30 May 1995: The passing of the wonderful Ted Drake

Ted Drake’s trophy cabinet contained two league winner’s medals, an FA Cup winner’s medal and five caps for England. And yet he was so much more than that. Some reports mention that he also played cricket for Hampshire, and was the manager of Chelsea when they first won the league. And he was spotted by Herbert Chapman playing for Southampton, but he couldn’t persuade him to come to London.

But after Herbert Chapman’s untimely death Joe Shaw took over and Ted Drake was signed in March 1934 for a fee of £6,500 – although it is suggested that George Allison who was manager-designate saw the deal through.   Ted Drake had played 74 times for Southampton and scored 48 goals. You can see why Arsenal wanted him.

And indeed as you would expect Ted Drake scored in his first game against Wolverhampton Wanderers on 24 March 1934.

Arsenal won the league that year, the year in which Herbert Chapman died, and continued to make it three in a row under three different managers in 1934/5 – the year in which Drake scored 42 goals in 41 league games.  Including the FA Cup and Charity Shield he got 44 goals in one season – the all time Arsenal record.

Even for England he kept up that sort of scoring record, getting six goals in five games.  He also won the FA Cup in 1935/6 and the league again in 1937/8

During the war he served his country in the RAF, and played some war time games, but an injury in 1945 ended his career.

After his forced retirement Ted Drake managed Hendon in 1946, at that time playing in the Athenian League.  The following season he moved to Reading from 1947 changing them from being very much a mid-table Third Division South team to being runners up in 1948-49 and 1951-52.  At this time only the champions of the Third Division North and Third Division South were promoted to the Second Division.

In 1952 he moved to Chelsea, and clearly influenced by the memory of the way Herbert Chapman was said to have reformed Arsenal, he set about changing Chelsea.  It is said that he even instigated a new nickname for the club – The Blues – although given the way we have found that the Chapman stories about his reforms were not always as they are told, this may not be true.

It is also said that he changed the training routine, and brought in little-known players from lower divisions and amateur teams.

In 1954/5 Chelsea won the league – an amazing achievement considering that in 1951/2 and 1952/3 they had come 18th, and thus just missing relegation. But this was Chelsea so because he couldn’t win the league again he was sacked in the 1961/2 season.

He then became reserve team manager at Fulham, and later a director and life president.  We also have a newspaper report from 1975/6 season of him being at an Arsenal v Fulham game, which has him as a scout at the time.  Ted Drake died aged 82 on 30 May 1995.

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