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It seems fitting to release this now as Dan returns to his native Romania, taken from Rivals.net


Following the recent decision by Dan Petrescu to return to his native Romania to continue his career, BAWA would like to take this opportunity to dissect the Chelsea career of the popular international wing-back and induct him into the BAWA Hall of Legends.


Dan Petrescu joined Chelsea in November 1995 after being signed for a fee of £2.3 million from Sheffield Wednesday. His signing, by Glenn Hoddle, represented the end of a chase for his signature that had lasted approximately nine months.

Hoddle saw Dan as a key figure capable of playing the style of football he was trying to develop at Stamford Bridge. Indeed, they were exciting times with Dan joining a squad already bolstered by the pre-season signings of Ruud Gullit and Mark Hughes.

Ironically, Dan was paraded in front of the Chelsea faithful prior to the home match against his former club, Sheffield Wednesday. Some doubt exists whether Dan was registered in time to play or indeed whether an agreement had been made with Sheffield Wednesday in true gentlemanly style to prevent him playing.

Therefore, the Chelsea faithful had to wait until the 18th November for Dan to make his Chelsea debut. The opponents were Leeds United and the venue Elland Road. Bedecked in the number 24 shirt, Dan played in a 1-0 defeat, the winner coming from Tony Yeboah.

Incidentally, that game also saw the introduction of a young Michael Duberry, hastily recalled, due to a lengthening injury list, from a loan spell at Bournemouth.

Dan made his home debut on the 22nd November in the fixture against Bolton Wanderers. Almost instantly Dan showed the home crowd what he was capable of with his fine attacking runs. In the first half he made a surge down the right flank producing a chance that David Lee gleefully tucked away.

The second half saw more of the same, Dan played a fine ball across the eighteen-yard line for Gareth Hall to score Chelsea's second goal of the night. With Chelsea winning 3-2 for their first win in five games, Dan was already well on the way to becoming accepted by the Chelsea faithful.

Three days later, 25th November, Dan played in his first London derby. The opponents were Spurs and the match coincided with the boardroom bust up between Matthew Harding and Ken Bates. The disagreement saw Matthew barred from the directors box and probably gave the quiet, skilful Romanian a little insight into what life could be like at a high profile club.

After gaining a valuable away point at Old Trafford where a youthful David Beckham plundered the equaliser for the home side, Newcastle United were the visitors to Stamford Bridge and Dan was to open his Chelsea scoring account. The goal itself, whilst being memorable, was not without its farcical element.


Whilst Dennis Wise waited to take a free kick, Newcastle keeper Shaka Hislop left the field injured. His replacement, the international keeper Pavel Srnicek, watched in almost disbelief at the events that took place in front of him. Wise floated the free kick in only for Les Ferdinand to head clear but unfortunately the ball fell straight to Dan who despatched a sweet shot into the net. Pavel's first task would be to pick the ball out of the net.

His second goal was to come in the same month, Wimbledon were the visitors and the date was December 26th. Anticipation was high after a draw at Arsenal and a win at Manchester City. With only 12 minutes completed, Dan scored with a low, crisp right foot shot to send the home support into raptures of festive celebration.

Unfortunately, as is often the case with Wimbledon, things didn't quite turn out so well as Chelsea stumbled to a 2-1 defeat. However, the paths of Petrescu and Wimbledon were to cross again later that season. Another point to note was that it was also the game that saw Vinnie Jones dismissed for a wild tackle on Ruud.

Liverpool were the last visitors to Stamford Bridge in 1995, December 30th, and Dan played a distinctive part in the first Chelsea goal. With a vociferous crowd roaring the team on, Dan produced a telling cross into the box that John Spencer acrobatically volleyed home. It was a goal that was to be replayed time and time again on television. Sadly, Liverpool escaped with a 2-2 draw so there was not much festive cheer to associate the Christmas of 1995 with.

As 1996 beckoned nobody could possibly know the roller coaster ride that lay ahead for Chelsea Football Club and Dan Petrescu. Newcastle United returned to Stamford Bridge on January 7th for a 3rd round FA Cup match. With everything evidently under control and a 1-0 win in sight, everybody associated with Chelsea watched in horror as Dimitri Kharine gifted Newcastle an undeserved late equaliser.

If the first few months of Dan's Chelsea career had been without controversial incident the trip to Everton on 13th January certainly provided the first contentious issue. Tussling with Limpar outside the box, Dan was as surprised as the rest of us when the referee gave a penalty against him as Limpar tumbled into the area. Overall the game was poor and the misery was compounded when Mark Hughes was dismissed later in the game.

With Everton away considered a low point in Dan's season, the FA Cup replay at St James Park must be one of the very high points. With many feeling that Newcastle would brush Chelsea aside, the Blues produced a memorable performance and eventually won on penalties. One abiding memory for me will always be the chase for the late equaliser that pushed the game into extra-time.

As Chelsea battled the ball somehow appeared at the far post. Gullit seized the opportunity and flicked the ball home. Amazingly situated about two yards from the goal line and right in front of the goal was our number 24. Dan had sneaked into an unmarked position ready to capitalise on any half chance. With the ball safely in the net, the Romanian who was, by now, becoming a favourite of the fans danced an unreserved jig of delight.


