History

From League Cup to legend status

After Frank Lampard revealed Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva are in the squad for tonight’s Carabao Cup tie against Barnsley, we look back at a selection of Chelsea legends who took their first steps for the club in the League Cup.

With English football’s secondary cup competition traditionally kicking off in the early weeks of the season, it has often provided an opportunity for managers to give new signings an early run-out for the Blues or, in some cases, call upon a player from the Academy to make the leap to first-team football.

Last season was certainly a case of the latter, as Frank Lampard handed debuts to no fewer than four players for our third-round tie against Grimsby Town. He was rewarded by assured performances from each of them and a handsome 7-1 victory to boot.

Several managers prior to Super Frank took a similar viewpoint over the years – and their decision to blood precocious young talents paid off big time in some instances.

Of course, perhaps the most famous of them all was John Terry, who came on in the 86th minute of a third-round tie against Aston Villa that was all but wrapped up, after Gianluca Vialli completed his hat-trick to make it 4-1.

JT would have been forgiven for thinking he was going to have a nice, gentle introduction to first-team football – and then Dennis Wise inexplicably two-footed Darren Byfield 60 seconds later, earning himself a red card and sparking a melee!

In the 1960s, several members of our beloved cup-winning sides of the Seventies were given their first chance at senior football in this competition, including the man dubbed the King of Stamford Bridge.

Peter Osgood marked his maiden appearance with a brace against Workington Town, the first goals of the tally of 150 he notched for Chelsea as he became one of the most beloved players in our history.

Ossie’s debut came in the same campaign that we first lifted the League Cup, and he wasn’t the only young debutant that season. Johnny Boyle was entrusted in the first leg of the semi-final against Aston Villa, and he duly repaid Tommy Docherty’s faith by smashing in the winner late on in a five-goal thriller.

John Hollins was another who started out in the League Cup, making the first of 592 appearances for the Blues in 1963 against Swindon Town. Marvin Hinton debuted in that same game, having joined from Charlton, and Ian Hutchinson, another signing, got his first Chelsea chance in the competition in 1968.

To many readers of this website and viewers of Matchday Live, Pat Nevin is simply a Scottish pundit who once played for Chelsea. However, to an older vintage of Blues followers, he is one of the most dazzling wingers to ever play the game, a reason why we call it the beautiful game. Those who braved a League Cup tie with Gillingham in 1983 were lucky enough to see Wee Pat take his first twinkle-toed steps as a Blue.

At the other end of the scale, Branislav Ivanovic – who we could be reunited with this weekend, following his move to West Brom – has never been described as ‘delicate’ in any way. Brute force and directness were the Branner way, although we had to wait nine months after he’d signed from Lokomotiv Moscow to finally see him in action, in a League Cup win over Portsmouth in 2008.

And while this might be stretching the term ‘legend’ somewhat, given he only played 27 games for Chelsea, but Frode Grodas made his first Chelsea appearance in a 3-1 home defeat against Blackpool in this competition. He ended the season between the sticks for our FA Cup final win over Middlesbrough, though, becoming only the second goalkeeper to achieve that feat for Chelsea and still one of only five keepers to do so as a Blue.

Lastly, it’s not only players who have started an impressive Chelsea legacy in the League Cup. Vialli, mentioned earlier for his hat-trick against Aston Villa, took over from Ruud Gullit as player-manager in 1998 – and his first game was the small matter of a semi-final, second leg against Arsenal. The players sipped champagne in the dressing room before the game and promptly saw off the Gunners, before going on to win the first of three trophies in the space of six months.

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