George Hilsdon

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George Hilsdon
George Hilsdon.jpg
0Full Name George Richard Hilsdon
0Date of Birth 10 August 1885
0Place of Birth Bromley-by-Bow, London
0Position Striker
0Chelsea career 1906-1912
0Debut 1 September 1906
0Games (goals) 164 (108)
0Other clubs West Ham United

George Richard Hilsdon (10 August 1885 - 10 September 1941) was an English international centre forward who played for Chelsea between 1906 and 1912. He was the first Chelsea player to represent England, the first Chelsea player to score 100 goals for the club, and was top scorer for three consecutive seasons following his arrival in west London from West Ham United. Hilsdon also holds the club record for number of goals in one game, with six. He remains Chelsea's ninth highest goalscorer of all time.


Before Chelsea

Born in Bromley-by-Bow, East London, and having represented East Ham Boys in London schoolboy competitions, Hilsdon signed for local side West Ham United in November 1904 at the age of 18. He scored four goals in seven games in his first season, and three in nine in the 1905-06 season, but his chances were hindered by competition for places from new signing Harry Stapley, in addition to Billy Grassam and Billy Bridgeman. Hilsdon would leave West Ham for Chelsea at the end of the season, along with Bridgeman.

Chelsea career

Having narrowly missed out on promotion to the First Division in the club's first season following formation, Chelsea manager John Tait Robertson was looking to strengthen his side prior to the 1906-07 season, and Hilsdon, who had been playing at inside forward for the Hammers, was seen as a potential centre forward by the Scot [1]. Following an approach from Robertson, and despite Hilsdon's early promise, West Ham manager Syd King allowed the youngster to join Chelsea on a free transfer in June 1906.

"Grapnel Mixture" pipe tobacco card
Hilsdon made a sensational debut against Glossop on the opening day of the season, scoring five goals in a 9-2 win. Though five other players have since scored five in a game for Chelsea, this achievement has only been bettered by Hilsdon himself, who would later go on to score six in a match. Hilsdon's instant reputation following his impressive debut resulted in opposition sides targeting him for rough treatment throughout the season [2], though he had soon earned the nickname "Gatling-Gun" due to his powerful shots, and by Christmas he had scored 16 goals for the club, helping the Blues to third place in the table as they chased promotion to the top flight. Hilsdon scored from the penalty spot in the final game of the season against Gainsborough Trinity in a 4-1 win at Stamford Bridge to take his tally for the season to 27 and help clinch promotion to the First Division.

The step up to the top flight proved challenging for Chelsea at the start of the 1907-08 season, with the club losing six out of the first seven games, but Hilsdon was soon scoring as regularly has he had in the Second Division. In January, Hilsdon scored 6 goals against Worksop Town in a 9-1 win in the FA Cup, this remains a record haul for a Chelsea player in a single game, and the 9-1 scoreline remains Chelsea's record win in domestic football. Hilsdon's goals helped the club to secure its top flight status and finish a creditable 13th; with the Londoner's 25 league goals leaving him joint second top scorer in the division. Hilsdon was soon called up to the England side, playing in internationals over the summer, The Fulham Observer describing Hilsdon as "now England's acknowledged greatest centre-forward."

Hilsdon's goalscoring form continued during the 1908-09 season, and he was once again the club's topscorer as Chelsea finished a comfortable eleventh place in the league. Hilsdon's form declined during an injury-hit 1909-10 season however, and despite signing Hilsdon's former England teammate Vivian Woodward, the Blues struggled without their former topscorer's goals, and were relegated at the end of the season. Reputedly suffering from a drinking problem, Hilsdon continued to score during the 1910-11 season, but not with the same regularity as previously, and Chelsea narrowly missed out on promotion back to the First Division, finishing third. That summer, with his best days seemingly behind him at the age of just 27, Hilsdon was allowed to return to his former club, West Ham United.

After Chelsea

The weather vane modelled on Hilsdon that is still a feature of Stamford Bridge
Hilsdon scored 17 goals in 36 games in his first season back at West Ham, who were then in the Southern League, but he would end up losing his first team place as young players emerged, appearing sporadically over the following couple of seasons. When the Southern League was suspended at the end of the 1914-15 season due to the outbreak of the First World War, Hilsdon was among many footballers who joined the armed forces, joining the East Surrey Regiment. He served on the Western Front, enduring a mustard gas attack at Arras in 1917 that damaged his lungs. Hilsdon represented Chatham Town for a short period after the War, but soon retired from the game. Following retirement Hilsdon worked as a teaboy on building sites, ran a pub and organised raffles in East End pubs.

George Hilsdon died in Leicester on 10th September, 1941, and just four people attended his funeral, which was paid for by the Football Association. An old weather vane modelled on Hilsdon is still a fixture of Stamford Bridge, with the talented East Londoner having secured his legacy as Chelsea's first great centre-forward.


Hilsdon received international recognition for England, often playing alongside his Chelsea team mate, Jimmy Windridge. Shortly after joining Chelsea he was selected to play for a Football League XI, for whom he hit a hat-trick in a 6-0 win over the Irish League on his debut. He made his England debut in February 1907 against Ireland. He scored four goals for England in a 7-0 win over Hungary and two apiece in wins over Ireland, Austria, Wales and Bohemia. In all, he managed to score 14 times in just eight international games for England, eight of his goals coming from games in England's first overseas tour in 1908.

Chelsea statistics

See also: List of George Hilsdon goals
Season League FA Cup Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
1906–07 32 27 2 0 34 27
1907–08 33 26 2 6 35 32
1908–09 34 25 3 2 37 27
1909–10 15 2 2 0 17 2
1910–11 26 18 5 1 31 19
1911–12 10 1 0 0 10 1
Total 150 99 14 9 164 108

Note: Based on their research, club historian Rick Glanvill, club statistician Paul Dutton and supporter Derek Webster have made several corrections to Hilsdon's record. He is now credited with two extra league goals in the 1907-08 season and one fewer league goal in 1909-10.[3]

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