Stamford Chidge, Jonathan Kydd and Mark Meehan look back at the 2001-2002 season in our ’50 Years of Chelsea’ series.
In part two we pick up the story in the New Year where hopes were high for another League Cup final after a 2-1 win in the semi-final first leg against Spurs, followed by a 5-1 rout of West Ham in the league.
However, the unthinkable happened when Spurs thrashed Chelsea 5-1 in the second leg, their first victory over Chelsea at White Hart Lane or anywhere for over 20 years. Thankfully, normal service was resumed with back to back 4-0 victories against Spurs in the FA Cup quarter final and Premier League, with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink scoring a perfect hat-trick in the latter. In the FA Cup third round, Gianfranco Zola had scored one of the best goals ever seen at Stamford Bridge.
With league form suffering from the usual inconsistency, our only hope of silverware lay in the FA Cup. A scrappy 1-0 victory over Fulham in the Villa Park semi-final, complete with mass celery throwing, set up a final at the Millenium stadium in Cardiff against bogey side Arsenal. Blighted by injuries to Le Saux, Hasselbaink, Babayaro and an increasingly influential John Terry, Chelsea were the better side in the final until Ray Parlour and Freddie Ljundberg both scored worldies to ruin the day out.
The 2001-2002 season was one of transition, turmoil off the pitch and frustration on it. Given that Hasselbaink and Gudjohnsen had scored 52 goals between them a 6th place finish in the league was a disappointment. Arsenal proved to be the team we just could not beat as we finished FA Cup runners up; the League cup semi loss to Spurs still causes nightmares and the UEFA Cup defeat against lowly Hapoel Tel Aviv was a debacle.
Many supporters blamed Ranieri for his tinkering and sparse use of the genius that was Zola, but there were bright spots in the season with Hasselbaink and Gudjohnsen’s partnership and goals up front, the best we’d seen since the days of Dixon and Speedie, and the emergence of John Terry and Frank Lampard as two of Chelsea’s most important players together with Carlo Cudicini who had a superb season in goal and rightly won POTY.