Modern culture has a short memory at the best of times. History is what happened last year. In the world of football, memories are even shorter than that.
But Chelsea don’t forget. Not these days. Not under Abramovich’s ownership. And certainly not when the man in question is “a Chelsea legend in the truest sense of the words”.
When Chelsea won the league for the second time in club history in May of 2005, two elderly men carried the Premier League trophy onto the pitch. On the left of the photo above our former fullback Stan Willemse.
On the right side? Roy Bentley, the man who captained Chelsea to the club’s first-ever top division title. A title that stood alone for 50 long years.
Chelsea’s top scorer for seven consecutive seasons, Roy Bentley was named captain in 1951, a season in which the Blues barely escaped relegation. His 150 goals in 367 appearances is still good enough for fifth all-time. Although physical enough to eventually convert to centre-back (at Fulham) his style was to drop deep in search of the ball and opportunities to link up play.
In the run-in of the historic 1954-55 trophy-winning campaign, Chelsea played two games in two days (!) at Stamford Bridge, against Sheffield United and Wolves. It was a different time, with stands and no seats and 80,000 people packed into Stamford Bridge to urge Chelsea onto victory. A draw and a win put the team within reach of the title, and a 3-0 win in the penultimate game of the season against Sheffield Wednesday secured the title.
Farewell, Roy. For good reason the legends of 1954/55 were always “Bentley’s boys.” pic.twitter.com/QDXED8YcMs— Rick Glanvill (@RickGlanvill) April 20, 2018
Bentley played another season for Chelsea before the club, amid fan protests, sold him to Fulham, where he played close to 150 times, before ending his playing career at Queen’s Park Rangers (they still had the apostrophe back then.)
“I always found Chelsea fans a great bunch. Running out onto the old Stamford Bridge pitch and seeing the applause spread round the whole ground, all the way up to The Shed at the back, really did make you glow. When we were doing well and the ground was packed with more than 70,000 fans, it was something else.”
-Roy Bentley; source: Chelsea FC
After his retirement from football as both player and manager, Bentley remained a Chelsea supporter. He was a frequent visitor for home matches. In 2014, with his 90th birthday looming, the club honored him before the last home game of the season. It was the last time he trod the turf where he made club history.
Roy Thomas Frank Bentley died on Friday. He was 93 years old.
Ed.note: One more first for Bentley’s storied, trailblazing Chelsea career: Chelsea TV’s tribute video is the first we can embed directly from the official (beta) website! (If you get an authorization error, you’ll have to go to beta.chelseafc.com and log in first — it’s free now.)