Monday, January 2, 2012

The curse of Chelsea's number 9

When reading this, you’ve got to consider a couple of things. Firstly, the fact that Football fans like myself and all of you can often become so brainless that we become superstitious about things regarding the teams we support. We’re fickle. We know it. We accept it. Carry on. Now, this article is based on nothing more than some facts and a belief that superstition has its role in Football. I’m not a Chelsea fan, far from it, but I've always noticed Chelsea's number 9s to be players who made little, or no, impact at all. So, I looked back on the histories of the players who have worn the number 9 at Stamford Bridge during the Premier League era and I noticed a trend; a "curse" if you will – keep reading to find out more.

Secondly, you've got to consider that the statistics (numbers, not apps/goals - which are only based on the league) below are all taken from the period when Premier League numbers became fixed – meaning from the start of the 1993/94 season. Prior to that season, players would wear different numbers during different games without names at the back. There were preferences for certain numbers, but they were usually chosen based on the positions certain players would play during a match.  Anyways, don’t condemn me for not mentioning some Chelsea greats who have donned the number 9 shirt at Stamford Bridge in the past such as Kerry Dixon, Roy Bentley or Peter Osgood – as explained above, you know the reasons why. This article is based purely on Premier League data.

So, with Torres still firing blanks a year after his record breaking move from Liverpool, how did the other number 9s at Chelsea fare before his arrival? For some of you out there, you might remember that when these players were signed there was always a few common factors between some of them, not all of them:

Hefty price tags; Huge, or great, expectations; a history of banging goals for their previous clubs; expected to be the “next big thing"...etc


1993/1994 – Tony Cascarino
A talisman for Gillingham and Millwall, the “fake” Irishman joined Chelsea from Celtic in 1992, and barely had the impact that was excepted of him.
40 apps, 8 goals


1994/1996 – Mark Stein
Signed by Glenn Hoddle in October 1993 for a relatively big price tag at the time, £1.6 million, but didn’t wear the number 9 until Cascarino had left. His record at Chelsea wasn’t so poor, and he had his low points at the club. However, with Chelsea going for bigger name signings with the arrival of Gullit and co, Stein was unable to regain his form and place in the side, which he had lost due to injuries beforehand. For his final two seasons at the club, he became nothing more than a reserve and never broke back into the side. It's important to note, that 13 of his goals in his Chelsea career, in his prolific first season at the club, came when he wasn't wearing the number 9.
50 apps, 21 goals


1996/1999 – Gianluca Vialli
Recognized for his shiny bald head, he joined the club for a fee of 1 million from Juventus where he had left his mark as captain of the Turin side. However, at Chelsea, despite some good performances, he constantly argued and fought with then manager Ruud Gullit and was often put on the bench. This caused him to ultimately take over as player-manager once Gullit had been sacked in February 1998. There is no doubt that Vialli was a good player, and is considered by some as a Chelsea legend, but he never lived up to the goalscoring expectations put on his mature shoulders.
50 apps, 21 goals 


1999/2000 – Chris Sutton

The ultimate failure of all number 9s at Chelsea. Part of the “SAS” (Shearer and Sutton) strikeforce that won the title for Blackburn Rovers in 1994/95, he joined Chelsea in a huge £10 million move in the summer of 1999. His stay only lasted a season. He was unable to do anything of note and was offloaded to Celtic the following summer.
29 Apps, 1 goal 


2000/2004 – Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
The exception that proves the rule. That's how the saying goes, doesn't it? A Chelsea legend. Joining from Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2000 to replace Sutton, it was his second spell in English Football following a successful period with Leeds United; an undoubted force up front for the Blues, and the main reason why this number 9 “curse” seems to exist.
136 apps, 70 goals


2004/2005 – Mateja Kezman
Many opposition fans were shitting themselves when he joined Chelsea, myself included. At PSV he scored 105 goals in 122 games and was being spoken about as the next great striker in Europe. Under the tutelage of Mourinho, we could be forgiven for expecting him to become one of the best strikers around. But it wasn’t to be. He spent only one season there and failed to make any sort of impact. He went on to move to various clubs around the world and was never able to find the form that turned him into hot property back in 2004.
25 apps, 4 goals


