A member of our first title-winning squad, Frank Blunstone, celebrates his 84th birthday today and we pay tribute to one of the club’s finest wingers.
Frank Blunstone arrived at Chelsea as an 18-year-old from Crewe Alexandra in 1953 and spent the best years of his footballing life at this football club, making over 300 appearances in Blue and playing a part in what was arguably the biggest triumph of our first century of existence.
It all started on one fateful trip down to London as a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed youngster who had never so much as considered life in the big smoke.
‘I had no intention of signing, I just wanted to have a look around,’ he recalls. ‘I still don't know why I did it, but I signed right away. I didn't go back and think about it, I just signed!
‘When I left school, I went on the groundstaff at Crewe as a 15-year-old. They'd never had one at Crewe before, I was the first. When I got home, I told my mum and she said, “Frank, that's not a proper job. Get yourself a proper job.” But she didn't stop me.
‘So, when I signed for Chelsea, I got home and told my parents. “You what?! Where are you going to go? Where are you going to live?” But it was the best thing I ever did. It's a fantastic club and I had a fantastic career there.’
The archetypal old-fashioned winger, Blunstone had clear instructions from his manager, Ted Drake from the moment he arrived at the club.
‘Both myself and Eric Parsons, the outside right, were quick and Ted would say, “Frank, Eric, get to the byeline and get your crosses in.”
‘I was pacey, not so much over 100 yards, but short distances – and that's all you need in football. But it was important to have good balance, that was half the battle. You don't see it so much in players nowadays because they don't dribble so much. And Roy Bentley was there for when you got your cross in to head it in.’
Bentley, of course, was our captain and chief goal-getter at that time, although even he had to take a backseat to Blunstone on his first-team debut for the club, which was marked with the winner against Tottenham Hotspur.
He remained Chelsea's outside-left for 12 seasons and he would have made far more than 347 appearances had it not been for injuries and national service.
Indeed, the latter kept him out of many matches in the 1954/55 season, when the club lifted the First Division title, although he was there on the final day against Sheffield Wednesday when the championship was secured – as well as the memorable victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers which put us on the verge of that historic achievement.
‘I never even gave thought to how important it was – for me it was just an ordinary thing,’ he said. ‘I look back now and think about what a massive achievement it was, but at the time I don't think any of us did.
‘It was great to win it, of course, but after we won the last game we went into the dressing room and had a cup of tea, there was no champagne. And they said, “You've got to go out into the stands to meet the supporters.” Half of us only had our robes on!
‘We never bothered to keep our shirts or anything like that, either. Someone recently said to me, “Frank, did you keep your shirt when you won the championship? I could get you £100,000 for it!” But they just used to go to the B team when we were done with them.'
The presence of Sir Stanley Matthews denied him the chance to stake a claim for a regular England place, too, but he still managed the odd appearance here and there whilst continuing to excel at Chelsea. Indeed, although more of a creator than a goalscorer, he still netted 54 times for the Blues.
Sadly, Frank's career came to a premature end when he ruptured his Achilles tendon.
‘I was only 29,’ he said. ‘I had two broken legs, which didn't stop me, but a ruptured Achilles tendon did. I played 300-odd games and could have played until 35 or 36. Without the injury and the army, maybe I could have played 1,000 games for Chelsea!’
It was a bitter blow, especially after he had fought back from two broken legs, but he went on to enjoy a successful coaching career after that, including a stint with our youth team.
‘Tommy Docherty took me on the coaching staff,’ he added. ‘I had Alan Hudson, Butch Wilkins and all that lot. Alan's brother John was a good player too, but he had no pace. There were a lot of good players coming through at that time, all still very well thought of at Chelsea.’
As is Frank, even 60 years on from his part in writing history at the club – and the Blues retain a special place in his heart, too.
‘Chelsea's my number one team, they're the team whose result I look for,’ he said. ‘I spent most of time at Chelsea, 15 years. I'll still look for United, Crewe, Brentford and the other teams I've been with.’