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The Robertson and Calderhead Years, 1905-33

By Gary Watton
March 12 2014

John Tait Robertson, imported from Glasgow Rangers, was Chelsea's first player-manager for two years. Our first goalkeeper was William 'Fatty' Foulke, and he saved a penalty in the club's first league match, a 1-1 draw at Stockport County. Another Scot, David Calderhead, guided Chelsea from 1907 to 1933. The stability of having the same manager did not result in consistency on the field however.

1905-6: Chelsea finished third in Division Two in their first season. The team scored 58 goals at home in their 19 matches, more than any other in Division 2.

Best result: CHELSEA 7 Burslem Port Vale 0 (The hosts led six-nil at the interval. Jack Kirwan scored twice in this rout.)

Horrible result: CHELSEA 1 Gainsborough Trinity 3 (The visitors came from behind to humble the Pensioners.)


1906-7: Chelsea finished second, three points behind Nottingham Forest (who they lost to home and away), and were comfortably promoted.

Best result: CHELSEA 9 Glossop 2 (George Hilsdon scored five times in the opening fixture of the season, on September the 1st.)

Horrible result: Bradford City 6 CHELSEA 3 (Bob Whiting and his defence leaked four goals in the first half of this goals bonanza.)


1907-8: Chelsea finished thirteenth in Division One. They started badly with one win in their first eight fixtures and finished with no win in their final five.

Best result: Manchester City 0 CHELSEA 3 (The Pensioners scored twice in the second half against a team that would finish the season in third position.)

Horrible result: CHELSEA 0 Nottingham Forest 4 (This match was scoreless at the halfway stage. This rout gave Forest a 10-0 league aggregate over Chelsea.)


1908-9: Chelsea finished eleventh in Division One. Had they not won five of their last six matches, they would have been relegated.)

Best result: Middlesbrough 1 CHELSEA 4 (George Hilsdon scored Chelsea's first three goals on New Year's Day. Ted Birnie added the fourth.)

Horrible result: Preston North End 6 CHELSEA 0 (The visitors had failed to score against Preston the week before. This however was a demoralising defeat.)


1909-10: Chelsea finished nineteenth and were relegated. They only won one away fixture and a final defeat at Tottenham condemned them to the drop.)

Best result: CHELSEA 4 The Wednesday 1 (Billy Brawn opened the scoring and then restored the lead. This avenged a 4-1 defeat at The Wednesday.) 

Horrible result: CHELSEA 1 Sunderland 4 (Sam Downing scored early to give the hosts the lead, but Low netted twice after the interval for the Wearsiders.)


1910-11: Chelsea finished third in Division Two. They threw away an instant return to the top league when they lost four of their last five fixtures.) 

Best result: CHELSEA 7 Lincoln City 0 (Bob Whittingham, George Hilsdon, and Viv Woodward all helped themselves to doubles in this annihilation.)

Horrible result: Gainsborough Trinity 3 CHELSEA 1 (In their final fixture, the hosts escaped demotion while the visitors just missed out on promotion.)


1911-12: Chelsea finished second and were promoted. They won seven of their last eight fixtures to sit two points above Burnley in the final table.)

Best result: Clapton Orient 1 CHELSEA 4 (Whittingham and Dodd scored early goals, and then in the second half Douglas and Whittingham added two more.)

Horrible result: CHELSEA 0 Birmingham 2 (Mediocre Birmingham scored twice in the second half to inflict a surprise defeat on high-flying Chelsea.)


1912-13: Chelsea finished eighteenth. They won four of their last six matches to remain in the league, five points above relegated Notts County.)

Best result: Middlesbrough 0 CHELSEA 3 (Harry Ford scored our first just before half time and added the third goal later on. Viv Woodward also scored.

Horrible result: CHELSEA 1 Blackburn Rovers 6 (A Viv Woodward goal provided Chelsea with an early lead, but Rovers scored four times in the second half.)


1913-14: Chelsea finished eighth, their best-season yet. They were five points below second place but only five points above eighteenth position!

Best result: CHELSEA 3 Liverpool 0 (Forty thousand people saw Harry Ford's goal earn the hosts the half time lead. Bridgeman and Halse added two more.)

Horrible result: CHELSEA 0 Aston Villa 3 (58,000 were in attendance as high-flying Villa won comfortably. The visitors had led 2-0 at the halfway stage.)


1914-15: Chelsea finished nineteenth and were due to be relegated. They won only once in their last nine outings, which condemned them to demotion.

Best result: CHELSEA 3 Sunderland 0 (Bob Thomson scored the first and third goals while Viv Woodward recorded the second for struggling Chelsea.)

Horrible result: Notts County 2 CHELSEA 0 (This defeat would have evicted Chelsea from the league, but they were 'reprieved' after the 'Great War'.)


1919-20: Chelsea finished third, their best-ever season to date. The team only conceded 10 goals at home, less than any other club in the first division.

Best result: CHELSEA 4 Bradford 0 (Jimmy Croal scored an early goal and then Jack Cock netted twice in the second half. Harry Ford added the fourth.)

Horrible result: Derby County 5 CHELSEA 0 (The Rams led three-nil at the halfway stage. Burton then added two late goals for the relegation-strugglers.)


1920-21: Chelsea finished eighteenth in Division One. They failed to win once in their last seven matches, thereby ruining their chances of a top ten finish.)

Best result: CHELSEA 5 Aston Villa 1 (Chelsea lost 3-0 at Villa Park and then the next day they bounced back against the same opponents!)

