August 1936 was an extraordinarily turbulentperiod in European history. During the team’s stop-off in Germany during thesummer, the players had noted the immense construction projects taking place.Already dictators were on the march and war was on the horizon.
In contrast, Chelseafootball club appeared becalmed in the undistinguished mid-table mire andlacking the cohesion and camaraderie to put a consistent run together.
We were still a glamorousdraw wherever we played, attracting huge crowds to see the likes of goalscorersJoe Bambrick, Jimmy Argue and the mighty George Mills, or well-lovedinternational ’keepers Vic Woodley of England and John Jackson of Scotland. Thestardust was still sprinkled around a decent squad.
Average home gatesremained healthy at over 32,000, but down on the previous season’s average ofjust under 35,000 per game. And a throng of 42,000 crammed into a freezing ColdBlow Lane for the fourth round FA Cup clash in January with Third DivisionMillwall.
Unfortunately, Chelsea succumbed 3-0 to our London neighbours in anall-too recognisable fashion. It was of no consolation that the Lions went onto become the first club from their division to reach the semi-finals thatyear.
“We were unfavourably impressed by the habit of nearly all the players of shouting at one another throughout the game.” Daily Mirror, September 1936
In the League, though,there was not much to cheer. Home wins over high-flying Arsenal and Charlton,creditable draws – 0-0 draw at Maine Road and a spectacular 4-4 (Mills notchinga hat-trick) at the Bridge – with eventual champions Man City were high points,but Arsenal’s 4-1 win at Highbury and defeats at West Brom, Bolton andespecially Portsmouth (4-1) helped sully the season.
With their reputationrising abroad after several season in the top flight, though, Leslie Knighton’smen were invited to take part in numerous lucrative friendlies during thisperiod – Holland, Poland, the Balkans, France, Austria. To the fans, such exoticdiversions must merely have emphasised Chelsea’s lack of achievementdomestically.
If you ever wondered whenthe nickname ‘Chelski’ was first used, look no further than the Football Star,who used the pun to announce the club’s summer jaunt to Poland to face WisłaKraków.
Facts &figures: Chelsea boasted the first choice goalkeepers of England and Scotland.
League finish: Thirteenth in Division One.
Cup run: Reached the fourth round, losing to Millwall.
All the rage: The age ofairships dramatically ends as 35 die when the Hindenburg crashes in flames.