History

Keeping it in the family - Chelsea's super siblings past

We mark Chelsea's first brother-sister combination by recalling some of our previous sibling history...

Chelsea Women’s signing of Lauren James reunites her with men’s team right-back Reece, who is her older brother. While they may be the first brother and sister combination for the Blues, there have been a few famous siblings who have represented the club together over the years.

Recently, there have been plenty of examples of players turning out for our men's first team while their siblings are also on the books of the club’s Academy.

There’s Nathaniel Chalobah, our former midfielder and a Premier League title winner, whose brother Trevoh has yet to make the step up; Charly Musonda’s brothers Lamisha and Tika were once in our Academy; Josh McEachran, whose star shone brightly but briefly, is the older sibling of George, who is a Youth Cup winner; and let’s not forget the Hazards, all three of them, as the legendary Eden was joined at Chelsea by Thorgan and Kylian. Sadly, Micky Hazard, who played for us in the Eighties, is no relation!

The story of the Silletts

However, you have to go back a little further to find siblings who both starred for the first team – although what they lack in quantity is more than compensated for by their quality.

Our very first top-flight title was as good as secured by full-back Peter Sillett, who rattled in a penalty in a vital top-of-the-table clash with Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1955.

Two years earlier, Blues boss Ted Drake had convinced Peter and his brother John to join the club from Southampton, and between them they would go on to appear in more than 350 games.

‘Ted came along to our family pub and asked what I did,’ recalled John, the younger of the siblings, in an interview with Chelsea magazine a few years back.

‘I told him that I help out with the washing up. “Do you play football?” he replied. Yeah, I’ve actually got a match tomorrow for Wiltshire schoolboys. “What position?” Centre-forward. “You’d better come up with Pete for a trial, then.” And that was it!’

Peter was the standout of the two, as although he was a solid right-back, his prowess from dead-ball situations helped establish him as a club legend, namely with the aforementioned penalty against Wolves. In fact, he was long the club’s highest-scoring defender before being surpassed by John Terry.

John, meanwhile, didn’t stand out quite as much and he had to wait almost five years to make his breakthrough into the first team. But there was no sibling rivalry there, just plenty of respect and admiration.

‘He was three years older than me and a massive part of my career,’ added John. ‘He’d give me rollicking and put me straight, just like any big brother should. He became a father figure to me.’

 

Harris and Harris

When the next set of Chelsea brothers came along, it’s fair to say it would have been a bit tougher for the older sibling to dish out the rollickings. After all, would you dare speak out of line to Ron Harris, a man whose treatment of opposition centre-forwards led to the nickname “Chopper”?!

‘I can safely say he could look after himself,’ said Allan Harris with a hearty chuckle when asked about it for a Chelsea programme interview shortly before he passed away in 2017.

Allan and Ron were two highly rated Hackney-based teenagers who grew up, whisper it quietly, watching Arsenal. But Chelsea’s youth set-up was the finest in the land and when the older of the two signed up, it was only going to be a matter of time before Ron joined him.

‘Allan was a couple of years older than me and he was offered the chance to go to Chelsea, but I was only 13 then,’ recalled Ron. ‘We’d get invited to games and I was a ball boy as well. Then I had the opportunity to go there as well, and it was always going to be them. Not only was my brother there, and we were very close, but they also gave youngsters a chance if they felt they were good enough.’

The two of them got their chance and then some. Allan accrued 82 appearances during his two spells in the first team during the 1960s, but Ron blew that completely out the water with a club-record tally of 795 appearances that looks unlikely to ever be beaten.

While plenty has been written about Ron’s wonderful leadership skills and his uncompromising style of defending, as the Blues lifted major honours at the home and abroad in the early Seventies, less has been said of Allan, who may not have been as crafty as his younger brother, but he had, as Ron acknowledges, the one thing missing from his game: pace.

Years later, when Allan was plying his trade just up the road in west London, the two men found themselves in direct competition: Ron as captain of Chelsea, his older brother skipper of QPR, as the two clubs met in a competitive game for the first time.

‘It's a rare occasion when we were divided, but I suppose that's what football can do,’ added Allan.


The Wilkins clan

Had things worked out a little differently, the next set of Chelsea siblings could have raised the bar in terms of how many of them turned out for the Blues.

At one time we had three Wilkins brothers on our books, as Graham and Ray, who did make it in the first team, were joined by Stephen, who was training with the club while Eddie McCreadie was championing our youth set-up in the late Seventies. Then there was Dean, the fourth Wilkins brother, who instead learned his trade just up the road at QPR. Now that is a football family!

Graham, as the eldest of the brothers, had already debuted for the club when Ray, the most highly rated of the family and just over a year younger, was put forward by Dave Sexton to make his debut as a 17-year-old against Norwich.

‘Although I’ve not made up my mind,’ Sexton said at the time, ‘the chances are that the brothers will both play. I’m confident they can serve Chelsea as well as the club’s other celebrated brothers since the war, Peter and John Sillett, and Ron and Allan Harris.’

As it was, Graham started the game and Ray had to wait for the last 15 minutes to make a brief appearance as a substitute. Nonetheless, it was a hugely proud moment for the Wilkins family and they would come to enjoy many more of them over the years.

‘It’s difficult to explain to you what it was like for us,’ Graham told the Chelsea programme during the 2019/20 season. ‘It was just constant football at home, but it was brilliant.’

But as the pressure of being in the professional game took its toll on both of these young men, that brotherly bond had an even bigger part to play than anyone could have known at the time.

‘I had some bad times, and it was Graham who kept talking me round, helped me through it,’ said Ray, whose death in 2018 was mourned by the wider football world as one of the legends of the English game.

‘It was tough with two of us, because if he was having a hard time I’d worry about him, and if I was playing poorly he’d worry about me.’

The time they shared on the pitch, however, was something that both men would always cherish – even if it meant a few liberties were taken, owing to their close relationship.

‘Ray was putting these balls right in the corner flag for me to chase onto,’ remembers Graham. ‘I thought he must have it in for me because he was making me run like a dog!

‘There are so many memories, so many great times we had. Ray was a brilliant footballer. It was just an honour to play with one of the best footballers.’

Long before any of these siblings came along, however, there had been two Scottish brothers who represented the club together in the 1920s. But while Willie Ferguson was an early Chelsea hero, making the best part of 300 appearances, his brother Chris managed just the one first-team game.

Now, almost a century on from that, new ground is being covered as Chelsea’s first brother and sister prepare to write another chapter in the history of this football club.

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