Chelsea FC

Chelsea FC

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Chelsea FC throughout history

Chelsea Football Club is a professional British football club, based in English capital London, England. They were founded in 1905 and play their home games at Stamford Bridge, and carry the nicknames “The Blues” and “Chelsea Pensioners”.  The club competes in the Premier League, England’s top division. 

Some of their finest achievements include winning their first initial major award in 1955, the League championship, winning and becoming champions of the FA Cup for the first time in 1970, the Cup Winners’ Cup for the first time in 1971. The Blues were also the third English club to win the Club World Cup in 2022 and become champions.

Chelsea is one of five clubs to have won all three major European club competitions earlier on in the years, prior to 1999, and the only club to have done so twice. In addition, they became the first and only London club to have won both the Champions League and the Club World Cup. 

The club has six league titles, gain ownership of eight FA Cups, five League Cups, and four FA Community Shields to its name. On an international level, they have also gained ownership the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, and UEFA Super Cup twice each, as well as the FIFA Club World Cup once. It is the fourth-most successful club in English football in terms of overall trophies won.

The club has rivalries with North London Premiership clubs Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, as well as a historic rivalry with Leeds United. Chelsea is the seventh most valuable football club in the world, as of 2021, valued at £2.39 billion, and the eighth highest-earning football club in the world, earning more than €493.1 million per year, with an average attendance of each game estimated at 36,000 fans. 

Chelsea FC Stadium – Stamford Bridge

With its humble origins as the home of London Athletic Club in the 19th century, Stamford Bridge has seen a significant metamorphosis and is now the oldest stadium in the Premier League. It first opened its doors for business in 1887, making it the Premier League’s oldest stadium.

Chelsea Football Club was founded in March 1905, and the site was initially made available to Fulham Football Club. However, Fulham FC declined the offer, and Chelsea moved into the stadium a few months later.

Stamford Bridge contains four modern, all-seater sections that are situated in close proximity to the playing field and have the potential to generate an electrifying atmosphere.

Founding, ownership and early years of the club 

In 1896, football fan and businessman Henry Augustus “Gus” Mears and his brother, Joseph Mears, bought the Stamford Bridge Athletics Ground in Fulham, West London, with the intention of organising first-class football matches there. They had to wait until the former owner died in 1904 to purchase the freehold. After having failed to persuade Fulham Football Club to use the ground as their home due to a rent dispute, Mears considered selling to the Great Western Railway Company, which he planned to use the land as a coal-dumping yard.

Chelsea Football Club was founded on March 10, 1905, at The Rising Sun pub (now The Butcher’s Hook) on the Fulham Road, directly across from today’s main entrance. Even though there was a was team named Fulham in the borough, the Metropolitan Borough of Chelsea was chosen after London FC, Kensington FC, and Stamford Bridge FC were rejected.

Mears implemented blue shirts, in honour of Lord Chelsea’s racing colours, including white shorts and dark blue socks. Chelsea FC thought about joining the Southern League but were initially rejected due to opposition from Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur, so they applied for admission to the Football League instead.

Early success in the 1900’s

On May 29, 1905, the Football League AGM approved their candidacy. John Robertson, a twenty-eight-year-old Scottish international half-back, was hired as club manager. Along with Foulke, Chelsea decided to sign forwards Jimmy Windridge and Bob McRoberts from Small Heath, and Frank Pearson from Manchester City, including a number of other established players. 

On September 2, 1905, Chelsea played their first league match away at Stockport County. They were defeated 1-0. Their first home game was a friendly against Liverpool. They claimed victory of 4-0. Robertson also ended up scoring the club’s first competitive goal in a 1-0 victory over Blackpool.

Chelsea FC finished third in the Second Division in their first season, but Robertson’s position was steadily diminished by boardroom interference. In November 1905, he lost the opportunity to chose the team, and by January 1907, he had left for Glossop, a club based in Derbyshire, England. 

