Chelsea Football Club are based in West London, not in the borough of the same name but rather in the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham with their home stadium being in Fulham. They are also known as The Blues due to their colours, but have been referred to as The Pensioners in the past. Their main periods of success were in the 1960s, 1970s and 1990s as well as present day.
The club has had some of the most famous and respected managers of football history, many of these being foreign which has also led to the introduction of many foreign players for the side. The players and managers have often been in the public eye, both on and off the pitch.
The Early Years
The origins of Chelsea FC are unique as the club was formed in order to fill a stadium. Stamford Bridge Stadium was owned by Henry and Joseph Mears, who were two football enthusiasts who bought the stadium with the intention of holding great matches there. However, Fulham FC declined to take Stamford Bridge on as their home ground due to a dispute over rent, so the brothers, on the advice of their friend Fred Parker, formed a football club to play there instead.
Chelsea Football Club was founded on 14th March 1905 in The Rising Sun pub, now called The Butcher’s Hook, which was located opposite the main entrance of Stamford Bridge, on the Fulham Road. The name ‘Fulham’ had already been used for a football club, so ‘Chelsea’ had to be taken from the name of the nearby borough but only after the names ‘London FC’, ‘Kensington FC’ and ‘Stamford Bridge FC’ were rejected.
John Tait Dickinson was the first manager of Chelsea. Although he only lasted for three years he introduced a number of players from other clubs. David Calderhead then took over. Chelsea attempted to join the Southern League, but were rejected due to objections from Fulham FC and Tottenham Hotspur.
The club joined the Football League shortly after this but did not achieve much success in their early years, but this did not seem to put off their fans. Chelsea soon became one of the best-supported English football teams; a title that they have held ever since. Their greatest accomplishment during this time was in 1915, when they reached the FA Cup final, called the Khaki-cup final, but lost to Sheffield United. Some big names were signed to the club, including Joe Cock and the club finished third in the league in the 1919/1920 season.
However, during the 1923/1924 season they were relegated again and did not manage to promote themselves for the next five seasons. During the 1929/1930 season they reached the First Division once more, and maintained this position for the next 32 years. The team continued playing at a steady pace but did not come any closer to gaining any silverware.
Various top players were signed to the club in the period up to the Second World War, including Harry Burgess, Sam Weaver and Tommy Law. Throughout this time, Chelsea earned the reputation for being an entertaining team to watch, which contributed to their extensive fan base. A match held at Stamford Bridge against Arsenal on 12th October 1935 saw an attendance of 82,905 which is still a record for Chelsea and the second largest attendance at an English league football match.
The Start of Things to Come
After the war Chelsea splashed out more money on some top players, who included Tommy Walker, Tommy Lawton and Len Goulden. In 1950 they managed to get to the semi-finals of the FA Cup, but were beaten by Arsenal at White Hart Lane. Surprisingly though, the following year they narrowly missed out on relegation, but a sudden run of wins secured their position once more.
In 1952, Ted Drake became the manager of Chelsea and made some drastic changes and modernisations to the club. He improved the training regime of the players, introduced new players into the team, improved the youth team associated with the club and removed the pensioners’ crest which had been Chelsea’s symbol since its foundation.
From then on Chelsea have been referred to as The Blues. Drake also took a more personal approach to his work, shaking each players hand before a match and wishing them luck. Although the initial years of Drake’s management did not produce much success, during the 1954/1955 season they saw their first triumph when they won the League Championship.
The same year they were also awarded the First Division title, and only lost 3 in a total of 25 matches. The following year UEFA formed the European Champions’ Cup, and by winning the League Championship, Chelsea should have been awarded automatic entry into the competition. However, the club was forced to withdraw, after objections from both the FA and the Football League as many of their leading members did not agree with the idea.
After this height of success, Chelsea had a succession of mediocre matches which did not produce a high position on the league. When Jimmy Greaves, one of Chelsea’s best players, was sold to AC Milan the club slumped even further down the division table.
The Docherty Era
In the 1960s, Drake was sacked due to the club’s fall in success, and Tommy Docherty was appointed manager of Chelsea. Docherty was a young but talented manager and led the club to great triumphs. He introduced a strict training regime and bought younger players, which succeeded in bringing Chelsea back into the Second Division.
The game that Docherty introduced was based on quick passing and high energy scoring. Docherty’s new training worked and further success later brought them back into the First Division. During the 1964/1965 season they nearly scored the hat trick of the League Cup, the FA Cup and the League.
However, after winning the League Cup they narrowly missed out on getting the other two. During the next season they lost three major semi-finals and were runners up for the FA Cup. In 1970 they managed to win the FA Cup when they beat Leeds United, and the following year took their first European Title, when they won the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup against Real Madrid.
