TEAM HISTORY - 1950s

Chelsea set-off on the FA Cup trail. In 1950 and 1952, Arsenal were played in the semi-final. Both ties went to replays and both were lost.

Between those two seasons, relegation was avoided by a mere 0.044 of a goal. Chelsea was a club ripe for change.

Manager Billy Birrell retired after the second disappointment against Arsenal so in May 1952, Chelsea appointed Ted Drake.

Drake had been a top class centre-forward for both Arsenal and England and had championship medals to his name. His managerial reputation had been growing at Reading.

He would sweep away the last vestiges of a more amateur age from Chelsea, declaring: "Too many people come to Stamford Bridge to see a football match instead of cheering Chelsea. For years now the players must have been thoroughly sick of all the music-hall publicity. Let's have people eating, sleeping and drinking Chelsea."

Drake removed the Chelsea Pensioner from the club's badge and banished 'The Pensioners' nickname that had been bestowed soon after our formation.

He abandoned the manager's office, donned a tracksuit and involved himself in training. He expanded a youth and scouting programme began under Birrell, a move that was to pay dividends for future managers.

Progress was slow at first but Drake was using his knowledge of the lower divisions to sign a different sort of Chelsea player - value-for-money performers who like the club, were hungry for their first silverware.

Around players he had inherited - Bentley, Ken Armstrong, long-serving captain John Harris, Stan Willemse and Eric Parsons - Drake built Chelsea's first complete team.

John McNicholl, Les Stubbs, Stan Wicks and Peter Sillett all arrived from the lower leagues. Crewe's Frank Blunstone was an 18 year-old star-in-the-making who was a target for many big clubs. Drake even brought in amateur club players - Derek Saunders, Jim Lewis and Seamus O'Connell.

O'Connell was to have one of the most memorable debuts in Chelsea history - scoring a hat-trick as Chelsea went down 6-5 to Manchester United at an enthralled Stamford Bridge. That was in October 1954, one of a run of six games that yielded only two points. Hardly the form of champions!

By Bonfire Night, Chelsea were firmly mid-table. Drake ignited his team and they embarked on a run of points accumulation. As Easter arrived, Chelsea were four points clear of Wolves - the League Champions and our nearest challengers. They were the next visitors to Stamford Bridge.

The 75,000 fans who were packed in saw the game locked at 0-0 as it entered the last quarter-of-an-hour. Then Wolves' England captain Billy Wright illegally punched away a goalbound shot.

To the dismay of everyone in blue, the referee had missed the handball - but the linesman hadn't. The penalty was eventually given and Sillett thumped it home for a crucial victory.

The Championship was won in the penultimate game, at home to Sheffield Wednesday on St. George's Day 1955.

Bentley, by now England's first choice centre-forward, had been an inspirational captain, scoring 21 goals. Parsons and Blunstone on the wings were key weapons in front of a strong defence, marshalled by Wicks.

Such success unfortunately proved unsustainable. The Championship winning side was an ageing one with only Sillett, Blunstone and Wicks on the rise - the latter two soon to be struck down by injury.

The year after winning the League Chelsea finished 16th and a succession of lower table finishes followed, this despite the emergence of a teenage striking protégée. His name was Jimmy Greaves, probably Chelsea's best youth product ever.

Greaves was without doubt a goal-scoring genius - still regarded by many as the finest finisher England has ever produced.

Equally comfortable with both feet, his close-control, lightning darts through the defence and unerring accuracy helped him score five goals on three occasions. He reached the 100-goal mark before turning 21 and by the time of his sale to AC Milan in 1961, Greaves had scored an incredible 132 times in 169 appearances.