Season 1993/1994

I guess it is easy to look at this season through rose tinted glasses but in reality it had as many lows as highs though, to be fair, Rome wasn't built in a day ! Pre-season hopes were raised when Chelsea stuffed Spurs 4-0 in the Makita Tournament with a hatrick from Tony Cascarino. An eager crowd of just under 30,000 turned up at the Bridge on the opening day but the emerging Blackburn Rovers won the three points (2-1) despite a debut goal from Gavin Peacock.

Peacock beats Schmeichel to end Man United's unbeaten run

The only win in 6 was a 2-0 victory over QPR with a fine second from Tony Cascarino (although we were cheated from victory at White Hart Lane where Teddy Sherringham's late dive merited a good 5.9, 5.9, 5.9 to gain a penalty & steal a 1-1 draw) but then on 11th September 1993 over 37,000 turned up for the final game to be played in front of the old North end terrace. Chelsea beat leaders Man United with a first half Peacock strike. Two weeks later a 1-0 win over Liverpool, when Grobbelaar spilled young Neil Shipperley's shot over the line, took Chelsea to 12th place but it was as high as we would get all season ! From October, an appalling run of 6 straight league defeats started, culminating in a 2-0 home defeat to Arsenal. Strangely this was our first home loss to Arsenal since the mid 70's ! The day was so cold that Dave Gale famously walked out of the Shed at half time. I told him to wrap up a bit more !

By this time, with a goalless Fleck stagnant in the reserves, Shipperley and Cascarino struggling to find the net, Hoddle shelled out 1.5M for Mark Stein. The goals still failed to materialize and, after a freezing Monday night's 0-0 vs Man City (which I thankfully missed due an early Xmas party), two more goalless defeats followed with the wonderful Graeme Le Saux strike at Ewood Park being particularly painful to stomach. After a Johnsen/Kharine mix-up led to more home dropped points against Ipswich Town, we dropped to 21st place after crashing 3-1 to the Saints at Christmas, where the one-time wine waiter Frankie Bennett lashed in the 3rd at The Dell. Dear oh dear.

Mark Stein strikes early at the Shed end to beat Newcastle United

The only bright spark at The Dell was that Mark Stein finally scored in his eighth game. The following day, at the Bridge, Stein netted again as Chelsea beat high flying Newcastle 1-0. In the last game of 1993, Chelsea gave signs of good times ahead. Craig Burley was starting to feature and he would become a regular fixture alongside the likes of Eddie Newton and Jakob Kjeldbjerg. Consecutive wins over Swindon (3-1) and Everton (4-2) hoisted the Blues to 17th and Barnet were despatched in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup after a replay (both at the Bridge). In the 4th round, Sheffield Wednesday cancelled out both Peacock's opener and surely Chelsea's hopes of any success. It was enough for me to respond to an advert for Touchdown's 18 day "East to West" mega-trip across the USA scheduled for April into May. Not much need now to be around for FA Cup Final day, I smugly thought.

Well, Chelsea only went up to Hillsborough and won the replay 3-1, after extra-time. Doh. This set up a 5th Round clash at the Manor Ground & I can still remember queueing hours for tickets in the snow ! The trip Oxford was a absolute stormer with Anselm, Jas, Steve, Rinaldo and myself trying to stay calm as firstly Oxford took the lead and then their late penalty crashed against the bar but the Blues went through 2-1.

Anselm, Steve & Jas (circled) look on as Craig Burley puts us 2-1 up at Oxford

Next up was a televised home game over Spurs where, with away fans being charged 25 to sit in the East Stand upper, the crowd was under 20,000 - after Spurts had taken an early 2-0 lead, the Blues fought back to lead 3-2 at the break. By now John Spencer had forced his way into the side and was scoring crucial goals. An amazing second half saw action galore at both ends, two Spurs penalties (of which one was missed) and then a last minute penalty at the Shed End, which Mark Stein duly hammered in to win the game 4-3. The following week, Rinaldo & myself headed up to Old Trafford where Gavin Peacock scored the only goal to cap a memorable double over United.

Next week, it sure was FA Cup fever at Stamford Bridge. With Wolves at home in the 6th Round and the first apperance of the mighty Blue Flag. Financed by those crazy peeps at the CISA (Chelsea Independent Supporters Association), this flag proved we were the PRIDE OF LONDON. Peacock's strike, in front of 29,000 fans, took us through to an FA Cup Semi Final at Wembley Stadium. By now, it was playing on my mind that my imminent trip to the USA might mean that I miss something rather special, so the game aganist Luton Town would be my "Cup Final" ! Three successive 2-0 home wins over Wimbledon, West Ham and Southampton kept us in healthy lower mid-table league position as the visit Wembley beckoned.

With visits in 1986 and 1990 (via the Full Members and ZDS Cup), we were not overawed by the experience as we came up against a Luton side that had knocked out Newcastle & West Ham. Ironically, we were to face Kerry Dixon but the legand received a fantastic reception from the Chelsea fans throughout, as two Gavin Peacock goals took us through to the FA Cup Final. On the Sunday, I flew off to Dublin with Ryanair to see Killing Joke and watched the Oldham vs Man United tie from the departure lounge at Stansted. Of course, Mark Hughes levelled in the final minutes to take the game to a replay and I mused over the fact that Oldham had done the League double over us, whilst we had done the double over United. Not the last time, the word DOUBLE would be uttered ! By now United had won the replay and, with them edging past Blackburn in the League, European football was a distinct possibility whatever happened at Wembley in May.

