Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Season by Season: 1926/27

The third season of our third spell in the Second Division had that feeling of déjà-vu all over again. Leaders of the pack in the early stages, Chelsea stuttered in the colder months, recovered, then crucially faded again, collating just three points from a last possible ten. David Calderhead's side finished fourth, following fifth and third place finishes in the previous two campaigns.

The defence would concede a respectable 52 all season – second best at that level – but once again the attack was found wanting at crucial times. Albert Thain and Bob Turnbull, Bobby Charlton combover hairstyle and all, managed a half-decent 31 League goals between them, but no other player could reach double figures in support. Manchester City finished third with 46 more strikes than Chelsea's 62.

Two new arrivals were especially significant. Tommy Law was a Glaswegian full-back who would make more than 300 appearances for Chelsea, establish himself as a solid if unspectacular international performer, and even turn down a more lucrative contract with French club Nimes to stick around until 1939. Law was a great and popular servant at the Bridge, renowned for his crowd-pleasing slide tackles. He also scored 19 goals, many of them penalties, in that time and became a regular on the Bridge terraces after the boots were finally hung up.

An astute replacement for the popular Ben Howard Baker, 30-year-old Sam Millington became our stalwart between the sticks. Walsall-born Millington (pictured keeping goal in the Cup against Cardiff City) was invariably seen with wide, flat cap on head in public, masking another Charltonesque pate, and would set a record of 78 shutouts in his 245 games over six seasons in west London. Half a century would pass before Peter Bonetti, he of the gloves not the titfer, would eventually break that record.

Team resources were generally stretched. In early November the club received news that Turnbull, current top scorer who had notched 20 the previous season, was to serve a lengthy suspension for disciplinary reasons.

"Chelsea F.C. yesterday received official notification from the Football Association that Turnbull, their centre-forward, has been suspended for two months for an incident in connection with the match between South Shields and Chelsea on the South Shields ground on Saturday, October 9" Daily Express, 6 November 1926
The following day a fine of £45 was handed out to the Pensioners by the FA (and to Spurs and Clapton Orient) for not fielding the strongest available league side in the London Combination Cup - despite reaching the final at Highbury and going on to beat Orient there, 2-1.

Happily, after threadbare fare in recent years, there came a surprisingly rich FA Cup run too. Chelsea saw off, amongst others, Accrington Stanley (who are they?) by 7-2 – one of our all-time great wins. Thain and Turnbull weighed in with five and six goals respectively in that competition.

A full house in the sixth round – the furthest the team had progressed for ten years – witnessed stalemate between the Blues and First Division runners-up Cardiff City.

The return at Ninian Park was a fantastic affair. Chelsea conceded a penalty but fought back only to lose by the odd goal in five, Andy Wilson also missing a vital spot-kick for the Londoners. The Welsh went on to lift the Cup, seeing off Arsenal 1-0 in the final.

In 1926/27...

Facts & figures: 70,184 watch the first match in our FA Cup tie against Cardiff at the Bridge

Cup run: Sixth round, losing to Cardiff City in a replay

All the rage: feline fine – the Cats Protection League is founded

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