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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 April, 2005, 18:33 GMT 19:33 UK
Champions of a different era
Jim LewisLes StubbsRoy BentleyJohnny McNicholEric ParsonsJohn HarrisDerek SaundersStan WicksStan WillemseCharlie ThomsonPeter SillettKen ArmstrongJack Oxberry (trainer)John HarrisJim LewisLes StubbsRoy BentleyJohnny McNicholEric ParsonsDerek SaundersStan WicksStan WillemseCharlie ThomsonPeter SillettKen ArmstrongJack Oxberry (trainer) Click the players or their names to find out more about them

By Charlie Henderson

Chelsea's first title-winning team of 1955 was the complete opposite of the eclectic mix that has secured their second championship 50 years on.

Manager Ted Drake brought in players from lower division clubs and promoted a high level of fitness and a hard-working team ethos that served him well.

At one stage of the season they were in the bottom half of the table, but they secured the championship with a game to spare, beating Sheffield Wednesday 3-0 on St George's Day.

The picture above was taken four days later when they fulfilled a pre-arranged friendly against lowly Hayes with Drake doing the hosts the service of playing a first-choice team in an 8-0 win.

Here, BBC Sport profiles the players that secured the club's first title.


Ted Drake
Manager (not pictured)

As a player, Drake was a goal-scoring legend at Arsenal where he netted 139 goals in 184 matches, including a remarkable 44 in the 1934/35 season. After the war he went into management at Hendon and Reading before joining Chelsea - his last high-profile role in football - in 1952.

Described as one of the first tracksuit managers, he was a master motivator and a hard taskmaster in training. Away from the action he updated Chelsea's image, ditching the Pensioners nickname and crest. He was unable to repeat the title success and left in 1961. He died in 1995 aged 82.

Jack Oxberry
Trainer

The manager's right-hand man, they met when Drake was in charge of Reading before taking the reins at Chelsea. As well as the Royals, Sunderland-born Oxberry also turned out for South Shields and Blackpool. He retired in 1961 when Drake quit and died in London two years later.

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Ken Armstrong
Centre-half
39 appearances & one goal

Armstrong, who made more than 400 appearances for Chelsea, was in the autumn of his west London career in 1955. A dynamic orchestrator in the middle of the park, he was also an instrumental element in the club card school and claimed to have bought his first car with his winnings.

In 1957 he emigrated to New Zealand on health grounds but carried on playing until 1971 and was crucial to the development of the sport in his adopted country, for whom he won 15 caps. Armstrong died in 1984 and his ashes were scattered at Stamford Bridge.

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Peter Sillett
Right-back
21 appearances & six goals

Drake signed Sillett from Southampton and the full-back is acclaimed for scoring what is widely perceived as the title-winning goal, a fiercely rifled penalty against Wolves on Easter Saturday that completed the double over their biggest challengers, one of five goals he netted in the run-in.

Sir Stanley Matthews named him the best full-back he faced although Sillett won only three England caps. He moved to Guildford City in 1962 and was later player/manager at Ashford Town before arthritis forced him to quit the game. He died of cancer in 1998 aged 65.

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Charlie Thomson
Goalkeeper
16 appearances

While manager of Reading, Drake saw the Scot playing for the army during his national service. He must have made an impression for when Drake swapped the Royals for the then Pensioners he wasted no time in bringing 'Chic' down from Clyde in 1952.

While Sillett took the plaudits for his penalty against Wolves, the two points earned were just as much because of Thomson, who made a fine save tipping a Johnny Hancock effort on to the post. He later played for Nottingham Forest, winning the FA Cup in 1959, and still lives in the city.

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Stan Willemse
Left-back
36 appearances & one goal

He joined Chelsea from Brighton in 1949 and not surprisingly was one of a handful of players to survive Drake's squad tinkering. The former Royal Marine was described by Sir Tom Finney as the hardest defender in football and, with that glowing reference in mind, went by the nickname 'Tank'.

