It was on this day in 1980 that Ron Harris set a club record that seems unlikely to ever be broken. But how much do you know about the best of the rest when it comes to Chelsea’s all-time leading appearance-makers?
‘I served under seven managers and what each of them got from me was 110 per cent effort in training and on the Saturday,’ says Ron Harris, the man who, 41 years ago today, appeared in his 795th and final match as a Blue when he helped us to a 3-0 win over Oldham Athletic in Division Two.
‘I'm so proud of playing more games than any other player in the history of Chelsea Football Club and it's a record I don't think will ever be beaten.‘
Join Ron Harris on Friday 21 May for a special golden anniversary stadium tour to mark 50 years to the day when he famously led the Blues to Cup Winners' Cup glory against Real Madrid. Click here for more information.
Do you know what? Harris is probably right. Let’s take Mason Mount, who recently brought up 100 appearances for the Blues before the end of his second season. Were he to continue at a rate of 50 games a year – which would mean no injuries or loss of form – he would have celebrated his 36th birthday by the time he’d surpass Harris’s record.
Still, plenty of Blues have given it a good go over the years and while only two have got remotely close to the 795-appearance mark, each of the men in the top 10 for Chelsea appearances have done the club proud.
Your challenge is to see if you can put the top 10 in the correct order (no peeking at the answers below!). After you’ve given that your best shot, read on to find out a bit more about them.
Ron Harris – 795
No one has appeared in more matches for the Blues than the man known as Chopper, who made his debut in 1962 and was still going 18 years later, scaring the life out of attackers up and down the country.
Harris captained the club in 324 of his 795 appearances and led us to FA Cup and European glory for the first time. Such was his affinity for the club, he remained after the glory years of the early-1970s were long gone and he had seen the captain’s armband taken away from him.
Peter Bonetti – 729
Bonetti, who we sadly lost a year ago last month, is perhaps the most iconic goalkeeper to represent the Blues. The Cat made up for a lack of height with remarkable agility and razor-sharp reflexes – hence the nickname – and long held the club record for clean sheets before his tally was surpassed by Petr Cech.
He was also something of a trend setter as he brought out his own range of green goalkeeper gloves and later became one of the first breed of dedicated goalkeeper coaches, working for Chelsea and England among others.
John Terry – 717
Our captain, leader, legend made 492 Premier League appearances for the club, so when you consider his overall tally it’s fair to say he enjoyed plenty of success in the various cup competitions. In fact, Terry lifted just about every honour going in the club game, as well as becoming the first Chelsea player to be named PFA Player of the Year when he won the award in 2005.
Our all-time highest-scoring defender, Terry captained us for the first time just two days shy of his 21st birthday and is firmly established among the finest centre-backs in the history of English football.
Frank Lampard – 648
After 13 years, 648 appearances and a club-record 211 goals, Lampard departed Chelsea in the summer of 2014 as arguably our greatest-ever player.
Whether it is the title-decider in Bolton, his spinning half-volley against Bayern at the Bridge, his cheeky chip from the tightest of angles in the Nou Camp, or any number of crucial contributions he has made to our recent success, every supporter will have their own favourite Lampard moment. What’s more, he combined quality with quantity, as he averaged just under 50 appearances per season.
John Hollins – 592
Almost 600 appearances for Chelsea, yet only once was this effervescent midfielder capped by England. Hollins was far more than a workhorse in the Kings of the King’s Road side of the early-Seventies, with the fans recognising his input by twice voting him Player of the Year.
He may have had the ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ look of a choirboy, but behind the angelic exterior was a ferocious competitor who also had tremendous technical ability, scoring 64 goals in 592 appearances, which came in two separate spells as he returned in the mid-Eighties to help us earn promotion.
Petr Cech – 494
He may have finished almost 100 shy of Hollins’s tally, but no foreign player has appeared in more games for the Blues than Big Pete, who left Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2015 after 11 years of stellar service following his arrival from French club Rennes.
Holder of the club’s clean-sheet record with 228, which is 20 more than Bonetti, and the most shut-outs in Premier League history, the former Czech Republic skipper has won more honours for Chelsea than any other foreign player.
Dennis Wise – 445
While many chose to focus on the more combustible elements of his game, Wise’s talent with the ball at his feet was criminally overlooked by most people outside Stamford Bridge. Blues fans adored him, though, and he responded by representing them on the pitch.
He knitted together the English core with the foreign superstars who arrived in the mid-to-late Nineties; six trophies followed, each of them lifted by the Blues No11. And he managed to reach almost 445 appearances despite the many suspensions he was forced to sit out!
Cesar Azpilicueta – 422
Azpi moved past Steve Clarke following his appearance against Real Madrid last week, and it’s fitting that the two are next to each other on this list, because they are among the most reliable players in our history.
Almost nine years have passed since the Spaniard was signed from Marseille and in that time he has proved effective in a variety of positions across defence, while his attitude has made him the ideal lead-by-example captain, which has been vital in such a young dressing room.
Steve Clarke – 421
Having endured relegation and countless disappointments throughout his first 10 campaigns as a Blue – save for a Division Two title and Full Members’ Cup – Clarke was rewarded for his loyalty in his final two years as a Blue as we won three major honours.
The experienced and versatile Clarke, who will lead the Scottish national team at the European Championship this summer, was ever-dependable and he also acted as a crucial link between the club’s past and the foreign players coming into the Bridge.
Kerry Dixon – 420
Few players have ever been adored by the Stamford Bridge faithful quite like the man christened ‘King Kerry’. John Neal signed him from Reading and was rewarded with a glut of goals which led the team back into the First Division. He wasn’t finished there, however – having top scored in the second tier, Dixon then repeated the trick in the top flight.
By the time he departed, he was just nine goals shy of Bobby Tambling’s club record, although he had played in 50 games more. Indeed, he is the only striker to surpass the 400-appearance mark for Chelsea.
On Friday 21 May, Ron Harris will lead a golden anniversary tour to mark 50 years to the day when he famously led the Blues to Cup Winners’ Cup glory against Real Madrid in Athens in 1971.
This very special tour will feature highlights from the match, artefacts from the era and photo opportunities with the club’s stunning European trophy collection. Only limited spaces are available so book now to avoid disappointment.