How does it feel to be Chelsea’s match-winner in a League Cup final? We found out from a former favourite of the Blues faithful.
Frank Sinclair was a Jack-of-all trades defender whose love for the club and never-say-die attitude made him a cult hero at Stamford Bridge.
Having joined as an 11-year-old, he fulfilled his ambition to wear the No3 shirt of his hero, Joey Jones, and followed in the Welshman’s footsteps by winning the Player of the Year award.
However, there is little doubt when it comes to his finest hour, which came in his last appearance in a Blues shirt, when he netted in our 1998 League Cup final triumph over Middlesbrough.
How does it feel to secure silverware for your boyhood club? Over to you, Frank...
‘I'd given absolutely everything in this game and then, with normal time coming to an end, Luca Vialli took off Dan Petrescu and put me to right wing-back. I was knackered. I just thought to myself, “What is he doing? How am I going to get through extra time?”
‘Then, five minutes after the end of normal time, Paul Gascoigne played a loose pass and I picked it up and played the ball into Gianfranco Zola. Dennis Wise made a run out wide and Zola slotted him in. I was on auto-pilot, I just kept going. As I started running into the box, I had a vision of what Wisey was going to do. I'd seen him do it in training so many times – if he was struggling to get to a ball, he'd do that cross where he fell over. I saw his loose touch, and Wisey wasn't the quickest, so I knew what was coming and I pictured it in my head. I was probably the only one in the box anticipating it, and he put it on a plate for me.
‘A lot of my goals were headers, I could get a lot of power behind the ball and I had a good leap for my height, which is five foot nine. I met the ball at its highest point and headed it down. I couldn't get power on it because of how it was floated in, so I just had to make it awkward for the keeper – and that's by heading it down. It went in – and I was buzzing! I knew I had to celebrate, you get that tingle in your stomach when you score a goal, but I was too tired. I ran for a little bit and then just collapsed. All I remember was Gianfranco Zola jumping on top of me shouting, “Believe it! Believe it!” And I'm saying, “I can't believe it!”
‘Little did I know it would be my last game for the club. I scored the goal while playing with a groin strain and I don't think we had another sub, so I carried on, which obviously made it worse. So, I get mixed feelings whenever I see the video again. It was the most important goal I scored, on such a big occasion, but as proud as I was to achieve it, there's the disappointment of it being my last game.’
Roberto Di Matteo followed up Sinclair’s goal by scoring in a second straight cup final for the Blues against Middlesbrough, and it was another trophy to add to the cabinet after almost three barren decades.