Liverpool’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah (C) celebrates with the trophy after winning the UEFA Champions League final football match between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur at the Wanda Metropolitan Stadium in Madrid on June 1, 2019.
Manchester City and Chelsea head into Saturday’s Champions League final as English football superpowers, but 35 years ago both clubs had endured such hard times that reaching the much-maligned Full Members’ Cup final was cause for celebration.
While City’s showdown with Chelsea in Porto is a high-stakes clash, their first-ever meeting in a final came in a competition that was shunned by the elite and no longer exists.
At the start of the 1985/86 season, the beautiful game was an ugly mess in England as rampaging hooligans clashed in decaying stadiums and attendances fell.
Just months earlier, 39 people died during riots sparked by Liverpool fans before the European Cup final against Juventus at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels.
The Full Members’ Cup was born out of the ashes of that tragedy, an ill-conceived creation aimed at filling the fixture void left by the post-Heysel ban on English clubs from European competitions.
Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham and Everton all opted out of the competition, leaving City and Chelsea among only five top-flight clubs taking part.
Fans initially treated it with derision and just over 4,000 witnessed City’s 6-1 win against Leeds in the group stage, a record-low home attendance at that point in the club’s history.
Yet by the time City beat Hull and Chelsea dispatched Oxford to reach the 1986 final, the tournament had become a beacon of hope after decades of distress in east Manchester and west London.
For Chelsea, it was their first final since winning the European Cup Winners’ Cup 15 years earlier.
They were in only their second season back in the top-flight after coming within a whisker of crashing down to the third tier in 1983.
Chelsea were among the clubs most affected by the hooligan disease and Blues chairman Ken Bates briefly resorted to erecting an electric fence at Stamford Bridge in a bid to contain the violence.
Recent winners of the UEFA Champions League ahead of this season’s final between Manchester City and Chelsea in Porto, Portugal on Saturday:
2019-20: Bayern Munich (GER)
2018-19: Liverpool (ENG)
2017-18: Real Madrid (ESP)
2016-17: Real Madrid (ESP)
2015-16: Real Madrid (ESP)
2014-15: Barcelona (ESP)
2013-14: Real Madrid (ESP)
2012-13: Bayern Munich (GER)
2011-12: Chelsea (ENG)
2010-11: Barcelona (ESP)
2009-10: Inter Milan (ITA)
2008-09: Barcelona (ESP)
2007-08: Manchester United (ENG)
2006-07: AC Milan (ITA)
2005-06: Barcelona (ESP)
Real Madrid (ESP) — 13 (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1966, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018)
AC Milan (ITA) — 7 (1963, 1969, 1989, 1990, 1994, 2003, 2007)
Liverpool (ENG) — 6 (1977, 1978, 1981, 1984, 2005, 2019)
Bayern Munich (GER) — 6 (1974, 1975, 1976, 2001, 2013, 2020)
Barcelona (ESP) — 5 (1992, 2006, 2009, 2011, 2015)
Ajax (NED) — 4 (1971, 1972, 1973, 1995)