Horrible result: CHELSEA 0 Tottenham Hotspur 4 (Seventy-six thousand witnessed this massacre. Tottenham had beaten Chelsea 5-0 the previous Saturday!)


1921-22: Chelsea finished ninth, just five points shy of second position. They actually ended the campaign with seven straight wins and then a defeat!

Best result: Aston Villa 1 CHELSEA 4 (A second-half double from the prolific Jack Cock helped the visitors to a comfortable end-of-season win.)  

Horrible result: CHELSEA 0 Bolton Wanderers 3 (A second-half double from Smith in this January match left the hosts seriously in danger of being relegated.)


1922-23: Chelsea finished nineteenth. One win and six draws in their last seven matches enabled the Londonders to narrowly escape demotion.

Best result: Nottingham Forest 0 CHELSEA 4 (The visitors scored twice in each half, with James Armstrong producing a goal in each half.)

Horrible result: Cardiff City 6 CHELSEA 1 (Although Albert Thain scored a first-half equaliser, Chelsea were put to the sword, with Davies scoring three times.)


1923-24: Chelsea finished 21st and were relegated. The team won their last four matches, but crucially had failed to win any of their previous eleven fixtures.

Best result: CHELSEA 4 Sunderland 1 (Willie Brown scored the only goal of the first half and provided another in the second half in this consolation triumph.)

Horrible result: CHELSEA 0 Notts County 6 (The away team scored thrice in the first ten minutes. Price, Davis, and Widdowson each scored twice.)


1924-25: Chelsea finished fifth in Division Two. They won only three of their last thirteen matches, which ruined their promotion aspirations.

Best result: Oldham Athletic 0 CHELSEA 5 (William Whitton scored three times and Willie Brown twice, while Ben Howard Baker kept a clean sheet.)

Horrible result: Stockport County 4 CHELSEA 0 (A Meads hat trick in this February encounter jeopardised Chelsea's hopes of returning to the first division.


1925-26: Chelsea finished third. They won more away fixtures and scored more away goals than any other team. However, promotion eluded them. 

Best result: Port Vale 0 CHELSEA 6 (Bob Turnbull scored once in each half. His team led 3-0 at half time. This was their third straight win in this new season.)

Horrible result: CHELSEA 1 Clapton Orient 3 (The visitors surprisingly led three-nil, with McNeil providing a consolation for high-flying Chelsea.)


1926-27: Chelsea finished fourth. They could only muster two wins in their last eleven fixtures, thereby missing out on a once-probable promotion.

Best result: Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 CHELSEA 3 (The Pensioners won their first fixture 3-0 and did likewise two days later, having led 1-0 at half time.)

Horrible result: Notts County 5 CHELSEA 0 (Five different players scored for the home team. They avenged a 2-0 defeat at Chelsea from seven days earlier.)


1927-28: Chelsea finished third. They lost four of their last five fixtures, including a 3-2 defeat to Leeds United, meaning that promotion eluded them again.

Best result: Preston North End 0 CHELSEA 3 (James Thompson helped himself to a goal in each half as Chelsea ended October on top of the second division.)

Horrible result: Leeds United 5 CHELSEA 0 (A quartet of goals from Jennings crushed the table-topping visitors. Leeds would take the second promotion place.)


1928-29: Chelsea finished ninth. The team won only three of their last fifteen matches. This was their lowest-ever finish in the club's history at that point.

Best result: CHELSEA 4 Swansea Town 0 (Elliott, Crawford, Pearson, and Biswell were the goalscoring heroes in this opening-day fixture.)

Horrible result: CHELSEA 0 Millwall 3 (The south Londoners scored three times in the last quarter of an hour. Chelsea did not look like promotion material.)


1929-30: Chelsea finished second in Division Two and were comfortably promoted. They conceded less goals in the league than any other club.

Best result: CHELSEA 5 Preston North End 0 (The hosts led three-nil at the halfway stage. Harold Miller scored a goal in each half.)

Horrible result: Swansea Town 3 CHELSEA 0 (Andy Wilson missed a penalty at the Vetch Field, but it didn't ultimately matter. Swansea led 2-0 at half time.)


1930-31: Chelsea finished twelfth in Division One. They conceded less goals at home than any other team, only nineteen from 21 matches.

Best result: CHELSEA 5 Sunderland 0 (The diminutive Hughie Gallacher scored the first two goals. Cheyne, Law, and Crawford added the next three goals.)

Horrible result: CHELSEA 1 Arsenal 5 (Tommy Law's penalty gave Chelsea the half-time lead. Then the Gunners struck five times in the second half.)


1931-32: Chelsea finished twelfth again. They won their opening match but failed to win their next seven contests. They also won only two of their last nine. 

Best result: Aston Villa 1 CHELSEA 3 (A brace from George Mills provided the visitors with the half-time lead. Jackson added a third in this surprise triumph.) 

Horrible result: CHELSEA 3 Aston Villa 6 (Waring scored four goals and Houghton grabbed two as Villa ran riot. Alec Jackson also recorded a double.)


1932-33: Chelsea finished eighteenth. They lost only two of their last nine outings which helped them to preserve their First Division status.)

Best result: CHELSEA 6 Leeds United 0 (Five of Chelsea's goals came in the second half, including two for George Gibson.)

Horrible result: Blackpool 4 CHELSEA 0 (Hampson netted the home team's second, third, and fourth goals in front of just over seven thousand people.)

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The Robertson and Calderhead Years, 1905-33
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