Football League South Cup - 7 April 1945
The first club football match ever attended by the future Queen Elizabeth II (then a mere princess accompanying her parents) was the final of the Football League South Cup, the regionalised wartime equivalent of the FA Cup. The competition was the brainchild of AV Alexander, First Lord of the Admiralty in the War Cabinet and a Chelsea FC board member.
One month before VE Day was celebrated in London, 90,000 spectators flocked to Wembley for another all-London final. Manager Billy Birrell had steered a Chelsea side peppered with guest players to the previous season’s final – a 3-1 Charlton victory before an 85,000 crowd including US General Dwight Eisenhower.
Now, with a forward line including Len Goulden and Joe Payne – who hit 40 of Chelsea’s 111 goals in 1944/45 – skipper Johnny Harris commanding the middle and George Hardwick (Middlesbrough), George Wardle (Exeter City) and Les Smith (Brentford) temporarily seconded to the cause, he had high hopes of the club’s first ‘major’ trophy.
The match offered a poor spectacle, but the Times noted: ‘For ten minutes after the interval Chelsea, who had moved Wardle inside and put Smith at outside-right, showed something approaching their normal form. Within two minutes Goulden ... nodded the ball to [Jack] McDonald, who took it on the volley and gave [Sam] Bartram no chance. Five minutes later a shot from Payne struck a defender and Wardle ... kept his head and scored the second goal from short range.’
The trophy raised by a jubilant Harris can be viewed in the Museum at Stamford Bridge.