Elected to Division Two 1905
1911-1912 v n
1928-1929 m o v
1949-1955 a f h o v x
1959-1960 h p x
Aug 60-Sept 1961 c h x
29 April 1961 x
Dec 61-May 1962 v x
4 March 1964 x
Aug-Sept 1964 x
Sept 1964-Dec 65 h v x
Dec 1965-1967 d f h x
1967-1968 m x
1968-1970 d f h
1970 FA Cup Replay x
1971-Nov 1972 d h s
1972 League Cup Final Also worn against teams in white socks
1971-1972 alt x
Nov 1972-1973 h r st
Feb 1973 alt x y
1973-1975 s t
1973-1975 alt x
1983-1984 d x
Chelsea joined the League before they had played a single game - an achievement they share with Bradford City. The club came into being at the behest of a builder, Gus Mears and his brother who aquired the site of the Stamford Bridge Athletic ground and a neighbouring market garden with a view to building a football stadium. The plan lay fallow for a while until the Great Western Railway Company approached the brothers to buy the land for marshalling yards. Rather than sell their asset, the Mears brothers raised the money they needed to build the second largest stadium in England after Crystal Palace and called it Stamford Bridge. When Fulham FC declined an invitation to move in because the annual £1,500 rent was too high, the brothers simply went ahead and formed their own club, Chelsea FC. After an approach to join the Southern League was snubbed following objections from Spurs and Fulham, Chelsea successfuly applied to join the Second Division of the Football League.
Initially, Chelsea played in the racing colours associated with the Earl of Cadogan, who was the club's president and also held the title Viscount Chelsea. Weatherby's Ltd, who maintain historical records of racing silks, have confirmed to HFK that these colours were Eton blue and white. Rick Glanvill, the club's historian has discovered that a more conventional royal blue was adopted probably at the start of the 1907-08 season. (Although photographs of the period suggest the blue was a rather pale shade, this is probably due to the limitations of the film stock in common use at the time.)
The club was nicknamed "The Pensioners" because of the association with the war veterans in their famous red uniforms known as the Chelsea Pensioners, which was reflected in their official crest. This never appeared on the team shirts.
After finishing third in their first season, Chelsea was promoted to Division One for the first time in 1907, their second season. They made little impression, however, and spent most of the Twenties in Division Two. The club flirted with success but never fulfilled their potential. The club has always enjoyed the patronage of celebrity supporters because of its fashionable location and proximity to the West End. Many star players graced the team in the inter-war years but nevertheless, they became a music hall joke with a reputation as the proverbial "nearly team."
In 1952 Ted Drake took over as manager and he replaced the pensioner crest with a more business like monogram on a shield. This badge never appeared on the team's shirts. Drake's workmanlike team broke the mould when Chelsea won the League Championship for the first time in 1955.
In 1960 Chelsea added a crest to their shirts for the first time. Inspired by the civic coat of arms of the London Borough of Chelsea, it bore a lion rampant derived from the arms of the club's first president, the Earl of Cadogan.
In 1961, Chelsea were relegated to Division Two but bounced back the following season to embark on their most successful period to date. In March 1964 the team played in blue shorts to match their shirts and white socks. This is the first time the combination was worn in a competitive match and it became the regular choice the following season, when the Cadogan crest was replaced by a simple cypher. There is evidence that an earlier version was made up in 1962 but rejected as being too radical a change at the time. Chelsea were, incidentally, the first team to play in Division One with numbers on their shorts.
The lion was revived in 1967 and has remained the centrepiece of the club crest ever since.
Throughout the Sixties Chelsea rode high in the League and started to collect cup trophies: the League Cup in 1965 was followed by the FA Cup (1970) and the European Cup-Winners' Cup (1971). In the 1970-71 season, a small image of the FA Cup was embroidered next to the crest while from the 1971-72 season two stars were added to represent these last two famous cup wins.
Nik Yeomans has discovered that Chelsea wore white shorts and black socks with blue and white turnovers at Stoke, Leeds and West Ham in 1973-74. The same strip was worn the following season in two League Cup ties against Stoke. Further research by Nik has revealed these programme notes from February 1974: The reason we wore white shorts...at Leeds last Saturday was ...a stocking clash! Because Leeds wear white stockings we changed to black (with coloured top) and as it was felt that a strip of blue shirts, blue socks and black stockings would look too dark, we opted for white shorts. Later that season yellow socks were worn when there was a clash.
