Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Season by Season: 1909/10

These were uncertain times around the world, not just the footballing community of London SW. In England’s coffee houses there were fears about Germany building a battleship fleet, problems in the Balkans and the destabilising effect of the Revolution in Russia.

From Indonesia, meanwhile, Dutch zoologists announced the discovery of the enormous Komodo Dragon to the world. If dragons - albeit not fire-breathing ones - actually existed, what other unwelcome surprises lay in store?

For the growing band of followers of Chelsea, London’s second and infinitely more attractive alternative to Woolwich Arsenal, the answer came on 30th April at White Hart Lane. A win against Spurs would have earned two points and, on superior ‘goal average’ (goals for divided by those against), consigned our Woolwich rivals to Division Two. As it is we lost 1-2, the winner coming courtesy of former Pensioner Percy Humphreys, and the bitter pill of relegation was swallowed for the first of six times in our history.

"To-day it is brass bands and fireworks or the Dead March in Saul and funeral coaches. Ah me! How we shall await the half-time verdict from Tottenham!" The Chelsea Chronicle ponders the club's fate ahead of the last game of the season

In actual fact for parts of the season it had looked as if Chelsea would achieve tedious mid-table again. But David Calderhead's team gradually slipped away from 14th at Christmas, with home form standing examination against the very best, but away form woeful.

The team, despite regular shake-ups from manager David Calderhead, won only once on its travels – at Middlesbrough. There were dispiriting defeats to Liverpool (1-5) and Bolton (2-5).

One of the primary causes was the early absence through injury of peerless goal poacher George Hilsdon, who played only a few matches and contributed just three goals rather than his familiar two dozen. The quality of a squad also boasting Ben Warren and Jimmy Windridge was augmented by the arrival of muscular midfield artist Sam Downing and another Chelsea legend, Vivian Woodward (pictured scoring against Tottenham). Woodward, a celebrated amateur international forward who oozed class, had quit Spurs in the summer and surprisingly reappeared as a Chelsea player.

His association with Chelsea would be a long one, but it began with disappointment. In April, as the Division Two trapdoor creaked open, Chelsea’s pockets were rifled again. English McConnell, Marshall McEwan and lantern-jawed striker Bob Whittingham, all deployed in the final match of the season, were among the panicking manager’s last throw of the dice. These emergency purchases prompted the Football Association to introduce the first ever transfer deadline.

But the wave of enthusiasm and finance that created had Chelsea Football Club, and that had carried the team into the upper echelon of the Football League after just 76 matches, had waned.

The Pensioners finished 19th, with just 29 points and a goal difference of –23.

In 1909/10...
Facts and figures: The 29 point haul remains Chelsea's worst ever
Cup campaign: Second round, losing to Tottenham Hotspur
All the rage: Morgan’s first three-wheel Runabout motor car is the urban head-turner

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