Willemse was one of the rocks of the team but shunned any post-title celebrations in order to get back to Brighton in time to watch his greyhounds run. He was sold for 4,500 the following season to Leyton Orient and later returned to Brighton where he retired and still lives.

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Stan Wicks
Centre-half
21 appearances & one goal

Drake went back to his former club Reading for Wicks in January 1954 and it proved astute business. He sat on the sidelines until November but when called on added steel and vital height to the backline and his performances persuaded Drake to dispense with Ron Greenwood's services.

He was closing in on England recognition when he damaged knee ligaments 17 months later and was forced to retire at the age of 28. Wicks worked under the title-winning captain Roy Bentley at Reading and later went into the family carpet business. He died of cancer in 1983 aged 55.

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Derek Saunders
Wing-half
42 appearances & one goal

Saunders was one of only two ever-presents in the campaign. A Claude Makelele type player, solid and dependable in the middle of the park, he signed for Chelsea in 1953 from Walthamstow Avenue - typical Drake business in bringing in a hard-working player from an amateur club.

He was appointed skipper in 1957, retired two years later but stayed with Chelsea after taking a coaching role at the club. Saunders later moved on to Westminster School and then became head groundsman at Hampstead Cricket Club. He now lives in retirement in Essex aged 78.

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John Harris
Centre-half/right-back
31 appearances

The old man of the team and one of the hard men. He joined Chelsea on loan from Wolves during the war and made the move permanent following the ceasefire. A stalwart figure and club captain before Roy Bentley, he moved from full-back when Sillett edged him out at Christmas.

He left Chelsea the following season at the age of 39 to become manager of Chester before moving on to Sheffield United where he spent almost 15 years in charge over two spells before leaving the club during the 1973/4 season to become a lay preacher. Harris died in 1988 aged 71.

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Eric Parsons
Right-wing
42 appearances & 11 goals

Former Desert Rat Parsons, who played every game of the campaign, moved to Stamford Bridge from West Ham in 1950. One of the jokers of the squad and a fans favourite, he provided pace down the flank and was a source of goals, including two in the win over Sheffield Wednesday.

'Rabbit' had left for Brentford by the following November and when his playing career finished he ran a grocers shop and then started a cigarette vending business. He lives in Worthing, as he did during his Chelsea days when he commuted in by train with Willemse and Johnny McNichol.

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Johnny McNichol
Forward
40 appearances & 14 goals

The Scot worked his way to west London via Clachnacuddin, Newcastle - where he supplemented his income working part time for a funeral director - and Brighton where he made an impression on Drake with a hat-trick against Reading and subsequently became his first Chelsea signing.

Two years after the championship win he bought a newsagents and the long hours affected his form, with the prolific Jimmy Greaves stepping in. He moved to Crystal Palace and later worked in the fund-raising departments at Palace and Brighton where he retired and still lives, aged 79.

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Roy Bentley
Centre forward
41 appearances & 21 goals

Bentley moved from Newcastle to Chelsea in 1948 in a 11,000 deal. It was money well spent. He was the leading scorer at the club for eight successive seasons, including the 1955 campaign when he was Drake's on-field lieutenant, an inspirational figure and a prolific marksman.

He left in 1956 with 150 club goals to his name, a mark that has been surpassed by just Bobby Tambling and Kerry Dixon, and nine England caps. After spells at Fulham and QPR he quit playing at the age of 38, stepping into management with Reading and later Swansea City. He lives in Reading.

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Les Stubbs
Outside-left
27 appearances & five goals

Stubbs started and ended his career with Southend. Drake signed him for 10,000 in 1952 and three years later he was a key member of the squad, none more so than at Wolves when he scored a late equaliser before Bentley struck arguably his most important goal of the season.

