Chelsea’s UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup win over Stuttgart in Sweden 25 years ago today was a magical night, bringing to an end a wait for a second European trophy which had stretched back even more than quarter of a century.
And as special as it was for the squad, for our player/manager Gianluca Vialli, and for those who ran the club, Stockholm ’98 was also a momentous occasion for the Chelsea fans too!
As with any cup final, Blues supporters across the globe watched on TV but huge numbers travelled to the game as well, taking the official allocation of tickets and hoovering up many of the others on the market too.
It is always hard to know exactly how many Chelsea fans have been spread around in the stadiums in our Champions League finals and the like, but there must be a good case for mid-May 1998 being the biggest travelling Blues support overseas ever, certainly in numbers journeying from England.
So many fans. So many memories. And as we celebrate the anniversary, we asked those who were there to share their recollections with us to help tell the story of when Wise went up to lift the Cup Winners’ Cup and we were there, we were there!
Many of those involved in 1998 will be back at Stamford Bridge on 9 September to take part in Chelsea Legends vs Bayern Munich Legends. All proceeds from the game – which is being played in memory of the late Gianluca Vialli – will be split between The Chelsea Foundation and The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity which supports the work of The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, where the iconic former Chelsea forward was treated.
The journey begins…
Martin Sanders: ‘The trip started with an overnight stay at Stansted Airport ahead of a very early flight to Stockholm. Everything was closed in the airport, but luckily someone had a football and we had a great kick around.’
Paul Goddard: ‘I remember the day really well. We had an early flight but there was very heavy fog and most, if not all, flights were delayed. While everyone was just sitting around waiting a fan got out a football and started kicking the ball around. To our amazement Ron Chopper Harris came along and started to join in.’
Paul Georgiou: ‘The whole day lives long in my memory as one of the best following Chelsea over land and sea. We arrived with the many thousands on the day after our flight got cancelled from Stansted and had to divert by coach to Gatwick.’
Andrew Ashmore: ‘Had a nightmare. Was opening a hotel in Muscat, Oman fretting over my midnight flight to London to get my SAS connection to Stockholm. Dignitaries all late, my boss, seeing my anxiousness, said go, leave now. Didn’t need a second chance. Quick turnaround at Heathrow finding myself with Des Lynam, Martin O’Neill, who never said a word, and Alan Smith.’
Neil McCrone: ‘Four of us flew to Stockholm early morning. We were greeted by officials as we were coming off the plane and on the tarmac and walked through border control, no problem. Banter and questions seemingly all very jovial.
‘However, it turned out that we were being interviewed not by officials but by the press because I personally appeared on UK television throughout the day! That would not have been a problem, but being a teacher at the time, I played “hookey” so as to go to Stockholm and of course was seen on TV. Colleagues were none too pleased when I returned home, however the students gave me a hero’s reception as ‘Sir’ had played “hookey”. A memory to savour.’
Sean Jones: ‘I had a problem: I was due to be in the US on the date of the final on the holiday of a lifetime with my wife. My plan was to get her to give me permission to interrupt the holiday. Because I’m an idiot, I decided I would get her to insist on my going three times. I spent a day sighing. She asked me what was wrong and I explained. She told me I could go “if I really wanted to”. I waited a couple of days and repeated the performance. Again, reluctantly, she made the offer. A third day of sulking yielded nothing. And a fourth and fifth. Time was tight. A week later we were driving to a wedding. I ramped up my desperate amateur dramatics. Finally, she told me she thought I should go. I immediately produced my passport and phone and called to book. With hindsight, that looked very suspicious.’
David Spring: ‘Having flown over in the previous days with a friend and colleague from work, we went to the ground and sneaked in via an open vehicle tunnel to get a cheeky view of the pitch which seemed quite small, as stadiums/pitches often do when empty. On being cordially ejected by staff after a few minutes and on our way out anyway, we were approached by ITV lunchtime news for an interview, which we did and was aired the next day, my friend’s mother informed us, much to our amusement – we hadn’t officially taken time off work, with a line manager promising to cover for us where possible. Needless to say, holiday forms were quickly submitted!’
