In this series, we profile one Premier League team each week, looking at some of the History, Records and Trivia associated with each club. This week we profile Chelsea FC. Join us on a journey from 1905 to 2017 as we go, Behind the Club.
On the 10th March 1905 in the Rising Sun Pub (now the Butcher’s Hook) Chelsea FC was founded. The club was initially created to play at Stamford Bridge, which had been acquired by businessman Gus Mears some years earlier and converted from an Athletics Stadium to a Football Ground. Mears intended to lease it to nearby Fulham FC, but they turned the opportunity down.
Chelsea were elected to the Football League in May and won promotion to the First Division in only their second season, driven by established signings including William “Fatty” Foulke, a 22 stone League and Cup winning Goalkeeper with Sheffield United. Scottish International John Robertson was brought in as player-manager, scoring their first competitive goal in a 1-0 win over Blackpool, but he left in 1907, months before their promotion was secured.
After William Lewis came and went, David Calderhead took charge. Chelsea yo-yoed between the First and Second Divisions up until the Football League’s suspension after the conclusion of the 1914/15 season, in which they reached their first Cup Final, losing out to Sheffield in the Final of the FA Cup.
After WWI, Chelsea began strongly and finished third in 1919/20, at the time the highest finish for a London Team. The West London outfit once again struggled for consistency though and suffered another relegation in 1924. After consecutive near misses they once again joined the First Division in 1930.
They began top-flight life strongly again with a mid-table finish and endured mediocrity and relegation battles for the next ten years before the League was once again halted for war. Manager Calderhead left in 1933 after 26 years at the club.
Chelsea spent big following the league’s resumption in 1946 but couldn’t compete with England’s elite at the time until 1954/55, a season in which they caused a huge upset to win the League Championship. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that Chelsea were 12th in November, having lost their first four games.
Having won the league title, Chelsea should have been the first English participants in the inaugural European Champions Cup, but were denied the opportunity to play by the FA, who felt that priority should be given to domestic competition.Embed from Getty Images
The blues couldn’t maintain their place at the top of the English game and finished 16th the following season. They continued in the bottom half for another six years before suffering relegation in 1962, following a dreadful campaign.
They returned to the top flight immediately and enjoyed one of their best spells, finishing in the top half for nine consecutive seasons, winning the FA Cup in 1970 and the European Cup Winners Cup the following season.
The success didn’t last though and issues with team discipline brought the team to its knees. Relegation was suffered in 1975 and again in 1979 after an immediate promotion the first time.
This time however, they could not bounce back straight away and were on the brink of oblivion in 1983, narrowly surviving relegation to the third tier for what would have been the first time in their history.
Chelsea suffered financial turmoil in the 80s, with questions around their ownership and future at Stamford Bridge complementing their early struggles on the pitch.
They did however return to the top flight in 1983/84. And though they again yo-yoed in 1989, it was to prove Chelsea’s most recent relegation.
Indeed, since 1989 they have not ever been in serious danger of relegation and during the 90s, slowly built upon the foundations put in place by owner Ken Bates and managers Ian Porterfield and Glenn Hoddle.
Ruud Gullit replaced Hoddle in 1996 after he left to manage England and the Dutchman’s influence was clear from the off, signing big European names such as Gianluca Vialli, Frank Leboeuf and Gianfranco Zola.Embed from Getty Images
Gullit guided the blues to the FA Cup in 1997 but was sacked in early 1998 after a contract dispute. Vialli took over as player-manager and led them to another two trophies; the League Cup and European Cup Winners Cup.
Vialli’s trophy-laden start to his managerial career continued the season after, winning the European Super Cup before adding another FA Cup and Charity Shield in 2000.
A poor start to 2000/01 saw Vialli sacked after five games and replaced by Claudio Ranieri, who gradually replaced Vialli’s ageing squad.
Arguably the most pivotal moment in Chelsea’s history happened in June 2003, when long term owner Ken Bates unexpectedly sold Chelsea to Russian Billionaire Roman Abramovich for £60 million.
Ranieri was unfortunate to be sacrificed in Abramovich’s quest for glory, and he brought Portuguese Jose Mourinho to London following his Porto side’s shock Champions League win in 2004.
Mourinho’s impact was instant. Two League titles in two years, scattered amongst strong showings in the Champions League and domestic Cups, lit up Chelsea’s trophy cabinet.Embed from Getty Images
The Champions league continued to elude the Blues however and Abramovich worked his conveyor belt of managers in a failed attempt to bag Europe’s greatest club prize. Chelsea famously came within a post-width of glory in 2008, but John Terry’s penalty slip proved costly as Manchester United lifted the trophy.
Experienced hands Carlo Ancelotti and Luiz Felipe Scolari came and went, but it was caretaker Roberto Di Matteo who upset the odds in 2012 to finally snatch the Champions League from Bayern Munich after an incredible run, including a quarter-final AET comeback against Napoli, and THAT goal from Fernando Torres against Barcelona in the semi-finals that got Gary Neville so excited he lost control of his voice.
Di Matteo didn’t last the following season and the unpopular Rafael Benitez was brought in as interim manager. After becoming the first defending Champions League winner to go out at the group stage, Benitez led the Blues to a ceremonious Europa League Final win over Benfica, with a last-minute header from Branislav Ivanovic.
Fans were ecstatic when Abramovich brought Mourinho back to London in 2013, and another league title followed in his second season. A horrendous start to the following campaign resulted in Mourinho being sacked for the first time in his career, and Chelsea eventually turned to Italian maestro Antonio Conte.
Conte proved a revelation, storming to the title in 2017, and currently has Chelsea 5th this season. Can they challenge again with the added pressures of the Champions League weighing them down?
Records and Trivia:
Chelsea’s defensive record of 15 goals conceded in 2004/05 is the greatest defence of all time in the Premier LeagueEmbed from Getty Images
Chelsea’s record signing is recent arrival Alvaro Morata. The Blues shelled out an initial £58 million to Real Madrid this summer to acquire the Spain striker’s services.
The player with the most appearances for Chelsea is former Defender Ron Harris, who made 795 appearances for the Blues between 1961 and 1980.
Chelsea currently lie 3rd in the all-time Premier League table, lodged between Arsenal and Liverpool.
Football League: Champions (6), 1954/55, 2004/05, 2005/06, 2009/10, 2014/15, 2016/17
FA Cup: Champions (7), 1969/70, 1996/97, 1999/00, 2006/07, 2008/09, 2009/10, 2011/12
Football League Cup: Champions (5), 1964/65, 1997/98, 2004/05, 2006/07, 2014/15
Champions League/European Competition: Champions, 2011/12
Written by Sam Hanys.