After the success of the 1960s, Chelsea saw a dramatic drop in fortunes in the 1970s and 1980s. Firstly, major redevelopments to Stamford Bridge Stadium nearly caused the club to become bankrupt, forcing them to sell some of their star players. This greatly affected the quality of their play and saw them relegated and at one point they nearly dropped to the Third Division.
To add to these problems, the hooligan element, which was characteristic of many of their supporters during this period, began to cause problems for the club. When Chelsea were at their very lowest, they were bought by Ken Bates for a measly £1. The freehold of Stamford Bridge had been sold to property developers, so the club was facing the prospect of losing their home. However, in 1983 things started to look up after John Neal was appointed manager of the club.
He added better players to the club’s line-up, which helped them to win the Second Division title in the 1983/1984 season. They became established in the Top Division only to be relegated again in 1988, but they came back with gusto and won the Second Division Championship again in 1988/1989, pushing them up to the First Division.
However, this success did not last after Hollins took over the managerial position of Chelsea. Hollins fell out with several key players who were then sold. Shortly after, Chelsea fell fourteen places in the division which led to Hollins being sacked. New manager Bobby Campbell brought them quickly back to their previous form within a short time of being appointed.
The Glorious 90s
Bates managed to secure the leasehold for Stamford Bridge from some property developers in 1992, securing Chelsea its home again. The early 1990s also saw the introduction of some excellent players to the team, including Dennis Wise and Andy Townsend. In 1993 Glenn Hoddle was appointed manager of Chelsea.
His fame instantly raised Chelsea’s profile and he greatly improved the club’s game. Although the club was in the Premier League, their play was not always consistent, but they did manage to reach the 1994 FA Cup final. Their fortunes took a turn for the better after Ruud Gullit, who was the former European Footballer of the Year, was appointed the player manager in 1996. His first task as the new manager was to add some better players to the club, which helped Chelsea win the FA Cup in 1997.
They soon were seen as one of England’s greatest football clubs once more. Gullit only remained with the club for a short time and was soon replaced by Gianluca Vialli who continued this great success. In 1998 Chelsea won both the League Cup and the Cup Winners’ Cup, and two years later they also won the FA Cup and managed to get to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League. Although Vialli had managed to take the team to such heights, he was sacked and replaced by yet another Italian, Claudio Ranieri.
Ranieri started his tenure by transferring players to the club, including Frank Lampard, William Gallas, Emmanuel Petit and Jesper Gronkjaer. Under his leadership, Chelsea made the FA Cup Final and qualified for the Champions league in the 2002/2003 season.
The Present Era
In 2003 Bates sold Chelsea Football Club to Roman Abramovich, a Russian billionaire, for a staggering £140 million, a great deal more than he a bought it for and taking the club back into private ownership. Over £100 million was spent on new players, including Wayne Bridge, Joe Cole, Damien Duff and Glen Johnson. Ranieri had much support but Italian manager was replaced by a Portuguese one, Jose Mourinho after Abramovich’s first season.
Mourinho became a celebrity both on and off the pitch, leading Chelsea to some of their greatest achievements. 2005 was a particularly great year with the team having a record-breaking season of the most victories, points earned and clean sheets, as well as the fewest goals conceded. They won the League Cup against Liverpool, and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League. In 2006 Chelsea were League Champions for the second year in a row, and in 2007, for the second time in three years, the club won the League Cup and finished second in the Premier League.
The pinnacle of this season came when they ended it by winning the FA Cup final against Manchester United. Mourinho was revered as one of the greatest managers in Chelsea’s history and therefore it was a great shock to many when he left the club on 20th October 2007, by mutual consent between him and the club. The manager who replaced him was Avram Grant and time will tell whether he manages to continue Mourinho’s outstanding managerial work.
Records and Statistics
The record for the most appearances made by a player for the club is held by Ron Harris, who played in 795 games between 1961 and 1980. The same record held by a goalkeeper goes to Peter Bonetti, one of Harris’ contemporaries, who racked up 729 appearances during his time with the club. Chelsea’s all time top goal scorer is Bobby Tampling who managed to get a record breaking 202 balls to hit the back of the net in 370 games. Among their current players, Frank Lampard is the one who has appeared the most times, having played in 342 games, and he has also scored the most goals.
Chelsea also holds a number of records as a club, including the highest number of points scored by a club for a league season at 95, and the highest number of victories during the Premier League season at 29, as well as the lowest number of goals conceded by a club during a season, totalling 15. They also hold records for the greatest number of consecutive clean sheets held at the start of and throughout a league season, as well as in a Premier League season. Additionally Chelsea hold the record for the longest streak in the English top-flight of unbeaten home matches.
Controversially Chelsea were also the first British side to have a completely foreign line-up during the start of their game against Southampton on 26th December 1999 for a Premier League match.
For more detailed statistics that stem from the foundation of Chelsea F.C. to today see the Chelsea website.