While Chelsea Football Club has been known for is its poor relationships with the managers, it has also had memorable moments with some of them.
We all know Jose Mourinho, our current manager, as the one to win us a Premier League title after 50 years, in 2005. Carlo Ancelotti won the Blues their 4th League title which was also their first league and cup double, in 2010. And last but certainly not the least was Roberto Di-Matteo, who guided us on our way to becoming the Champions of Europe and winning the most coveted trophy in club football, the UEFA Champions League in 2012.
But let us look back 60 years in time from now, when Chelsea really made a name for the first time in world football by winning their first ever Premier League title in the 1954-55 season. And the man behind this achievement was Ted Drake, who had been the Chelsea manager for three seasons by that time.
Before he became a manager, Ted had a successful playing career and was a ‘classic number 9’. Born on 16 August 1912 in Southampton, England, he played for teams like Arsenal and Southampton, even though the Saints were a second division team at that time. One rare fact about Ted Drake is that he also had a career in cricket, playing 16 matches for Hampshire Country Cricket Club over six years.
But why has Ted been forgotten over time even after achieving something which no one did in the first 50 years? And what were the changes that he brought to the club? Is he the biggest unsung hero in Chelsea’s history?
After being appointed as the manager of Chelsea who were playing in the First Division, in 1952, Drake went on to make some changes in the club’s overall appearance, along with the team’s playing style. He discarded the club’s Pensioner crest and their nickname ‘the pensioners’, and as a result, the club adopted the current ‘Lion Rampant Regardant’ crest and nickname as ‘The Blues’.
This was not the only revolutionary change in the history of Chelsea Football Club that Drake brought; Chelsea’s previous policy of signing big name players was abandoned. Drake used his experience of lower divisions, to introduce little known but more reliable players like Frank Blunstone, Derek Saunders, Jim Lewis, Peter Sillett and John McNichol.
Within three years, he made Chelsea league champions in 1955. In winning the club what was its first ever league title, Ted became the first person to win the title both as a coach and as a player. Though the team were in 12th place by November, they lost just four more games in the season and secured the championship thanks to a 3-0 victory over Sheffield Wednesday on 23rd April 1955. Of particular importance were a run of seven wins in ten matches during the title charge, and a double over eventual runners-up Wolves.
However, in the rest of his time with Chelsea, Drake never came close to repeating that success. It only got worse for him instead. The championship winning side was finally broken up, and was replaced by youngsters from the club’s youth team, which also included the legendary Bobby Tambling. Drake and these young players were unable to set up a coordination with each other, as a result of which, the team’s performance degraded, and Chelsea became a mid-table team. Ted Drake was sacked early in the 1961-62 season, a few months after the FA Cup loss to a Fourth Division side Crewe Alexandra.
He spent the rest of his career with Fulham, attending various spots, starting as a reserve team manager, then a club director and finally went on to become life president. His son, Bobby Drake played for their reserve team. Ted died in 1995 aged 82. In his 10-year reign, Drake gave a lot to Chelsea. But it didn’t take much time for him to change from a hero to a villain in the eyes of the Chelsea management, which ultimately led to his sacking.
However, the failures he experienced at the end of his stint should not be allowed to blind his spectacular achievement with the club. So if Chelsea win the Premier League this season (which they surely will), don’t forget to remember this unsung hero. After all, the streets of West London and Stamford Bridge experienced a big celebration for the first time in the club’s history because of this man. And not to forget, he gave us the name which we are today so proud to be called by, The Blues!
Edited By: Vikram Vadiganeni