Where are they now? Chelsea's 1997 FA Cup winners
The sight of Chelsea captains lifting trophies has become wonderfully/horrifyingly (delete according to your allegiance) familiar in recent years, but that wasn’t the case 20 years ago.
A certain Welsh striker was picking up his fourth winners medal in the FA Cup alone
A 2-0 victory over Middlesbrough in the 1996/97 FA Cup Final actually meant a first major honor 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 (and non-white) 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?
Frode Grodas (goalkeeper)
He was a Chelsea player for barely two seasons, so it says much about Frode Grodas that he maintains a 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 means the Norwegian is 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 the position is supposed to bring. Grodas is added to the list, with his approach to the game being chief among his popularity in the dressing room.
He would give 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.
Has 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, Steve Clarke had seen it all at Stamford Bridge by the time the 1997 FA Cup 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 - Clarke was even 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 – that also included 1994 FA Cup Final defeat to Manchester United – it was fitting Clarke was in the line-up to lift the cup.
His Chelsea story doesn’t end there of course, with Clarke assistant to 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. For Clarke, it was another major final loss to Manchester United.