TEAM HISTORY - 1990s

At the beginning of the new decade, money became available for our first £1 million-plus purchases, midfielders Andy Townsend and Dennis Wise, but the seasons that followed were frustrating. We failed to rise above mid-table and far, far too often were knocked out of the cups by lower league opposition. It was an embarrassing habit - giant-killed 13 times in just 12 seasons.

The football lacked panache and neither Campbell nor his successor Ian Porterfield stayed long.

In 1993 Glenn Hoddle was appointed to the manager's chair. Instantly the club's profile was raised and the quality of Chelsea's play improved, slowly at first but the momentum built towards an FA Cup Final appearance at the end of his first season.

Waiting at Wembley were Manchester United, a big occasion that came too early for this group of players. Chelsea lost 4-0 after a bright start. The scoreline was rather harsh.

The next year was one of progress again as Hoddle's tactics took a squad of limited size and ability to the European Cup Winners' Cup semi-finals, but his biggest contribution came in the summer that followed.

With the future of Stamford Bridge now secure, extra funds were available. A player of the very highest reputation was needed to kick-start the club and Hoddle was the magnet that persuaded Dutch legend Ruud Gullit to leave Italy for west London.

Another coup followed when we signed striker Mark Hughes from Man United. With the purchase of Romanian international wing-back Dan Petrescu soon after, flowing, passing football was back on the menu.

In just one season, Gullit was already being labelled Chelsea's best player ever and when Hoddle departed to become England manager in the summer of 1996, there was no-one better placed to take over than the ex-World Player of the Year.

Using his European knowledge and contacts, Gullit brought in famous Italian striker Gianluca Vialli, quickly followed by the Italian international midfielder Roberto Di Matteo and French sweeper Frank Leboeuf. Gianfranco Zola - another superstar of Serie A - was signed a few months later.

The FA Cup Final was reached in thrilling fashion and this time Chelsea were ready.

It took Di Matteo just 43 seconds, a Wembley Cup Final record, to fire his side ahead. Homegrown Eddie Newton sealed a 2-0 win over Middlesbrough in the second-half. A long 26 year wait for honours was over and what followed were the longest celebrations seen in the history of the famous old stadium.

Sadly not present was Matthew Harding, a lifelong supporter and young millionaire who had become vice-chairman. He had died in a helicopter accident when returning from a game a few months earlier. His legacy is the stand at the north end of Stamford Bridge, a construction he played a big part in financing and now bears his name.

The team was strengthened once more in the summer as Chelsea were quick to exploit the 'post-Bosman' transfer market. Gullit's eye for talent was as good as any manager in Chelsea history as inspirational midfield goalscorer Gustavo Poyet and young Norwegian striker Tore Andre Flo were snapped up for next to nothing.

Added were Celestine Babayaro, England left-back Graeme Le Saux - returning to the club where he had first broken into the game - and goalkeeper Ed de Goey. All five would play a major part in the seasons that followed.

The next campaign was another historic one although Gullit was not to survive it. After new contract talks broke down in early 1998, he was replaced from within by Vialli.

Three months later Vialli already had two trophies to his name. Middlesbrough, again, were beaten 2-0 in the Coca Cola Cup Final with another youth product, Frank Sinclair, and Di Matteo the scorers.

Then in Stockholm, over 20,000 Chelsea fans saw Zola rise from the bench to score the only goal against Stuttgart and secure the European Cup Winners' Cup for a second time.

In the summer that followed, Frank Leboeuf was in the France team that won the World Cup. His central defensive partner in the Final, Marcel Desailly had just weeks before signed for Chelsea. Our profile on the world stage was rising all the time.

It was shades of 1971 once more as mighty Real Madrid were defeated to win the European Super Cup in Monaco, Poyet finding the net.

The season that followed saw our first genuine challenge for the English League title since the 1960s. We were to finish third, four points behind winners Man United having lost only three games. De Goey set a new Chelsea record for clean sheets in a season.