The club struggled in its early seasons, bouncing back and forth between the First and Second divisions. They were reduced down in 1909-10, advanced again in 1911-12, and finished 19th in 1914-15, the final competitive season before England suspended football due to World War I. When regular first team football resumed in 1919, the league was expanded to 22 teams, and Chelsea were re-elected to the First Division.

Chelsea FC reached their first FA Cup final, the so-called “Khaki” cup final, in 1915, under the shadow of the First World War, owing to the large number of uniformed soldiers in attendance. To avoid disruption in London, the match against Sheffield United was played in a calm atmosphere at Old Trafford in Manchester. 

Chelsea FC, who were missing their top amateur goalscorer, Vivian Woodward, who had nobly insisted that the team that made the final must keep their places, appeared unnerved by the occasion and were outplayed for much of the match.  United managed to score before halftime thanks to goalkeeper Jim Molyneux’s mistake, but the Blues managed to hold out until the final six minutes, when their opposition added two more to come out on top 3-0.

Chelsea FC – first records after the Second World War

Chelsea FC’s most successful season up to that point was 1919-20, the first full season after the war ended. They finished third in the league – the highest league finish for a London club at the time – and reached the FA Cup semi-finals, only to be denied by eventual winners Aston Villa, meaning they missed out on a chance to play in the final at Stamford Bridge. 

The club was relegated again in 1923-24 and missed out on promotion in four of the next five seasons, finishing fifth, third, fourth, and third. Chelsea FC  returned to the First Division in 1929-30, thanks to long-serving mainstays such as Willie Ferguson, Tommy Law, and Andy Wilson. 

The club spent £25,000 on three big-name players to shine the spotlight on the 1930 promotion – Scots Hughie Gallacher, Alex Jackson, and Alec Cheyne. Gallacher, in particular, was a phenomenal player of his time, known for his goal scoring and for captaining Newcastle to a championship in 1926-27. He and Jackson were also members of the Wembley Wizards (together with Law), the Scotland team that crushed England 5-1 at Wembley in 1928.

The trio did not appear in 300 league matches between them, and by 1936, all had left the club with a major financial loss. Their disappointment demonstrated the Blues’ flaws throughout the decade, in which performances and results rarely matched the level of talent of the players. Money was spent, but some assume it was spent on the wrong players, — especially forwards, while the backline defence was overlooked.

In 1932, the team defeated Liverpool and Sheffield Wednesday before being pulled back by Newcastle United in the semi-finals. Newcastle managed to take a 2-0 lead thanks to Tommy Lang, but Chelsea scored in the first half by Gallacher. However, the Geordies ended up winning and lifting the cup. 

The club remained one of the best-supported in the country. The crowd at Stamford Bridge stadium for Arsenal’s visit on October 12, 1935, was 82,905, a club record and the second highest ever attendance at an English league match. Nearly 50,000 people attended Gallacher and Jackson’s home debuts. Leslie Knighton stepped down as club manager in 1939, with the club unfortunately no closer to on-field success. Billy Birrell, a Scotsman and former Queens Park Rangers manager, was set to follow in his footsteps and took over as his successor.

Later modernisation and winning of their first championship

Ted Drake, a former Arsenal and England center-forward, was assigned club manager in 1952 and went on to modernise the club. He dealt directly with the Chelsea FC pensioner badge, improved the youth plan and training routine, reintroduced to the squad excellent players from the smaller leagues and amateur teams, which resulted in Chelsea FC earning their first major trophy accomplishment – winning the League championship – in 1954-55. 

The European Champions’ Cup was formed by UEFA the following season, but due to opposition from The Football League, Chelsea were pressured to withdraw from the competition before it began. Chelsea failed to develop their success and were positioned in the mid-table in the 1950s. In 1961, Drake was given the boot, and was replaced by player-manager Tommy Docherty.

