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Rediff.com  » Sports » Chelsea's second century unlikely to mirror the first

Chelsea's second century unlikely to mirror the first

May 02, 2005 10:09 IST
Although Chelsea's two championships have come 50 years apart, it is highly unlikely they will need to wait another half-century for a third.

The team that have swept to the 2004-05 title look capable of dominating the English Premier League for a long time and may add the European Cup to their collection on May 25.

But even if they do not become European champions, their centenary season is the finest in Chelsea's history, due in no small part to the millions of pounds ploughed in by Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich.

For decades the Blues were light years behind Manchester United, Liverpool, Everton, Aston Villa and Newcastle United and also suffered in comparison with London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.

Chelsea's haul in 100 years amounts to 10 major trophies, six coming since 1997.

EARLY DAYS

The club were founded in 1905 when west London neighbours Fulham declined an offer to rent Stamford Bridge from the owners, who wanted to develop it as a sporting arena.

Chelsea were elected to the Second Division and by 1907 had won promotion.

They reached their first FA Cup final in 1915, losing 3-0 to Sheffield United, and had to wait another 40 years for their maiden honour, the 1955 league championship in their Golden Jubilee season.

Ted Drake collected league and FA Cup winners' medals as a player with Arsenal before gaining a special place in Chelsea's history as their first title-winning manager.

Drake's captain was Roy Bentley, who was at Chelsea last Saturday to see Jose Mourinho's team beat Fulham.

"Things were very different in 1955," said the 80-year-old Bentley. "We never saw the trophy and never got presented with it.

"It never occurred to us at the time. I think the supporters were disappointed they never saw it."

The supporters were also disappointed English soccer chiefs would not allow Chelsea to enter the new European Cup in 1955-56.

CHAMPAGNE DAYS

After 32 years in the top flight, Chelsea were relegated in 1962. A bright new era, however, was around the corner.

Under manager Tommy Docherty they bounced back in 1963 and for the rest of the 'Swinging Sixties' only once finished lower than sixth.

A brilliant team featuring Peter Osgood, Alan Hudson and Charlie Cooke made their trophy-winning breakthrough in 1970.

Although Chelsea had won the low-key League Cup in 1965, they lifted the more prestigious FA Cup for the first time after an epic final replay against Leeds United five years later.

They followed up by beating Real Madrid in the 1971 European Cup Winners' Cup final but the champagne did not flow for long.

DOG DAYS

Ambitious plans to redevelop Stamford Bridge almost bankrupted the club, Osgood and Hudson were sold after a row with manager Dave Sexton and in 1975 Chelsea went down, beginning a yo-yo existence between the top two divisions lasting 14 years.

In the middle of this grim period Ken Bates, the former Oldham Athletic chairman, bought Chelsea for one pound.

Bates took on millions in debt but gradually turned the club around, although not without courting controversy.

There was frequent hooliganism at matches and Bates proposed installing an electric wire on the perimeter fencing to stop pitch invasions.

He did, though, pull one master-stroke, inviting a super-rich fan on to the board.

Although he and Matthew Harding were later to fall out, with Harding dying tragically young in a helicopter crash in October 1996, Harding and Bates laid the foundation for the modern era, the best in the club's history.

In 1993 they persuaded Glenn Hoddle to take over as player-manager. The former England midfielder's prestige brought Ruud Gullit and Mark Hughes to the club.

When Gullit succeeded Hoddle in 1996, more top names arrived, like Gianluca Vialli and Gianfranco Zola.

Success was not far behind. Chelsea hoisted their first major honour since 1971 by beating Middlesbrough in the 1997 FA Cup final.

The following year they won the European Cup Winners' Cup again and the League Cup. In 2000 they lifted the FA Cup for the third time.

Then, in 2003, Chelsea made the most important signing in their history, Abramovich.

With his millions at their disposal Chelsea will never again have to think about bankruptcy or relegation, wire fences or hooliganism.

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