Cup Final ? Wot Cup Final ? With 188FS at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico - Thu 12th May 1994

The day after a 2-0 home midweek win over Swindon, I headed off to Gatwick to meet up with my fellow Touchdown travellers, and duly met Steve Rush who would be my fellow room-mate and me his co-driver for the next 18 days. By some strange coincidence our mammoth trip across the USA would end at Davis Montham (AMARC), a mecca for aircraft enthusiasts, on the day that Chelsea played Manchester United in the FA Cup Final. Whilst we carved our way across the States (and I had the time of my life), I found out that Robert Fleck had scored at Maine Road (2-2), we lost at home to Coventry in front of less than 9,000 fans then relegated Sheffield United in the final League game of the season at the Bridge. United had broke clear to land their second consecutive title and they would be going for the double. I was as far away from it all as possible. On the Saturday in Arizona it was very hot with a clear blue sky and I just indulged myself as we took a 3 hour private tour through AMARC - hundreds of A7's, over a thousand F4's, stacks of A10's, F111's & KC135's and over 350 B52's. What an amazing sight. Then I rang home.

No better place to be than at AMARC & the Pima Museum, Arizona, USA - Sat 14th May 1994

An even game. Peacock hit the bar. Then on the hour, David Ellerey gave the first of 2 penalties. As the rain poured down, Sinclair slipped and Mark Hughes netted a third before United broke away in injury time & McClair tapped in a 4th. It was hardly a fair scoreline but that's football.

Season 1994/1995

A summer of much change. On the one hand the new North Stand was rising, the Shed had closed but a 4,000 capacity temporary stand had been erected at the South end and right next to pitch ! A completely new experience for us Shed enders ! In came Paul Furlong (2.3M), David Rocastle (1.25M) and Scott Minto (775K), all of whom would be invaluable "English" players during the imminent ECWC campaign. Apart from Paul Elliott finally accepting the inevitable, the only major departures were Donaghy & Cascarino. Chelsea won their first 3 games, including a rare 3-2 win at Leeds. Despite a setback at Newcastle, we packed into the temporary South Stand for Victoria Zizkov and bizarrely Chelsea were 2 up in 4 minutes. The Czechs hit back and were level before the break but legendary second half strikes from Rocastle and Wise gave us a good cushion for the away leg.

Your humble scribe (circled) celebrates as Spenny opens the scoring vs Leceister

Chelsea safely negotiated the away tie at Jablonec and a week or so later we managed another 2 in the first 4 minutes against Leicester City (winning 4-0). The ECWC 2nd round tie at home to Austria Vienna (or "Memphis" as they were ridiculously called at the time) was a frustrating 0-0 and then after some deliberation, Rinaldo and myself ditched any notion of flying to Vienna, consulted the chaps and five of us drove down to Vienna in the Saab. Lovely. This was a corking trip. Many thanks to Rinaldo & his mum for putting up with us. John Spencer's goal was legendary. Check out some photos here. Vienna was my first trip abroad to follow Chelsea FC - over the next few years, these trips would occur on a regular basis.

The season continued with the ECWC a prime focus and who could forget the classic 2-0 victory over FC Bruges which was screened live by the BBC. We were drenched in the uncovered temporary Shed End stand as Mark Stein and Paul Furlong scored the goals to take us through after a 1-0 first leg deficit. Unfortunately the Semi-Final first leg in Zaragoza (which I watched as a beamback in the recently opened Matthew Harding Stand) was a total disaster and left Chelsea with little hope for the return leg but despite conceding an equaliser early in the second half, to completely destroy our chances, we managed to go out with heads held high, winning 3-1 on the night but losing 3-4 on aggregate despite the first leg mauling (both on and off the pitch).

So, with the season ending with us wondering what might have been, who could have foretold what a completely mental end it actually was to be. The ECWC final ended in utterly bizarre circumstances as former Spurs player Nayim launched a speculative lob over a retreating Seaman from just within his own half in the dying seconds of extra time. I can remember now leaping around the living room screaming with utter exhilaration. What made it even more crazy was that a few days later Arsenal had to play their final game of the season at Stamford Bridge. Oh yes, we were there, in the temporary Shed End stand. "Let's all do the Seaman, let's all do the Seaman, la la la la" we howled ... whilst manically wiggling our arms about above our heads. Classic.

Little did we know what surprises the summer would bring. The following season 1995/1996 ended up as Hoddle's final one in charge as he was destined to take up the England manager's job but the summer of 1995 saw the unexpected arrival of Mark Hughes and Ruud Gullit. The club was stepping up a gear with a smart new Umbro home kit and a world superstar on the pitch. Chelsea Football Club would never quite be the same again. The FA Cup Semi-Final defeat in 1996 was hard to stomach at the time, but Chelsea Football Club had moved to a higher level and even with the tragic demise of director, lifelong supporter and potential future chairman Matthew Harding, the club now had a firm belief (with quality players to match) and the supporters sensed great pride in how the club's fortunes had been restored. Of course, Gullit's arrival was a catalyst for others to arrive. The list is long and well documented in many places.

So, no further commentary is required from this point but I may post up some photos from our trips when I get the time.

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