sit back for 90 minutes. I’ve a feeling we’ll have to score a goal ourselves.

“It’s too close to call. All I know is that if Boro do win, the players won’t have to run for it when the final whistle blows.”

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