Three days later, January 20th, Chelsea returned to Premiership action and a curling right wing cross early in the second half found John Spencer for the only goal of the game. Chelsea's season was certainly gaining momentum and after a 4th round victory at QPR, perhaps, like the rest of us, Dan secretly believed that Chelsea could win the FA Cup.

By now Dan had become a favourite of the supporters and on 4th February he played a major part in Chelsea's biggest victory of the season. The opponents were hapless Middlesbrough with Dan beautifully setting up the second and fourth goals in a game remembered for a Gavin Peacock hat trick.

The month of February saw a slight dip in form with losses against Coventry and West Ham followed by a victory at Southampton. However, after securing a hard fought draw at Grimsby the FA Cup run was to continue.

In the replay at Stamford Bridge, Grimsby were brushed aside with Dan playing an active part in the first goal, scored by Michael Duberry, with a majestic cross from the right.

As Wembley beckoned, Chelsea and Dan resumed their acquaintance with Wimbledon in an epic trio of games. The first two games ended in draws 1-1 and 2-2 but the real drama was to come at Selhurst Park on the 20th March in the FA Cup replay.

Dan had probably his best game, so far, in a Chelsea shirt. He opened the scoring in the first half with a memorable goal. Bursting into the box he unleashed a vicious rising shot that beat the keeper at his near post and nestled in the side netting of the opposite post. Minutes later he looked as if he was going to repeat the feat, unfortunately Kimble brought him down and Dennis fluffed the resulting penalty.

Unfortunately that was probably the last great high of that first season at Stamford Bridge for Dan Petrescu. FA Cup glory disappeared in the sands of Villa Park where a young David Beckham, incidentally wearing that familiar number 24 shirt, capitalised on a basic mistake from a young Craig Burley to quash everyone's Wembley dream.

Results also went from bad to worse as Chelsea won only one of their last six Premiership games, incidentally against Leeds. To cap it all off, Dan watched helplessly as the manager who signed him, Glenn Hoddle, disappeared into the sunset to become national coach.

But all in all Dan Petrescu could be satisfied with his contribution since joining from Sheffield Wednesday and indeed had sown the seeds for a successful Chelsea career. As he rested in the close season I wonder if, like many of us, he had any inkling of just what lay around the corner.

Read Part Two tomorrow.


 

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Part 2

The summer of 1996 witnessed a dramatic phase in the history of Chelsea Football Club. With Hoddle departed, Dan watched as the new manager, Ruud Gullit, recruited some of the best Europe could offer. From having previously been one of Chelsea's costliest signings, Dan found his transfer fee somewhat dwarfed by the arrival of Roberto Di Matteo and Frank LeBouef. He was also to witness the arrival of the enigmatic Vialli as Gullit strove to take the club further forward.

Dan first played with several of the new signings in the Umbro Trophy pre-season tournament. It was to be the first indication that the arrival of the new signings was to lift Chelsea to another level. Although only a minor tournament it gave Dan great satisfaction when Chelsea lifted the trophy. Dan himself played an active part by scoring in the game against Ajax after a lovely Di Matteo through ball.

With the season about to start Dan became the owner of the number "2" shirt he was to wear with such distinction. The season was to start well for Chelsea with the team not suffering a defeat in the first five games.

Perhaps the most notable incident involving Dan in those initial games came in the home game with Coventry. Keeper, Steve Ogrizovic, threw the ball out and Dan appeared to control it with his arm. Despite protests the game continued and after an ensuing melee LeBoeuf scored. If the initial protests had been somewhat half-hearted what followed certainly wasn't. An enraged Gordon Strachan vociferously argued with the officials and continued his protests late into the night on the television.

The season may only have been a few games old but already Dan was demonstrating the attacking role he was to play with such finesse. Foraging out on the right, Dan skilfully beat two Villa defenders before crossing and enabling LeBoeuf to score the equaliser against a Townsend inspired Villa. It was also noticeable that when Di Matteo had scored the winner against Middlesbrough, Dan was the furthest Chelsea player forward as the shot hit the net.

His first goal of the season came in the tricky Coca Cola Cup tie at Blackpool. On a night where nerves were tested when Blackpool initially took the lead, Dan helped steady the ship when he danced around two sluggish defenders to despatch a crisp shot low into the net.

If the season had started with much optimism, it was about to enter a rocky period. Petrescu and Chelsea entered a run of five games that saw Chelsea lose four and draw one. Amongst the defeats was an embarrassing one by Blackpool in the second leg of the aforementioned cup-tie. However, the period had seen Dan score for Romania in an international match away to Iceland.

To compound matters Dan had picked up a calf injury that prevented him from participating in the Coca Cola Cup match at Bolton. It was to be a traumatic night for all concerned with Chelsea. If losing to Bolton was a bitter pill to swallow and what happened after would be forever etched on our minds.

Returning from Bolton, Matthew Harding and his associates were killed in a tragic helicopter crash. The next game, against Spurs, saw Dan join his fellow players in a moving tribute to the departed in front of the newly named Matthew Harding Stand. Once the game started, Dan was once again instrumental in the result. Mesmerising the Spurs defence he darted into the penalty area and was brought crashing down. David Lee scored the resulting penalty.



