1952 - 1961
Young, fearless, charismatic, former Arsenal and England centre-forward Ted Drake arrived from Reading on 30 April 1952 and ‘transformed Chelsea from a protracted music-hall joke into league champions, and himself from a noisy, roistering jester into a quiet, pinstriped executive.’
He was like a whirlwind at Stamford Bridge, ditching the ‘Pensioners’ nickname, dumping inconsistent players and intensifying the fitness regime. Although not a ‘tracksuit manager’ he was not above joining training and walking away with mud all over his suit to get his point across.
Drake had ‘big picture’ vision and an instinct that often proved correct, gambling on young or amateur players and reaping the benefits. Despite a stumbling start, after three years at the Bridge he steered his newly consistent ‘Blues’ to the club’s first league title in 1954/55 – just as he had predicted on his arrival. Jimmy Greaves described Drake as an ‘all the best’ type of manager: plenty of dressing room motivation but none of the tactical nous that would soon enter the game and he could not follow up that wonderful championship season.
Greaves was one of the brilliant home-produced stars – ‘Drake’s Ducklings’ – let down by a return of the old defensive frailties. A campaign in the inaugural UEFA European Cup competition of 1955/56 might have set Drake’s name even brighter in Chelsea’s constellation, but the opportunity was blocked by the Football League. By the end of his time at Chelsea Drake had become an other-worldly figure to many of the squad.
It was no surprise when, after 10 years at the helm and with his team foundering on the rocks of relegation, he made way for Tommy Docherty, originally brought in to freshen up the coaching staff beneath. The board cited ‘a general lack of success.’ Drake enjoyed a spell as assistant to manager Vic Buckingham at Fulham and Barcelona, becoming scout then life president at Craven Cottage. He died on 30 May 1995 aged 82, his family attending Chelsea’s centenary events a decade later as honoured guests.