The Chelsea line-up against Sheffield United broke a 25-year-old record as our youngest ever in the Premier League, but what happened to the 11 Blues who previously held that distinction?
Before we hosted the Blades at Stamford Bridge, the lowest average age for a Chelsea side in a Premier League match was 24 days and 190 days, 32 days older than the starting XI put out by Frank Lampard on Saturday.
Glenn Hoddle was the Blues manager back in February 1994 when we travelled to Boundary Park to take on Joe Royle’s Oldham Athletic.In his first season in the Stamford Bridge dugout, Hoddle was turning to youth in an attempt to change the team’s fortunes following a poor run of form which had dropped us down to 17th place in the table.
While it may not have had the immediate impact he was hoping for, with the game against Oldham ending in a 2-1 defeat as we conceded an 81st-minute winner, it did provide better medium and long-term results.
The team eventually secured a reasonably safe mid-table finish in the Premier League and nine of the 11 players who started against the Latics also walked out at Wembley after reaching that season’s FA Cup final.
Eight of them were also in the side which reached the FA Cup final again three years later, including two players who had come through our youth system and started in the final, one of whom got his name on the scoresheet as we defeated Middlesbrough 2-0.
The youngest name on the team sheet at Oldham in 1994 was one of four youth team graduates, 20-year-old Andy Myers. The full-back stayed at the Bridge until 1999, winning the FA Cup, League Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup. He then played in the Premier League for Bradford, where he was named Player of the Year in 2002, and returned to the Chelsea Academy as a coach after his retirement, where he is now in charge of our development squad.
Two of the other players from our youth team were also still around to win three medals with Chelsea in the years that followed. Close childhood friends Eddie Newton and Frank Sinclair, who were born in south London just 10 days apart, were both in the team that day and again in the 1997 FA Cup final, with Newton being the one to get our second goal against Middlesbrough.
Sinclair also represented Jamaica at the 1998 World Cup during his time with the Blues and played in the Premier League for Leicester, as well as alongside a young Gary Cahill in the Burnley defence, more recently becoming a regular pundit on Chelsea TV.
Injuries hampered the latter stages of Newton’s time at the Bridge, and the rest of his career, but he has since forged a successful career in coaching, returning to the Blues as assistant coach to his old team-mate Roberto Di Matteo to guide us to Champions League glory in 2012, and is back in the same role under Lampard this season.
That duo were both 22, as were Craig Burley and Darren Barnard. Scottish international Burley also started his professional career with Chelsea and represented his country at Euro ‘96 and the World Cup two years later, by which time he had moved back north of the border to join Celtic.
Barnard had arrived at the Bridge from non-league Wokingham in 1990, but the German-born defender made just 33 appearances during five years with the club before moving down the division for spells with Bristol City, Barnsley and Grimsby, among others, despite becoming a Wales international.
Burley was one of three Scots in the team at Oldham, including our goalscorer John Spencer, who we had signed from Rangers. That strike was one of 43 occasions he hit the back of the net in a Blues shirt and he also played in the top flight for QPR and Everton, before moving to the USA to play for Colorado Rapids and go into coaching, managing Portland Timbers in the MLS.
The other of our Tartan trio was Steve Clarke, the oldest member of the team and the only one over the age of 30. He spent 11 years as a Chelsea player before retiring in 1998, becoming a hugely successful coach, including spells as assistant to Jose Mourinho and Avram Grant at Chelsea, and is now manager of the Scottish national team.
Perhaps the most unusual post-retirement story from that team belongs to Gavin Peacock. After being a Premier League stalwart from his time with Chelsea, QPR and Newcastle, he moved to Canada to study theology and become a Christian minister.
South African-born striker Mark Stein, one of three footballing brothers, was also in the line-up at Boundary Park and scored 25 goals in 57 appearances for Chelsea at the height of a journeyman career. He is now a physiotherapist, working at Rotherham United.
There were two other foreign players in the team, Russian keeper Dmitri Kharine, who played 146 games for Chelsea and is now a goalkeeper coach at non-league Hemel Hempstead, and defender Erland Johnsen, a Norwegian international who was our 1995 Player of the Year and now coaches Norway’s national Under-17 side.
Chelsea line-up against Oldham Athletic on 12 February 1994
5-3-2 Dmitri Kharine; Darren Barnard, Steve Clarke, Erland Johnsen, Frank Sinclair, Andy Myers; Craig Burley, Eddie Newton, Gavin Peacock; Mark Stein, John Spencer