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Bentley, Roy (1948-1956)


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Roy Bentley (1948-1956)

Written by bar24rat in December 2007

bentley.jpg We weren’t a patch on the current Chelsea side in terms of ability, ball control, tactical awareness or fitness, four of us used to smoke heavily but we had tremendous team spirit and self belief. And we had a great goalscorer in our skipper Roy Bentley.

‘I wouldn’t have got into the current Chelsea side, but Roy Bentley would’

So said Jim Lewis speaking in 2005. Jim was a part time amateur who helped Chelsea lift the Championship in 1955 never earning a penny for the part he played in Chelsea’s title triumph.

The new manager, Ted Drake, swept into Stamford Bridge like a summer breeze in 1952. He was prepared to go to any length to break the persistent spell of endeavour without success. “Let’s have more people eating, sleeping, drinking Chelsea. Let’s spread the Chelsea spirit across London and let the boys really hear you when they go out onto the field.”

teddrake3.jpg Drake himself, once a formidable Arsenal centre forward, changed the team’s tactics, introduced ball work in training and scouting missions and, risking the wrath of every Chelsea supporter dispensed with the legendary pensioner as the trademark of Chelsea football. The newly designed badge consisted of principally of a blue lion holding a golden crosier in its paws. After three years, in 1955, the fans had their moment. For fifty years Chelsea fans had been the butt of music hall jokes, those same fans had often belittled their club’s chances with self-deprecating humour. As a young child I had listened to my father telling over and over the tale of the one that got away. But now Ted Drake was saying ‘I congratulate all the boys and staff…… they are one and all Chelsea’

The fans had formed a special bond with one particular player, the captain Roy Bentley (A link with the present - until recently JT drove a Bentley). Signed from Newcastle in 1948, Roy found the change of surroundings difficult to overcome. His doctor advised him to move south due to bronchial problems and the threat of tuberculosis. Chelsea were the buyers in January 1948. Bentley became the first player to undergo a medical, the price £11,000 and doubts existed as to the wisdom of this transfer in the early months of his arrival at the Bridge.

roy%20bentley%20and%20sidney%20tickridge The fans, expecting more than three goals in fourteen games, did not conceal their disappointment. Whilst the London air was better for the lungs (yes you heard right), it was definitely rougher on the ears as the fan’s language was clearly bluer than the shirts. A 2-0 defeat at home to Man City in the cup in his second game produced the customary “You’re no f*****g good, go back to Newcastle!” Bentley later admitted that very shout from the terraces made him a more determined footballer though ‘I almost felt like packing up” said Roy in later years. “I knew I had to fight the odds and justify myself.”

During these early unsure days, there were no signs that later, young Chelsea fans (including yours truly) would scour magazines and newspapers to find a Bentley word or photo.

At Newcastle Bentley’s talents has been utilised as an inside-forward but he was switched to centre forward and never looked back. The question of his best position can be argued. Ted Drake played him almost exclusively as a centre forward but the international selectors often selected him as an inside-right. Bentley for all his lithe physical attributes was not a centre forward of the traditional Lawton / Mortenson / Lofthouse type, he would drop deep to receive the ball. The famous Hungarians of 1953 thrashed England 6-3 at Wembley and 7-1 in Budapest using Nandor Hidegkuti in that role flanked by Puskas. Poor old Billy Wright & Co!!

roy%20bentley%20goal%20at%20fulham Bentley scored 21 goals in his first full season (1948-49) and going into the next campaign many thought they could touch the silverware dangling before them. In the cup semi-final Bentley’s two headers before half time against Arsenal put Chelsea one foot towards the twin towers but a wind assisted goal direct from a corner and a last second equaliser meant a replay. Arsenal triumphed 1-0 and ‘lucky Arsenal’ was born.

When Drake took over at the Bridge, he was amazed at the fairness of the crowd. He wrote in the match day programme in 1952, ‘all too many people come to Stamford Bridge to see a football match instead of to cheer Chelsea. I would like to see a lot more partisanship……Too many bystanders have gone out of their way to grouse, jibe and grumble.’

He wanted something special at the Bridge and Roy Bentley was, so often, that something special.

bentley%20scores%20against%20man%20utd%2 Under Drake, Bentley became more the attacking spearhead – he was the clubs leading scorer in all his eight years at Chelsea and as Drake’s scouting policy bore fruits he was always well served by incoming players including three brought in from the amateur game (two of the three remained amateur, O’Connell and Lewis).

In the Championship season Bentley’s record was 21 goals in 41 matches. He scored two hat-tricks – one for England against Wales at Wembley (the first England hat-trick for five seasons), the other for the Blues versus Newcastle.

bentley%20on%20left%20and%20mortenson%20 Although not as powerful as Drogba, Bentley could shoot powerfully with either foot and it was claimed he scored as many with his head as with his feet. His timing was his greatest attribute. In all Bentley won 12 England caps and played in the fateful 1950 World Cup staged in South America.

Although the 3-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday in April 1955 effectively clinched the title, the match against Wolves at the Bridge on Easter Saturday will surely live in fan’s minds as the real decider. 75,000 spectators, kids on the greyhound tracks, terraces packed solid with police and stewards powerless to intervene. It’s all history now but worth repeating. O’Connell’s (yes the amateur) shot was a belter, aiming for the top corner but Wright fisted it over, the ref only giving a penalty after being engulfed by a swarm. Peter Sillett netted – describing it later as a terrifying moment hoping that the ref was going to stick to his decision and award a corner.

1954%2055%20champions%20bentley%20beside After the Sheffield Wednesday match, and the Cardiff vs Portsmouth result confirmed the Blues as champions, Drake and Bentley made short speeches but it was all very low-key. No cuddles, open-top buses or victory parades. Afterwards the players caught the tube home. For winning the board offered the players £20 or a West End tailored suit. What would you have chosen?

The Times wrote “The moment to remember, the one that had been awaited by many for 50 years came at last as the minute hand on the clock showed five minutes to five. 24 points from their last 16 matches. Chelsea are at the top of English football. If not in style than at least mathematically”

50 years later...

All felt good but only temporarily. Chelsea declined the opportunity to play in the new European Cup – it would interfere with their league programme according to advice from the secretary of the FA.

Bentley continued to score goals but time passed and things turned sour in the summer of 1956. Bentley was left out of the side and opted to quietly move to Fulham. He was 32 at the time and he stayed there for 5 years putting 5,000 on the gate before finishing his career at Brentford. He said recently ‘few people would remember me, you’d have to be 70 at least to have seen me play’” NOT TRUE!!

bentley%20and%20jt.jpg Bentley’s part in folklore rests with the 1955 championship trophy. He scored goals a-plenty, 150 in 347 games, matched only by Peter Osgood and bettered only by Kerry Dixon and Bobby Tambling. He was on the pitch in 2005 and, with other members of the class of 1955, was given a huge ovation.

John Arlott summed Bentley up; “others perhaps will make more goals, score more goals, but they will not leave behind such memories as Bentley, that eager forward, profiled like a head on an antique coin, poised for assault, against odds perhaps, but so dazzingly quick that no defence opposing him could ever relax”

And yes I also think that Bentley would have got into the present Blues side.

bentley385_247919a.jpg

In conclusion we shall never reach finality in the argument as to whether players of the past generations were better than those of today for the simple reason that proof is not available. Why not just congratulate each of their era on their achievements.

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