Alec Stewart: Guus Hiddink has given Chelsea new expectations.. but who will match them?
Published 00:00 31/05/09 By By Alec Stewart
Once upon a time the expectations of Chelsea fans were very different. If we won a game it was a happy day.
We knew better than to get too carried away. Disappointment was invariably just around the corner.
But now we expect our team to win trophies. That's all part of the transformation we've seen in recent times.
And that's why the threat of defeat against Everton was so potentially painful. It would have made it two years without silverware for a gifted group of players.
As a modern-day fan I know that the pecking order of trophies goes Champions League, Premier League and then the FA Cup - but the old knockout tournament is still special to me.
The new Wembley is a fantastic stadium and I have to salute the Everton fans. It was 14 years since they'd been to a cup final and their support was top-drawer.
It was a big occasion for Chelsea. It was a huge occasion for Everton and their fans were brilliant.
I was grateful to find a parking space close to the stadium. Wembley's meant to be a public transport venue, but when they close sections of the the Jubilee Line on a big match day they're not helping to fulfil that promise!
All the pre-match talk suggested a tight game, especially as the teams had played out goalless draws in both Premier League meetings this season. But that premonition went out of the window with Louis Saha's record-breaking strike.
David Moyes is a brilliant manager. He sets his team up expertly to do a job and I feared they might be able to defend that stunning breakthrough.
In my opinion Chelsea won the Cup down our left flank. Ashley Cole and Florent Malouda were just superb.
The yards Cole covers - often at high speed - are incredible. He was tireless again, and it was from Malouda's cross that Didier Drogba powered home the crucial headed equaliser.
After that, in terms of both possession and chances, there was only one winner. Frank Lampard grabbed the second and Malouda was denied a deserved goal when the linesman failed to see his shot had crossed the line after crashing down off the bar.
At the end, the scenes of celebration surrounding coach Guus Hiddink were genuine and touching. There's no doubt he turned our season around.
As a paid-up season-ticket holder and lifelong fan of Chelsea, the 2008/09 campaign will not be forgotten in a rush.
It's had it all. The eagerly anticipated arrival in July of new coach Luiz Felipe Scolari and Portuguese international Deco, through the mid-season slump when the marking at dead-ball situations in our own area was non-existent.
Then there was the return to winning ways under Hiddink, the edge-of-the-seat Liverpool and Barcelona Champions League ties, and of course this FA Cup Final triumph.
A manager and his players are judged on what has ended up in the trophy cabinet and the quality of the play that has been on show.
Entertaining football is fine, but winning is what it is all about (ask any Arsenal fan!).
It was, unfortunately, Hiddink's last game in charge. John Terry and the team gave him the perfect send-off as a huge 'thank you' for getting the season back on track.
The appointment of Hiddink was a masterstroke. And the fact that he will have a new role as an adviser helps us believe he might one day return to the front line at Stamford Bridge. Let's hope so.