A Silent Tribute

Two away trips to the North West followed with a high spot being scoring the equaliser against Blackburn. With Chelsea trailing, Dan latched onto a loose ball outside the area and shot, the ball took a deflection off Billy McKinlay and nestled in the net. It was also the game in which Gianfranco Zola made his Chelsea debut. I wonder what became of him?

Although Gullit had Chelsea playing a passing game results were still not all they should have been. In the next four games Chelsea were to lose tow and draw two. In the first of those against Newcastle, Dan had an opportunity to score a late winner but his header was deflected over and to safety. The run of four games culminated in a 3-0 defeat at Roker Park where Chelsea were comprehensively outplayed.

Dan missed the defeat at Roker Park. The game was played on a Sunday and Dan played for Romania in a World Cup qualifying tie against Macedonia that Romania won 3-0. Despite frantic efforts to make it back in time involving flying from Skopje to Vienna and then on to Heathrow arriving Sunday morning, Dan watched the game on television.

The World Cup trip to Macedonia also caused Dan to miss the Christmas Dinner Dance that was held at the Novotel, Hammersmith. However, it wasn't all bad news as Dan's sterling performances saw him rewarded with a new contract.

As the festive season approached, Dan enjoyed a little bit of a purple patch With West Ham the visitors to Stamford Bridge, Dan was involved in a fine move that saw himself and Zola combine for Hughes to score. Later in the same game, Hughes headed in a superb cross from Dan for a fine 3-1 victory.

Visiting Villa Park on Boxing Day, a through ball from Dan resulted in Zola opening the scoring in a 2-0 win. With his old team, Sheffield Wednesday, visiting Stamford Bridge three days later Dan thought he had scored after he headed in a Burley shot that had rebounded off the bar. Sadly for Dan his attacking aspirations had got the better of him and he was rightly adjudged offside.

As the country heralded in the New Year, Petrescu helped Chelsea avenge the 5-1 defeat at Anfield by participating in the 1-0 victory over the team that, unknowingly at the time, were to play a significant role in Chelsea's season.

On January 26th, Liverpool returned to Stamford Bridge for a FA Cup 4th Round Tie. Chelsea had beaten West Brom in the previous round but had enjoyed mixed fortunes against Forest and Derby in the two games preceding the epic tie. With Liverpool leading by two goals at half time, Chelsea had it all to do in the second half.

Many people will remember the game for the performances of Hughes, Zola and Vialli but it should not be forgotten the significant part Dan played. Firstly by foraging around in the penalty area he had a creditable assist in Zola's equaliser but more importantly it was Petrescu's precision pass that enabled Vialli to slide the ball past James for the third goal.



Unsung Hero

Buoyant on the back of a blooming cup run, Petrescu declared in February that:

"My confidence is very high, I'm very happy in London, and so are my wife and family"

Just the words the fans wanted to hear from their favourite Romanian.

Leicester were the next FA Cup opponents and true to form Dan played a significant part in the build up to a goal. With Chelsea leading 1-0 thanks to a Di Matteo goal, Dan burst through central midfield and played a lovely ball into the path of Hughes who obligingly scored with a diagonal cross shot. Unfortunately, Leicester fought back and only succumbed to a late penalty winner in the replay.

A week later Manchester United came to Stamford Bridge and Zola scored another memorable goal dancing through a static United defence after latching on to a precision pass from Dan. Sadly Dan missed the next game, at Derby, with a calf strain as Chelsea suffered a 3-2 defeat.

With half an eye on Wembley, Chelsea's form fluctuated somewhat. Blackburn drew at Chelsea whilst West Ham scraped a late winner in a thrilling 3-2 game at Upton Park. Thankfully, Chelsea showed grit and determination to beat Portsmouth 4-1 in the Quarter Final at Fratton Park. Chelsea were in the last four and Dan along with the rest of us had the scent of Wembley firmly in his nostrils.

Read Part Three of the Petrescu Files, coming soon.
 

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Part 3

After having missed the humiliating trip to Roker Park where Chelsea were soundly beaten, Dan played an active part in the corresponding fixture. First an immaculate pass set up Zola for a flying volley and then Dan himself scored after Perez had saved a Zola shot. To round things off nicely a superb ball put Di Matteo through for the sixth and final goal in a resounding 6-2 victory.

But the emphatic victory was to herald a change in both the fortune of the team and Dan. Although points were gained against Southampton and Middlesbrough, severe defeats were suffered against Arsenal and Coventry.

For the 3-1 reverse at Coventry Dan was rested. However, in years to come the fixture may well generate an unusual question. Chelsea turned up without their away kit and were forced to wear a strip belonging to Coventry. The kit was numbered 1 to 11, so therefore it became probably the only time a Chelsea player, other than Dan, wore the number 2 shirt that season.

After the disaster at Coventry, Dan was to suffer the heartbreak of not playing in the FA Cup semi final against Wimbledon at Highbury. The back injury that had seen him rested the previous game had not healed sufficiently for Ruud to risk selecting him. On reflection the injury could well have prevented Ruud from making an unpopular decision.

Fearful of the expected aerial onslaught, Ruud was contemplating revising his formation. Could Dan's injury have finally convinced him to do so? The game itself is history; Chelsea reached Wembley with Zola scoring probably the goal of the season.

