KEN SHELLITO, a classy right back who played for Chelsea against the WA State team in an international challenge contest at the WACA Ground in 1965, has died at the age of 78 at his home in Malaysia.
He was a key part of a Chelsea team that boasted many stars and proved far too good for the part-time WA side, running out 6-1 winners.
The Blues totally dominated the contest, which was lit up with a stunning hat-trick from ace goal-getter Bobby Tambling and other strikes from George Graham, Jim McCalliog and John Mortimore.
The Chelsea line-up in 1965 was: Peter Bonetti, Ron Harris, Ken Shellito, Frank Upton, Marvin Hinton, John Hollins, Bobby Tambling, Jim McCalliog, Peter Osgood, George Graham, John Boyle.
London-born Shellito spent his entire playing career with the Stamford Bridge side, from 1959 until 1965.
He signed for the club’s junior side at the age of 14, on the same day that Jimmy Greaves also put pen to paper. He made his debut for the senior side at age 19 against Nottingham Forest.
It was when the fresh-thinking young Tommy Docherty was appointed manager in 1962, taking over from Ted Drake, that Shellito’s career really began to move forward – quite literally.
Chelsea had just been relegated and as Docherty planned for a quick return to the top flight, a major part of his strategy was influenced by the football he had been studying in Spain – attacking full-backs.
For these roles the Scot chose two young athletic defenders – Shellito on the right and for his left-sided equivalent, Eddie McCreadie. They were the pioneers of flying full-back play in England.
“We came in for pre-season in 1962 and the training was completely different, a hell of a lot better,’ Shellito recalled. “Tommy Doc came to us and said, this is how we are going to play. I’d always been a good passer of the ball and wanted to get more involved but it was always a case of don’t go any further up the pitch.
“But Tom and Dave Sexton [the future Chelsea manager who was back then a coach under Docherty] opened up the game and it all stemmed from there. Eddie and I started it and other clubs in England followed.”
It certainly worked for Chelsea as promotion was quickly achieved. Shellito played 34 of the 42 league games which had taken the Blues back into the big time.
He was called into the England team, making his international debut against Czechoslovakia in May 1963, and he was well on course to be the right-back in the 1966 World Cup side until fate dealt a cruel blow.
The following October in a corner of the Stamford Bridge pitch against Sheffield Wednesday, with no-one nearby, he turned, his studs caught in the turf and he suffered a serious knee injury. He had been due to play for England against the Rest of the World the following Wednesday.
A series of operations followed and Shellito made it back into the Chelsea team, and back into the England squad. But he later admitted he did not feel as effective as before. Then the knee went again and having made his final Chelsea appearance in December 1965, he was forced to retire.
He then joined the Chelsea coaching staff and took charge of the club’s youth academy in 1968. In the summer of 1977, he was appointed manager of Chelsea, succeeding his former partner at full-back, Eddie McCreadie.
He managed to keep Chelsea in the First Division in 1977–78, but the highlight of his tenure was a shock 4–2 win over reigning European champions Liverpool in the FA Cup. He left the club less than a year later, with the side at the bottom of the First Division and facing relegation.
Shellito went on to manage Cambridge United briefly but spent his later life in Sabah in Malaysia with his Malaysian wife Jeany. He coached young players there and worked with the Chelsea Foundation to establish a grass-roots football programme in the region.