With the Premier League and FA having outlined provisional plans to resume the football season next month, we look set for the latest finish to a season in Chelsea history, but what is the longest into the summer we have played before?
A Premier League statement released on Thursday set a provisional date of 17 June for the 2019/20 season to resume, with Chelsea set to be in action two days later at the earliest, while the FA have also confirmed plans to complete the FA Cup campaign with the quarter-finals pencilled in to take place at the end of next month.
It therefore looks likely that club football in England will continue well into the summer months for the first time ever. Although we have never been in competitive action as late as June before, we have come close a few times. Here are the five latest finishes to a Chelsea season so far, including the latest on this day 11 years ago...
The regular football calendar returned to much fanfare and excitement in 1946 after the enforced hiatus of the Second World War. The schedule was running a little later than usual right from the start, with the campaign not beginning until the last day of August, which combined with a 22-team top flight and postponements due to freezing conditions in February and March to produce the latest finish to a league season Chelsea have ever had. It was a bit of a disappointing finale, as without star striker Tommy Lawton, who missed the last month of the campaign, we were beaten 3-0 at home by Portsmouth on 26 May, but by that time we had already secured a comfortable mid-table finish.
As has often been the case in our late finishes to a season, this one was caused by our own success, as the campaign was extended by a cup final appearance. We had already secured the Premier League title with a healthy seven-point margin when we walked out at Wembley to face Arsenal in the FA Cup final on 27 May, but unfortunately we weren’t able to make it only our second-ever domestic Double, as Diego Costa scored our only goal in a 2-1 defeat to the Gunners.
Chelsea earned an unwanted distinction in English football when we became the first and only club ever to be relegated from the top flight via a play-off. As Division One continued to reduce its numbers to 20 teams, the last side not automatically relegated – us in 18th – entered the play-offs alongside those who finished third to sixth in the Second Division. It started well, as we emphatically dismissed Blackburn Rovers 6-1 on aggregate, but things took a turn for the worse when we travelled to Middlesbrough for the first leg of the final. A 2-0 defeat proved too much to come back from. Gordon Durie’s goal gave us a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge in the last match on 28 May, but it was not enough to maintain our top-flight status.
The second latest end to a Chelsea season was also our most recent, as the Europa League final extended the last campaign. We travelled to Baku fully two weeks after the end of the Premier League season, but it was to face another English team as we lined up against Arsenal with continental silverware at stake on 29 May. This time we made no mistake in the final against the Gunners, as Olivier Giroud opened the scoring early in the second half and Pedro added a second, before Eden Hazard said farewell to the Blues with a brace to complete a 4-1 victory.
A late finish to the Premier League meant our appearance in the FA Cup final a week later on 30 May 2009 is officially the latest competitive match Chelsea have ended a season with. Everton were our opponents at Wembley on this occasion and the Toffees’ Louis Saha broke Roberto Di Matteo’s record for the earliest FA Cup final goal when he scored after just 25 seconds. However, we were not to be denied, as Frank Lampard equalised – famously recreating his father’s iconic celebration around the corner flag – before Didier Drogba sealed the victory on the big occasion, as he so often did. All of that meant our latest finish to a season also ended with us lifting a trophy.