History

Joining the 400 club

Cesar Azpilicueta joined exclusive company when he became the 13th Chelsea player to play 400 games for the club in our Premier League match against Manchester City on Sunday. Here’s a look at when the previous 12 players reached that remarkable landmark for the Blues.

The first to hit the 400-game mark for the Blues was midfielder Ken Armstrong who arrived at Stamford Bridge after the Second World War and played a key role in our first league-winning side in 1955.

He passed George Smith’s club record of 370 appearances a year later and in March 1957, he became the first player to reach 400 in our 4-0 win at Luton Town. He played only two more games before calling time on his career at the end of the season and emigrating to New Zealand.

The rich crop of young talent that emerged at Chelsea after Armstrong’s departure featured some of the club’s longest-serving players.

Peter Bonetti made his debut for the Blues in 1960 and while he was our first-choice goalkeeper for much of the next two decades, his 400th game at Southampton in February 1969 was not one to remember as he allowed five goals in a heavy defeat at the Dell.

Bonetti’s 729 games for Chelsea is surpassed only by the 795 of Ron Harris who played his 400th in a 1-1 league draw against Manchester City at Maine Road in April 1971, which came between the two legs of our Cup Winners’ Cup semi-final victory against the Citizens.

John Hollins became the fourth member of the 400 club when we hosted Everton in a league match in January 1972 and he marked the occasion by converting a penalty in our 4-0 victory over the Merseysiders.

Unlike Bonetti, Harris and Hollins, Eddie McCreadie was not a product of our youth system but after he arrived from Scottish side East Stirlingshire in 1962 as a 22-year-old, he became a fixture at left-back and reached 400 in a 1-0 loss at Norwich in April 1973.

After McCreadie, it would be nearly two decades before John Bumstead became the next player to reach the landmark. The midfielder made his debut just days before his 20th birthday in 1978 and went through two relegations and two promotions with the Blues before playing his 400th game in a 1-1 draw at Norwich City in November 1990.

Kerry Dixon reached the landmark the following year but Chelsea’s third-highest all-time scorer was unable to add to his eventual tally of 193 goals as the Blues went down 2-0 at Notts County on Boxing Day 1991.

Steve Clarke became a team-mate of Bumstead and Dixon when he was signed from St Mirren in 1987 and he went on to play 421 games for the Blues over the next 11 years, winning three honours – the FA Cup, League Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup in his final two seasons at the Bridge.

The Scot’s 400th match came during that League Cup winning run in January 1998 as he was brought on as a substitute in our penalty shoot-out victory at Ipswich Town in the quarter-finals.

Dennis Wise lifted those three trophies as Chelsea’s captain and the midfielder went on to reach the 400 mark in a 2-0 league win over Liverpool in April 2000.

It would be nearly another decade before the landmark was achieved again as a pair of legends played their 400th games within months of each other.

Frank Lampard marked the occasion in style when he struck in stoppage time with one of his club-record 211 goals to secure a dramatic come-from-behind victory against Stoke City in January 2009.

John Terry duly followed him into the record books that May when we beat Fulham 3-1 in a derby match at the Bridge.

Prior to Azpi reaching the 400 mark, the last player to do so was our current technical and performance advisor Petr Cech. The club’s most decorated goalkeeper got there seven months after his penalty-saving heroics against Bayern Munich in the Champions League final as the Blues ended a remarkable year by winning 2-1 at Everton in December 2012.

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