The history of Chelsea FC can be traced all the way back to the construction of their current ground Stamford Bridge, it was officially opened in 1877 but it was originally used as an arena for athletic meetings by the London Athletic Club. However, in 1904 Henry Augustus ‘Gus’ Mears and his brother Joseph purchased the ground with the intension of using it for football. Gus Mears planned to redevelop the ground and establish a football club at Stamford Bridge.
The stadium was originally offered to Fulham FC but they turned the offer down to stay at their Craven Cottage home. Mears received a lucrative offer from the Great Western Railway Company and was on the verge of selling the land until a twist of fate, Mears’ colleague Frederick Parker attempted to persuade him not to sell the land and not to give up hope. Mears’ dog bit Parker but he took the bite in good spirit, Mears was impressed by his colleague’s behaviour and decided to trust his judgement above all others. The dream was alive once more.
On 14 March 1905 a meeting was held at The Rising Sun pub opposite Stamford Bridge, one item on the agenda was a name for the new football club, the name settled on was Chelsea FC. Chelsea applied to join the Southern League but their application was rejected by some of the teams in the division so instead they set their sights on the northern dominated Football League which they joined in May 1905. Chelsea’s original strip consisted of blue shirts, the racing colours of Lord Chelsea, white shorts and blue socks. Chelsea’s first ever league match took place in the Second Division away to Stockport County, which they lost 1-0 but in only their second season they were promoted to Division One. In the years leading up to World War I Chelsea spent their time yo-yoing between the First and Second Division while they managed to reach the 1915 FA Cup final which they lost 3-0 to Sheffield United. After the war Chelsea finished third in the 1919/20 First Division, also reaching the FA Cup semi-finals, in 1924 Chelsea were relegated from the First Division and did not return until 1930. Despite their big name players Chelsea struggled in the league, with their best hopes of success coming in the FA Cup, just before the outbreak of World War II Billy Birrell was appointed manager.
Under Billy Birrell Chelsea never finished higher than 13th but he oversaw the development of the youth and scouting programme and in 1950 and 1952 Chelsea reached the FA Cup semi-finals losing on both occasions to Arsenal after replays. In 1952 Ted Drake was appointed manager, Drake was a ‘tracksuit manager’ who tried to modernise Chelsea and instead of signing big name stars he targeted hungry, reliable players from the lower leagues. In 1955 Chelsea won their first league championship, after putting together a fine run of form in the second half of the season. However, it was an aging team and Chelsea slipped down the table in the following seasons one bright however spot was the emergence of young hot-shot named Jimmy Greaves. He scored an incredible 132 times in 169 appearances before moving to AC Milan in 1961, following Greaves transfer Chelsea were relegated with Drake losing his job.
The 1960s were an exciting time for Chelsea fans, Tommy Docherty was appointed manager and he promoted players from the youth team and Chelsea were soon promoted to the First Division with a classy and charismatic side. They won the League Cup in 1965 with victory over Leicester City and that decade saw Chelsea regularly challenge for honours but they fell just short, glamorous European nights also became a regular occurrence at Stamford Bridge. In 1967 Docherty was sacked following a long running dispute with the board and was replaced by Dave Sexton and in 1970 Chelsea won their first FA Cup with victory over Leeds United. The following season Chelsea lifted the European Cup Winners’ Cup with a win over Real Madrid after a replay. A new East stand was built at Stamford Bridge but it was behind schedule and well over budget, Chelsea lost the 1972 League Cup final to Stoke City and Sexton was sacked a few seasons later. In 1975 Chelsea were relegated.
Chelsea were back within two seasons but were dogged by financial problems, they finished bottom in 1979 and the club’s image was tarnished by hooliganism. In 1982 Chelsea were on the brink and were bought by Ken Bates for just £1 and after narrowly avoiding relegation to the third tier Chelsea were promoted in 1984 under John Neal. After four successful years in the First Division Chelsea were relegated but returned at their first attempt. Another success for the club saw Ken Bates secure Stamford Bridge from property developers. Ian Porterfield was in charge for Chelsea’s first Premier League campaign but quit halfway through the season and was replaced by former player David Webb, he guided Chelsea to 11th in the table but was replaced by Glenn Hoddle at the end of the season who has just led Swindon to the Premier League as player-manager.
In Hoddle’s first season Chelsea were briefly threatened by relegation but finished 14th in the league, they also reached the 1994 FA Cup final but lost 4-0 to Manchester United. The following season Chelsea reached the semi-finals of the European Cup Winners’ Cup but were beaten by eventual winners Real Zaragoza, they came 11th in the league. In the summer Hoddle was given money to spend on big name players, Dutch legend Ruud Gullit was signed from Sampdoria, Mark Hughes signed from Manchester United and full-back Dan Petrescu also signed. Chelsea again finished 11th in the league and reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup and at the end of the season Hoddle left to manage England with Gullit taking over the reigns as player-manager.
Gullit spent the summer recruiting more big names from abroad for Chelsea, striker Gianluca Vialli, midfielder Roberto di Matteo and cultured defender Frank Leboeuf all joined the club, they were soon joined a few months later by Italian international Gianfranco Zola. Chelsea enjoyed a successful season as they finished 6th in the table, playing attractive passing football, they also won their first silverware in 26 years with victory in the FA Cup Final with goals from di Matteo and Eddie Newton securing a 2-0 victory over Middlesbrough. Chelsea again strengthened in the summer signing Gustavo Poyet, Tore Andre Flo and Graeme Le Saux. Gullit was surprisingly sacked in February 1998 after a contract dispute with the board. Vialli was appointed player-manager with the club second in the table and in two semi-finals, he won his first silverware by lifting the League Cup with a 2-0 win over Middlesbrough. The second trophy came at the end of the season when a Zola goal clinched the European Cup Winners Cup against Stuttgart. The following season Chelsea won more silverware by beating Real Madrid 1-0 to win the European Super Cup. World Cup winner Marcel Desailly had joined in the summer and Chelsea embarked on a sustained Premier League campaign. They came just short finishing third to Manchester United but only lost three games all season.
The 1999-2000 season saw Chelsea enter the Champions League for the first time. They reached the quarter finals but went out to Barcelona after leading 3-1 in the first leg. They also won the FA Cup thanks to a di Matteo goal against Aston Villa, however, Chelsea struggled in the league and could only finish 5th. Vialli invested heavily in the summer, equalling the British transfer record to sign Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink for £15 million. Another trophy was added with v