Docherty founded a new squad around a number of talented young players emerging from the youth setup, and Chelsea battled for titles throughout the 1960s, amidst several close calls. Going into the final stages of the 1964-65 season, they were on course for a treble of League, FA Cup, and League Cup, winning the League Cup but losing steam close to the end in the other two.

In three seasons, the team was defeated in three major semi-finals and finished second in the FA Cup. Chelsea won the FA Cup in 1970 under Docherty’s successor, Dave Sexton, defeating Leeds United 2-1 in a final replay. Chelsea won their first European title, the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, the following year with another replayed victory, this time over Real Madrid. 

Redevelopment of Stamford Bridge and times of financial crisis and bankruptcy

Chelsea experienced a serious crisis period from the late 1970s to the early 1980s, almost becoming bankrupt. The financial stability and fortune of the historic team was seriously compromised by an ambitious redevelopment of Stamford Bridge, star players being sold, and the team failing to reach the standard that they needed and therefore, being relegated. 

Due to this, Blues fans were not happy and soon were to express their anger with hooligan actions and elements. This became known as one of the biggest fan problems, which haunted the team for a decade. 

Having noticed the shocking financial situation and other hardships at the club, British businessman Ken Bates bought Chelsea FC for the scandalous price of £1 from the great-nephew of ex-chairman of the Blues’ Brian Mears in 1982. 

Bates acquired a majority of shares in the company, and moved Chelsea on the AIM stock exchange in March 1996, but by then the Stamford Bridge freehold had been sold to real estate developers, endangering the Blues’ home.
On the field, the team had performed a tad bit better, unfortunately coming perilously close to getting relegated to Third Division for a moment. However in 1983, manager John Neal constructed an impressive new team with very little funds.

Revival in the 80’s

Chelsea won the Second Division in 1983-84 and managed to win over their spot in the Premier League with two top-six placements, before being relegated to the Second Division in 1988. The Blues’ bounced back, winning the Second Division championship in 1988-89.

Chelsea were highly unlikely to be competing in Europe upon their comeback to the First Division in 1984-85, ending up sixth.

The 1984-85 season is also notable for the installation of an electric perimeter wall around the pitch at Stamford Bridge. The idea was put in place by chairman Ken Bates, due to frequent pitch intrusions and fights during matches by fans.  The local authority, however, denied permission for the fence’s electric supply to be turned on, and it was torn down within months of its construction, being called “inhumane”.

The following year, the 1986 – 87 season marked Chelsea FC’s 73rd competitive season, and it was not one of their best. They ended the season 14th in the Premier League. The group’s spirit continued to weaken after player-manager at the time, John Hollins and his assistant Ernie Walley came into conflict with several key players, most notably David Speedie and Nigel Spackman, who were later sold.

Hollins was fired in March of the following season, when the club was once again in relegation trouble. Bobby Campbell took over in March but was unable to prevent Chelsea’s relegation via the short-lived play-off system after a defeat to Middlesbrough, a match that was again marred by spectator trouble and an planned stadium invasion, resulting in a six-match terrace closure the following season.

Despite not winning any of their first six league games, the club quickly and boldly recovered and became Second Division champions with 99 points, 17 points ahead of nearest rival Manchester City. Importantly, Chelsea had managed to keep striker Kerry Dixon, who had a new and creative front-line partner in Gordon Durie, and Chelsea started the 1990s as a First Division team. 

The 90’s became revolutionary for Chelsea FC

In 1989–1990, Chelsea made a spectacular comeback to the First Division. Although the previous ban on English clubs competing in European championships due to the Heysel and Hillsborough accidents caused by supporters of Liverpool FC football was lifted that year, Chelsea was denied a spot in the UEFA Cup because Aston Villa, the league runners-up, received the lone English spot in the competition. 

After a prolonged legal dispute and fears of sanctions to the home of the Blues, chairman Ken Bates worked with the banks of the property developers who had been declared bankrupt by a market crash in the 90’s, and managed to returned the stadium freehold in 1992. Matthew Harding, a Chelsea supporter and entrepreneur who joined the board of directors in the mid-1990s, gave the team a £26 million loan so they could build a new North Stand and make player purchases. 