If Dan had felt slightly aggrieved to miss the semi final clash with Wimbledon he certainly made up for it in a Premiership clash just over a week later. Returning to the scene of that wonderful goal he had scored in the FA Cup he promptly found his name on the score sheet again.

This time Dan raced onto a lovely Zola pass before elegantly finding the net. If Ruud needed any convincing of Dan's attacking prowess prior to the FA Cup Final then Dan certainly provided it.

With the FA Cup Final only a matter of weeks away, Dan knew that Ruud still expected everybody to perform at an optimum level. Dan obliged in the final game of the season at Goodison Park by supplying Roberto Di Matteo with a delightful cross that was duly converted to open up a 2-0 lead.


Everybody knew that the players would be under tremendous pressure for the FA Cup Final encounter with Middlesbrough. The faithful support could clearly glimpse their first sight of major silverware in almost twenty-seven years. The cool, unflappable Romanian recognised this and before the final reflected on his career in Italy and proclaimed that:

"The final would be something new for me. Totally different to Italy where the championship is far more important"

On a humid afternoon, May 17th, Dan Petrescu calmly strode out to achieve a rapturous welcome from the faithful assembled inside Wembley Stadium. Wearing the FA Cup tracksuit he looked every inch the cool and calm customer the supporters had come to admire over the past twelve months.

In an assured cultured display Dan was to play a significant part in the second and decisive goal. It was his delicate chip that Zola magnificently back-heeled into the path of Eddie Newton for the midfield maestro to finally send the hordes into a state of almost mass hysteria.

With the long wait for major silverware over, Dan climbed the stairs up to the Royal Box to receive his FA Cup Winners medal. Nestling between the two scorers, Newton and Di Matteo, the unflappable Romanian international broke into a huge smile knowing that a dream had come true.



In Part Four, we continue the Petrescu Files and move on into the 1997-1998 season. If 1997 had been a fantastic year could the following season really surpass it?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I don't really use the board m8 but I think it's ChelseaBear :)
 

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some frikken player.

Why oh why you got rid of him, or why he left is unknown to me!!

at his age (which was not exactly old) and with his experiance he may well have been the difference between Chelsea now and the top group (arsenal, united, liverpool)
 

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Part 4

If Dan had any doubts about the path Chelsea intended taking after the 1997 FA Cup win; the events of the close season certainly lay them to rest. Instead of basking in the glory, fellow internationals Flo, Poyet, Babayaro, Le Saux and De Goey were added to a squad bristling with talent.

Off the pitch, the Shed End was fast approaching completion. However, its progress meant that the first three league games would have to be played away from home. With hopes of a Premiership challenge to the fore, Chelsea started badly.

On a bright August afternoon, despite taking the lead twice, Chelsea lost to Coventry, the defeat tasted bitter and was to spur Chelsea into action. The way the squad reacted showed true class and it was Dan who was to play a leading role.

Oakwell was the venue and Barnsley were the opposition. Dan put in a virtuoso performance as Chelsea romped to a 6-0 victory. Although Dan opened the scoring with a low left-footed drive it was his role in the third Chelsea goal that caught the eye.

Barnsley had a corner kick that was calmly collected by De Goey. In one swift movement he released Dan on a foray down the left, looking up he played a lovely ball straight into the path of Vialli who, without looking, buried a shot low into the net. From defending to scoring in less than "10" seconds, a typical example of Gullit's sexy football.

Fresh from getting his first goal of the season, Dan maintained the impetus by scoring in the following fixture away to Wimbledon. This time it came after Flo had left two defenders chasing shadows and played a low pass into the area. Instantly Dan latched onto it and again drove a left footed shot past a hapless goalkeeper.

With two away wins on the trot the Stamford Bridge faithful welcomed the team onto the lush pitch for the first home game of the season. The opposition were Southampton and the crowd were to witness a magnificent opening goal from a Romanian who just could not stop scoring.

Picking the ball up just outside the area, Dan looked up and calmly chipped the goalkeeper. The ball nestled in the net and Stamford Bridge rose to acclaim the first goal scored in the New Shed End. In a game that in the best of tradition, Chelsea made harder than it should have been, Dan played a crucial part in the fourth goal claiming a creditable assist as Dennis Wise netted.

Returning to Selhurst Park for the game against Crystal Palace, Dan hoped that the rich vein of goal scoring form could continue, unfortunately it didn't. However, we may never know how Dan would have fared as he tumbled to the floor making one of his trademark burst into the box. The resulting penalty being duly netted by LeBoeuf.


Dan had made an influential start to the season but Dan was not to get his name on the scoresheet for several games. Fortunately he was still to make a significant contribution in several of them.

As Chelsea ventured into European competition, for the first time since 1994, with Bratislava the opponents, Dan played an immaculate, slide rule pass for Di Matteo to open the scoring. A couple of games later at Old Trafford, the visiting support tried their best not to laugh as a ball from Dan eluded the despairing hands of Schmeicel for a gleeful Mark Hughes to bundle the ball over the line.

As the season progressed into November and Gullit chased silverware on all fronts, Dan enjoyed a memorable game against Norwegian minnows, Tromso. After suffering the indignation of a 3-2 defeat in the Cup Winners Cup first leg, Dan wiped out the deficit with a rare headed goal. On a night where a goal feast ensued Dan ensured he finished the night on a personal high notching Chelsea's 7th with a crisp low shot.

