Frank Blunstone - Player Profile
Frank Blunstone is an example of a rare footballing breed that is likely to become far more commonplace over the next few years, the Chelsea League Championship winner.
Blunstone's humble beginnings were about as far removed from the present day Stamford Bridge environment as they possibly could be. Born in Crewe between the wars and one of thirteen children Blunstone's childhood, like many others, was one of privation and struggle.
From a very early age, however, his obvious natural footballing ability suggested his future may hold a brighter outlook than could otherwise have been expected. Blunstone's talent was obvious, even if at school he had to convince a friend to lend him his left boot to play in, making do with his shoe for his less important right foot.
Blunstone's passion for football led him early to Gresty Road to watch his local side in action. There was no question of the youngster paying for the privilege, however. There were several unofficial means of entry to the less than impressive stadium and Blunstone was familiar with them all.
The biggest thrill of these visits tended to arrive at half time when the custom of the day to leave the ball on the centre circle during the interval offered the local youngsters the opportunity to nip on for an impromptu kick around.
One way or another Blunstone was becoming noticed as an exciting prospect during his schooldays. He was a reserve for the England schoolboys side that was dominated by the London boy, Johnny Haynes.
Blunstone was courted by both Crewe Alexandra and Wolverhampton Wanderers who both wished to take him onto their groundstaff as an apprentice. Wolves, arguably the biggest club in the land at the time, would have seemed the obvious choice but Blunstone's instincts favoured his home town club and the struggling Division Three North outfit gained a very welcome newcomer indeed.
Although Blunstone would not turn professional until January 1952 his first manager, Arthur Turner, made sure his outstanding prospect was kept sweet in his early days at Gresty Road, supplying him with the price of a cinema ticket and an ice cream every Friday afternoon.
Given the fact that Blunstone would come to be looked upon as the new Cliff Bastin after his move to Chelsea it is perhaps appropriate that he too began life as an inside left. When Harry Catterick arrived at Gresty Road as player manager, however, Blunstone was switched to outside left with great success, perhaps too much so for the clubs' own good. Blunstone's clever wing play, combined with a cool head and almost unnerving maturity marked him out as a real hot prospect with several big clubs taking an interest in his progress.
After little over a year in the first team at Crewe this interest culminated in a £7,500 bid from Chelsea and the eighteen year old winger was on his way to Stamford Bridge. Without completely nailing down a first team place on arriving at Chelsea, Blunstone was undoubtedly an immediate success. His probing wing play and accurate, intelligent use of the ball proved him capable of making an impact at the highest level and offered real promise of a successful future.
Chelsea were a struggling side on Blunstone's arrival but his first few seasons at the Bridge saw a dramatic upturn in the clubs fortunes and was a blur of personal glory for the new boy. At the end of his first season at the Bridge Chelsea finished only one point clear of relegation but the following year they climbed to eighth and the year after that, 1955, they stormed to a surprise league title, finishing four points clear of Blunstone's old suitors, Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Blunstone also represented the Football League during this period as well as winning England Under 23 and full caps.
Blunstone also impressed on his debut for the full England side, creating two of Roy Bentley's three goals in a 3-2 win over Wales.
It wasn't all glory and glamour at this time, however. When Chelsea clinched their first ever championship, Blunstone was half way through his National Service and spent his weeks cleaning out the officers toilets, in between starring on the wing for Chelsea and England. Chelsea could not sustain their rapid improvement and slipped back into mid table obscurity for the remainder of the fifties.
Blunstone was also denied the opportunity of playing European football at this time by the clubs' feeble acceptance of Football League advice not to take their rightful place in the newly formed European Cup.Blunstone's personal star also faded somewhat after sustaining a broken leg that cost him a vital half yard of pace. He was clever enough to remain a formidable first division opponent but his international prospects were undoubtedly harmed fatally.
Frank Blunstone would end his international career with just five caps, his last appearance coming in a 3-0 victory over Yugoslavia in November 1956. The highlight of his England career was undoubtedly the 7-2 thrashing of Scotland in April 1955 when Blunstone helped his inside partner, Wolverhampton's Denis Wilshaw, to four goals.
Although Chelsea had stopped challenging for honours they became an exciting team to watch and Blunstone's intelligent probing found a wonderful outlet in the late fifties with the emergence of the incredibly gifted goalscoring inside forward, Jimmy Greaves.
Things reached a real low at Stamford Bridge in 1961, however, when the club were drawn at home to Crewe, Blunstone's home town club, in the 3rd round of the FA Cup.
Crewe had lost to Spurs in the previous years' competition by a whopping 13-2 and another hiding in the capital was expected now. Despite Blunstone's first half goal, however, the avalanche never arrived and Crewe caught the train back to Cheshire with a famous and astonishing 2-1 victory under their belts.
This defeat was the last straw for the ambitious Greaves who left the club shortly afterwards for a brief Italian adventure with AC Milan and in 1962 Chelsea were relegated after finishing bottom of the first division.
Not everything was doom and gloom at the Bridge, however. Chelsea had won the FA Youth Cup in 1960 and now had a clutch of outstanding youngsters who would take the club forward towards its' golden spell in the late sixties and early seventies. Blunstone, still comfortably in his twenties, looked an ideal man to help nurture these youngsters along.
Chelsea were promoted back to the first division immediately with Blunstone finding another outstanding partner down the left hand side in Bobby Tambling. On returning to the first division the side immediately looked at home and Blunstone himself looked set for a glorious footballing dotage when another broken leg cut him down.
There was no coming back a second time for the man who Jimmy Greaves described as having "a heart the size of a cabbage" and in December 1964 Blunstone was forced to retire.
He remained at Stamford Bridge as coach before taking on the managers job at Brentford in 1969, transforming the debt ridden club into a solvent promotion outfit inside a year.
Frustrated by a lack of support from his chairman, however, Blunstone accepted the chance to join Tommy Docherty at Manchester United as assistant manager.
Blunstone's association with Docherty continued into the late 1970's when he eventually succeeded the Doc at Derby County as manager for a short period.
Despite his success and wanderings, Blunstone remained very definitely an unspoiled product of Crewe and would doubtless have been as pleased to be named on the Crewe & Nantwich Borough Council Sporting Roll of Honour in 1991 as he was to collect any of the honours that came his way during his playing career.
If you have any memories of Frank Blunstone that you'd like to share with us, please do so Here
Take a look at our other Player Profiles