Thursday night was one of those nights that might come but once in a player’s career. Ruben Loftus-Cheek could of course go on to score many more hat-tricks (Frank Lampard did it no less — or “no fewer” if it pleases — than 5 times as a midfielder). Or, like Gianfranco Zola (Nov 1997, vs. Derby), he will have to make do with just one for his Chelsea career.
He’s already in rare company, the 70th player in Chelsea history to notch at least three goals in a game, marking the 147th time such a thing occurred, the 23rd under Abramovich. The 69th player was Álvaro Morata (vs. Stoke); he’s struggled to put three more into the back of the net since that day back in September of last year. The 68th, Michy Batshuayi (in fact, he and Morata did it in consecutive matches, albeit in different competitions). Since then, Eden Hazard (who was the 64th player on the list with his first) got his second in Chelsea colors, bringing him even with how many Peter Osgood got ... against Jeunesse Hautcharage ... in one two-legged tie. Chelsea’s 21-0 aggregate victory in 1971 over the semi-amateur side from Luxembourg remains a UEFA club competition record.
Peter Osgood may have cleaned up against possibly the smallest team to ever appear on the European stage, but is five career hat-tricks for Chelsea put him only in fifth place all-time, though still one better than Didier Drogba’s four. The names ahead of the two Kings of Stamford Bridge won’t be surprising: Kerry Dixon (8), Bobby Tambling (8), George Hilsdon (9), and Jimmy Greaves with a whopping 13. It’s probably the greatest ratio for any prolific goalscorer in club history: 48 of his 124 league goals came via the hat-trick (three times hitting five* in one match). Then again, Loftus-Cheek only has five goals in total for his Chelsea career and three of those came yesterday. Take THAT, Spurs legend Jimmy Greaves!
'Chelsea fans say I was best at Chelsea. Spurs fans say I was best at Spurs. West Ham fans say I was best at Spurs or Chelsea!' The incomparable Jimmy Greaves. Hope he is being well looked after today & all three clubs are doing their bit. pic.twitter.com/6pO5wS9nkF— Philip Munday (@ViallisComb) March 11, 2018
Before moving to North London (where he of course scored a hat-trick on his debut), Greaves was just one in a line of homegrown hat-trick heroes. They are increasingly rare these days and not just since the turn of the century. In fact, we have to go all the way back to April 1982 to find such an occurrence: Clive Walker putting Grimsby Town to the sword. That game was also the last time a hat-trick did not result in a Chelsea win. Grimsby scored three of their own in a 3-3 draw. (The last person to score a hat-trick in defeat was Bobby Tambling in 1961 in a 5-3 reverse at Sheffield Wednesday).
Clive Walker Grimsby 1982— Rick Glanvill (@RickGlanvill) October 25, 2018
Walker’s hat-trick came in the old second division. Chelsea are not likely to collect many of those kinds of hat-tricks these days. European hat-tricks, on the other hand, could be more common. Still, we have to go back to 2006 for Drogba against Levski Sofia to find one. Those three goals in Bulgaria remain Chelsea’s one and only Champions League hat-trick. But to find a hat-trick like Ruben’s, at Stamford Bridge on a European night, we have to go back over 20 years, to 1997 and Gianluca Vialli in the 7-1 against Tromso in the Cup Winners’ Cup.
Greaves, Osgood, Tambling, Drogba, Lampard, Vialli, Zola, Hazard ... not bad company for Loftus-Cheek. But now comes the part where he ensures that this is not just some statistical anomaly or trivia for the rest of his professional career...
*The only player to score a double-hat-trick for Chelsea (i.e. 6 goals in one game) is George “weather vane” Hilsdon, who accomplished it in a 9-1 win against Worksop in the opening round of the 1908 FA Cup, back when Chelsea truly didn’t have any history. Hilsdon’s actual nickname was “Gatling Gun” because of his unstoppable rapid-fire shooting, with which he announced himself in 5-goal debut on the first day of the 1906-07 season.
The vast majority of this information comes from the reference book Chelsea: The Complete Record authored by Chelsea historian Rick Glanvill and Chelsea statistician Paul Dutton. You probably should own a copy of it.
The book contains data up through the end of the 2014-15 season. Here are the five Chelsea hat-tricks since. Hazard is the only non-new name on the list.
Jan 2016 — Oscar: 3 vs. MK Dons (a) 5-1 — FA Cup
Sep 2017 — Batshuayi: 3 vs. Nottingham Forest (h) 5-1 — League Cup
Sep 2017 — Morata: 3 vs. Stoke City (a) 4-0 — Premier League
Sep 2018 — Hazard: 3 vs. Cardiff City (h) 4-1 — Premier League
Oct 2018 — Loftus-Cheek: 3 vs. BATE (h) 3-1 — Europa League