A common debate among Chelsea fans is ‘what is Chelsea’s best ever XI’. Players like John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba would be some of the first names on the team sheet for a large number of Blues supporters. In fact, my greatest ever team has these 3 players as well as some others from the current squad.
My dad has always told me about players, heroes (and villains) from his youth. Sadly, I am unable to debate this matter with him in detail as I never got to see these icons and legends during their playing careers. I’m sure there are plenty of others who have had this problem, but I always enjoy hearing tales of these former players. Therefore, it got me thinking…
My dad took me to my first ever Chelsea game back in 1990. It was a 0-0 draw against Nottingham Forest. The score didn’t matter as I was absolutely engrossed in the whole experience. We even met Peter Osgood after the game, just walking down the road. My Chelsea team is based on players who debuted before 1990. Who would be in your greatest Chelsea team you never saw play?
There are a few goalkeepers I would love to have seen play. Willie ‘Fatty’ Foulke, the 1st ever Chelsea captain and goalkeeper, weighed over 22 stone. His huge frame would seem to cover the goal completely. Chelsea were the first ever club to employ ball boys, and this was to highlight the size of the man mountain.
In complete contrast to Foulke, Peter ‘The Cat’ Bonetti was nimble and agile. One of the first goalkeepers to come for crosses rather than being a pure shot stopper. He was innovative in the use of goalkeeper gloves too, changing from woollen gloves to cotton ones. To a certain generation he is the Club’s greatest ever goalkeeper. I have had the pleasure of meeting ‘The Cat’ a few times and he has always been so polite and friendly, a true gentleman.
Lastly, the eccentric Petar Borota. The Yugoslav keeper was a real character. His unique style of play and big hair really made him stand out. He played almost as a sweeper rather than a shot stopper in some games, earning him a cult status among Blues fans.
Verdict: Peter Bonetti
Stan Willemse was a tough tackling defender for Chelsea and part of the League winning side of 1955. Sir Tom Finney even described him as the hardest defender playing. He used to commute on the train from his home town of Brighton with fellow Blues Eric Parson and John McNichol.
Peter Sillett was a right back that played 288 times for Chelsea and was once described by Sir Stanley Matthews as the best full back he’d ever played against. He could also score goals, and was the Blues’ highest ever goal scoring defender until John Terry overtook him in the charts. In fact, it was Sillett’s penalty against Wolves that ultimately sealed Chelsea’s first ever league title back in 1955. Peter (seen below with Roy Bentley) was the older brother of another CFC player John Sillett.
Eddie McCreadie is one of the few people to have both played for and managed Chelsea. The speedy fullback was part of the 1970s team, but also scored the winning goal in the 1965 League Cup final. McCreadie was once CFC’s most capped player, earning 23 caps for Scotland.
Gary Locke is a defender whom I know little about, but is always a name I hear mentioned whenever there is a discussion about Chelsea’s best ever right back. Locke spent over 10 years with the Blues, making over 300 appearances and winning the Player of the Year trophy in 1974.
Verdict: Eddie McCreadie and Peter Sillett
Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris, one of my Dad’s heroes, is Chelsea’s all time appearance maker. I mean, the man is still talked about today whenever you see a strong tackle in a Premier League game! He can often be found doing hospitality for the Club on a matchday. I’ve been lucky enough to meet him a few times, including at Moscow airport after the 2008 Champions League final. He was as disappointed as the next Chelsea fan with the result.
David Webb, another former player and manager, partnered Ron Harris in defence. People always said a striker might get past Harris, they might get past Webb, but never get past both of them! He is famous for scoring the winning goal to secure Chelsea’s first ever FA Cup. He even went in goal for the Blues, keeping a clean sheet against Ipswich at Christmas 1971!
Micky Droy, a towering defender for the Blues in the 1970s and 80s played over 300 games for Chelsea. My dad would often tell me that he rarely had to jump with the opposing attacker due to his size and strength. His no-nonsense style of defending helped him win the Chelsea Player of the Year trophy in 1978.
Colin Pates, a CFC youth product, was only 18 when he made his Chelsea debut. He went on to make 346 appearances for Chelsea, mainly through the turbulent 1980s. Pates was made club captain at the age of 22.
Verdict: Ron Harris and Micky Droy
Ken Armstrong was the first person to play 400 games for Chelsea. He is one of the only people to represent two different countries at International level; England and New Zealand. In contrast to most wingers, Armstrong was a tough tackling midfielder but did manage to net 30 times for the Blues.
Charlie Cooke, my dad’s all time favourite player, also known as the ‘Bonnie Prince’ from Scotland. I’ve heard many stories about the wizard of dribble (both on and off the pitch). His skill, flair and ability to find strikers with pin point crosses are attributes that many Premier League players would love to have now. Cooke has a real understanding of football and now is a leading member of the Coerver Coaching organisation.
