Alright, I’ll admit it. This past month, Chelsea Football Club has not been my number one in my sporting life. At a time we are normally attracted to sensationalist rumours and reports of upcoming deals, I was consumed by England’s journey across the country in pursuit of a maiden Cricket World Cup victory.
England’s victory over New Zealand on Sunday, a match so remarkable that words simply cannot do it justice, sent Lord’s Cricket Ground (only seven miles from Stamford Bridge) into raptures. In tribute to Eoin Morgan’s men, this piece explores the six remarkable individuals who have played professional cricket alongside first team football at Chelsea.
Willy Foulke will be familiar to many avid followers of Chelsea as our inaugural club captain and goalkeeper. However, few people know that ‘Fatty’ Foulke was actually a man of several talents. Alongside his England Cap, First Division and FA Cup Winners Medals and even appearing in the Mitchell and Kenyon Films; Foulke played four first class matches for Derbyshire County Cricket Club in 1900 as a bowler. Not a bad résumé!
Jimmy Windridge, a team-mate of Foulke in our first season, had an equally impressive career. Bought for £120 from Small Heath Wanderers (soon to become Birmingham City), he was our first star striker. He scored a hat-trick on his home debut against Blackpool, and went on to net 58 goals in 152 goals for Chelsea over seven seasons. He was even our first ever goalscorer against Tottenham! Scoring goals was not even his only talent – as Windridge appeared in seven cricket matches for his home county of Warwickshire between 1909 and 1913. Legend.
Chelsea’s next cricketer didn’t arrive for almost thirty years, as the club navigated the football league. Left-back Sam Weaver, famous for his 35-yard throw-ins, signed in 1936 for £4166. Weaver was able to exploit his ‘golden arm’ in multiple disciplines – becoming a bowler for Somerset CCC after his Chelsea career ended, becoming masseur in 1956. He did, however, return to the beautiful game – going on to manage Mansfield Town for two seasons between 1958 and 1960.
Belonging to the ‘Old Enemy’ of Australia, our next dual professional undertook the role of Club Secretary for Dorridge Cricket Club whilst playing for Chelsea in Royal Blue. Winger Frank Mitchell joined Warwickshire CCC after emigrating from New South Wales, playing seventeen first class matches – taking 22 wickets at a then impressive average of 38.9. Unfortunately he was not as successful at SW6 – scoring only one goal in seventy-five league fixtures.
Our final two professionals are also the most renowned of the six – with success certainly not elusive for either.
Len Dolding has possibly the most remarkable (and tragic) story of any sportsman in Chelsea’s history. Prior to playing for us for two seasons, Dolding was a bomb-aimer aboard aircraft across the British Empire during World War Two. Simultaneously, he participated in the first amateur football final at Wembley, beating his own RAF Uxbridge playing for FC Wealdstone. He was also on the MCC Staff for 7 years, playing for England in cricket as twelfth-man during the infamous Lord’s Test of 1949. Tragically, he passed away only five years later in a trolley-car crash outside Wembley.
Ron Tindall had a special career at Chelsea Football Club. A member of our initial title-winning team, Tindall had the most success of any player in this shortlist on both the football and cricket field! Signing for Chelsea in 1953, his transfer was dependent on the guarantee that he could skip the first and last months of the football league season to play professional cricket for Surrey. A little further research illustrates why Tindall was a wanted man: scoring over 1000 runs for Surrey in a season, whilst also being a part of Chelsea’s most lethal strike partnership in history with Jimmy Greaves. Tindall’s two months out meant little as they scored 59 goals together in a single season – a record that still stands today!