My first live game watching my beloved Chelsea was on the opening day of the 1990/91 season against Derby County at Stamford Bridge. On that day, I got to see Chelsea’s first million pound players make their debuts in Dennis Wise and Andy Townsend who had arrived from Wimbledon and Norwich City respectively. The season started brightly for The Blues but unfortunately, we fell away as the season progressed and ended up finishing in 11th position which resulted in manager Bobby Campbell being relieved of his dugout duties at the end of the season and was replaced by Ian Porterfield.
Another former member of the ‘Crazy Gang’ joined the squad in the summer of 1991 in the shape of midfield hard man and future Hollywood star, Vinnie Jones. Other new additions included imposing central defender Paul Elliott who arrived at Stamford Bridge from Glasgow Celtic fresh after winning the Scottish Footballer of the Year award in his last season at Parkhead.
Going out in the other direction that summer was popular left back Tony Dorigo who moved to Leeds United after making 180 appearances for Chelsea and scoring 11 goals. Another player leaving Stamford Bridge that summer was popular frontman Gordon ‘Dukebox’ Durie who joined London rivals Spurs after stating he wanting to leave to go closer to his family in Scotland.
As with the previous season, Chelsea started off positively and the team was looking in good shape, positioned sixth in the table until February. Unfortunately, it all went sour after February with us only picking up three wins from our remaining 15 matches which left us finishing the season in 14th place.
Chelsea raided Carrow Road again when they signed Scotland striker Robert Fleck from Norwich City for a reported £2.1m but unlike Townsend who arrived two seasons before him turned out to be a flop scoring just four goals in 48 appearances. Thankfully, Chelsea signed another Scot striker that transfer window in the shape of wee John Spencer who was a free transfer from Glasgow Rangers and become one of my personal favourites at the time.
Chelsea started the Premier League era in great form and was up to 2nd place after 19 games but an incredible roll of 12 games without a win cost Ian Porterfield his job after a home defeat to Aston Villa. He became the first manager to be sacked in the new Premier League era and he was replaced by former Chelsea legend Dave Webb. Webby steadied the ship and steered us away from a relegation battle but at the end of the season his contract was not renewed and former Spurs legend Glenn Hoddle took the hot seat to the surprise of the sceptical fans.
Player manager Hoddle brought in Gavin Peacock and Mark Stein who turned out to be two very good signings and both scored 14 goals each that season but despite that we still finished in a disappointing 14th position. The highlight of 93/94 season was the great FA Cup run and reaching Wembley for first time in years but the less said about the final the better after losing to Man United 4-0 (that bloody crossbar).
The big money signing that summer was striker Paul Furlong from Watford who arrived for £2.3m alongside David ‘Rocky’ Rocastle who was recruited from Man City for £1.25m. It was another disappointing league campaign, finishing 11th but the highlight of the season was the return to European football after a 27 year absence. Being FA Cup finalists meant we qualified for the Cup Winners Cup and we had a decent run before losing in the Semi’s to Real Zaragoza.
Wow!! I can remember reading Teletext in disbelief. We were signing footballing superstar Ruud Gullit from Sampdoria and Mark ‘Sparky’ Hughes from Man Utd. Add to that the signing of Romanian attacking full-back Dan Petrescu from Sheff Weds and you could forgive me for being optimistic about the season ahead. The football was much better that season and in my opinion it was the major turning point when these two big signings arrived at Stamford Bridge and set the tone for what was to follow.
However, it was another mid table finish in the league and defeat to the all-conquering Man Utd again in the FA Cup Semi’s of FA Cup! At the end of the season, Glenn Hoddle became England manager and although Bates wanted George Graham as manager he succumbed to the fans by appointing Ruud Gullit player manager the one who the Blue’s faithful wanted.
Dutchmen Gullit brought ‘Sexy Football’ to Chelsea as it was known back then. The new manager had been very busy in the summer recruiting stars from all across Europe including Gianfranco Zola, Roberto Di Matteo, Frank Lebouef and Gianluca Vialli ahead of the new season. The investment certainly paid dividends as we ended up 6th in the league but that season will always be remembered for that special day at Wembley winning the FA Cup. I can gladly say ‘I was there when Dennis Wise went up to lift the FA Cup’ such a special day which will live with every Chelsea fan forever. It was a truly great season but with one tragic loss, Chelsea Director Matthew Harding R. I. P
More top signings continued to arrive in the shape of Gus Poyet from Real Zaragoza, Ed de Goey from Feyenoord and Tore Andre Flo from Brann. Former Chelsea player Graeme Le Saux also returned home from Blackburn Rovers. Chairman Ken Bates sacked Gullit halfway through the season after a dispute and replaced him with Italian striker Vialli as player-manager. That didn’t hamper success thankfully as the Blues finished 4th in the Premier League and lifted the Coca-Cola Cup and the European Cup Winners Cup.
Building on success, Ken Bates backed Gianluca Vialli in the summer with more new arrivals including French World Cup Winner Marcel Desailly from AC Milan, Italian striker Pierluigi Casiraghi from Lazio and Albert Ferrer from Barcelona to help Chelsea continue the success. A 3rd place Premier League finish secured our first Champions league qualification. European success also included winning the European Super Cup against the mighty Real Madrid.
Another FA Cup win and the last at the old Wembley secured our 4th trophy in four seasons. What a transformation the 90s were for Chelsea with incredible times, I loved every minute of it, from these times we continued to build to become the elite club we are today and attracted Mr Abramovic to continue the rise
Thanks for reading.
Chelsea Lookback @1jameschelsea