Although satisfied with two goals he may look back on the match and rue the failure to notch a rare hat trick. With four goals already scored he intercepted a poor Norwegian pass, just inside his own half, and ran the length of the pitch. Just as he looked like he was going to finish with some aplomb a despairing boot cleared the ball into the path of Vialli who gratefully accepted the easiest of chances.

The emphatic win seemed to inspire Gullit's team who promptly went on a "7" game run that only saw one defeat. The seventh game of this run was the dramatic 6-1 drubbing of Spurs at Three Point Lane. It is an occasion that Chelsea supporters will remember for eternity and Dan certainly played his part that day.

With the game delicately balanced at 1-1, Dan played a left footed cross into the danger area that Di Matteo nonchalantly headed home past a static Spurs defence. If that blunted the desire of the men from North London then what happened next certainly extinguished any lingering flames.

Leboeuf played a delightful 50-yard ball into what appeared to be an area free from danger, however the illustrious Romanian stretched out a foot and guided the ball past the despairing dive of Ian Walker. With Chelsea now rampant who can ever forge the sight of Spurs supporters deserting Three Point Lane in there thousands as Mark Nichols and Tore Flo exacted total humiliation.

The next way game saw Chelsea return to South Yorkshire and inflict another heavy defeat on a home side. Sheffield Wednesday were the victims and Dan commenced proceedings with a crisp drive for the opening goal in a 4-1 mauling.



With the holiday festivities completed Chelsea started the defence of the FA Cup they had won the previous May. Unfortunately things did not go according to plan. Manchester United cruised to a 5-0 lead before Chelsea started to play. By then it was obviously too late but some impressive play by Petrescu did contribute to the 2nd and 3rd consolation goals, scored by Vialli, in the 5-3 defeat.

Gullit's Chelsea may well have been knocked out of the FA Cup but they were still involved in two other cup competitions, Coca-Cola Cup and the European Cup Winners Cup. Ipswich were beaten on penalties in the Coca-Cola Cup Quarter Final before Arsenal inflicted a 2-1 defeat on Chelsea in the semi-final first leg. Clearly these were tense times as Chelsea chased glory.

As the Premiership programme progressed, Dan claimed yet another assist by setting up Mark Hughes for the decisive second goal in the home clash with Barnsley. Day's later Chelsea returned to Arsenal for a Premeirship clash and were soundly beaten 2-0 but nothing could prepare Dan and the Chelsea supporters for what was about to happen.

Four days after the Arsenal defeat Ruud Gullit and Chelsea parted company in a somewhat acrimonious split. In a press statement, Chelsea announced that Vialli would assume the role of player-manager. Dan would be playing for his third Chelsea manager in a little over three seasons. Had Chelsea made a mistake or would this change act as a catalyst ?

Read Part 5 of the Petrescu Files soon.
 

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Part 5

With Vialli installed at the helm, Chelsea looked to be a team inspired as Arsenal looked on in absolute anguish as their first leg lead evaporated at the hands of a rampant Chelsea. With the Stamford Bridge crowd still celebrating a wondrous strike from Di Matteo, Dan Petrescu conspired to deliver a fatal blow and put the Gunners to the sword.

A Zola corner found Dan lingering on the far edge of the penalty area but there didn't appear to be any imminent danger. In an instant Dan had duped and skipped past two Arsenal defenders and crashed a low shot into the far corner of the net, past a bewildered Alex Manninger. It was 3-0 on the night and the vociferous Stamford Bridge faithful acknowledged a wonder strike by their favourite Romanian. Once again a familiar chant echoed around the ground;

"Dan, Dan, Super Dan, Super Dan Petrescu"

Arsenal may have sneaked a consolation penalty late in the game to make the score respectable but Vialli and his team had made the final, probably against all expectations. The likeable Romanian had once again played an unmistakable and influential part in the magnanimous victory.

Unfortunately the triumph against Arsenal saw Chelsea and Dan embark on a run of form that was below the level the supporters had come to expect. In the Premiership games leading up to the Coca-Cola Cup Final, Chelsea only tasted the sweet smell of victory against lowly Crystal Palace. Thankfully Cup competitions were a different kettle of fish.

In the Cup Winners Cup, the team produced two inspired performances to overcome the Spanish challenge of Real Betis. Dan's dream of playing for Chelsea in a European Final was still alive and kicking.


However, before European ambition could be realised, Middlesbrough again had to be overcome at Wembley. For the second time in less than a year, the proud wing back strutted out onto the lush Wembley turf. Although Dan turned in a competent performance and deservedly finished up with a winners medal, he must have felt the pangs of disappointment to be substituted on such a prestigious occasion.

Returning to European action, Dan knew that following a disastrous 1-0 reverse in Italy, Chelsea would have it all to do in the second leg of the semi final against Vicenza. First there was the little matter of resuming action in the Premiership.

Chelsea's and Dan's form improved as Derby and Spurs were beaten. Against Spurs, Dan claimed another valuable assist to enable Vialli to score the crucial second goal. Sandwiched between these games was a defeat at Leeds where the irrepressible Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (who?) scored twice for the, much detested, home side.

With Vicenza scoring the opening goal at Stamford Bridge in the second leg of the semi final, Dan's European dream hung by a thread. Fortunately three superb goals, on a monumental night, ensured Dan would play in a European Cup Winners Cup Final.

