Division One - 12 October 1935
‘The biggest crowd that has ever attended a League match in England – 82,905 to be exact’ was how The Times hailed this immense clash of London’s top clubs. The attendance was almost 50,000 greater than the next biggest the same day and 5,000 more than the previous record – 77,582 at Manchester City in 1933. So swamped was Stamford Bridge that children in the crowd were allowed to pack onto the grass surrounding the greyhound track for the 3.30 kick off.
With such an audience both sides showed signs of nerves early on but the game developed into a high-tempo one ‘full of movement and incident.’ Cliff Bastin hit a post for the visitors, while Dickie Spence, through on goal, was foiled by keeper Alex Wilson. ‘Half-time came with no goals scored,’ noted the newspaper, ‘and the crowd even more excited than at the beginning.’
An inventive move broke the deadlock 10 minutes after the break. Chelsea half-back Billy Mitchell moved forward unchallenged with the ball and hit it into the box. Jimmy Argue met it with a clever flick and Joe Bambrick stole away from his marker to tap into the net with the outside of his right boot.
The setback galvanised the league title-holders, who threw everything at Leslie Knighton’s men, equalising a quarter of an hour later through Jack Crayston. The Gunners pressed for a winner but ‘Chelsea, who in the past have so often crumpled up when a special demand was made on them, held out and fought back.’
Much of that was down to ‘cool, intelligent and assured,’ veteran Scottish full-back Tommy Law, ‘the smoothest and most influential player on the field,’ suggested The Times.
After such resistance it was Chelsea who had ‘in the last two or three minutes the best scoring chance of the whole game’ to win it. A draw was probably a fair conclusion to this epic encounter.
The league match attendance record stood until 1948 when surpassed by a fixture between Manchester United and Arsenal held at Maine Road. Old Trafford was out of action due to wartime damage.