Chelsea FC, however, continued to struggle in the new Premier League, despite making it to the 1994 FA Cup Final. A distinctive improvement in the team’s financial and performance situation started in 1996 with the hiring of Ruud Gullit as player-manager. 

In 1997, Chelsea signed Dutch international goalkeeper Ed de Goey, who proved to be a relative success, after scoring goals was a major issue for the team last season. The Blues’ only other major signings were Tore Andre Flo, a young Norwegian striker, and Gustavo Poyet, a Uruguayan international midfielder from Spanish Real Zaragoza.
Chelsea were on track for a top-five position and victories in the European Cup Winners’ Cup and the Coca-Cola Cup when manager Ruud Gullit was fired on February 12 due to a disagreement with chairman Ken Bates. 

He enhanced the team with a number of powerful international players and steered the team to their first major title since 1971, the FA Cup. Gianluca Vialli succeeded Gullit as manager, and during his time in office, Chelsea won the League Cup, the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, the UEFA Super Cup, and the FA Cup in 1998. 

In 1998–99, they also put up a strong title defense, attaining four points from Manchester United, and made their UEFA Champions League breakthrough. Despite the problems at the club, in 2001, one of the most legendary Chelsea players to grace Stamford Bridge’s pitch, Frank Lampard, was signed. Claudio Ranieri overtook Vialli after leading Chelsea to the FA Cup Final in 2002 and Champions League qualification in 2002–03.

The breakthrough era of Roman Abramovich and Mourinho

At the time, current owner Ken Bates abruptly sold Chelsea F.C. for £60 million in June 2003, with the team having appeared to be in financial trouble, and him being unable to deal with it himself. He reportedly made a personal profit of £17 million on the club he had purchased in 1982 for £1, as his stake had been lowered over the years to just below 30%.

New owner Roman Abramovich, was a Russian oligarch and multi-billionaire, who had become club’s new owner and assumed ownership of its £80 million debt, paying off a fraction of it immediately.  

Head coach Claudio Ranieri was replaced by José Mourinho, a Portuguese coach, after more than £100 million was spent by Abramovich on new players, such as such as Damien Duff, Joe Cole, Glen Johnson, Wayne Bridge, Geremi, Claude Makélélé, and Hernán Crespo. Despite the splurge, no trophies were won under Ranieri’s leadership.

Under Mourinho, in addition to having reintroduced the Blues back into a promising position, and winning an FA Cup in 2007 and two League Cups in 2005 and 2007, Chelsea FC became the fifth English team to win back-to-back league titles since the Second World War in 2004–05 and 2005–06.

Having won two Portuguese league titles, a Portuguese Cup, a Champions League championship, and a UEFA Cup with Portuguese powerhouse club Porto, José Mourinho arrived at Stamford Bridge with a strong coaching resume.

Post-Mourinho era of the late 2000’s, and the change in management

After a bang average start to the season and several months of well-documented frustration between Mourinho and Abramovich, Mourinho left Chelsea on September 20, 2007, by “mutual consent.” Avram Grant, an Israeli who had been appointed the Blues’ director of football on July 8, 2007, was appointed as Mourinho’s substitute shortly after.

Grant empowered the team, and led them to their first UEFA Champions League championship game, which they lost to Manchester United on penalties.  In the first nine years of Abramovich’s ownership, the team lost money every single month, setting a record loss of £140 million in June 2005.

Grant also took Chelsea FC to their fourth Champions League semifinal in five years, where they faced Liverpool once again. Nevertheless, this time, Chelsea claimed victory, winning 4-3 on aggregate to advance to the Final for the first time in team history. The first all-English final in the history of the competition, their challengers in the Final were Manchester United, where the result was a draw.