As Stockholm beckoned Chelsea turned in some fine performances, most notably the fine 4-1 thrashing of Liverpool at Stamford Bridge in which Dan played his normal sublime game. Unfortunately, in true Chelsea style there was the occasional blip, both Blackburn and Newcastle cast serious doubts on Chelsea's growing belief that Cup Winners glory would be a formality.

On an almost surreal night where thousands of Chelsea supporters packed into the Rasunda Stadium, Dan was to suffer his own personal high and low against the Germans from VFB Stuttgart.

The high came when Zola put Chelsea into a deserved lead and everyone could clearly visualise Dennis Wise holding up yet another trophy for the adoring supporters to admire. The low moment came after a rash challenge with only minutes to go. Dan turned around in horror to see the referee brandishing a red card for the challenge.


It's almost a sad irony that the player Ruud Gullit didn't deem physical enough to be a full back should be sent off for an aggressive challenge. However, when Dennis Wise lifted the trophy Dan took his rightful place on the podium and celebrated his third major honour in little over a year with his beloved Chelsea.

With the season 1997-1998 coming to a superb conclusion, all Dan had to look forward to now was the small matter of the 1998 World Cup competition in France.
 

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Part 6

The season 1997-1998 had seen Dan Petrescu add two more winners' medals to his growing collection. Before the following season could commence the little matter of the 1998 World Cup lay ahead. The tournament, for Dan's followers, can basically be recalled for two incidents.


The first concerned the little matter of the way Dan somewhat humiliated Chelsea team mate, Graeme Le Saux, to dent England's World Cup dreams. The second came when Dan joined in the rest of the Romanian team in dying their hair a distinctive, but very unflattering, shade of blond. The result gave commentators around the world nightmares.

If Dan had returned from the World Cup in a buoyant mood, it wouldn't take long for him to come crashing down to earth. During the close season Vialli had spent heavily, determined to create a side that could finally challenge for the elusive Premiership. Chelsea had recruited Casiraghi, Desailly, Laudrup and Ferrer.

More importantly, Dan realised that Ferrer and Laudrup preferred to operate on his favoured right hand side of the pitch. With Desailly starting the season in a midfield role, Dan knew that competition for places would be extremely competitive.

As is usually the case Dan found himself somewhat isolated on the sidelines as Vialli, naturally, chose to start with the players he had purchased. In the first four games of the season against, Coventry (a), Newcastle (h), Real Madrid (Super Cup) and Arsenal, Dan was restricted to appearances as substitute in the home fixtures only. It must have been particularly disappointing for Dan not to participate in the European Super Cup victory over Real Madrid.


Petrescu's first start of the season came in the 2-1 home victory over Nottingham Forest, by now the blond hair of the World Cup had just about grown out. If Dan had felt relieved at finally making the starting eleven it was to be short lived. For the following four games, Helsingborg (h), Blackburn (a), Middlesbrough (h) and Helsingborg (a), he found himself restricted to a solitary appearance, coming on as a substitute in the 2-0 victory against Middlesbrough.

They were indeed troubled times for Dan Petrescu. The situation wasn't helped by it becoming common knowledge that Chelsea were prepared to sell Dan if the right offer came in. To his credit, Dan refused to discuss a transfer stating emphatically that he loved Chelsea and would stay to fight for his place.

As Chelsea resumed their campaign with another five games in October, Petrescu would start and complete only one of them, the 1-1 draw at Liverpool. In the other games Charlton (h), FC Copenhagen (h), Leeds (a) and Aston Villa (h) he made two appearances as a substitute and found himself withdrawn in the game against Villa.

However, November saw an upward turn in his fortunes. The month started with two appearances as a substitute in the games against FC Copenhagen (a) and West Ham (a) before Dan found himself re-instated in midfield for the comprehensive 5-0 win over Arsenal on November 11th.

Three days later Chelsea entertained old-foes Wimbledon and Vialli chose to start with the midfield four that had served him so well during his first few months in charge the previous season. The decision resulted in a 3-0 win and probably Chelsea's best Premiership performance of the season so far. Dan, cheered on by vociferous support, had an excellent game being credited with assists for the first two goals before rounding off his performance by scoring the third goal.


Mystifyingly the performance failed to earn Dan a place in the starting eleven for the following game away to Leicester where he sat rooted to the bench for the full ninety minutes. The following match, Sheffield Wednesday (h), saw Dan make yet another appearance as a substitute. Although they were clearly trying times for the Romanian, his behaviour remained impeccable as he continued the fight to reclaim his first team place.

As the season moved on to December, Dan's fortunes changed dramatically. In a period where Chelsea played eight games, Petrescu found himself starting and completing seven of them Wimbledon (a), Everton (a), Villa (h), Manchester United (a), Spurs (h), Southampton (a) and Manchester United (h). Amongst the highlights was a splendid cross, which Tore Andre Flo scored from to wrap up the inevitable victory over North London rivals, Spurs.

As the New Year approached one could be forgiven that perhaps the troubled start to the season was definitely behind the much loved Romanian, or was it?
 

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Part 7

With 1998 finishing on a better note for Dan with a run of consecutive starts, it was particularly pleasing to see it continue in 1999. Whilst acknowledging that Dan was turning in some solid performances, the first half of the season had been infinitely inferior goal wise than the previous season.


