Sinclair sipped champagne with Gullit in ’97 and wants more FA Cup glory

Supping pre-match champagne before a Wembley FA Cup win will seem a million miles away to former Chelsea defender Frank Sinclair on Tuesday.

But when the Colwyn Bay manager leads his side into a tricky FA Cup third qualifying round replay at Warrington Town, he will struggle not to think of his past glories in the famous old competition – or a potential dream tie against the Blues further down the line.

Sinclair, 42, was part of Ruud Gullit’s Chelsea side that beat Middlesbrough to lift the second FA Cup in Chelsea’s history, in 1997.

And the memories remain vivid.

“I have pretty much experienced everything you can in the FA Cup.” – Frank Sinclair

“Ruud gave us sip of champagne,” Sinclair told West London Sport. “Ruud did things like that. It got the players relaxed and helped our mindset.

“It’s certainly not going to be happening here. The budget doesn’t stretch to that.”

That small budget is a big factor in wanting a good cup run.

“It’s a massive thing,” Sinclair added. “The revenue we will get from going through a few rounds – as well as the publicly – means it’s very important.”

The Bay should already have secured their place in the next round. Only an injury-time goal by a side managed by Shaun Reid – the younger brother of ex-Everton and England midfielder Peter – denied Sinclair on Saturday.

As one of 196 sides that were left in the third round, Sinclair’s Conference North outfit are still four wins away from a possible January date against his beloved Chelsea or one of the other big clubs.

“I would be crazy if didn’t think about playing Chelsea,” Sinclair said.

“Football is about dreams – as a player and as a manager. I want to manage at a high level against the best so it would be incredible to play Chelsea or another one of the big clubs.

“But that’s wildest dreams stuff so we have to be realistic and keep thinking about where we are. Each round is more money which would be huge for the club.”

Chelsea have dominated the FA Cup in recent seasons, racking up wins in 2000, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2012 to take their tally to seven.

But the memorable 1997 Roberto di Matteo-inspired triumph over Boro was special to many Chelsea fans.

It was the first major silverware since 1971 and the start of a trophy-laden couple of years that continued into the millennium and beyond.

Former Chelsea boss Di Matteo was a Wembley hero in 1997
Former Chelsea boss Di Matteo was a Wembley hero in 1997

And it helped erase the anguish of the 4-0 1994 FA Cup final defeat against Manchester United.

Sinclair gave away a penalty that day, although the decision to award a foul was highly debatable and replays showed the contact with Andrei Kanchelskis was outside the area.

He said: “It was not our day. Gavin Peacock hit the bar in the first half and if that shot goes in off the bar then at 1-0 up we have a real chance.

“I was devastated. The penalty hurt me a lot. It was a crucial blow and the whole day was very painful. I lived with that until 1997.

“Eddie Newton gave away a penalty too that day and we said we would set the record straight and we did when we went back in ’97.

“It was a totally different Chelsea. We were becoming a very big club and were a quality side.

“That day there were a lot of incredibly incredible nervous people – a few had played in ’94 and there were a lot of foreign players so it was all a bit unknown for them.”

And there are many more memories – good and bad.

Sinclair, who progressed through the youth ranks at Stamford Bridge and played 219 games from 1990 to 1998, said: “I have pretty much experienced everything you can in the FA Cup, winning it, losing a final and upsets from both sides.

“I played when Burnley beat Liverpool in the fourth round and lost with Chelsea in the quarter-final at Roker Park and now I’ve been involved with the qualifying rounds at Colwyn Bay.”

A home tie against North Ferriby United in the final qualifying round awaits the victors on Tuesday night.

Win that too and suddenly a Stamford Bridge return will not seem like such a wild dream.

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