A shining example as per the consistency of the players’ performance during the first five years of Roman Abramovich’s ownership was the fact that Chelsea ended the 2007–08 season as the highest ranked club UEFA’s five-year coefficient system used in the seeding of European club competitions in the following season.

Three days later, Grant was dismissed as manager. Brazilian Luiz Felipe Scolari, who had helped lead Portugal to runners-up at UEFA Euro 2004, and Brazil to victory at the 2002 World Cup, took Grant’s place. Despite a strong start that saw Chelsea top the Premier League table early on in the season, in the Scolari was dismissed on February 9, 2009, due to the “results and performances… deteriorating at a crucial time in the season,” and with the club fourth in the Premier League.

Chelsea won the FA Cup again in 2009, this time under caretaker manager Guus Hiddink. In 2009-10, Carlo Ancelotti led them to their first Premier League and FA Cup double since 1963, while becoming the first English championship club to score 100 league goals in a season since 1963. Chelsea managed to win their seventh FA Cup and their and became the first UEFA Champions League title in 2012, defeating Bayern Munich 4-3 on penalties to London club to do so.

The club won titles in a row UEFA Europa League following year, becoming first to hold two major European and one of only five clubs to have won all three major UEFA trophies.

Mourinho’s short second go at Stamford Bridge stadium

Chelsea announced the return of José Mourinho as manager for the second time on a four-year contract on June 3, 2013.
Two foreign players, Willian from Brazil arrived in August 2013, and Serbian Nemanja Matic was re-signed during the January transfer window. Chelsea did not win any trophies in Mourinho’s first year back, ending up third with 82 points, four points behind winners Manchester City.

Chelsea won the Premier League crown the following season for the first time since 2009-10, after conquering the table from the start. Unfortunately, the Premier League champions had a poor run of form in the 2015-16 season. Mourinho was removed from his post by Chelsea on December 17th, following a defeat to eventual champions Leicester City, which had left Chelsea one point just above the relegation battle after 16 games at the bottom of the league table, the worst start to a season since 1978.

Guus Hiddink was hired as caretaker manager for a second attempt. However, the team struggled further and concluded being tenth in the Premier League, their lowest position in the table since 1995-96. 

Antonio Conte and the return of Lampard

Chelsea announced a profit of £1.4 million for the year ending 30 June 2012 in November 2012, the first profit featured  under Abramovich’s ownership. This was followed by a loss in 2013 and their highest ever profit of £18.4 million for the year ending in June 2014. Chelsea reported a record after-tax profit of £62 million in 2018. 

Under new coach Antonio Conte in 2017, the team won their sixth English title, and their eighth FA Cup the following season. After ending in fifth place in 2018, Conte was replaced immediately by Maurizio Sarri. Under Sarri, Chelsea reached the League Cup final but lost to Manchester City on penalties. They also won the Europa League for the second time by having defeated Arsenal 4-1 in the final.

Having left the team to manage Juventus, Frank Lampard, a former Chelsea player, ended up taking Sarri’s place. All did not go well for Lampard, however. In his first season, Lampard led the squad in the Premier League and the FA Cup final, where they fell to Arsenal 2-1. Lampard, a former Blues legend, was fired from his post in January 2021.

Coronavirus and its’ effect on the players

Chelsea FC made an announcement that they would join the new European Super League, a league competition made up of the biggest European clubs, on April 18, 2021, one year after the Coronavirus outbreak. Days later, the club announced their withdrawal from the Super League, following a negative backlash from their fans. 

Tony Cascarino, a former Chelsea player, revealed that the coaching staff had been calling former players to investigate about their wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The club made the decision against furloughing their non-matchday employees, and Abramovich reportedly was the one who made the decision.  

One of the first teams to aid the National Health Service was Chelsea, that also loaned its very own Millenium Hotel to the NHS employees.

