Historical Football Cartoons

Three football cartoons from what I think is Chelsea FC’s second or third decade of existence. The club sprang into life fully formed in 1905, with a huge stadium at Stamford Bridge and League status. Some skullduggery lurks behind the status part, and their arrival in what was then industrial, working-class West London was greeted by some left-wing commentators as one more example of tawdry entertainments distracting the worker from his chains. What would Cobden say, etc.

I expect he’d have said, “Come on you Blues” or something of that nature, although, as this cartoon illustrates, that could be something of a problem from time to time. Click to enlarge:


Tom Webster joined this particular newspaper in 1919, and he obviously possessed some kind of colour fetish. I’d call this flogging a dead horse:


Webster began his career in the Edwardian era, and his cartoons have that atmosphere. The next cartoon concerns shirt numbering, which I confess I had down to Herbert Chapman in the 1930s. But this doesn’t feel like the 30s at all:


Whichever end of that 1919-1939 period the cartoon hails from, the Spurs-hating Chelsea fan in that cartoon is a fascinating historical type, especially given the knifings at the last game between the sides.

Finally, the reality behind the humour. Here’s Stamford Bridge more or less as it looked new. You can find pictures of it being built on the net (I think) but here it is, seen from the north, hosting the 1920 FA Cup Final. Note the running track, the thick clouds of cigarette smoke rising from the open stands, the sheer size of the terracing, the crude, nakedly commercial nature of the whole place. This is before people thought football enshrined, or should enshrine, crucial national values. Football as lucrative entertainment, and almost nothing else:


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