As Chelsea prepares for a chance at the FA Cup for a second time in three years, we look back at the magic of the Cup and Dennis Wise’s place in history.
In any normal era, Dennis Wise would have been Chelsea’s greatest captain ever. His arrival in 1990, for a then club record fee of £1.6 million, signaled the start of an era a 10-year-old John Terry could only dream of. JT, an apprentice at the time, was led and nurtured in those early days by Wise, something he discussed duringa recent fans forum.
Formerly a part of Wimbledon FC’s crazy gang—Google it, kids—Dennis had a steely reputation that would lend well to the playmakers that would eventually grace the Stamford Bridge turf with him. He joined under the management of Bobby Campbell when the Premier League was called Division One. Chelsea had only just recently been promoted from the league below. This really was at the start of something that would become momentous. Something we, as fans, could only dream of.
Campbell left to be replaced by Ian Porterfield and Chelsea continued to improve—little by little. As a quick aside on Cup Final day, Porterfield himself was no stranger to Cup Final glory. His goal for Sunderland in 1973 that sunk Leeds United will live long in the annals of FA Cup final history. Anyway, as Division One faded away to be replaced by the Premier League in 1992, Chelsea reached a heady fifth place. However, Porterfield’s side slumped to 11th the next season and he was relieved of his duties, before the season was finished, by then-owner Ken Bates. He was, in fact, the first Premier League manager to be sacked.
Another FA Cup hero pops up briefly at this point. David Webb, whose headerclinched the 1970 cup final win over, erm, Leeds United, was made manager for the remainder of the season. Webb steadied the ship and took Chelsea to a respectable 11th place finish. It was at this point that Mr. Bates, not always the most popular of owners, pulled a masterstroke. He made a move that was a real game changer as far as Chelsea were concerned.
Let’s not forget, because many do, this was around 10 years before Roman Abramovich arrived with his blank cheque book. Shocking to some at the time because of his heritage, former Spurs player, Glenn Hoddle was made player-manager ahead of the 1993 campaign. There can be no doubt Hoddle himself enjoyed his fair share of FA Cup glory during his true playing days, but I can’t look at that or discuss it here.
Hoddle wisely, excuse the pun, made Dennis captain and Chelsea was on the brink. Ultimately, Hoddle’s win ratio was poor (34 percent), but his stature attracted players like no one else had done before. The Blues struggled in the league that season, but made it to their first Cup Final for 24 years. The good times were just around the corner. However, they certainly weren’t on 14 May 1994 when Manchester United were the opponents.
There can’t be many of us ‘fans’ that have bothered reliving that fateful afternoon, but a quick delve into the archives of YouTube reveal things could have been so different had the well-named Gavin Peacock’s drive from outside the box gone in rather than rebound aggressively off the bar. That strike was as good as it got for Chelsea that soggy afternoon. Some agricultural defending by Eddie Newton saw the Blues concede a penalty and a push outside the box by Frank Sinclair on a United player was of course deemed to be inside by the referee and Chelsea were two penalties down. The game eventually ended 4-0.
Hoddle left in 1996 to become England manager, but not before he secured the vital signature of his eventual replacement as boss, Ruud Gullit. For the record, Gullit had no previous FA Cup credentials. The Dutchman was a footballing legend in his own lifetime though and a massive coup for Chelsea as the club looked to become a major force. His first season as player-manager in 1996/97 saw the club captain, and the hero of this story, Dennis Wise lift Chelsea’s first major trophy for 26 years.
Chelsea faced Middlesbrough and went into the game as favourites. Roberto di Matteo got us off to a flyer. Whilst Gavin Peacock’s thunderbolt thudded back off the bar in 94′, Robbie’s dipped nicely under it with just 42 seconds gone. The perfect start. Eddie Newton grabbed a second goal late on in what was a disappointing game overall. Of course, it was all about the result and silverware for a dusty trophy cabinet. Momentum was building rapidly.
The following season, Gullit was controversially sacked mid-season by Bates and Gianluca Vialli, who Ruud had coaxed to the club, was appointed as Chelsea’s third player-manager in a row. Through all this, Wise remained the constant as team captain. Under Vialli the Blues enjoyed their most successful period of the modern era. On this day of days though, we’ll skip past all that goodness to May 20 in the year 2000.
Wembley Stadium was about to be redeveloped, Chelsea had reached yet another Cup Final and there was still no Russian connection. Dennis Wise captained Chelsea in his third domestic showpiece final—Aston Villa was the opponent. The game was not the greatest, but in finals, it’s all about the result and that fell in Chelsea’s favour.
Whilst Man of the Match, Wisey had a goal disallowed for offside, it was di Matteo, on the score sheet again, who fired home a second half winner. The last final to be played at the old Wembley was won by Chelsea Football Club. Cup Final day is always to be savoured if your team is involved, but this tale of two captains has to end.
As Wise slowly made his way up the Wembley steps, young son Henry in his arms, way back in the queue for a medal was someone who was once just fit to clean the boots of Captain Dennis. A 19-year-old John Terry was making his first appearance in the final of the world’s oldest cup competition. In typical JT style, he didn’t take any part in the game—he was an unused substitute—but he was there in the celebratory aftermath.
Seven years later, when the final returned to London after a spell in Cardiff, it was our very own Captain, Leader, Legend that was lifting the trophy after we beat our 1994 foes, Manchester United, 1-0 to win once again as the whole story goes full circle.
That truly is the magic of the Cup.