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Where are they now? Chelsea's 1997 FA Cup winners

Chelsea

A blockbuster strike opened this 2-0 victory over Middlesbrough and paved the way for two decades of Chelsea glory. Here's what the Blues XI have been up to since that day at Wembley

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The sight of Chelsea captains lifting trophies has become rather familiar in recent years, but that wasn’t the case 20 years ago.

A 2-0 victory over Middlesbrough in the 1997 FA Cup Final actually meant a first major honour for most of the players involved - barring a certain Welsh striker, who was picking up his fourth winners' medal in the FA Cup alone. It also meant a first major honour for Chelsea since the 1971 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup (with due respect to the 1990 Full Members Cup and 1989 Second Division trophy, of course).

On top of that, Ruud Gullit became the first foreign manager to win the FA Cup. All this - plus the spectacular start to the game - help explain why it’s considered a memorable FA Cup triumph. But what have the boys who made it happen been up to in the two decades since?

Ruud Gullit (manager)

If there was ever a man to symbolise the nouveau chic of English football in the '90s, then Gullit was him.

Post Euro '96, football was reinventing itself in England. Hooligans were gradually disappearing from the terraces, replaced by fans who preferred a latte to a pint (well, before 11am anyway). The whole atmosphere was more cosmopolitan, and Chelsea had themselves a manager who embodied it.

Gullit was cool personified. From his punditry that summer with BBC Sport – where Gullit discussed the ideals of “sexy football” to get us all aroused pre-watershed – to his dreadlocks and style in the dugout, he was a manager very much for the times.

His team played like it, too. Chelsea were no longer laboured and tiresome; they had a zip to their play and weren’t afraid to express themselves. It meant they would throw a few victories along the way, yet it was worth it for the way they approached matches.

Quite what happened to his managerial career after Chelsea’s FA Cup win in 1997 is a mystery, though. The first overseas and black manager to lift the trophy, Gullit never scaled such heights again in short spells managing Newcastle, Feyenoord, LA Galaxy and Terek Grozny in Russia. Having long worked as a TV pundit, he was named as Dick Advocaat's Netherlands assistant in 2017.

Frode Grodas (goalkeeper)

He was a Chelsea player for barely two seasons, so it says much about Grodas that he maintains cult hero status at Stamford Bridge. Much of that is down to his position in goal against Middlesbrough in the 1997 FA Cup Final, but his character and sense of humour meant the Norwegian was equally championed by Blues supporters.

From their first-ever goalkeeper William “Fatty” Foulke through to the likes of Petar Borota, Chelsea have tended to have a No.1 who celebrates the quirks that the position is supposed to bring. Grodas is on that list.

He gave Dennis Wise a run for his money in the prankster stakes and, like his captain, was a reliable performer when the time came for the serious business of winning football matches. Grodas was 32 when he arrived at Stamford Bridge from Lillestrom. He was a surprise signing in the summer of 1996, but come the end of the campaign, Chelsea fans all knew his name.

He's gone on to work as a coach with the Norwegian FA alongside former Blues team-mate Erland Johnsen.

Steve Clarke (centre-back)

Chelsea’s longest-serving senior player, Clarke had seen it all at Stamford Bridge by the time this final came around.

He joined the club from St Mirren in 1987, and within a year the Blues were relegated from the top flight. They bounced back at the first time of asking in 1989 and haven’t looked back since, gradually building the foundations to become the club we know today.

Clarke was a big player in all of that and Chelsea fans loved him for it. He was a chameleon, always adapting to suit the managers who he played under - and even played as a right-wing-back for a period under Glenn Hoddle.

Winning the FA Cup in 1997 was his crowning moment, though. The competition was the pinnacle for sides with little chance of winning the title, and after a decade of ups and downs at Chelsea – which also included 1994 FA Cup Final defeat to Manchester United – it was fitting that Clarke was in the line-up to lift the cup.

His Chelsea story doesn’t end there of course: Clarke assisted Jose Mourinho when the Blues won back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006. He was also in the dugout alongside Avram Grant for the 2008 Champions League Final loss. These days he can be found managing Kilmarnock. 

Frank Leboeuf (centre-back)

Leboeuf arrived from Ligue 1 as an unknown but made a massive impact at Chelsea. 

The Frenchman helped the Blues end a 26-year wait for proper silverware, and symbolised everything that the club was becoming. The Frenchman was carefree at the back, playing with a grace Chelsea fans hadn’t seen along the King’s Road since... well, forever.

Ultimately, Leboeuf helped drag Chelsea into the 21st century a few years before the Millennium bug was supposedly going to create carnage.

He’s now an actor and featured in 2014's Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything.

Frank Sinclair (right-back)

Like Steve Clarke before him, Sinclair had a long history with Chelsea, having come through the club’s youth ranks. And just like Clarke, the Londoner had been part of the Blues side that was thumped 4-0 by Manchester United in 1994 at Wembley.

That game holds particularly bad memories for Sinclair, as he gave away the penalty on Andrei Kanchelskis that helped United cruise to victory. So 1997 was redemption for the defender who had done well to fight the tidal wave of foreign imports coming into the club, and who remained a regular under Ruud Gullit. Sinclair lacked the same technical ability as the likes of Leboeuf, but he slotted into Gullit’s side effectively, playing at centre-back or right-back.

Less than a year after defeating Middlesbrough in the FA Cup at Wembley, Sinclair was scoring against the same opponents beneath the Twin Towers in the League Cup final.

These days Sinclair is assistant manager at Radcliffe FC in the Evo-Stik North, combining his duties with media appearances.