George Hilsdon: Chelsea's first centre-forward
There have been some excellent nicknames for players over the years.
Roberto Baggio was known as Il Divino Codino or “The Divine Ponytail”. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was known as “The Baby-Faced Assassin”.
But I think the best nickname of all belongs to someone you have probably never heard of.
George “Gattling Gun” Hilsdon was born in London in 1885 and went on to become a Chelsea legend.
But Hilsdon’s footballing career had a slow start.
He started playing football at West Ham; his brother Jack used to also play in the same team.
Hilsdon made his first-team debut in the 1903-04 season at the age of just 18 and, in his first two years at the club, he played 16 times, scoring seven goals.
Chelsea’s first ever manager – John “Jacky” Robertson – was told that Hilsdon was available to sign for a fee and Robertson was so enthralled by Hilsdon’s talent that he signed him.
Hilsdon’s £4 a week wage pales in comparison to the astronomical sums on offer now, but he made quite the start to his Chelsea career.
He scored five goals on his debut in a 9–2 win over Glossop North End, and later scored six goals in a FA Cup tie with Worksop Town.
Hilson’s 27 goals fired Chelsea to promotion to the First Division in just their second year in existence.
Within three years, Hilsdon had made 99 appearances for the Blues and scored 76 goals.
It is during this time that he earned his “Gattling Gun” nickname, as someone described his shots as “simply unstoppable and which travel like shots from a gun.”
His later career at Chelsea was hampered by injuries and his personal life – including a battle with alcoholism – although he still scored 19 goals in the 1909-10 season.
But Hilsdon is probably best known by Chelsea fans as the first player to score 100 goals for the club.
And, by the time he was sold back to West Ham in 1912, Hilsdon had notched up 108 goals in 164 appearances for Chelsea.
Surprisingly, with those 108 goals, Hilsdon is still Chelsea’s 9th highest scorer of all time.
During his time at Stamford Bridge, Hilsdon earned a call up to the national side, for whom he scored a remarkable 14 goals in just eight caps.
However, Hilsdon’s footballing career was cut short by World War I as, while fighting on the Western Front, he was attacked by gas, which caused sufficient damage to Hilsdon to end his footballing career.
After the War, he worked as a teaboy on building sites, ran a pub and organised raffles in East End pubs.
Following his death in 1941, Hilsdon was largely forgotten until, in October 2015, a group of Chelsea supporters raised enough money for a headstone to be placed where he was buried.
There is still a weather vane of Hilsdon at Stamford Bridge – as seen in the photo at the top – which legend says that, if removed, will bring Chelsea bad luck.