He returned to Roots Hall in 1958 but quit in a row over wages. He took a job with the Fire Brigade before being lured back by Southend to finish his professional career, although he carried on playing for his local team until he was 53. Stubbs still lives in Southend.

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Jim Lewis
Left-wing
17 appearances & six goals

While the majority of the squad got 12-a-week, Lewis, an amateur, got nothing. He started playing for Walthamstow Avenue as a 16-year-old, in the same team as his father and maintained his amatuer status when he moved to Chelsea, working as a travelling salesman selling thermos flasks.

The winger, a major goal threat in his five years at Chelsea, rarely trained with the team and instead went through his paces with various clubs depending on where he was working. With no financial reward allowed he received a special plaque for his efforts and later ran a pub in Southend.

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Not pictured

Frank Blunstone
Left-wing; 23 appearances & three goals

Blunstone, who came from Crewe, shared duties on the left wing with Lewis. Drake said he was one of his best buys and Jimmy Greaves claimed he had a heart the size of a cabbage. The baby of the championship side figured against Sheffield Wednesday but sat out the trip to Hayes.

He won five England caps during his 10 years with the club and famously got married at Fulham Broadway one morning before going to training. He retired in 1964 after breaking his leg a second time, later managed Brentford, was on the staff of a host of clubs and now lives back in Crewe.

Ron Greenwood
Centre-half; 21 appearances

Greenwood first turned out for Chelsea during the war. His path to a first-team place was blocked by Harris, but Drake bought him back in 1952 from Brentford. A cultured centre-half, he played half the campiagn but signed for Fulham when it became apparent his chances were grew limited.

He went on to found the West Ham "Academy" when manager of the Hammers from 1961 to 1974 and became England boss in 1977. He resigned from the national job after the 1982 World Cup when his team bowed out at the second group stage despite being unbeaten.

Bill Robertson
Goalkeeper; 26 appearances

The big Scotsman joined Chelsea after the war and made his debut five years later when he came into the side towards the end of the season, an introduction that coincided with four wins that secured safety by the narrowest of margins - 0.0044 of a goal.

Without that there may never have been a title. Robertson started the season as first choice but was replaced by Thomson in January. He joined Leyton Orient in 1960 for 1,000 when Peter Bonetti emerged as the undisputed first choice. He died in 1973 aged 44.

Seamus O'Connell
Forward; 10 appearances & seven goals

O'Connell made the most remarkable of debuts in the championship season. He scored a hat-trick against Manchester United at Stamford Bridge but still ended up on the losing side, going down 6-5. He was a scoring sensation but was limited by geography more than ability.

An amateur, he travelled down for matches from Carlisle where he worked as a cattle farmer, and left the following season having scored 12 goals in 17 matches in total. He later moved to Spain's sunnier climes where he set up a cattle business and continues to live there in retirement.

Bobby Smith
Forward; four appearances

The young striker was one of three members of the squad to figure in England's 1958 World Cup squad, but by then he had moved to Tottenham. Smith and Drake never saw eye-to-eye and he joined Spurs eight months after the title success, later winning the double at White Hart Lane in 1961.

Peter Brabrook
Outside-right; three appearances

Brabrook, then 17, had a bit-part role coming into the side for a spell in March. He won three caps and was the third of the squad to go to the 1958 World Cup. He also won the FA Cup with West Ham in 1964 and ended his career at Leyton Orient. He retired as Hammers youth team coach in 2002.

Alan Dicks
Centre-half; one appearance

He stood in for Armstrong in the Good Friday win over Sheffield United with the match against Wolves coming just 24 hours later. He moved to Southend in 1958 with Stubbs and later played for Coventry before starting a managerial career that took in time at Coventry and Fulham.

Robert Edwards
Outside-left; one appearance

Edwards made a single start in an away defeat against Preston in September. He was never more than a fringe player in five seasons at Chelsea, making 13 appearances and scoring two goals. The Deepdale outing was his final start in a Blue shirt and he left at the end of the season.




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