William Foulke was our first ever goalkeeper and remains one of our most famous despite playing only one season at the club.
He was signed for £50 from Sheffield United where he had won two FA Cup winners medals and won one England cap but the Chelsea directors had as much an eye on his box office appeal as they had his goalkeeping ability.
At six foot four and 22 stone, Foulke was a giant. He weighed just one pound less than his two full-backs combined and Chelsea decided to accentuate his bulky presence by placing two small boys behind his goal in order to distract the opposition. Incidentally, the youngsters would also retrieve the ball when it went out of play and it is believed that these were the first ever ball-boys.
Despite this Foulke was no freak show. He was an athletic and agile keeper and was one of the first to punch the ball away from danger. On his debut, the first ever competitive game played by Chelsea, he saved a penalty. In his one season at the club Foulke played 35 games, conceding just 28 goals. In the six games he missed that year, 17 goals were let in.
Foulke moved back north after one season to join Bradford City and he died of cirrhosis in May 1916 aged just 42.
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