Sandra McGregor: ‘When my then husband offered me a choice of an eternity ring or ticket to Stockholm there was really no question about which would win – you can buy jewellery any time!’
Tim Goodden: ‘I was 17, a couple of weeks away from my A-Levels. It took a lot of persuasion to be allowed to head out with my two brothers. This was my third Euro away after Bruges 1995, and Betis a few weeks before. Walking out of the ground, the celebrations in the streets as we left will live with me forever. A wall of noise. Arrived back at 7am, and went straight into college, exhausted but on top of the world.’
Where to stay?
Andrew Ashmore: ‘Checked in to the oddest hotel ever. It felt like I was in a submarine, and it was damn expensive. Couldn’t believe how many Chelsea were there, unbelievable!’
be a converted prison. Nice, though.’
Andrew Parsons: ‘Myself, my brother Steve, Rob and Kev did probably the best away trip of our lives! We left our town of Deal in Kent and took the Eurotunnel from Folkestone on the Monday morning. We then drove to Hamburg, stayed the night, set off the following morning and drove to Stockholm via the ferry to Denmark. On arriving in Stockholm on the Tuesday afternoon we thought we would be able to find accommodation easily, either a hotel, a hostel or camping. But oh no, absolutely nothing anywhere! Consequently, we had to drive back on ourselves for approximately 70 miles where we found a hostel by a beautiful lake at two o’clock in the morning!’
Stockholm is ours…
Bill Ward: ‘The sun shone, the water round Stockholm glistened and even the riot police were beautiful! I remember being in a square in the old city with about 50 other Chelsea. We had cleaned the local greengrocer stall out of celery and we were all crouched down singing 10 Men Went to Mow. Watching us were all the local Swedes who were out shopping. On 10 men we all leapt up and a huge shower of celery went through the air. The locals were beside themselves laughing and stood and applauded us!’
David Baker: ‘We played street football, 50-a-side in the road with all the other fans and locals, we drank and sang the whole day.’
Neil Selwood: ‘My four friends travelled on Chelsea charter planes, but I flew via Copenhagen, arriving mid-afternoon. I then walked all around Stockholm, trying to find them. After miles of walking and searching, I could hear singing coming from a side road and there they were with beers and other fans sitting in the street singing ‘1 Man Went to Mow’, puzzled police looking on.’
Mark Treacy: ‘On the day of the game there were a number of Chelsea fans in a pub in the city centre. It was a lovely day and a lot of us were drinking on the balcony looking out on to the street. Another Chelsea fan was standing on the street with a camera and as people were passing by he asked them to pose for a photo. This lasted about an hour and all the fans were encouraging him to take the photos.
‘After an hour one lady stopped and came over to him and in front of the Chelsea fans removed the cap from the front of the camera lens. He had been asking people to pose but had not taken one photograph. It really was funny at the time.’
Will Coleman: ‘My brother lives in Stockholm and luckily he got a ticket to the game. Apparently the authorities said that we were the best behaved supporters they had dealt with for a long time.’
I recognise you!
Gary Hill: ‘Flying out from Stansted on the morning of the game, meeting David Baddiel and Jonny Vaughan at the airport was a great start.’
Peter Trenter: ‘A group of six of us went to Stockholm, amongst that group was a ‘then’ unknown singer called Craig David! While at a cafe during the day, Craig decided to go to a table with two young ladies drinking coffee and started to sing to them. I pretended I didn’t know him and asked him to sign a napkin pretending that he was famous, all to everyone’s amusement – the moral of the story is never discard a used napkin! We obtained tickets from one of the players and ended up sitting next to Tore Andre Flo’s mum and dad in amongst a stadium mostly made up of Chelsea fans.’
