Monday, 17 August 2009

Season by Season: 1920/21

Progress on the field and the official patronage now bestowed on our inter-national class stadium by visiting royalty and the staging of FA Cup pointed to a very bright future. The 72,805 who attended the 1920 final tie at the Bridge brought in record receipts of £13,414. Football, and its place in society, was also changing.

The advent of a Third Division, almost exclusively made up of members of the old Southern League, extended the heartland of the game. Newspapers’ sports pages suddenly expanded to provide sufficient coverage and new dedicated magazines sprang up.

Crowds were returning to the terraces. Attendances of 45-50,000 were the norm. Chelsea had become a very big club with a reputation for regularly fielding top internationals.
“The best centre forward exhibition ever” Football writer on Jack Cock’s performance for England v Scotland, 1920
In October 1920 an enormous 76,000 crowd turned up to watch Chelsea seek revenge over newly-promoted Spurs, who had decimated their London rivals 5-0 at White Hart Lane the week before. (Sadly, the Lilywhites merely resumed where they had left off, and the Pensioners lost 0-4.)

Still the Corinthian spirit survived at the club, despite Vivian Woodward’s retirement from playing. Danish international Nils Middelboe would often skipper the side, and over the next few years more famous amateurs would join him, including goalkeeper Ben Howard Baker.

The war was still a strong memory – players were listed in the “Chelsea Chronicle” with the relevant service rank appended to their names. And, of course, the red-coated Pensioners sat proudly in the grandstand, as they do to this day.In truth, this was a disappointing period in our history after the promise of 1919. Veteran star winger Harry Ford (pictured, top left) was starting to miss more games, the over-reliance on Jack Cock’s goals was proving problematic, and a half-decent defensive record suffered accordingly.

On the back of the FA Cup finals success, the Chelsea board’s ambitious strategy for the Stamford Bridge stadium included an increase of capacity to 80,000 with steep, terraced banking at the north and south ends, improved conditions for dignitaries and no less than 61 turnstiles to handle those with their paste-board tickets or cash to hand over on the day.

There were even plans to build walkways from local train and tube stations. Not for the first or last time in the ground's history they amounted to nothing, and notions of the Fulham Road becoming the permanent host for national events would soon be scuppered by the building of Wembley Stadium.

Such thoughts of renovations at Chelsea did not extend anywhere near deep enough into the playing staff, however, and an ageing squad struggled to live up to the glamorous setting.

Come May 1921, we were back in the then familiar territory of 18th in the 22-strong First Division, and too close to relegation for comfort.

In 1920/21...
Facts & figures: a benefit match against the British Army in Sept 1920 was won 2-0
Cup run: Fourth round, versus Cardiff City
All the rage: Shaving fanatic Jacob Schick invents the Magazine Repeating Razor, based on a gun design

No comments:

Post a Comment