Another Scot, ‘Wee’ Pat Nevin is similar to Charlie Cooke in many ways. His ability and footballing brain was as impressive as his work ethic. There are many stories about Nevin staying late after training and practising his craft to make him even better. Now a pundit, his explanation and analysis as a pundit is second to none.
Clive Walker played over 1,000 club games including over 200 for Chelsea. Perhaps his most famous moments for the Blues include performances against the then European Champions to knock them out of the FA Cup. His goal against Bolton in 1979 ensured that Chelsea avoided relegation into the 3rd division.
Paul Canoville, Chelsea’s first ever black player was an inspiration and leading figure for many young athletes. His resilience and thick skin was just as important as his skill when trying to secure a place in the Blues’ starting line-up during the dark days in the 1980s. His most famous moments include a hat-trick against Swansea and his goal vs Sheffield Wednesday and scoring within a minute after coming on as a substitute.
Verdict: Charlie Cooke and Pat Nevin
Terry Venables was a former Chelsea youth product who captained the Blues to their first League Cup trophy back in 1965. He may be better known as a former England manager or TV pundit, but ‘El Tel’ made over 200 appearances for Chelsea and scored 31 goals.
John Hollins is one of only 5 people to play over 500 games for Chelsea. Like Webb and McCreadie, Hollins was once the Blues manager as well. The midfielder used to hold the record for most consecutive games (167) until Frank Lampard recently beat him. He is also Chelsea’s youngest ever captain.
Alan Hudson was a flamboyant playmaker that played made his Chelsea debut aged 17 years old. ‘Huddy’ played in the 1970s side, although missed the FA Cup final against Leeds through injury. He was born a stone’s throw away from Stamford Bridge and played just under 200 games before being sold to Stoke for a club record of £240,000. Sir Alf Ramsey once said ‘there is no limit to what this boy can do’.
Ray Wilkins was another player to come through the youth ranks at Chelsea and went on to captain the Blues at only 18 years of age. ‘Butch’ as he is affectionately known has been at Chelsea as a player, manager and coach. He is one of the most high profile players to ever leave Chelsea when he was reluctantly sold to Man Utd for £800,000. He led the Blues to promotion in the 1976/77 season.
Mickey Thomas only played 54 games for Chelsea but gained a cult following for his determination and helped the Blues regain their top flight status in 1983/84, scoring twice on his debut. I love hearing his stories about him sleeping in the referee’s room at Stamford Bridge and other antics he got up to while at the club.
Verdict: Alan Hudson and Ray Wilkins
George ‘Gatling Gun’ Hilsdon scored 5 goals for Chelsea on his debut back in 1906. He is the only person to score 6 goals in one game for the Blues. In honour of this achievement a weathervane modelled on him was placed atop the old West Stand. In 1911 Hilsdon became the 1st player to score 100 goals for Chelsea.
Jimmy Greaves was arguably Chelsea’s purest ever goalscorer. He scored 132 goals in just 169 games, including a club record of 13 hattricks. Greaves had scored 82 goals for Chelsea as a teenager and netted his 100th goal before his 21st birthday. AC Milan signed him for £80,000 in 1961 but Greaves tried to cancel the transfer as he didn’t want to leave London.
Roy Bentley was Chelsea’s captain during their first title winning season in 1955. The striker was the 1st person to score 150 goals for the Blues and can often be seen at Stamford Bridge for most home games. His strong heading ability and powerful shot saw him score 23 goals in his debut season. He was the Blues’ top goalscorer in all 8 seasons he played for CFC.
Bobby Tambling until recently was Chelsea’s all time leading goalscorer. The English striker was the 1st player to score 200 goals for the Blues and still holds the club record for total league goals scored. Tommy Docherty made Tambling the Chelsea captain in 1962 after the Blues were relegated to Division Two. His goals helped CFC return to the top flight again by the end of the season.
Peter Osgood, affectionately known as ‘The King of Stamford Bridge’ is a special person in Chelsea’s history. Not only is there a statue of him outside the West Stand, but his chant can often be heard in the terraces to this day, especially around Christmas time. Osgood is still the last player to score in every round of the FA Cup after his run in 1970. Ossie’s off pitch antics are as legendary as his talent on the pitch, but his goals and fearsome style of play endeared him to the hearts of Chelsea supporters (and Raquel Welch).
David Speedie was a fiery character who formed an impressive striking partnership with Kerry Dixon. The short Scotsman netted 64 times, including a hattrick in the 1986 Full Members Cup at Wembley. He was the 1st person to do this since Geoff Hurst in the 1966 World Cup Final. He even had a stint in goal when Blues keeper Eddie Niedzwiecki was taken off injured in March 1986.
Verdict: Jimmy Greaves and Peter Osgood
The greatest Chelsea team I never saw is this:
Written by Chelsea Chadder
Please note : the views in many of our blogs are written by fans of Chelsea FC and are not necessarily the views of the club