Richard Thompson: ‘I remember it like yesterday. Once in Stockholm we went straight to the Vasa Museum, which I highly recommend, and then had lunch nearby. En route to the ground, Damon Albarn and Phil Daniels walked past us, looking slightly the worse for wear!’
Cathy Ferris: ‘I travelled to Stockholm with two of my brothers and a friend. It was my youngest brother’s (Jason’s) birthday so we were all hoping for double celebrations and Chelsea did not disappoint. The very long day was amazing spending time in the town square drinking with Chelsea and Stuttgart fans alike. There must have been over 25,000 Chelsea fans. We made our way to the ground stopping in various pubs en route only to bump into the legend himself Peter Osgood. We bought him a pint and had a few photos taken. Then arrived at the ground to a cacophony of sound (all Chelsea) coming from every side of the ground. It was a day and memory that will last forever and the best birthday for my brother Jason.’
John Gough: ‘All the Chelsea supporters gathered in a large square with bars and restaurants. I remember there were impromptu games of football and kickabouts before the word went around that all the support would leave together down a long avenue. I looked down the avenue and it seemed like a blue army, singing and walking together as a mass, all united together as one. It still gives me goosebumps now all these years later and when we got into the ground, Peter Osgood and Ron Harris were above us on the front of the next tier – the crowd quickly noticed them and all the songs started and they were waving and bowing to the crowds below! Magical memories on a magical night for Chelsea.’
Greeting the Germans…
Carol Quarrington: ‘We decided to look round the city before the game. We were on the tube when a supporter of Stuttgart asked us how many supporters we were bringing. I said about 20 thousand. But he didn’t understand and thought we only had 20 supporters. He would get a shock as we had three sides in the ground!’
Andy Hunter: ‘My best story was at half-time. Chelsea fans had taken the vast majority of the tickets to the game. I believe Stuttgart had about three thousand. A German fan came up to me as I was walking around the back of a stand, and asked me in German where the away fans were located. Luckily I speak German and laughing was able to direct him to the pocket of his teams’ fans in the stadium. It did sum up the interest in the game to Chelsea fans, they really had taken every ticket allocated to them and everyone else!’
Colin Hart: ‘When we got to the arena we were full of such hope. We knew we had the players to win it and the rumour was that somehow Zola had made it and recovered from injury in time. We drank local beer outside the ground in tins and we sat in the sun feeling very pleased with ourselves, until someone pointed out it was zero alcohol. Then the news…Zola’s not starting!’
Oliver Scott: ‘Stockholm looked beautiful even by its own standards in the Scandinavian spring weather and everyone made us welcome. I was anxious when we got to the stadium – I didn’t know much about Stuttgart, the pitch was in truly terrible condition and Gianfranco wasn’t starting. But he was subbed on and scored the winner almost immediately.’
Nigel Kotani: ‘By midway through the second half it had become obvious that one goal would win it, and my view of that goal from directly behind Zola’s foot was so perfect that I knew even before he’d made contact that it was the winning goal and that my impossible 20-year dream of a European trophy had been fulfilled. I remember it like it was yesterday.’
Paul Moran: ‘At the final whistle, ‘On the pitch’ were the chants, so I did. Before I knew it, I was at the centre circle. I picked up Danny Granville, spun him around a few times, Danny screamed “Yeah [expletive] Yeah”! I then shook Steve Clarke’s hand, looked around expecting the mass pitch invasion from the thousands of Chelsea that were there…I was one of about ten supporters! Back to my seat to applaud the cup being paraded around the pitch. Amazing memories of an amazing moment in history.’
Chris Driscoll: ‘We won it and the celebratory scenes afterwards were incredible. What a night! We celebrated long into the evening. I’ll never forget a gentleman from the Swedish FA announcing to everyone in the hotel we were in that the bar would be closing shortly, but if someone would kindly stand up on the table and teach him the words to ‘Your Blue Day song’ we will keep the bar open. Encouraged by my friends, I was straight up onto the table and I will never forget the whole bar joining in singing Blue Day!’
