On the 14th March 1905 at the public house The Rising Sun – today called The Butchers Hook – on Fulham Road, London, businessman Henry Mears along with others formed a football club and named it, Chelsea. Fulham would have been the ideal title; unfortunately this had already been taken. Prior to this in 1904, Mears had purchased Stamford Bridge Athletics Ground with the intentions of having Football Clubs play their games there, in particularly Fulham, whom declined. With this, Mears decided to create his own football club.
Like countless other clubs, Chelsea attempted to play in the Southern League but with – and no surprise – Fulham and other Clubs objecting they were refused. Friend and colleague of Mears, Fred Parker then applied for Chelsea to play in the Football League. With some good talking and persuasion by Parker to the appropriate individuals Chelsea were acknowledged to the Football League on May 5th 1905.
Scottish football player and manager John Tait Robertson, was employed as Chelsea Manager and wasted no time in searching for talent for the Club, one of these been the huge 6ft 4”, 22 stone, William “Fatty” Foulke who had already tasted success with Sheffield United, winning the FA Cup.
Chelsea did not get off to the best of starts, loosing their first game away against Stockport County 1-0 on the 2nd September 1905. Their first home game though had a sweeter result when they beat Liverpool 4-0. For their first season in the Second Division, they did make a decent challenge and managed to finish third.
In January 1907, Robertson departed for Glossop, a Football Club based in Derbyshire. Behind closed doors, Chelsea’s Board of Directors typically over ruled the Manager on squad setup and players to play; for Robertson and appropriately so that was the role of Manger and his position became untenable. A Mr William Lewis stepped into Robertson’s shoes for a time been. He was Chelsea’s first Club Secretary and started out as a Football Referee. Unexpectedly, Lewis guided Chelsea to promotion at the end of the season, helped by the football gifts and the first player to score 100 goals for the club, George Hilsdon. Lewis was replaced by Chelsea’s longest serving manager, David Calderhead. He served the club for an astonishing 26 years and with such a lengthy spell at Chelsea, there should have been more achievement to his credit. Even his son, David junior spent time at Chelsea as a player while his Father managed. In total Calderhead oversaw Chelsea play in 966 games.
It wasn’t until 1952 that Chelsea started to have an impact on the game under new manager Ted Drake. Drake was an ex footballer himself, starting his career with Southampton but his time at Arsenal is where he acquired his recognition. Unlike his predecessors, Drake felt more at ease kitted out like a player and not as a manger so it was exceptional to see him in a suit. With the old days gone of the Boards interference, Drake set out to improve the club. Ball work was established in training and instead of looking to the big transfer signings more scouts were sent out to find young hungry talent that would bring quality football gifts to Chelsea. And no longer was the Chelsea Pensioner for this was to be replaced by the lion rampant crest. Fans were urged to get behind the club and team in unison. Patience would be required; for it took until the 1954/55 season for things to start to fall into place and Chelsea were beginning to look and feel like a Football Club with ambition. And they were, winning the League title with a close Wolverhampton Wanderers in second place just 4 points behind. What’s more intriguing is that the majority of the Chelsea squad were considered amateurs with the exception of Roy Bentley. It was difficult for Drake to repeat this accomplishment the following season and Chelsea finished in the bottom half of the table. One Football gift to shine through for the club was top goal scorer and club record holder, scoring 41 goals in a season, Jimmy Greaves but he left for AC Milan in 1961. Without his presence and the balls he once netted, Chelsea drifted down the table meaning it was time for a change and Drake was sacked by the Board.
There was little new manager Tom Docherty could do to prevent relegation to Division 2. He tried and tested various techniques and in doing so sold many of the now aging players. Luckily, Chelsea had many up and coming talented youth players who were eager to prove themselves along with other football gifts. These included Ron “Chopper” Harris, Bobby Tambling, Peter Bonetti and Terry Venables all at Docherty’s disposal. With now a rebuilt squad of such talent, Chelsea finished in second place in Division 2 and on their last game embarrassed Portsmouth with a 7-0 win. On their first season back to Division 1 they finished fifth in the table and the season that followed won the League Cup. There trophy cabinet had space for more but Chelsea missed out on the FA Cup to Manchester United.
Docherty blew hot and cold and this did cause tension with certain players, especially Terry Venables, one for speaking his mind. Venables later signed to Tottenham Hotspur where by this time his old teammate Jimmy Greaves was. Ironically for Docherty and the club it was Tottenham they played against in the first all London FA Cup final and Chelsea’s first appearance at a Wembley final. Chelsea lost 2-1 and not long after Docherty was sacked.
