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David Calderhead (1907-1933)

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David Calderhead (1907-1933)

Written by Bluebeard in May 2007

DCalderhead.jpg Just two years after the club was founded, Chelsea found themselves in the First Division, and David Calderhead was brought in as the new manager, taking over from caretaker boss William Lewis.

Calderhead was born in Hurlford, Ayrshire in 1864, and had played as a centre-half in a career which included 278 appearances for Notts County, gaining one Scottish cap along the way.

The Chelsea board had been impressed with Calderhead, after he masterminded lowly Lincoln City’s victory over the club the previous season, and duly installed him as manager/secretary. Calderhead was Chelsea’s first full-time manager, and spent nearly 26 years at the club, still a record and one that is unlikely to be beaten.

In his first season Chelsea finished thirteenth in Division One, with George Hilsdon scoring 24 league goals. The following season the club again finished mid-table, but in Calderhead’s third season Chelsea were relegated back to Division Two. He steered Chelsea back to the top flight within two years, during which time they also reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup, only to be beaten 3-0 by Newcastle at St.Andrews, Birmingham.

In 1914/15 Chelsea reached the FA Cup Final for the first time. Played on 24 April 1915, it was understandably a sombre affair, known as the ‘Khaki Cup Final’ with many of the spectators in military uniform and the Great War yet to reach it’s awful peak. The match, against Sheffield United, was played at Old Trafford in persistent drizzle and a yellow clinging mist, and we lost 3-0.

gallacher.jpg That same season, Chelsea finished in nineteenth position, and looked doomed to another relegation. However, the league was put on hold for the duration of the war, and when football was resumed in 1919/20 the First Division was extended from 20 clubs to 22, and Chelsea were saved from the drop.

Finishing third in 1919/20, this was to be Chelsea’s best season in the league until the club won the Championship in 1955. Chelsea also reached the FA Cup semi-final that year, but lost to Aston Villa at Brammall Lane.

Chelsea were relegated again in 1923/24, and it took six seasons for Calderhead to get them back into Division One. He again guided them to the FA Cup semi-finals in 1931/32, where Chelsea lost 2-1 to Newcastle at Leeds Road, Huddersfield, but that was the highest point of that period.

Calderhead had a knack of attracting top players to the club, among them Hughie Gallacher (pictured right), Alec Cheyne, Alec Jackson, Vic Woodley and George Mills, but despite all this talent, they never really gelled as a team, and after a couple of mid-table finishes, they narrowly avoided relegation in 1932/33.

David Calderhead left Chelsea in June 1933, and died five years later at the age of 73.

Managerial Record

Highest League Position 3rd (Div 1) 1919-1920


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