However, with Dan making the starting eleven more frequently, his supporters hoped that he would rediscover the goal scoring form that had illuminated his play since joining from Sheffield Wednesday.

In the month of January, with Chelsea still chasing European and Domestic glory, Dan found himself selected to start in three of the five games, namely Newcastle (a), Coventry (h) and Arsenal (a). His performance in the Newcastle game would have given him the most satisfaction.

With Chelsea pitched against their previous manager Ruud Gullit, Dan found himself bursting into the area to drill the ball home for the only, and decisive, goal of the game. In a recent interview it was a moment that Dan recalled as being one of his best in a Chelsea shirt. Indeed it was a moment that kept Chelsea on course for a serious Premiership challenge.

In the other games in January, both associated with the FA Cup, Dan didn't make the squad against Oldham in the 3rd round. Unfortunately, in the 4th round, Dan found himself substituted in the game against Oxford at the Manor Ground. On a night when Chelsea struggled to play with any rhythm, it's probably fair to say that it could have been anybody selected for the indignation of being substituted.

With the season gaining momentum, February saw Chelsea play a further six games. Out of those six games against: Oxford (h), Southampton (h), Sheffield Wednesday (a), Blackburn (h), Nottingham Forest (a) and Liverpool (h), Dan was selected for all six. It was a period where Chelsea didn't suffer a single defeat as the chase for honours continued. Could Vialli have finally recognised the talent and options the likeable Romanian gave Chelsea?


Unfortunately, the answer is still shrouded in doubt as once again Petrescu found himself withdrawn on two separate occasions, namely against Blackburn and Nottingham Forest. However, he would have taken great satisfaction from the superb cross that saw Bjarne Goldbaek score, at the far post, against Liverpool in a highly contested game that also contained the Fowler - Le Saux altercation.

As Chelsea's season entered March the bid to retain the European Cup Winners Cup resumed. Valerenga were the opposition and the two ties were the only games that Petrescu would start and complete that month. In the away tie a superb assist gave Tore Andre Flo the perfect opportunity to score Chelsea's third goal on the night.

On the domestic front, Manchester United were the opposition in the FA Cup and in the game at Old Trafford, Dan once again found himself substituted. In the replay at Stamford Bridge, Dan was to play no part as Chelsea crashed out of the competition. In the two Premiership games, Dan came on in the 1-0 reverse away to West Ham and was once again substituted in the 3-0 win at Villa Park.

April was to prove the most frustrating month of the season for both the supporters and Dan. It was a month where the season fell apart and Dan once again found himself, more often than not, the player withdrawn to make way for others.

In the Premiership he was to play no part in the win at Charlton, but found himself in the starting eleven for the home leg of the epic Cup Winners Cup semi final against Real Mallorca. On a highly charged night Dan was unable to prevent the opposition grabbing that vital away goal and even though Chelsea equalised, there was always the thought that Lady Luck had given all the assistance she would in this particular tie.

As the attention once again switched to a Premiership campaign that still promised so much, Dan once again found himself substituted in the next two games against Wimbledon (a) and Middlesbrough (a). With the visit of Leicester looming, Dan knew that three points had to be won if the charge for the Premiership was to come to fruition.

Therefore it gave him great satisfaction to see Chelsea roar into a two-goal lead. Some people, far more generous than myself, would credit Dan with the second goal. However, with fairness in mind it was patently obvious that the ball hit the post and was never going in until the unfortunate Matthew Elliott directed it into the net. Leicester subsequently scored two late goals to all but end Dan's dream of a Premiership medal.

With his Premiership dream all but over Dan travelled with the Chelsea squad to Mallorca for the second leg. With Chelsea losing 1-0 on the night and 2-1 on aggregate, Dan was once again deemed to be the fall guy and found himself taking the long walk to the bench, once again making room for someone else.


With five games left to complete the season, any lingering Premiership hopes disappeared in the 0-0 draw against his former club at Hillsborough. Unfortunately Dan missed the game through injury. Everton visited Stamford Bridge for the first game of the month of May and Petrescu finally got on the score sheet again. With Chelsea looking to finish the visitors off, Dan capitalised on an opportunity to slide in a low shot from eight yards for the second goal.

Unfortunately the celebrations were somewhat dampened when once again Dan found himself hauled off. As the season drifted towards its inevitable closure with a 1-0 home win against Leeds and a 2-2 draw at White Hart Lane, (thanks Bjarne), many thought that perhaps Dan's appearance in the last game of the 1998-1999 season against Derby, would be his first and last for Chelsea in the new kit that was modelled that day.

However, after surviving the arrival of Ferrer and Laudrup and latterly Goldbaek, but being substituted so regularly it became somewhat embarrassing, I wonder how many of you applauded the Romanian off the pitch thinking that he would be on his way?

Read Part Eight of the Petrescu Files soon.
 

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Part 8

If the season 1998-1999 had been a difficult period for Dan, a time which he had started and completed less than 50% of the games Chelsea played, then the season 1999-2000 was to provide an upturn in fortune for the quiet, but hugely likeable Romanian.


