As related in the previous episode of this chronicle, Chelsea spent the summer of 1929 on a gruelling but inspirational jaunt around South America, squaring up with considerable success to the best players of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.
The Stamford Bridge players undoubtedly helped the Uruguayans in their ultimately successful preparation for the first ever World Cup. But David Calderhead’s squad also emerged from the experience bound together more as a team.
The only significant addition to the playing staff would come not in pre-season, but winter, in the form of George 'The Bomb' Mills, a hulking centre-forward with an unimpressive pedigree around Kentish clubs.
Mills made his debut against Preston North End on December 21st and opened his account in a 5-0 drubbing. He went on to top-score with 14 goals that season, but he wasn’t the only striker finding his range: the habitually goal-shy George Pearson and Harry Miller both found the net with confident regularity as the whole team gelled wonderfully.
The 1929-30 season was exceptional in several ways: it brought 13 of the 41 league goals managed by Miller over his decade and a half at Stamford Bridge; Pearson’s 12 out of a total 33 notches came in what was easily the best of his seven seasons at Chelsea. Even the veteran stylist Andy Wilson managed double figures in his penultimate term as a player.
“Our latest leader, he went over the top at 2.30, and at 2.32 dropped one of his bombs in the enemy’s camp.” The Chelsea Chronicle summarises debutant Mills’ impressive performance against PrestonMills, though, would become one of our most consistent marksmen, with a return of 116 league goals in 220 appearances. By the time he arrived Chelsea’s season was looking promising.
Regular keeper Sam Millington kept 15 clean sheets; his teenage stand-in, Frank Higgs saw out his entire Chelsea career of just two matches this season and managed one shut-out, a 3-0 thrashing of Spurs.
The decisive period began on Wednesday 12 March 1930. A visit to Bradford brought two points and a 3-1 winning margin. Chelsea won the next four matches to establish one of our best sequences, on the back of which the Blues rose from third place to second.
As the final matches of early May arrived, Chelsea were still clinging to that final promotion slot, and a reassuring second win against Preston set up the closing game, at Bury, thus: rivals Oldham, two points behind but with a superior goal average, would snatch promotion if they won and Calderhead's men lost.
One precious point would suffice.
As it turned out, both hopefuls wilted in the spotlight. In Lancashire the Pensioners were nervy, and a host of chances was "frittered away by needless fanny work," as the Daily Mirror put it, while Bury won 1-0.
Oldham, though, were always behind at relegation-threatened Barnsley, and lost 1-2. As a result, on the 25th anniversary of the club’s existence, Chelsea were promoted back to the First Division.
A few weeks later, an all-time great would arrive from Newcastle to spearhead our top-flight challenge: the mighty Hughie Gallacher.
Facts and figures: Chelsea lose once all season at home, winning 17.
Cup run: Third round, losing to Arsenal.
All the rage: the British press rubbishes the World Cup, because foreigners invented it.