Back to the future

The FA Cup fourth-round draw means we take on Sheffield Wednesday or Luton Town, two prospective ties which immediately take us back to our run to the final in 1994.

Wembley Stadium has become the equivalent of a second home for Chelsea. Since the famous ground reopened in 2007, the Blues have been frequent visitors – and the majority of the time we’ve returned to SW6 either victorious in a semi-final or with another trophy to add to the collection.

It seems incredible, then, to think that when the Blues played there twice in 1994 FA Cup run, we were making our first trip to the stadium to compete for the world’s oldest club competition in almost a quarter of a century, led by our forward-thinking new player-manager, Glenn Hoddle.

To get there, though, we had to see off two sides who we will shortly become reacquainted with, after the draw for the next round of this season’s competition put us up against either Sheffield Wednesday or Luton.

It was the former who we met first on our quest for glory in 1994. Back then, the Owls were established in the English top flight and were seen as cup specialists after reaching the final of both the FA and League Cup the previous season, albeit falling to Arsenal at the last hurdle of both competitions.

We’d needed a replay to see off lowly Barnet in the third round, and so it would be the case again after we welcomed Wednesday to the Bridge. Although the Blues took the lead through Gavin Peacock, who had been teed up by Steve Clarke after a barnstorming run by the Scottish full-back, Graham Hyde levelled for the visitors to ensure we’d do it all again at Hillsborough.

Once again we led, this time through John Spencer, but Mark Bright’s leveller ensured extra time would be needed to separate the sides. Peacock proved to be the hero, scoring from Mark Stein’s knock-down and then setting up Craig Burley to seal it with five minutes remaining.

If the name of Peacock seems to be cropping up a lot in this blog, it’s because our charge towards FA Cup glory was being led by a midfielder who had only joined us the previous season from Newcastle United.

His maiden campaign at the Bridge included the winner in home and away 1-0 victories over Manchester United, and by the time our FA Cup semi-final against Luton Town at Wembley Stadium came around, he’d scored in every round other than our fifth-round win over Oxford United.

There was the added narrative of Blues legend Kerry Dixon lining up for the Hatters that day, receiving a standing ovation from the supporters who had cheered him on for the best part of a decade as he scored 193 times for the club.

However, it was Peacock who stole the headlines once again, scoring either side of half-time to send the Blues into our first final since 1970.

‘With it being at Wembley it was extra special,’ said the two-goal hero in an interview with the Chelsea programme years later. ‘What a great day! From moving to Chelsea nine months before and then we were in a cup final and flying. Personally, it was a great day at Wembley and one that never happened again for me, so it’s extra special.’

As for Hoddle, he had his sight set on bigger and better things than a run to the final.

'I've felt that it was our year since the third round,’ he said after the game. 'You just get a hunch. I've had strong feelings all along, but kept them to myself until now. I've been a winner at every club I've had, and my sights are set.’

Alas, we lost 4-0 to Manchester United in the final on a rainy day at Wembley Stadium. Even so, it was an indication that the good times were coming back to SW6, even if we had to wait a few more years for another Blue Day in the FA Cup final.

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