The 70’s and early 80’s Chelsea was very much hit and miss with time spent in Division 1 then Division 2 and back again. Managers were the same, coming and going and none constructing that special something. They did have a brief better spell with John Neal in 1983/84 but that flame also burnt out.
Chelsea really turned the corner in the mid 90’s. 1996 saw the football gifts of Holland legend, Ruud Gullit takes over as manager from Glenn Hoddle who decided to try his hand managing England, as it happens with not much success. Gullit had instant triumph in his opening season, winning the FA Cup, their first significant trophy for 26 years and finishing sixth in the League, Chelsea’s best position since 1990. Regrettably, in 1998 Gullit was sacked over a contract disagreement with the board. His replacement was 33-year-old Gianluca Vialli and within a short space of time had won the Club 2 trophies, the League Cup and the Cup Winners Cup. In 2000 Vialli, with a quality squad that consisted of Zola, Ed de Goey, Frank Leboeuf and Poyet, lifted the FA Cup with a win against Aston Villa. Then they beat Manchester United 2-0 to add the Charity Shield. Vialli by now became Chelsea’s most successful manager. Bizarrely, Vialli was also sacked by the club in the same season for what must be due to a bad start, loosing 5 games on the bounce.
By 2003 Chelsea were financially in trouble with £80 million worth of debt hanging over their head. Unexpectedly, Ken Bates who brought the Club in 1981 for just a pound sold it to Russian billionaire, Roman Abramovich for £60 million, which netted Bates a nice profit. Abramovich, made his masses of wealth through the Russian oil industry, buying it exceptionally cheap then selling it on to international companies.
Now the club had no debts and massive funds to buy players like Joe Cole, Geremi, Glen Johnston to name a few.
In 2004/05 season, Abramovich employed the outspoken Jose Mourinho to succeed Ranieri’s as manager of Chelsea. Up until his replacement, Ranieri’s had created a number of good results for Chelsea and helped them finish as runners up in the League. It appears somewhat unforgiving the reason he was sacked but changes made to the formation of the squad by Ranieri’s during a semi-final with AC Monaco which Chelsea ultimately lost was enough for Abramovich to have him replaced.
The 2004/05 season was slow off the marks for Mourinho but gradually gained momentum. In the company of football gifts like Lampard, Cole, Arjen Robben, Ricardo Carvalho and Captain John Terry, Chelsea were beginning to win more and more games. In November, they beat Everton placing them top of the table and never really looked back. The outstanding goalkeeping skills of Petr Cech gave him his own Premiership record of 1025 minutes without a goal scored against him. With two goals from Lampard, the match with Bolton Wanderers was over and so was the title race. It had been a long fifty years since their last League Title. In addition, this gave Chelsea the double with their 2-0 win over Liverpool FC earlier in the year. The Club was heading for the treble in the Champions League. In the semi-final, they met old rivals Liverpool again. This time the scouse club had different ideas and Chelsea couldn’t manage the same result they had previously, loosing 1-0 to a Liverpool squad who defensibly were flawless. The season after saw, Chelsea keep hold of their League title and during a visit to Anfield, they unleashed something special on their hosts, in annihilating them 4-1. Manchester United were close on the heels towards the end of season but Chelsea put that to bed at Stamford Bridge, beating United 3-0. Also becoming the only London Club to win two League Titles in consecutive years. Mourinho’s Chelsea certainly became the team to beat around this time.
The following 2006/07 season saw Chelsea just have a slight dip in form but not enough to stop them from winning the League Cup, beating Arsenal 2-1. Manchester United were back on top in the League tables but Chelsea, still in super form went on to win the FA Cup again, beating United 1-0 at the new Wembley Stadium.
By this time, it was common knowledge that Mourinho and Abramovich did not see eye to eye on numerous matters and with Mourinho not one to back down he decided to leave Stamford Bridge in September 2007. This was indeed a sad day for Chelsea Football Club and the millions of fans worldwide. It is widely agreed that Jose Mourinho, whether you love or hate him brought many football gifts to Chelsea and one that will be very difficult to substitute.
Israeli Avram Grant, replaced Jose Mourinho but the club lacked the success they were accustomed too. He did manage to lead them to the Champions League final but lost out to Manchester United on penalties, subsequently Grant was sacked shortly after.
It was then, Luiz Felipe Scolari turn, a well-known and respected manger worldwide, who had brought glory to the Brazil national team in the 2002 World Cup. Again, sacked after another short spell on 9th February 2009.
On the 1st June 2009, Carlo Ancelotti took over from temporary manager Guus Hiddink. It is still early days but Chelsea’s first match with Ancelotti in charge was for the Community Shield against Manchester United, which ended 2-2. Chelsea went on to win through penalties 4-1. With that, it was Chelsea’s first win taking penalties in over 10 years.