THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF CHELSEA IN THE FA CUP
More FA Cup related archive contributions. This time Pete Bull took a moment to look back at recent campaigns before the 2002 Cup Final. He recalls the pleasure, pain and family bust-ups that they have caused him.
Being a Chelsea fan in the mid 1970s, the 1980s and the early part of the 1990s was a time when as a fan you could only ever dream of the Blues playing in an FA Cup final. The furthest that Chelsea got during that time was when we played Rottenham at Stamford Bridge in 1982 at the quarter-final stage.
Back in the good old days, it seemed that every game was played on a Saturday, and the excitement was unbearable. Well, for me, aged 14, it was unbearable. Chelsea were in the old second division. Spurs were in the first. We were languishing mid-table or lower – relegation fodder almost.
I remember that quarter-final Saturday for various reasons. My eldest brother had got me supporting Chelsea because we won the cup in 1970. I was born in 1967. My first recollection of supporting the team was in 1975. It was a sickening time for me because my bro had decided that as his wife’s family supported Spurs, he would too. I suppose it was so he could get those extra ‘treats’ from his wife. Who knows? Looking at the saggy old woman, I would not have gone anywhere near her or her family. Takes all sorts, I suppose.
As a youngster, seeing my brother wearing a ‘Tottenham, Pride of London’ sweatshirt made me feel very low. My brother had been my idol – someone I looked up to, someone who made me laugh. However, the sight of him wearing this made my world cave in. During that Saturday, I was continually checking Teletext for the score. At 0-0 it was agony, until Chelsea scored first. Everything felt amazing. Remember, as a 14-year-old you do not tend to think of what the final score could be. Chelsea ended up losing 3-2.
My brother, in his infinite wisdom, came round to my house that afternoon. He laughed because of the result – I cried. It was hard to take, having my own brother, who was my idol and started me supporting Chelsea, gloating over a Spurs win. That was what made me cry.
I worked with my brother for eleven years. He always claimed that he supported Chelsea during that time. However, a true Chelsea fan does not change his team overnight. I still consider him a Spurs fan – that is the way he will stay. I have not spoken to him properly for three years, although that is due to work and family matters. I am just happy that I no longer work with him, or the arrogant Spurs fans who also worked there.
I suppose that I am going to contradict myself here, and I am sure that you will think so too. Anyone remember 1994? This was a very strange year for me. I went to see Chelsea in their last game of the season against Sheffield United. We won 3-2, thanks to Mark Stein, and this sent United down. I bet you cannot guess who I went to see the game with? Yep, my bro. A week or so before that game I was told that I had to go into hospital – never a nice thing – because I had to have a major operation.
I had obviously followed Chelsea throughout their FA Cup run of 1994. The semi-final was a day that I will always remember. The 2-0 win against Luton, Gavin Peacock’s brace, the game played at Wembley and Kerry Dixon playing for the Hatters. Chelsea had progressed to their first final since 1970. I had waited almost twenty years to see a Chelsea team come out at Wembley in a final and that day was going to happen against Manchester United – shame it was not against Oldham.
The final was another day that stays etched in my memory. Thinking about it now brings a tear to my eye. It has to be one of the worst ever days in May that I can remember. Not only did it hammer it down with rain that day, but the result did not do much to help me. I suppose the only difference between 1982 and 1994 was the fact I was 27, not 14. The following day was even worse. I could not bring myself to read any papers. To this day I have never seen a replay of the 1994 final. This was the point when I thought I would never see Chelsea win a major trophy. How wrong I was.
As 1994 progressed, I knew that the operation I needed to have was getting closer. In the end I had the operation in October and it lasted six hours. It was meant to have taken sixty minutes. I stayed in hospital for a week. The look on my poor mum’s face, she must have thought that I had been through a marathon sex session with the anaesthetist – if only. During the next few years Chelsea made strides. We had Glenn Hoddle as manager and then Ruud Gullit in1996. In October of that year, Bolton knocked us out of the league cup. The next day I heard of the death of Matthew Harding on his way home after the match. October is not a happy month.
