Monday, 30 April 2012

Season by Season: 1937/8

A rare clearance by Liverpool's goalie
in a 6-1 Chelsea win.

Like many a decent season, we started what would be the penultimatepre-war campaign with victory over Liverpool. That man George Mills did thedamage, grabbing three in a 6-1 humiliation of a side that included post-warManchester United legend Matt Busby in its midfield (he would later guest forthe Pensioners during World War Two).

To say it was disappointing was an understatement. Intheir usual way the board had set out to stem the tide with a major signing inthe spring: hard-working centre-forward Joe Payne arrived for a pricy £5,000from Second Division Luton Town. Originally tried out as an emergency striker,he’d notched up 83 goals in 72 games at Kenilworth Road.

Such a destruction set the tone for a great start, witheight wins out of our first 12 games established Chelsea two points clear ofnearest rivals Brentford. The prolific Joe Bambrick was succumbing to injury,but penalty-taking Wilf Chitty was enjoying one of his occasional hiatuses, andscored 11 this season.

With the agile and intuitive Woodley still at his bestbetween the sticks, and recently arrived England star Sam Weaver, with hispioneering long throws, skippering a surprisingly stable squad, the oldinconsistency of football’s Cinderellas was nevertheless close at hand.
“That must be a record: the combined ages of our full-backs is 80!” Fan overheard decrying the veteran Chelsea defence (from Scott Cheshire’s ‘Chelsea: An Illustrated History’) 
A run of just six wins in our last 30 matches saw usslip from two points clear at the top of Division One to tenth. We ended upwith the same points total as the previous year and, ironically, Liverpool.

By the time war interrupted he’d managed a respectable23 in 42 at the Bridge too. On top of his arrival, Leslie Knighton coped withill form and injury by giving rein to one or two bit-parters. These includedflying attacking midfielder Peter Buchanan, a tricky Glaswegian whose pace anddirect runs opened up defences but often lacked the final flourish to create agoal. He earned his sole Scottish cap in 1938.

Another cameo artiste was the ageing defender NedBarkas, hastily recruited from Huddersfield Town, who combined at the back withthe equally vintage Tommy Law – in his twelfth season at the back. Majorrepair was now needed on a creaking squad if Chelsea were to make progress.

In 1937/8...
Facts & figures: New signing Joe Payne had once notched 10 goals inone game for Luton.
League finish: Tenth in Division One.
Cup run: Out in the third round to Everton.
All the rage: The BBC runs its first live TV coverage of a football match: the FA Cup Final between Preston and Huddersfield.

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