Petr Cech’s announcement that he has signed for an ice hockey team came as a surprise to many, but a footballer taking up a second sport isn’t as rare as you might think, as these other former Chelsea players prove.
After calling an end to his career as a football goalkeeper last season, Cech is finding time in his schedule as Chelsea’s technical and performance advisor to tend goal for the Guildford Phoenix ice hockey team.
He is far from the first Blues player to leave the rest of us mere mortals feeling a little inadequate by demonstrating that his talents extend beyond just football, though, as you can tell from this list of the top five Chelsea men to enjoy success in more than one sport.
Once described as the greatest sporting all-rounder Britain has ever seen, Woosnam’s unbelievable story is enough to leave those of us who struggle to find one sport we're good at sick with jealousy. The centre-back’s Chelsea career lasted just three games in 1914 – all wins with a clean sheet – before he took a hiatus to complete his studies at Cambridge University.
He did later return to football, after fighting on two fronts in the First World War, to star for Manchester City and England, but enjoyed even more success in tennis. His best singles result was reaching the quarter-finals at Wimbledon in 1923, but when it came to doubles he was a leading light, claiming the title in SW19 as well as an Olympic gold medal, in addition to being Britain’s Davis Cup captain. If that wasn’t enough, Woosnam is also credited with a maximum break of 147 in snooker, scored 144 not out in a schoolboy cricket match at Lord’s and famously infuriated Charlie Chaplin by humiliating him in a game of table tennis, thrashing the film star and tennis enthusiast despite playing with a butter knife instead of his bat.
Benjamin Howard Baker
Baker is best know at Chelsea for being the only Blues goalkeeper to have scored a competitive goal – from the penalty spot – but that isn’t the only reason he might pop up as the answer to a trivia question. Another fine tennis player who competed in the Wimbledon tournament, he was even better when it came to track and field. The high jump was his speciality, holding the British record in that particular event for a quarter of a century, but he also added the triple jump to his repertoire when representing his country at athletics at the 1912 and 1920 Olympic Games. One of Britain’s current athletics stars also has a Chelsea past, in world and European gold medal-winning sprinter Adam Gemili, although he didn’t make a first-team appearance during his time as a defender with our Academy.
Golf has long been the pastime of choice for the professional footballer, so it should be no surprise to find a few of them have attempted to take it up full-time in retirement, with varying results.
Aside from a number of appearances at charity and pro-am tournaments, it is Wegerle who has emerged as the most prominent golfer, doing well enough to earn a place on the professional European Tour. The South African-born USA international even made the cut for the Dunhill Championship and the Open Championship in 2002 and 2003, but couldn’t break into the top 100. It would be rubbing salt in the wound to point out exactly how far outside the top 100 he finished, but it’s safe to say it was a sizeable margin.
Other notable post-football golfers include Andriy Shevchenko, who after hanging up his boots followed a brief foray into politics with an equally short spell on the professional golf circuit. Suffice it to say things are going better now he has returned to the sport he knows best, guiding the Ukrainian national football team to top spot in their Nations League and European Championship qualifying groups.
Probably the closest comparison to Cech’s new career was that of former Blues striker Allen, who ended up with the unusual distinction of scoring more times at Stamford Bridge in his second sport than the first. Two years after retiring from the football most familiar here, he signed up to play as a place kicker for the London Monarchs in the 1997 season of American football’s World League.
They played a number of their home games at the Bridge that year, with Allen showing he was a decent striker of the ball regardless of its shape. It took him a little time to find his feet in gridiron, despite the familiar surroundings, but he finished his only year as a Monarchs player with 25 points to his name, largely from field goals.
No other sport seems to have overlapped with football, at least where Chelsea are concerned, as much as that most English of games, cricket. Some of the biggest names in Blues history, including Frank Lampard and Ron Harris, were good enough schoolboy cricketers to have that sport as a realistic fallback option if their football careers had fallen flat – but thankfully for us neither of them even came close to needing their back-up! Several players have even competed at the top level of county cricket, but by far the most notable was Tindall, one of the youngest members of our 1955 title-winning side who became Jimmy Greaves’ strike partner at the Bridge. However, he was living a dual life, as his appearances for the club were reduced by the unusual clause he had negotiated into his contract, allowing him to miss the first and last month of the football season so he could also represent Surrey at cricket!
Despite those allowances, it wasn’t until he left Chelsea at the start of the Sixties that his cricket career really took of, going on to score 5,446 runs and take 150 wickets in first-class matches. Amazingly they all came while he was also a professional footballer, hanging up his bat in 1966, three years earlier than his boots.