2005/2006 – Hernan Crespo
I feel it's a bit unfair to include him in here, but given his statistics elsewhere, he's a valid inclusion. He wasn't always the number 9 at Chelsea in his spell there. He only had the number for one season which wasn’t his most prolific, spending most of his time on the bench. Prior to that, he was wearing the number 21 at the club and performed better. His time at Chelsea was somewhat successful but he was never able to settle in England despite his efforts. He was loaned to AC Milan for one season, then returned back to Chelsea for another season and then finally left to Inter Milan.
49 apps, 20 goals


2006/2007 – Khalid Boulharouz
The Dutch defender joined from Hamburg for a fee of around 8.5 million. The number 9 was given to him as it happened to be an available number, and not because of his "striking prowess" as defenders don't wear those type of numbers. However, despite being a defender, he barely started any games and had no impact in his solitary season at the club, he was then shipped off on loan to Sevilla the following season.
13 apps, 0 goals


2007/2008 – Steve Sidwell
Remember when everyone thought he'd become brilliant? He joined from Reading on a free after refusing to sign a new contract at the club and was expected to push his way into the first team following a hugely successful season patrolling the midfield at the Madejski stadium. However, he was unable to break into the first-team at Chelsea and struggled whenever he played. He was sold the next summer and has never been able to find the form that made him such a hit at Reading.
15 apps, 0 goals.


2008/2009 – Franco Di Santo
Big expectations on young shoulders. He barely did anything at Stamford Bridge and was loaned out the following season to Blackburn where he scored once in 23 appearances. I don't think he has anything to do with the "curse", but rather the fact that he's just rubbish anyways.
8 apps, 0 goals.

2009/2010 – No number 9, Chelsea are crowned Champions…Hmmm.


2010- present – Fernando Torres
The best £50 million Liverpool will ever make. He left Anfield in January 2011 under rather bizarre and, according to him, strange reasons that “the fans don’t know about”, he was expected to be the final piece of the jigsaw to make the Chelsea machine steam-roll into another title challenge and become the most feared side in Europe. Fast forward one year, and cue the Torres jokes, the striker who was scoring goals for fun at Atletico Madrid and Liverpool, now looks like a shadow of his former self and seems desperate to score every time he gets on the pitch, even though he starts on the bench very often.

Time will tell whether Torres can recapture his form, but given the track record of Chelsea’s previous number 9s during the Premier League era, I would say that doesn't look likely. Maybe, it's a coincidence that all of Chelsea's number 9s in the Premier League era, besides for Hasselbaink, have failed. Maybe it's superstition. Maybe it's luck. Whatever it is, I think the stats speak for themselves. 

(I love being superstitious and finding a good "consiparcy theory" of some sort, but I repeat this is just a trend I noticed. Take it light-heartedly. Now watch Torres prove me wrong and go score 100 goals or something in the coming year or two. I hope not, though. Oh and a special mention to Andriy Shevchenko who should have been mentioned in this list, but wore number 7).


  1. I'd love to see Torres back at Liverpool...

  2. Chris Sutton scored a memorable hat-trick against Manchester United in 2000 in a 5-0 hammering. That's something of note, you know

    1. No he didn't, he scored once. The other 4 were Poyet's 2, Berg OG & Morris

  3. I wouldn't consider Crespo a failure. Many Chelsea fans agree. He didn't settle in the UK but scored and assisted regularly.

  4. I really like your angle on the number 9 shirt. :) But could this also be a total curse of three London-clubs(Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal)?

    I mean, besides Hasselbaink, Berbatov and Anelka. Who has made a great impact at those clubs wearing number 9 since the establishment of the Premier League? ;)

  5. i dont think so if Vialli

  6. My Name is Tijani oyeleke. also @lakeside801 on twitter. I' m so delighted about this article. I have noticed this for a long time, even had a hot arguement with friends and my wife. i pray that it is not a curse wearing jersey No 9 for my darling team, chelsea.
    Many Thanks for speaking my mind.

  7. 99 vs 9 is like 7 vs 10

  8. best 50m Liverpool ever made....until now ;P

  9. Hasselbaink, Crespo and Vialli did well, I Think'! :) Hasselbaink became our Topscore when he was sold to Middlesbrough and Crespo Scored Important goals'! :)

  10. Find out what you're afraid of and go live there.