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Chelsea FC was formed in 1905, after a meeting between a football enthusiast and the owner of a down-and-out athletics stadium which had previously been used as a coal tip, decided that west London could do with another football team.
An application was made to join the Southern League. There was no club, no players, no history, and no supporters – just a ground in need of development.
Tottenham, then members of the Southern League, decided to oppose the move, and whipped up some feeling against the fact that there was no club at all, and that the whole application was artificial. The Southern League voted not to accept the application from the non-Club.
Chelsea then applied to join the Football League. Woolwich Arsenal, a first division team at the time, made no objection and so Chelsea were accepted. (Interestingly while Woolwich Arsenal moved to the grounds of a college of divinity, Chelsea continued to play on their ex-coal tip.)
But back to history. Chelsea quickly gathered together a team, and brought in Archibald Leitch as their football stadium architect.
Leitch had found little work at the time, following the collapse of terracing at Rangers ground in 1902, causing mass injuries and over 20 deaths so he was up for anything, even at half price. Indeed he even did some work at the Manor Ground – for which he was not paid until Henry Norris sorted out the accounts at Woolwich Arsenal in 1910.
Leitch was supposed to be in charge of the works when the terracing at Rangers was built, but evidence presented at the inquests and subsequent enquiry showed that he had not checked that the materials he had prescribed were used. He was, in short, sidetracked by other jobs and in contemporary talk was guilty of a dereliction of duty. But only the building contractors went on trial. Leitch just gave evidence to say that they didn’t do what he told them to do, and no charge was pressed.
This is interesting and relevant, because in 1905 the same thing happened – he got the Chelsea job (not least because he was available cheap), but simultaneously got the job of designing and building a new stand at Craven Cottage, and he worked on both at once to make up the short fall in his salary. In both cases he was designated as the man to oversee the works (as at Rangers) and ensure the right materials were used – but in fact so short of time was he, he submitted exactly the same design for the new stand at Fulham as he did at Chelsea.
Within a short while problems occurred at Chelsea and the terracing began to break up – the story is told in “Making the Arsenal” which focuses on the London clubs in 1910.
So the team with no team, no support, and just an old wreck of a ground was born and they entered division 2 in 1905.
Last season we played them twice but only one game is memorable – the 5-3 win away. At home it was 0-0 and quite honestly I can’t remember it at all.
Chelsea have had the easiest of starts this season beating teams like Reading, Wolverhampton and Newcastle, but coming unstuck against Man City, Athletico Madrid and drawing with Juve. They might be coming good – but it hasn’t been the hardest of openings for them.
As for Arsenal, Giroud has scored which is good news, and he and quite a few other people noted that there were just under 60,000 people in the ground to witness the moment.
But that doesn’t mean he will play. Arsène Wenger said that the type of centre forward he selects in each game will dictate the team’s attacking approach – and suggested that he is picking his number 9 according to the game. So is it Podolski, Giroud or Gervinho for the centre in this game? Of course he could pick all three and give signals from the bench to rotate. That would be fun.
“Up front affects the [whole] team. Whether you have a more mobile player or a more [physical] player affects the passing of the team. We can be efficient with both styles, I even think we can combine the two which I try to do in some games. It is good, you cannot play a season with one striker.
“We have many strikers. Walcott can play through the middle as well, so we have good options that we will try through the season. The season is very long, we have only played five games now [in the Premier League] so we will have the chance to test all of the solutions.”
So we move on to comparisons with last year where we knocked in seven goals in seven, as opposed to 17 in seven this season – and that after two goalless draws. It is looking exciting.
The team might (or might not) be: