Chelsea Football Club has been good at celebrating special anniversaries. The year 2005 saw us reach the major milestone of 100 years-old. What better way was there to mark the centenary than by becoming champions of England for the second time in our existence?
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Our golden jubilee had been similarly honoured. The club won silverware in the 1960s, the 70s, the 90s and at the turn of the new millennium, but 1955 was the year we finished above all other teams in the League for the first time.
It was also Chelsea’s earliest major trophy. The first five decades had seen the club develop into an integral part of sporting life in England’s capital city with famous players and a large, often full stadium.
Chelsea were popular, but achievement fell a long way short of that now enjoyed by the current team, which began the second 100 years of Chelsea history as the best in the land and the biggest football story throughout the world.
Even if trophy success proved elusive in the first 50 years, the club had been set up for the big time from the moment Henry Augustus Mears had a change of heart one Sunday morning in the autumn of 1904.
Of all the decisions that have shaped the history of Chelsea FC, there can be none more crucial than the one this Edwardian businessman made that particular day.
Gus Mears was an enthusiast for a sport that had taken northern Britain by storm but had yet to take off in the capital in quite the same way. London at the turn of the century failed to provide a single team to the Football League First Division.
Mears had spotted the potential for a football club to play at an old athletics ground at Stamford Vridge, an open piece of land in west London. It was a ground he planned to massively redevelop.
But unforeseen problems had followed, as did a lucrative offer for the land. Mears was on the verge of selling up and abandoning his sporting dream.
Colleague Frederick Parker, an enthusiastic supporter of the football stadium project attempted to dissuade him but on the fateful Sunday morning, Parker was told he was wasting his time.
As the two walked on, without warning Mears’ dog bit Parker, drawing blood and causing great pain, but only an amused reaction from Parker.
“You took that bite damn well,” Mears announced before telling his accomplice he would now trust his judgement over others. “Meet me here at nine tomorrow and we’ll get busy,” he said. Stamford Bridge was alive once more.
Not that Chelsea FC was in the original plan. The finest sports stadium in London seemed a little out of place on the edge of well-heeled and arty Chelsea but as history shows, Mears had chosen well. The proximity to the vibrant centre of town made it perfect as a new venue for football.
Due to financial disagreement, nearby Fulham Football Club, already in existence declined an offer to abandon the less grand Craven Cottage and move in. So in contrast to the history of so many clubs, Mears decided to build a team for a stadium, rather than the other way round.
On March 10th 1905, a meeting convened opposite the stadium in a pub now called The Butcher’s Hook. One item on the agenda was a name for the new club. Stamford Bridge FC, Kensington FC and intriguingly, London FC were all rejected. Chelsea FC was what it was to be – and the story had begun.
John Tait Robertson, a Scottish international was the first player/manager and a squad of respected players was signed, providing a league could be found to compete in.
The Southern League was the natural choice for our location but they were unwelcoming to these upstarts. Undaunted, Chelsea simply set our sights higher and went straight for the northern-dominated Football League.
On May 29th 1905, the Football League AGM dramatically elected us to the Second Division. Parker again proved persuasive as we became the first club ever to make the League without having kicked a ball.