Strangely enough, Dan was to benefit from somebody else's misfortune to once again cement his place in the starting line up. Mario Melchiot had been signed from Ajax and was widely tipped to take Dan's place on the right. However, a broken bone in his foot prevented the tall Dutchman from playing for most of the season.

Competition for midfield places was going to even fiercer now that the World Cup winning captain, Didier Deschamps, had been added to the large squad. Later in the season, Ambrosetti was to provide even more competition as Vialli set about navigating the tricky waters of the Champions League.

After finding himself left on the sidelines with alarming regularity the previous season, it came as a refreshing sight to see Dan start in the first six fixtures of the season, Sunderland (h), Skonta Riga (h), Leicester (a), Aston Villa (h), Skonta Riga (a) and Wimbledon (a).

Significant moments came in three of these games. In the fixture against Sunderland some superb play down the right saw Dan exchange passes with Zola before delivering an inviting cross for Flo to head the third goal in a thumping win. Against Villa, a teasing cross was unfortunately turned into the net by Ehiogu when most of those inside the ground thought that the ball was probably going in anyway. Whilst against Wimbledon, Dan officially scored his first goal of the season.

With Chelsea piling on the pressure but not looking like scoring, Dan hit a low, rising, right footed shot from twenty five yards, that flew past the despairing dive of the goalkeeper for the games decisive goal. For the next game, against Newcastle (h), Dan found himself rested after international duty but still managed to make an appearance as a substitute.

As the season entered mid-September, Chelsea's Champions League campaign finally gathered momentum. On a mild night, with 33,873 expectant faces watching, Dan started and completed in one of the finest 0-0 draws many of us will ever witness, against AC Milan. It was month in which Chelsea played three fixtures in this competition and Dan started and completed them all.

Although somewhat disappointed by the reverse in Berlin, Petrescu was to play a defining role in the game against Galatasaray at Stamford Bridge. In a competitive match Dan was involved in the games two most significant moments. The first game in the opening half when he raced onto a through ball only to be fooled by a deliberate handball by the goalkeeper who subsequently received the red card.


The other came in the second half. With the game locked at 0-0, Dan burst onto a Chris Sutton pass. With the crowd holding its breath, Dan shot from 18 yards only to see the keeper make an excellent save. Fortunately the ball rebounded to Dan who promptly turned two defenders inside out before slotting a left foot shot into the net. That goal gave Chelsea their first ever win in the Champions League group stages. It was also one of Dan's sweetest moments in a Chelsea shirt as the opposition contained two of his friends and fellow Romanian internationals, Popescu and Hagi.

On the domestic front, Dan found himself relegated to the bench as Chelsea suffered their first defeat of the season at Watford and couldn't prevent, despite starting, the 1-0 reverse at Middlesbrough.

If September had been a month of mixed fortunes, October was to be almost a repeat. It started brightly with an emphatic 5-0 trouncing of Manchester United. Petrescu having a hand in two of the five goals. With only minutes on the clock a flighted cross into the area found Poyet whose header beat the keeper comfortably. As rampant Chelsea pushed forward slick interplay involving Dan resulted in a red shirted defender turning the ball into his own net for goal number four. All in all a satisfying afternoons work.

Straight after the United fixture, Chelsea slumped out of the Worthington Cup, beaten 1-0 at home by Huddersfield, Petrescu missed this match due to international duty. The next two fixtures saw trips, in the space of seven days to Anfield and to Hell. In the match at Anfield Dan found himself substituted whilst in Istanbul he came on as a substitute to play his part in a marvellous 5-0 win.

Arsenal were the next visitors to Stamford Bridge and on a day where events turned full circle with Chelsea losing 3-2 after racing into a lead, Dan could feel satisfied with his contribution. In the first half a right wing cross saw Flo make no mistake from close in. In the second half Petrescu found himself scoring a rare headed goal from a Le Saux ball into the penalty area.

They were to be the last highlights of the month for Dan. A flu virus resulted in him being withdrawn at half time in the San Siro Stadium and missing the defeat at Pride Park against Derby County.

November saw Chelsea play five fixtures, Hertha Berlin (a), West Ham (h), Everton (a), Feyenoord (h) and Bradford (h). Dan was to start in all of them. His most significant contribution once again came in European competition. With Chelsea now in the second stages of the competition and Feyenoord the visitors, it was Dan that created the first goal, netted by Babayaro. He also had a hand in the second goal on a night when Chelsea should really have buried the Dutch team.


With six fixtures to complete before the turn of the year, Dan found himself on the substitutes bench, resting an injury, for the hiding at Sunderland. For the trip to the Olympic Stadium to play Lazio, Dan could only watch in disbelief, from inside the six-yard box, as Zola's enigmatic cross was somehow cleared to safety.

With the FA Cup campaign commencing four days later, Dan watched from the bench as Chelsea destroyed an outclassed Hull City 6-1. Returning to Premiership action, Dan made an appearance as a substitute in the 2-0 home defeat by Leeds. It will be a game forever remembered where Chelsea simply ran out of centre-backs.

The last two games of the year, spread over the festive period, were against Southampton (a) and Sheffield Wednesday (h). Dan started both and indeed created the first of the three goals against the Owls. It had been a vastly different start to this season than to the last. With Chelsea chasing Champions League and FA Cup glory, could Dan add to his growing medal collection?

Read the final part of the Petrescu Files soon.
 
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