FA Cup - 27 Mar 1915
Chelsea’s second FA Cup semi-final in five years was staged at Villa Park in fine, sunny weather in front of a crowd of just under 25,000, diminished by wartime travel restrictions. The club’s only previous ‘last four’ appearance, in 1911, had also been in Birmingham – at St Andrew’s – and ended in a 0-3 finishing lesson from Newcastle.
Division One strugglers Chelsea, missing regular midfielder Laurence Abrams, were widely expected to struggle against an Everton side that would scoop the league title in a matter of weeks.
David Calderhead’s men, especially Tom Logan, Andrew Walker and skipper Fred Taylor in the middle of the park, had learned the lesson of 1911, and fought fantastically well against the Toffees’ dangermen. Everton’s top scorer Bobby Parker was knocked off-colour and barely troubled Pensioners keeper Jim Molyneux.
Meanwhile, Chelsea’s five-man forward line of Harry Ford, Harry Halse, one-eyed Bob Thomson, Jimmy Croal and Bob McNeil were creating – and missing – sufficient chances to put a cup final berth beyond reasonable doubt.
The breakthrough took until midway through the second half to arrive, a mistake by Scots goalie Frank Mitchell presenting an easy finish to Croal. Halse added a second eight minutes later and the Londoners won 2-0 to reach the first cup final in our history. No London club had made if for 14 years.
News of Chelsea’s victory was tersely reported alongside photographs of shell consignments and soldiers receiving rifles as if to highlight football’s frivolity. The club’s Chronicle had no such qualms, depicting a beaming, battered Pensioner chaired by a host of fans alongside banners saying ‘Bravo Chelsea! and ‘Sheffield United next’.
The players were on a decent bonus of £20 (around £900 today) for breaking new ground in the cup. Win the thing and they would scoop a hefty £50.