In 1997 I remember looking forward to the FA Cup third round draw. I had bought a flat and just remember us getting the home draw against West Brom. In 1994 we had been drawn against Barnet in the third round. I was at the ‘away’ game at Stamford Bridge. We drew that 0-0. Winning 3-0 against West Brom was a good start. The fourth round draw was another draw I remember. I was talking to a mate on the phone at the time only to see us drawn against Liverpool. From being talkative, he realised that I had gone very quiet. Another year without getting to a final, I thought.
The game against Liverpool has to be one of the all-time great comebacks by any Chelsea team. 0-2 down only to see Zola score a cracker, Sparky make it 2-2 and Luca score two to make the final score 4-2.
Round five saw Chelsea drawn away at Leicester. That day I had gone to see my nephew play football in Milton Keynes. What an omen – his team lost 9-0. Luckily enough, Chelsea drew 2-2 and got a replay at Stamford Bridge. The replay was touch and go. It looked as though the game was going to go to penalties until Erland Johnsen went down in the box. Frank Leboeuf stepped up and tucked the penalty away to make it 1-0.
It was at this point that I started to think that we could be heading back to Wembley. It was the feeling of excitement again. It was how I had felt when I had been 14, thinking that maybe we could make it, but if not, then that feeling would creep back and the lowness would eat away at me.
The quarter-final was at Portsmouth. I remember watching Football Focus and seeing a Portsmouth supporter who owned a pub in or around Portsmouth and had not taken her Christmas lights down because Pompey were having a great cup run. She thought that by taking the lights down she would ruin the run. It was not the lights love, it was Sparky, Wise and Zola. We won 4-1 and they were the ones who switched your lights off.
In the semi-final, Chelsea were made favourites to lift the FA Cup. The other three teams left in the competition were Chesterfield, Middlesbrough and our opponents, Wimbledon. I went to the pub with my dad to watch the game. He does not follow football but enjoys a beer or three, so it was good to have him there, to see Zola score that incredible goal and for us to win the game 3-0.
Would 1982 be exorcised? Would 1994 be exorcised? Final day came and it felt very different to1994. It was warmer for starters. I woke up and draped my Chelsea scarf over the curtain rail in my flat so that everybody could see which team I supported. I felt proud that we were there at Wembley again. You may not believe this, but I had dreamt that Chelsea would win the final 2-0. I also dreamt that Roberto Di Matteo would score the first goal.
Kick off came round at 3pm and 43 seconds later Roberto had written himself into the history books. The rest, as they say, is history. Suffice to say that Eddie Newton made it 2-0 in about the 83rd minute. The sheer relief when the final whistle blew. To see Chelsea fans dancing with delight, loving every minute of those celebrations, made everything in life worthwhile. From despair in 1994 to a feeling that I had never experienced before supporting Chelsea was quite incredible in 1997. Seeing Wisey lift the FA Cup, knowing that I had seen Chelsea win their first major trophy for 27 years, was incredible. A beautiful feeling that will live with me forever.
1997 to 2000 were years in Chelsea’s history that I am happy to have been alive to enjoy. The joy was wonderful. Winning the FA Cup again in 2000 almost felt like it was destined because we had won so much during the Luca era. Although the 2000 final was not the best, Chelsea made me proud again. Three times winners of the famous trophy.
This year’s FA Cup final defeat was a great shame, although Chelsea played really well. I cannot express how I felt again after the game – sadness? But I am sure that every Chelsea fan felt that way. I think that 1994 was far worse though. In my opinion, as the years go by you learn to take defeat better. I have to admit that they were great goals by Parlour and Ljungberg. Both came at a time when Arsenal had been under a lot of pressure.
The emotions in supporting Chelsea are fantastic. I love the club and believe that every fan goes through the same emotions with any club. However, being a Chelsea fan is special. Chelsea Football Club is very special and will forever hold memories. Although we lost the cup final this year, I can walk tall and say that through the years of supporting Chelsea I would never change my love for the team from Stamford Bridge, unlike a certain member of my family. What goes around comes around buster.