Monday, 30 April 2012

Season by Season: 1931/2

George Pearson in action during the FA Cup
quarter-final at Anfield. 
Hughie Gallacher was notthe only notable arrival on our return to the big time.

Fellow Scotlandinternational forwards Alex Cheyne from Aberdeen (a substantial £6,000 signing)and Alec Jackson, a winger from the famous 1928 Wembley Wizards, had helped reshape our attack, and full-backGeorge Barber, who cost nothing, would play nearly 300 games for Chelsea.

Among several fondfarewells, none was more poignant than Simeon ‘Sam’ Millington’s. With 78shutouts, the solidly reliable keeper held the Chelsea record for clean sheetsfor half a century until surpassed by Peter Bonetti.

His replacement wasanother Chelsea legend, dashing 21-year-old Vic Woodley, who would establish aclub record for England international caps eventually topped by Ray Wilkins.His agility, safe-handling and tendency to come off his line for crosses – ararity at the time – would serve Chelsea superbly over 252 League games, all ofthem in the top flight.

The glamorous appeal ofChelsea, sorely tested during the wilderness years, had revived. Along with it,though, returned the old stigma of underachievement in the League.

We lost nine of the first13 matches this season, including a 3-6 hammering at home to Aston Villa. Thena run of seven wins in nine beginning at Christmas took us from the relegationzone to a respectable 13th.

As was often the case, only the cupseemed to bring the best out of what was a star-studded team. An excellent runsaw off Tranmere, West Ham, and Sheffield Wednesday – typically, against them,after a replay. 

The quarter-finals brought a visit to Anfield to playLiverpool, then off the pace in the race for the Championship. Nearly 60,000turned out to see goals from Hughie Gallacher and George Pearson tame the Reds. 

“Gallacher was undoubtedly the best forward on the field.The little Scot was in brilliant form, and his wonderful dribbles seemed todemoralise the home defence.” The Daily Express on Chelsea’s FA Cup 2-0 defeatof Liverpool at Anfield

Gallacher had scored inevery round he had figured in – he missed the Sheffield Wednesday tie – and hemust have looked forward to our first semi-final since 1915 more than most, asit was against his old club Newcastle.

Again he managed a goal,but the Magpies were already two ahead by that stage and sadly we missed out on thefinal appearance.

Newcastle ran out victorsat Wembley, defeating Arsenal with a hotly disputed goal, scored from a crosswhen the ball appeared over the bye-line. 

In 1931/32...
Facts & figures: Arecord 75,334 crowd comes to Stamford Bridge for the visit of Arsenal.
League finish: Twelfth in Division One for the second successive season.
Cup run: All the way to the semis, where we lost to Newcastle.
All the rage: Coca-Cola uses its red livery in Xmas adverts to colour Santa’ssuit red for the first time. 

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