Tonight, many Chelsea fans will be thinking back eight years to Munich and the biggest game in the club’s history. I am personally looking forward to the Watch Party that will takes us from the final 10 minutes of normal time all the way to the trophy lift. In fact, I might just watch the first 80 minutes myself beforehand just to get me in the mood.
There were so many huge stories that night on and off the field. I remember on this page asking fans to email me what they did the moment Didier scored the penalty to win us the trophy. I still have all those answers saved in a folder on my account, they were that glorious, that moving and that amazing.
It is worth watching again not just for the joy of reliving it but also to remind ourselves how much the odds were stacked against the Blues that night. I knew many Chelsea fans who claimed to think beforehand that we would win that night, but didn’t come across many who were brave enough to back that bravado up with a substantial bet, even though the odds on us were very good for a two-horse race.
We were in Bayern Munich’s home stadium. Getting there against Barcelona in the semi-final was bordering on a minor miracle in itself, and we were missing massively important players. JT was suspended and Branislav Ivanovic wasn’t available either; that was half of our best back line gone against an attack that boasted Robben and Ribery at their best with Muller and Gomez waiting for their supply. Kroos and Schweinsteiger, back when he was good before he went to Manchester United, were dangerous from midfield. Michael Essien could only make the bench and Robbie Di Matteo, the gaffer, was still a young almost-rookie manager.
It was hard to see how we could go through this and come out the other end victorious. Even the tactics seemed at best strange and at worst suicidal at the start. I remember shouting, ‘Why are we playing two left backs? Ashley Cole is good enough; we don’t need Ryan Bertrand in front of him.’
They had to stop Chelsea old boy Arjen Robben but of course the overlapping Lahm was just as big a danger. Good call Robbie, Ryan was needed. On the other side Jose Bosingwa had the rough role of wrapping up Ribery. That’s as hard to do as it is to say! I am currently writing a series of columns about players we forget because of who followed them or preceded them and maybe Jose should be added to that list. Branna became a bona fide club legend in his time at Chelsea, but of course Jose was a fine stalwart in the right-back position himself for more than 100 games at the club.
Then there was Jose Bosingwa’s effect on the semi-final to get us this far. He had to come on after 12 minutes to replace an injured Gary Cahill, only to then find the back line depleted further by JT’s dismissal, but he and the rest of the team did enough to get us over the line. Fernando Torres’ goal that night is still my favourite Chelsea goal, well favourite that I didn’t score or make myself obviously.
Tonight’s celebration should be special and will take us right back to those incredible moments. Every Chelsea fan will know where he or she was and who they were with that night, whether it was in the stadium, in front of your TV, down the pub, or indeed in a foxhole being shot at while giving medical help to a friend in a war zone. Yes, one guy did email to tell me that is where he was trapped listening to the game!
I was stuck in a TV studio in Scotland. I was on the box live that day for the BBC covering my Scottish team losing 5-1 in a cup final against their greatest rivals. I wasn’t happy! I couldn’t get out of the work that had been planned for months but then I didn’t expect Chelsea to win anyway, so not being in Munich that evening hadn’t totally broken my heart, though obviously I would have liked to have been there.
I also didn’t expect to be smiling for quite some time after Hibs’ defeat, but five seconds before we then went live for the evening highlights at around 11pm, Didier made us European Champions. Those mad five seconds jumping around like a lunatic before we went live on air will never leave me.
There are always unsung heroes in any spectacular triumph and it may be that Jose Bosingwa was one of them on that night, but Chelsea fans know what he had done for the club previously. It was his last game for Chelsea and I guess there is no better way to leave than when you are right at the top.
Looking through the rest of the team that night I will admit that although it was fine team, I am not sure it is the best team Chelsea ever fielded. It wasn’t even the best team we had fielded that season, but every one of those who played have gone down in our history.
I watched the game on a screen and it made no difference to the excitement I felt, so it certainly is worth watching again, especially if you are in lockdown or partial lockdown. Apart from anything else it will be safer than going out anywhere in these times. Then again, maybe not.
One of the most notable things about the fans who wrote to me telling me what they did after Didier scored the final penalty, was just how many of them badly injured themselves in the uproar. There were plenty of strains reported as they jumped for joy and lots of beer and wine glasses broken as tables went flying. Two people fell through glass tables and got cuts while three others reported to me that they had broken their legs after jumping around too much with their friends and family. They also each said it was worth it.
So enjoy tonight, just not too much!