Rick Glanvill is a recognisable name amongst Chelsea fans, having penned the club’s official centenary biography and the ‘History in Pictures’ book, and then gone on to be the club’s first official historian. Here CFCnet chats to Glanvill as he opens up on the perks of his job, his secret to finding those stats and the day he sang a duet with Salomon Kalou.
What is your first memory of being a Chelsea fan?
Being at Stamford Bridge with my family in the north stand, where my dad thought it would be a bit quieter for a toddler (me), my older brother and mother. Like everyone I was impressed by the noise and dynamics of the crowd and the grandeur of the old Stamford Bridge. That was 1963/4.
How did you get your job as a Chelsea historian?
I had written several books on Chelsea and worked for the programme and Onside since 1992/3. I was given the honour of writing the centenary histories ‘Chelsea FC: The Official Biography’ and ‘A History In Pictures’, in 2005 and 2006. The club must have liked them because I was appointed the club’s first ever official historian after that.
What is an average day at the club for you?
I work from home most of the time. During the season I’m usually working on upcoming pre-match briefings for the club website (which Paul Dutton and I spend on average a day and half to research). I also answer all sorts of queries sent to me each week. These range from questions about past matches to genealogical inquiries from descendants of former players (I’m also a family historian).
Chelsea is my full-time compulsion but not my full-time employment, however. I’m a writer and researcher on music and history too, so my days are pretty full with all sorts of projects.
What is the highlight of your job?
I love writing the pre-match briefings and interviewing players/managers, but I’d say finding out something about our club’s history that has been forgotten or never told gives me the greatest thrill. I was delighted recently to identify a previously unseen video clip of our ‘Great Dane’ Nils Middelboe in action in 1918 – it’s mis-catalogued in the British Pathé archive. I really enjoyed working on the new museum too. That video clip is on show there.
Do you have close contact with any big names at the club? Do the players know your name?
I don’t spend as much time these days at the training ground but still know quite a few of the present squad, especially Frank Lampard. I call him the History Man, and email him stats about his career milestones, and he’s always grateful. Salomon Kalou and I once duetted a song by Ivory Coast musician Alpha Blondy live on Chelsea TV.
Do you have any requests from players/managers for stats?
They have plenty of people to do the stats they need. I mentioned the data I send to Frank; Carlo and José both said kind things about my books.
How do you go about collecting all the statistics for your match reports?
Thankfully official statistician Paul Dutton does the vast majority of these; I always try to find a few ‘specials’ though. These sometimes just come to YOU as ideas, or you spot a trend and observe it over a period of months before putting it into print. I’m not into stats for stats’ sake, however. They have to be meaningful. Some people obsess over ‘possession’ or ‘pass completion’ — there’s a lot more to football than metrics. That’s why I try to attend every game, home and away.
How does the archive work at Chelsea? Is there a video vault?
Ha ha! When I was appointed historian in 2005 there was one old ledger and very little else in the ‘archive’. It’s a tragedy and a disgrace that so much of our heritage was sold off years ago. We’re fortunate that Mr Abramovich has massive respect for the club’s history and past players. I have a personal video vault of very old material on various archives.
What’s your favourite stat that you pull out at parties?
Normally, to shut some Liverpool or Arsenal oaf up, that Chelsea have eight times been the most popular club in all England on average attendance over a season, and that the Chelsea-Leeds FA Cup replay in 1970 has the highest UK TV viewing figures of all time for a club match.
What’s your favourite Chelsea memory?
1970 FA Cup replay, Ossie’s goal, or Frank’s second at Bolton in 2005. Since Alan Green, live on air, chastised me for celebrating wildly in the press box at the Reebok, I’ll go for that.