The Russia – Ukraine hostile conflict and Abramovich’s stance

Abramovich announced on February 26, that he would give over the control of Chelsea to the trustees of the Chelsea Foundation amid sanctions related to money imposed on Russian oligarchs by Western governments, in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Due to legal questions regarding the regulations of the Charity Commission for England and Wales, the trustees did not immediately agree.

 A week later, CEO Abramovich wrote off the £1.5 billion the club owed him and announced plans to sell the organization while promising to give all net earnings to those affected by the conflict in Ukraine. The British government announced sanctions against Abramovich on March 10, 2022, with Chelsea allowed to operate under a special permit until May 31, 2022.

In the weeks that followed, reports started to surface of Abramovich’s position in facilitating a peace deal between Ukraine and Russia, and also securing safe evacuation corridors in besieged Ukrainian cities. According to an American government official, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy decided to ask the US government not to sanction Abramovich because of his importance in war humanitarian efforts. 

Chelsea FC’s UEFA history 

After winning their first league title the previous season, Chelsea had been invited to start competing in the first ever European Cup, now identified as the UEFA Champions League, in 1955.  The club progressed through the group stage and the second group stage in the 1999-2000 season to reach the quarter-finals, where they faced Barcelona of Spain.

Chelsea qualified for the Champions League in 2003-04 in the 2002-03 FA Premier League. On the final day of the season, they clinched their place in the Champions League by defeating fifth-place Liverpool 2-1 at home. 

Several times during the 2000s, Chelsea came tantalizingly close to winning the Champions League. The closest they came was in the 2008 final, which was held at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.  Chelsea would not appear in another Champions League final until the 2012 final, which was held at Munich’s Allianz Arena.

Chelsea were able to make their mark and secure their place in the 2021 final, which was played at Estádio do Drago in Porto, against Manchester City, nine years after their Champions League triumph. This was not the first time that two English clubs met in the final (after 2008, in which Chelsea also did play, and in 2019). 

Throwback to the most legendary goalscorer in Chelsea FC’s history – Jimmy Greaves

Jimmy Greaves, who managed to score 132 goals in 169 games during his time wearing the blue jersey, will most probably never be surpassed as the most prolific goalscorer for the team. Greaves was signed as a junior in the club due to his young age, and in 1956 and set a club record the following year by scoring 114 goals in the youth team. 

At the age of 17, he scored in a 1-1 draw at Tottenham on the first day of the 1957/58 season. Over the next six years, he scored 22 goals in the first season, 37 the following, 30, and 43 the following. Greaves totaled 13 hat-tricks, including five in a single game three times and four more three times.

In November 1960, he scored his 100th league goal during a hat-trick against Manchester City. He was 20 years old and 290 days. This is still a league record, unbeaten today.

Chelsea FC’s support system today

With an average match attendance of 41,572 supporters means the Blues have the sixth-highest average attendance in English football history and frequently attract over 40,000 spectators to Stamford Bridge during regular games. They were the seventh-best-supported Premier League team in the 2013–14 season. 

The traditional Chelsea following is spread all throughout the Greater London area, including working-class areas of the city like Hammersmith and Battersea, wealthy neighbourhoods like Chelsea and Kensington, as well as the home counties around the outskirts of London. 

In the 20th century, Chelsea supporters were linked to football hooliganism, especially in the 1970s and 1980s. The club’s “football firm,” previously known as the Chelsea Shed Boys and later the Chelsea Headhunters, was well-known throughout the country for its violent behavior before, during, and after games with other clubs’ hooligan corporations like West Ham United’s “Inter City Firm” and Millwall’s “Bushwackers”. Due to the increased violence, as mentioned above, this was one of the reasons former chairman of Chelsea Ken Bates wanted to introduce the electric fence around the stadium’s perimeter. 

Chelsea had an average annual replica kit sales ranking of fourth globally between 2007 and 2012 of 910,000.
As of 2018, Chelsea was the fourth-most followed football club on social media, with a total of 72.2 million followers across all platforms.