In 1975 Chelsea were relegated to Division Two and although they returned four seasons later, in 1979 they went down again. After languishing in Division Two for five seasons, Chelsea were promoted as champions in 1984. After two promising seasons, they went down once more but won the Second Division championship the following season and they have remained in the top flight ever since.
By the mid Eighties the board decided to update their image and a new crest was designed that featured a lion leaping over the letters CFC. This appeared in various forms with the lion rendered in white, red or yellow to match the accent colour for that season.
In 1994, Chelsea reached the FA Cup final once again but lost heavily to Manchester United. Chelsea won the FA Cup in 1997, the League Cup in 1998 and the FA Cup once again in 2000. League performances also improved as a succession of high profile managers recruited top foreign stars under the determined and controversial leadership of Ken Bates, who bought the club earlier in the decade.
In 2003, Chelsea's long-standing and controversial chairman, Ken Bates sold the club to Roman Abramovich, a Russian oligarch reputed to be worth between up to £3.8bn. While the origins of Abramovich's wealth may be obscure, there was no doubt about his intentions as over the next few years he poured huge amounts of cash into the club to enable them to sign some of the world's leading players. Indeed, at a time when the global transfer market was in recession, Abramovich's millions bucked the trend, propelling the one time music hall joke into the elite of European football. After the appointment of the charismatic Portuguese manager, Jose Mourinho, Chelsea won the first of back-to-back Premier League titles in 2005, exactly 50 years after their first League title, followed by the FA Cup in 2007.
After that first Premier League title, a new crest was designed for the 2005-06 season. Based on the 1960 design it was introduced for the club's centenary. Some minor variations in the arrangment of the colours have appeared such as in 2012-13.
The following September, after persistent stories in the media concerning Mourinho's relationship with Abramovich, the "Special One" departed and his place was taken by Avram Grant, the Director of Football for the Israeli Football Association. In his first season in charge, Grant steered his expensive team (it was reported that Abramovich's investment amounted to around £750 million in interest-free loans) to within an ace of winning a fabulous double. They finished as runners-up to Manchester United after going into the last round of Premier league matches level on points. Ten days later Chelsea and United clashed again in the UEFA Champions League final, United eventually winning on penalties. These results cost Grant his job and he was replaced by Luiz Felipe Scolari. Scolari was himself sacked in the middle of the 2008-09 season and replaced by Guus Hiddink for the remainder of the season.
Carlo Ancelotti took over at the beginning of the 2009-10 season and took Chelsea to a historic double. Second place in 2011 was not good enough, however, and he too was handed his cards by Mr Abramovich as was his successor, Andre Villas-Boas. It fell to their caretaker manager, Roberto di Matteo, who took over in March 2012, to lead Chelsea to their seventh FA Cup win and an historic UEFA Champions League title, won on penalties in Munich against Bayern Munich.
Rafael Benitez took over from di Matteo but was unpopular with supporters and the club announced that his contract would not be renewed at the end of the season. Even so he steered Chelsea to third place in the Premier League and a dramatic late win over Benfica to secure the Europa League trophy. Jose Mourinho returned in the summer of 2013 as manager and led the club to success in the League Cup in March 2015 followed two months later by the Premier League title.
- (a) Chelsea: The 100 Year History
- (b) Crewe Alexandra FC (Images of Sport: Harold Finch 1999)
- (c) Chelsea FC Official Website Unlike the vast majority of League clubs, Chelsea run their own website. Includes pictures of previous kits and an opportunity to rate them!
- (d) Sporting Heroes
- (e) Association of Football Statisticians
- (f) Football Focus
- (g) Stoke City FC - Images of Sport (Tony Matthews 1999)
- (h) Pete's Picture Palace
- (i) Association of Football Statisticians - provided by Pete Wyatt
- (j) True Colours (John Devlin 2005)
- (k) Bjørn-Terje Nilssen
- (l) David King
- (m) Richard Franklyn
- (n) Rick Glanvill (official Chelsea FC historian)
- (o) Simon Monks
- (p) Jeff Stephens
- (q) Christopher Worrall
- (r) Richard
- (s) Tony Sealey
- (t) Rodney George
- (u) Terry Miles
- (v) Keith Ellis (HFK Research Associate)
- (w) Rob Marriott (Weatherbys Ltd Bloodstock Services)
- (x) Nik Yeomans
- (y) Alan Taylor
Crests are the property of Chelsea FC.