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Medal from first FA Cup final acquired for Chelsea Museum

One of the stalwarts of the early Chelsea years will soon be commemorated in the museum at Stamford Bridge with medals awarded to Walter Bettridge recently acquired and on display.

The existence of the FA Cup Final medal was discovered by the Chelsea Graves Society, a collective of fans who trace and restore the final resting places of former players and other significant figures in our history, and in conjunction with the Chelsea Supporters Trust, it was arranged for the club to acquire the medals from Walter’s grandson Stephen Bettridge, along with photos from over a century ago and an official club letter confirming his original £10 signing on fee.

Walter Bettridge 4th right middle row

Before the FA Cup 6th round tie on 17th March against Leicester City we were delighted that Stephen was able to attend the game and deliver the medals personally to the Chelsea Museum where they will soon be on display.

Representatives from Chelsea Graves Society and the CST met him on his arrival at Stamford Bridge and ensured the medals were delivered safely to the museum before kick off and thanks to Eklim Rahman and the museum staff for the hospitality shown to Stephen on the day. Following Chelsea’s 4-2 victory before returning back to his home in the East Midlands there was still time for Stephen to join a number of Chelsea supporters in the pub after the game where he was able to share some of Walter’s history and tell his story to an eager post-match audience.

So what is the Walter or Wally Bettridge story?

With thanks to Paul Waterhouse from Bygone Chelsea and the Chelsea Heritage Group please read on:

After Chelsea had gained promotion to Division I in 1907 the club spent two seasons effectively treading water in a desperate attempt to stay among the elite of English football.

The 1909-10 campaign, Chelsea’s third in the top flight began with a 2-2 draw against Notts County at Stamford Bridge on 1st September 1909 and this was followed with another home game three days later when Liverpool were the visitors. Chelsea won 2-1, but from that moment fortune rarely smiled as a continuous crop of injuries made it almost impossible for manager, David Calderhead to field either a full strength or indeed a settled starting eleven.

For influential players like defender, Ted Birnie and forwards, George Hilsdon and Norman Fairgray, their injuries were so severe that they missed over half of the season.

Indeed, by the end of the season no less than thirty four players had appeared in the first team in just the league programme. To counter the ever growing sick list a whole host of newcomers were drafted in, several of them who would become household names.

One such newcomer was Wally Bettridge.

Wally Bettridge

Born in Oakthorpe on 26th October 1886, Wally was spotted when playing junior football in the Burton-on-Trent area and he was signed up by Burton United. Although only 5’ 8” Wally was sturdily built and he was one of the first full-backs to recognise the advantage of adopting an attacking role, so his style of play may well have fitted in with the modern day wing-back. He very soon came to the attention of Chelsea and was duly signed in 1909 but he wouldn’t have to wait long for his debut. The injuries continued to mount and after Chelsea’s 1-0 win against Middlesbrough at Ayresome Park on 9th October, David Calderhead was shorn of his regular full-back partnership of Joseph Walton and Jock Cameron.

Wally Bettridge made his debut for Chelsea against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park on 16th October 1909, occupying the right-back position alongside William Cartwright to his left. William Cartwright had played for the first team previously but in his time at Chelsea he mainly featured in the reserves.

Chelsea played well at Blackburn and were considered to have been extremely unfortunate to lose 1-0, but Wally received plenty of praise from both the match report and the editors notes in the Chelsea Chronicle.

Wally then featured in sixteen of the next eighteen games, eventually ending the campaign with eighteen league appearances without scoring.

One of those appearances came in the game against Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge on 27th December 1909. Wally excelled in a 2-1 win for Chelsea but the main talking point was the attendance that was in excess of 70,000, which was not only a record for Stamford Bridge, but also a record for an English league fixture.

Noted for his consistency, length of kicking and all round sportsmanship, Wally Bettridge became a stalwart full-back and regular ‘fixture’ in the Chelsea first team for eleven seasons. Although his debut season ended with Chelsea experiencing relegation for the first time Wally played a part in the club regaining their place in Division I two years later. He also played for Chelsea in the 1915 F.A. Cup Final at Old Trafford.

In all he made a total of 255 appearances in league and cup for Chelsea without scoring any goals.

His long association with Chelsea ended in 1922 when he was released by the club, eventually moving on to Gillingham for a brief period before retiring from football.

Ever popular with the Chelsea fans he rightfully holds a special place in the Chelsea story.

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