Stamford Chidge is joined by Jonathan Kydd and Mark Meehan to look back at the 2002-03 season.
Chelsea began the season with only one signing, Quique De Lucas, the scurrying midfielder from Espanyol on a free. Money was tight and rumours abounded that Chelsea were in financial trouble and as a consequence would have to off load big name stars such as Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Gianfranco Zola.
As it was Chelsea began the season in decent form with draws against Arsenal and Man Utd and a 3-0 home win against fancied Newcastle. A last minute goal by former non-league player Ben Wright in the first leg of the UEFA Cup first round against Norwegian part timers, Viking FK, should have been no more than an irritant. But it came back to haunt Chelsea as they were knocked out of Europe for the 3rd season in a row by lowly opponents with a 4:2 defeat to the Vikings in the second leg, sandwiched in between a 3:2 defeat at home to struggling West Ham.
Thankfully, form picked up and it was to be two months before Chelsea suffered defeat again, at the hands of Man Utd in the Worthington Cup courtesy of a rarity, a Diego Forlan goal.
Chelsea finished the year in 2nd position in the Premier League and could have been top had it not been for the infernal tinkering of manager, Claudio Ranieri. Gudjohnsen and Hasselbaink were not scoring the goals they had the season before, but Gianfranco Zola was having a renaissance, at one stage the Premier League’s top goal scorer and scoring some eye opening goals.
Could Chelsea mount a realisitc challenge for the Premier League title in the New Year and break the Arsenal and Utd duopoly? Was it more likely that we could have another crack at the FA Cup, going one better than last season?