As a long standing Chelsea fan, Willian leaving Chelsea for Arsenal was a bitter moment for me, but, that was a view not shared by many of my peers in blue it seems.
People always point to his attacking stats when they are arguing their point about Willian, but when I watched him, I was always amazed at his work rate, for someone who often looked so lethargic and weary. If he’d lost the ball or one of his teammates had, the little Brazilian would more often than not run back and try to win it back, or run with a player to stop a possible outlet for the opposition player with the ball. I found him an intelligent footballer and one that we’ll miss, in my humble opinion.
I have laughed at Willian this morning, I’ll admit. Looking at a previous Sky Sports interview with him, it’s cited him as saying that one of the reasons he joined Arsenal, was Arteta’s aim of winning the Champion’s League in the next three years. Of course it was Willian. It wasn’t the extra 5.2 million quid on offer for an extra years contract on 100k a week, no, nothing to do with that.
I do think though, that many fans under-appreciated and underrated Willian, which is why he was the inspiration for this piece and why he gets into my top five at number five.
My number four is John Bumstead, who between 1978 and 1991, made 409 appearances for the club, scoring 44 goals. Bumstead started his career in the Chelsea youth set-up, and was well established in the first team by the time they won the second division title in 1983-84 season and with it, a return back to the old division one. That season he made 31 appearances and scored seven goals. I was on a UEFA coaching course that year and I used to make notes during any game that I watched and Bumstead’s work rate was second to none.
He must have been a nightmare to play against. He must have reminded opponents of a toothache they once had, such was his seemingly ceaseless desire to win the ball back when Chelsea had lost it. Some fans around me used to moan about him at times and wish for a better name to be signed, but, I think they were underrating what he brought to the side. Honest blood, sweat and tears for a start.
He was a far better footballer than a lot of fans gave him credit for. When I look back though, work horses hardly ever get the credit that they deserve. He lifted the Full Members cup in 1985-86 season, when he was in the side that beat Manchester City 5-4, which I still maintain has been one of the best Wembley days out.
Bumstead remained with the club after their relegation in 1987-88 and collected a Second Division medal the next year as they regained their First Division status at the first attempt. It wasn’t always noticed at the time but he was integral to that success.
Number three is another blast from the past. Ian Hutchinson. Probably because his career was blighted by some horrendous injuries, I never felt that he got the credit that his undoubted talent deserved.
Hutchinson joined Chelsea from Cambridge for 5k in 1968. Then, because of injuries, only made 118 appearances in the next eight years. He scored 44 goals in those 118 appearances though, which was a pretty decent return and it’s a shame that assists weren’t monitored in those days because I personally think he’d be right up there with the best of them. Unselfish and hard working, he was excellent in the air and was also blessed with an unbelievably long throw, the likes of which has only probably been matched by Duncan McKenzie. The throw was a real tool in the armoury of the Chelsea sides of the early seventies and nowhere was it better shown, than in the winning goal in the 1970 FA Cup final.
Striking up an excellent partnership with Peter Osgood, they scored 53 goals between them in the 69/70 season, but it was the charismatic Osgood, who took most of the headlines and I have felt over the years that Hutchinson is definitely under-appreciated and certainly underrated, when we talk about the club’s great number 10’s. Sadly Hutchinson passed away after a long illness in 2002.
Number two is Bobby Tambling. It was great to see him, either last season or the season before, I can’t remember which, getting a round of applause from the faithful at Stamford Bridge. He was playing in the side when I first started watching the club, but I’ve never thought he got the accolades that he deserves for scoring 202 goals for the club in 370 games. Can you imagine what a forward with that strike rate would be worth in the current era? 100 million plus easily.
Tambling signed for Chelsea as a fifteen year old in 1957 and made his debut two years later, scoring in a 3-2 win over West Ham. He went on to be the clubs top scorer for five of the season in the 1960’s.
In an era where he was up against the likes of Jimmy Greaves and Geoff Hurst, he only made three International appearances, scoring one goal.
In 2004 Bobby had a suite named after him at Stamford Bridge and many would say that means he wasn’t under-appreciated, but if you ask most modern day supporters who the clubs top five greatest strikers are, it’s very rare that Tambling’s name will be mentioned, which is a surprise because his top goal scoring record for the club was one that stood from 1970 until 2014, when our own super Frankie Lampard, surpassed it on to become the clubs all time top scorer with 211 goals in 648 games for the club.
Tambling was a cool finisher, who never seemed flustered, even by the attentions of defenders in the era he played in, some of which would be considered assaults by both players and supporters of the current era. It’s hard to compare era, but something tells me that with a higher level of fitness that today’s game would bring, Tambling would be one of the coolest finishers in the game and one of the most sort after, if he were playing now.
My number one is one that I know many Chelsea fans agree with me on. He’s a player who seems to have gained a lot more recognition for his performances since he’s left, that when he was actually playing at the club. I’ve even sat in the Matthew Harding Lower and heard him be the subject of the boo boys on a couple of occasions. I thought then, that it was unfair and I think time has justified my feelings.
The player in question is John Obi-Mikel. Signed in 2006 in a controversial move in which Manchester United claimed to have signed him first, to which he agreed saying that he’d signed the contract under duress, that required a ruling from UEFA, He then served the club in a midfield role, making 372 appearances for the club and being part of the 2012 UEFA Champions League winning team, before he left in 2017.
A defensive midfielder, who’d hardly ever lose the ball, was often criticised for not being offensive enough with his passing and the fact that he scored just six goals for the blues in those 372 games, gives fuel for some supporters to criticise. However, I just thought of him a few times, even last season, when we went a couple of goals up and needed to take the sting out of the opposition, how we could have done with an Obi-Mikel in our midfield.
They say good players seem to have loads of time on the ball and he always seemed to. His passes were often sideways or back, but as I say, normally with purpose and for that reason, I give Obi-Mikel top spot in my under-appreciated players.
Just my opinion and I’m sure most Chelsea fans can devise their own opinion with a few names I haven’t mentioned. Nonetheless, these former players deserve the recognition following their careers in a blue shirt.