Shellito true to Chelsea roots as he passes away
The last days of Chelsea legend Ken Shellito were spent in a public hospital in the Malaysian state of Sabah, surrounded by friends and family.
Even though he found it difficult to speak, due to a lung infection, he perked up when asked about the biggest victory from his Stamford Bridge days. “13-0,” he whispered, with what looked like a twinkle in his eye. He was too weak to give any more details, and would pass away just three days later at home, aged 78.
Sure enough, Chelsea’s record win was a 13-0 victory over Luxembourg part-timers Jeunesse Hautcharage in a Uefa Cup Winners’ Cup second-leg tie in September 1971, when Peter Osgood scored five. Shellito had retired by that point, but remained an intrinsic part of the club, as youth team coach and manager.
He would discover and develop some of the Blues’ greatest players including Clive Walker and Ray Wilkins, with the latter playing for England 84 times and appearing in two World Cups. And he’d become first team boss — preceding the likes of Claudio Ranieri, Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti — for more than a year across the 197778 and 1978-79 seasons.
Shellito’s love of Chelsea stayed with him long after his move to Malaysia via Singapore and the United States in the 1990s to further his coaching career (he would manage Kuala Lumpur, Perak and Sabah in the Malaysian top flight).
And the fact that he could still recite club stats from his death bed reflects the depth of his affections. His house, with the stunning view of Kota Kinabalu, was called Chelsea Hill, and it hosted his funeral, with an open casket, on Nov 3.
My first meeting with Ken came a decade ago at AFC House — the headquarters of the Asian Football Federation in Kuala Lumpur — where he worked as a technical analyst.
In a small room, he would scrutinise video replays of hundreds of Asian matches and write down his insights. I was visiting to interview then-AFC president Mohamed bin Hammam and was intrigued by the silver-haired man from England.
We would become friends when I moved to Kuala Lumpur in 2009 to host football for pay-TV operator Astro. Ken appeared as a studio guest for our coverage of the 2009 Confederations Cup before introducing me to Sabah-based Scott Ollerenshaw, a former Australia international who would become a regular Astro pundit and good friend.
Ken’s stories were always entertaining, and gave me a taste of the Swinging Sixties in west London. Ken was born in 1940, a few months before Beatles Ringo Starr and John Lennon, and was signed by Chelsea as a 14-yearold on the same day as iconic England striker Jimmy Greaves. His prime was, arguably, when the Fab Four toured America for the first time in early 1964.
He was born in East Ham, a short walk from Upton Park, the home of West Ham United. But there was never any doubt about Ken’s devotion to the blue side of the capital city, playing in the 1958 FA Youth Cup final, and making his Chelsea first-team debut the following season. It was just before his 19th birthday.
Anyone who knew him will remember Ken’s hearty laugh and infectious sense of humour, his passion for youth development, and his unabashed devotion to the Blues.
He was proud of being one of only a handful of men to have played for Chelsea, managed Chelsea, and wore the colours of the Three Lions. And, yet, he was adamant that his move to Southeast Asia a quarter of a century ago was one of the best decisions he ever made.