10 Greatest Strike Partnerships in Chelsea History
Chelsea’s current crop of strikers has been seriously struggling to score. Fernando Torres and Samuel Eto’o have scored three of the Blues’ 14 Premier League goals between them, while Demba Ba is yet to get off the mark in the league.
It might feel like Chelsea have been relying on their midfielders for goals since time began, but it hasn’t always been like this.
Before deploying one striker became commonplace, the Blues boasted some of the most feared frontmen in English football. From a “clever little so-and-so” to men whose careers were interrupted by war, let’s take a look at the greatest strike partnerships in Chelsea history in chronological order.
George Hilsdon and Bob Whittingham
George Hilsdon’s club record for the most goals scored in one game (six against Worksop Town in the 1908 FA Cup) still stands to this day.
Having scored 27 goals in his debut season, Hilsdon went on to become the first Chelsea player to net 100 goals for the club, finishing on a tally of 107 goals from 164 appearances. He returned to his boyhood club West Ham in 1912 until he was called up to join the fighting on the Western Front in 1915.
He was caught in a mustard gas attack that ended his footballing career, and he died aged 56 in 1941. A weather vane sits atop the East Stand at Stamford Bridge as a memorial to him.
Bob Whittingham scored 30 goals in his debut season at Chelsea, going on to hit a total of 80 from 129 appearances. A short, stocky player, Whittingham specialised in powerful long-range efforts. Although the First World War interrupted his career, he returned to Chelsea in 1919 and played a handful of games before returning home to Stoke. He died aged just 37 in 1926.
Roy Bentley and John McNichol
Roy Bentley was Chelsea’s first League-winning captain. He led the Blues to the 1954-55 First Division title, scoring 21 goals in the process. In total he bagged 150 goals in 367 appearances before moving to Fulham in 1956.
Bentley’s partner up front in that Championship-winning season was John McNichol, who played as an inside forward. McNichol netted 14 times that season and created several goals for Bentley. In his 202 appearances for Chelsea, he scored 69 goals before being sold to Crystal Palace in 1958.
Bobby Tambling and Jimmy Greaves
Jimmy Greaves is still Chelsea’s most prolific goalscorer of all time, with 132 goals in 169 games for the Blues. He was joined up front by Bobby Tambling, and the two played together for two years before Greaves was sold to AC Milan in 1961. Tambling went on to score 202 goals over his Chelsea career, a record that stood for 43 years.
Both strikers were incredibly influential in Chelsea’s “glamour club” image of the 1960s and 70s and helped to lay the foundations for the success of recent years.
Bobby Tambling and Barry Bridges
Barry Bridges made his Chelsea debut in the same season as Bobby Tambling; however it was not until Jimmy Greaves’ departure in 1961 that he found himself leading the line. Bridges scored 93 goals in 205 appearances between 1958-66 before departing the club in somewhat acrimonious circumstances.
Bridges’ partnership with Tambling was key to Chelsea’s 1965 League Cup win, and during their eight years at the club together, the pair scored a combined total of 203 goals.
Peter Osgood and Ian Hutchinson
Peter Osgood is the king of Stamford Bridge. His statue outside the West Stand is a tribute to a striker who scored 150 goals in 380 appearances while making everything look easy.
"Ossie" was the last player to score in every round of the FA Cup, including the crucial goal that took the final to extra time. His efforts ensured that Chelsea won the trophy for the first time in 1970, and he went on to lift the European Cup Winners’ Cup the following year having scored in both legs of the final.
Osgood’s partner up front was Ian Hutchinson. Built like Branislav Ivanovic, "Hutch" scored 58 goals in 144 appearances for the Blues before his career was cut short by injury. He and Osgood were a perfect match, with Ossie providing the finesse while Hutch used his hulking frame to overpower opponents.
Kerry Dixon and David Speedie
Kerry Dixon and David Speedie combined to alleviate some of the suffering at Stamford Bridge in the 1980s. The club spent much of that decade bouncing between the old First and Second Division, with Speedie almost single-handedly keeping the club from dropping into the Third Division for the first time.
When Dixon arrived the following season, the two forwards did not get on. Both had completely different playing styles and they frequently clashed on and off the pitch. However, an argument following a game against Manchester City seemed to clear the air, and the two went on to score a combined 169 goals during their time together.
Despite the rocky start to their relationship, the two have fond memories of their time at Stamford Bridge. When they spoke to the BBC in 2002, Dixon said “Speedo was a good foil for me. He didn't get as many goals as he would have liked but he was a better all-round footballer than me and we fed off each other.”
Speedie was more concise in his assessment, saying, “Kerry was a prolific striker and I was his fetcher and carrier.”
Mark Hughes and Gianfranco Zola
Mark Hughes moved to Chelsea from Manchester United in 1995. Although he only stayed at Stamford Bridge for three seasons, scoring 39 goals in 123 appearances, he provided the perfect balance for Zola. Hughes' hold-up play freed Zola to score some of his most fantastic goals, and he played a key role in ending Chelsea’s trophy drought.
The pair won three trophies together before Hughes’ departure: the FA Cup, the League Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup.
Gianfranco Zola and Tore Andre Flo
Gianfranco Zola was voted Chelsea’s greatest player of all time by the fans.
Although the statistic of 80 goals in 312 appearances is hardly likely to set the world alight, there was much more to the Sardinian’s game. He was a genius who loved the game, and his magic touch inspired a new generation of Chelsea supporters.
Tore Andre Flo was Chelsea’s supersub, with 69 of his 163 appearances coming from the bench. He still managed to score 50 goals for the club, including a hat-trick against Tottenham Hotspur in his debut season. Although he only spent three years at Chelsea, Flo is fondly remembered as a key player in the team that brought the glory days back to Stamford Bridge.
Eidur Gudjohnsen and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
Nicknamed “Fire and Ice,” Dutchman Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Iceland international Eidur Gudjohnsen wreaked havoc with opposition defences throughout their four years together. The pair combined to find the net 52 times, with 25 of those goals coming in the 2002-03 season that saw Chelsea secure Champions League football.
European competition was a crucial factor in Roman Abramovich’s decision to buy Chelsea in 2003, so Blues fans have a lot to thank this particular duo for.
Hasselbaink left Chelsea in 2004 after Jose Mourinho's arrival, having scored a total of 87 goals in 177 appearances. Gudjohnsen stayed at Stamford Bridge for two further years, winning back-to-back Premier League titles before departing for Barcelona in 2006.
Didier Drogba and His Shadow
Didier Drogba didn’t need a partner to become a goalscoring legend at Chelsea. The towering Ivorian was the key to Chelsea’s success in the Roman Abramovich decade, as his 157 goals from 341 appearances attest.
Drogba terrified opposition defences and was the man for the big occasion.
He holds the club record for the most goals in Cup finals having scored in nine consecutive finals, and his tally of 29 goals in the Blues’ title-winning Premier League campaign in 2009-10 does not look likely to be beaten any time soon.
Despite having a nasty habit of getting himself banned for at least a few games of Chelsea’s European campaign, he scored 36 goals in the Champions League, as well as the vital winning penalty in Munich.
Drogba may not have been the steadiest on his feet all the time, but his power, pace and precision made him one of Chelsea’s greatest-ever strikers, all by himself.