Picking an All-English, All-Time Chelsea Starting XI

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Picking an All-English, All-Time Chelsea Starting XI
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Chelsea in the mid-1990s became the poster club for the so-called “foreign invasion” of the Premier League. The likes of Ruud Gullit, Dan Petrescu and Frank Leboeuf paved the way for the cosmopolitan Chelsea FC of today and brought silverware back to Stamford Bridge.

Back in the 1970s and 80s, the most exotic players came from Scotland and Wales, with the core of the team comprised of English players. Even in recent years, the first names on the teamsheet have been England internationals John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole.

Between them, Chelsea’s English players past and present have won everything there is to win at club level. They hold goalscoring and appearance records that stand until this day, and they are all still held in high regard at Stamford Bridge. 

This is the all-time, all-English Chelsea 11 in a 4-3-3 formation, with appearances and goals for all clubs taken into account.

 

Goalkeeper: Peter Bonetti

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Peter “The Cat” Bonetti made 729 appearances for the Blues, keeping 208 clean sheets.

A product of the Chelsea academy, the stability that the original “Big Pete” brought to the defence following his debut in 1960 helped Chelsea gain promotion to the old First Division.  His consistency and skills between the sticks guided Chelsea to wins in the 1970 FA Cup Final and the Cup Winners' Cup Final the following year. 

Despite this success, intense competition from the likes of Gordon Banks and Peter Shilton prevented Bonetti from making his mark on the England national team.

He is a regular attendee at Stamford Bridge and has conducted several "Legends" stadium tours in recent years.

 

Defence: Ashley Cole, Ron "Chopper" Harris, John Terry, Ken Shellito

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When Ashley Cole left Arsenal for Chelsea in 2006, many thought that the Blues were taking a risk signing the inconsistent English left-back. Those critics have been silenced in the intervening years, as Cole has developed into one of the most widely admired players in world football.

His determination and observational skills have turned him into one of the finest readers of the game curently playing in a blue shirt. Chelsea fans have come to rely on the fact that if a last-minute tackle or goal-line clearance is needed, the chances are that Ashley Cole will be there.

Cole has been capped 100 times for England and was given the captain's armband against the Republic of Ireland to mark this achievement.

Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Chopper Harris made 795 appearances for Chelsea in a career spanning 18 seasons. He captained Chelsea in the 1970 FA Cup Final win before guiding them to their first European Cup against Real Madrid the following year. A tough-tackling, no-nonsense centre-half, Chopper left Chelsea at the end of his career to become player-manager of Brentford FC.

Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

John Terry has followed in the footsteps of Chopper Harris by spending his entire professional career at Chelsea. Having signed as a schoolboy at the age of 14, Terry has developed into the Blues' most successful captain.

Although he missed out on the most recent European cup finals through suspension and injury, the three Premier League titles, three FA Cups and two League Cups that the club have won during his captaincy cement his position as "Captain, Leader, Legend."

Terry won 78 caps for England and captained the side for two spells before announcing his retirement from the international game in September 2012.

Image from espnfc.com.

Right-back Ken Shellito also spent his whole career at Chelsea, making 123 appearances in 10 years. He was crucial to the club's promotion from the old Second Division in the 1962-63 season, but a series of knee injuries limited his playing time and eventually forced him into early retirement. Shellito joined the coaching staff at Stamford Bridge and enjoyed a brief spell as first-team manager in the 1970s.

He is currently working as a coach in Malaysia, where he holds permanent residency.

 

Midfield: Paul Canoville, Frank Lampard, Dennis Wise

Paul Canoville joined Chelsea in 1982, becoming the first black player to play for the club. He made 79 appearances for the club over four years before being sold to Reading in 1986. His 11 goals came in some crucial games, but his overall form was inconsistent.

Image from chelseafc.com.

His place in the starting 11 is confirmed by his character. Despite suffering horrific racist abuse from his own supporters during his time at Stamford Bridge, Canoville rose above it and let his football silence the National Front morons in the crowd. Thirty years on from his debut, he is proud to say that he played for Chelsea.

Without his determination and resolve, Chelsea could have gone down a very different road. Canoville paved the way for the stars of the future, a contribution that should never be forgotten.

Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images

Frank Lampard signed for Chelsea from West Ham in 2001 for £11 million. In his first statement to the press, he said "I think I can take my game on from here and win a lot of medals with the club." Twelve years on, he has done exactly that, with a full set of honours for his club.

As well as captaining the side to their greatest ever triumph, in the 2012 Champions League final, Lampard recently became the club's top all-time goalscorer. His 203 goals from midfield are an inspiration to the next generation of Chelsea stars, and his commitment to the club has never been questioned.

Super Frank has scored 29 goals in 97 appearances for England and has his sights set on joining the 100 club ahead of the 2014 World Cup.

Craig Prentis/Getty Images

As well as scoring a very good goal at the San Siro in 1999, Dennis Wise came to epitomise Chelsea FC in the 1990s.

His leadership qualities unified a diverse dressing room and guided Chelsea to two FA Cups as well as the League Cup and the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup.

His disciplinary issues marred his career, but his efforts on the pitch have confirmed his legendary status at Stamford Bridge.


Forwards: Kerry Dixon, Jimmy Greaves, Bobby Tambling

Kerry Dixon joined Chelsea from Reading FC in 1983 and quickly became a fan favourite. As the Blues bounced between the old First and Second divisions, Dixon scored 193 goals in 420 appearances.

An injury in January 1986 had a negative impact on what looked to be a promising international career, and although King Kerry had lost some pace on his return, he was able to slowly regain his form for his club.

He joined Southampton in 1992, but his goals are still remembered at Stamford Bridge

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Jimmy Greaves is better known as a legend at Chelsea's archrivals, Tottenham Hotspur, who are quite happy to forget that he began his career at the Blues.

Signed on a schoolboy contract in 1956, Greaves scored 114 goals for the youth team in his first year. No, that is not a typo, he actually scored over 100 goals in a single season. He was handed his first-team debut the following season against Tottenham Hotspur and scored in the 1-1 draw.

Thirteen hat-tricks helped him reach his 100th league goal in 1960, at 20 years and 290 days old, a record that stands to this day.

The team's failure to turn Greaves' 132 goals in 169 appearances into silverware led the board to sell the striker to AC Milan in 1961, against his wishes. He wanted to return to Chelsea the following year, but instead went to Tottenham Hotspur, according to the club website.

Personally, I hope that whoever was in charge of the decision to sell Greaves and not buy him back feels very foolish indeed.

Bobby Tambling was Chelsea's record goalscorer for 47 years. His 202 goals from 370 appearances yielded a solitary piece of silverware in the form of the 1967 League Cup, but he set the scene for the "Kings of the King's Road" successes of the 1970s.

Until Frank Lampard began closing in on his record, Tambling had been something of a forgotten hero at Stamford Bridge. However, in recent years he has been in the thoughts of the fans and players past and present as his health has deteriorated.

To have held such a significant record for such a long time is a great achievement at any club, but when you consider the players who have pulled on a Chelsea shirt since Tambling's time, it becomes clear that his contribution to the club's history cannot be forgotten.

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