Gary Williams: ‘The day of the game still rates as the most amazing Chelsea-following experiences, 25,000 Chelsea fans and a Zola goal that I can still remember like yesterday with the whole stadium celebrating. Back into town to celebrate, to find that McDonalds was one of the few places open. Still loads of celebrating fellow Blues around for a couple of days after until our flight home on the Sunday afternoon. Little did we realise this was just the start!’
The journey home
Judy Orsmond: ‘A great victory for our boys but for us it did not end there. Flight back was delayed so we ended up sleeping at Stockholm airport all night, not arriving home until late afternoon exhausted, but that’s what you do for Chelsea, support them no matter what. Me and my mate Jackie have seen them win it all. We love our boys in blue and always will.’
Jonathan Lipscomb: ‘An abiding memory of that night is that after hours of chaos at the airport, we finally boarded our flight. Many from the outbound journey were missing, some of their places filled at random. At the last second, a Chelsea fan came running up the steps to the door, put his head inside and asked, ‘Are you for Gatwick, mate?’ ‘Just get in!’, came the reply. The door was closed and off we went!’
Harry Hajipapas: ‘I was the managing director of Chelsea Worldwide Travel responsible for arranging official travel for supporters. After the match the Swedish authorities decided to divert all flights to depart from the military airport instead of the main one. This created mayhem and coaches with supporters were delayed. Flight crew ran out of hours and planes took off empty back to London. I was literally protected by the Swedish Army as supporters bade for my blood. God only knows what would have happened had we lost!’
Let’s get married! Or not…
Mark Jenkinson, the winner of our signed shirt: ‘I went to every home game of the CWC that season and was praying that we’d get to the final. I’d been to Sweden whilst serving in the Royal Navy and loved it, so I knew it’d be something special. Four of us agreed to make it a worthwhile journey and stay in Stockholm for the whole week, so we departed London City Airport early on Monday 11 May.
‘What I had no way of knowing was that on that trip I’d meet a Swedish girl who would be my future wife! Long story short, I went to the match with her, flew back to London with the others on Friday 15 May, and had already arranged to fly back to Stockholm to see her again. She in turn flew over to London and six months later, November 1998, we married in Redbridge. I moved to Stockholm, where we still live, ready to celebrate 25 years together!’
Roger Newman: ‘My sister-in-law at the time decided that 13 May 1998 would be the ideal date for her wedding. A small registry office affair, midweek. Having been a season ticket holder since the start of the 1996 season I was already planning the CWC final trip with a ticket pretty much assured. That was until the threat of not attending my wife’s sister’s wedding would result in a near-certain divorce.
‘I’m sure the sister-in-law did this on purpose, being a Man United fan. While we got a result on the night (getting to see snippets of the game during the evening) my divorce came a year or so later anyway! I knew it, I should have just gone to the game as the inevitable happened regardless.’
Dave Penman: ‘Flew out from Manchester on a scheduled flight, wandered around the city, enjoyed the game, and loved the result. Back into the city for more drinks and left the bar around 6am, back to airport for 2pm flight. Police poked me with batons when I was asleep making sure I didn’t miss my flight. Got home three days after setting off. Wife told me she was divorcing me…double result! Up the Chelsea.’
David McGuane: ‘My Dad went out to Stockholm in May 1998. We watched it on TV at home in Croydon. Our Mum let us stay up late to watch the game and six-year-old me was desperate to find Dad on the telly! Gianfranco Zola was and still is my all-time favourite player and I remember being upset not seeing him start. Got very excited to see him come on for Flo. A minute later Zola scores and we went mad!
‘Our Dad, Tony, sadly passed in December 2022. For his funeral we were going through some old photos and came across this one.
‘We thought we lost it over the years, but it was safely tucked away and he kept it all these years. We went up to the stadium to get our photos with the Cup Winners Cup and now that moment will stay with us forever.’