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Wise, Dennis (1990-2001)


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Dennis Wise (1990-2001)

Written by Loz in June 2007

wise%20and%20a%20streaker.gif Oh Dennis Wise scored a.... I would have finished the verse but Frank Lebouef has asked me to mind my language. I was at the Bridge watching Chelsea play in 2003 and for no justifiable reason I burst into a rendition of that fine family ditty, I was barely four words in when someone shouted out ‘He f***ing left years ago you f***ing muppet!’ Cretin!

I don’t care about him being at Millwall and I am even prepared to forgive his connection with Leeds (who I trust we are all in agreement are worthy of blood curdling hatred), Dennis was, is, and always will be a Chelsea player to look back on with nothing but total adulation. Hey which one of us hasn’t felt done over by a London cabbie before?

1966 was a great year for English football, most significantly Dennis Frank Wise was born in Kensington on December 16th and there was also something going on at Wembley which Jimmy Greaves didn’t get to play in (serves him right for joining Spurs) – it was also the year Eric Cantona was born, you can always rely on the French to ruin a good thing.

wise_dennis_wimbledon%20aug%2088.jpg As a cheeky jellied eels cockney teenager Dennis was actually on the books of Southampton however Lawrie McMenemy didn’t take too kindly to his ‘Dennis the Menace’ personality and he was kindly asked to vacate the premises at the tender age of 18 (although other reports state his reasons for leaving Southampton were because he was homesick). Total bloody scoundrel, full of cheek and not afraid to put his boot where other people position their thighs – in 1985 there was one club where that fitted the bill perfectly, Dennis was off to Wimbledon (although funnily enough it was Chelsea’s Gwyn Williams who recommended him to Wimbledon).

Back then Wimbledon were portrayed as a team that played the kind of football you would be ashamed to see your pub team play however that, for me, was doing them an injustice. They weren’t even that impressive! This was football that wouldn’t have looked out of place at Culloden however it was bloody effective and right at the heart of it was Dennis Wise, in terms of ability a class above the rest, but in terms of attitude he was the vein that the team’s blood ran through (although in fairness with Vinny Jones and that prick Fashanu in the side in the side most of the blood flowing tended to belong to the opposition). However as civilised human beings we should not care a jot about these matters, what is important is that they beat Liverpool in the 1988 FA Cup final.

wise_dennis_%20nov%201990%202.jpg The lad had a little too much quality for Wimbledon and in July 1990 signed for Chelsea for a then Chelsea record of £1.6m (I don’t need anyone reminding me that we also signed Dave Beasant from the same team).

Wisey’s debut came at the start of the 1990-91 season in a 2-1 victory over Derby County and he put in a cracking performance which made us all sit up and take notice. Three days later we saw the other side of Dennis that we all grew to love – he was sent off for embarking upon a ‘friendly disagreement’ with Crystal Palace’s Andy Gray . The England manager at the time was Graham Taylor. And for some inexplicable reason, he felt the need to publicly condemn Dennis for his behaviour – it wouldn’t be long before Taylor would realised that being criticised for your own cock ups was not a pleasant feeling.

wise_dennis%20england%20may%2091%202.jpg The start to Dennis’ career at Chelsea didn’t exactly take the Chelsea fans by storm and it wasn’t long before there was a fairly vocal dissatisfaction with the level of his performance. This appeared to be turned around by a freak occurrence in his England debut. Wise was called into the England squad for a game against Turkey and on his debut he scored a blinding goal from at least 60 yards – now I know that most reports describe this goal as a freak one that went in off Dennis’ buttocks but as Chelsea fans I urge you all to believe my fictitious description of events. This success appeared to galvanise Dennis and his form picked up considerably before the season was out.

The following season saw Dennis reacquainted with hod carrier Vinnie Jones. Irrespective of what people may think of Jones’ time at Chelsea I would think most people would acknowledge that his partnership with Dennis was one of the key reasons that Wisey’s Chelsea career started to blossom. Dennis scored 10 goals in that 1991-92 season and helped Chelsea win at Anfield for the first time in 60 years (and in doing so became the first ever opposition player side to be awarded the sponsors' man-of-the-match award at Anfield).

wise_dennis_aprio%2093.jpg The 1992-93 season, like every season, had me predicting great things for Chelsea – we were going to have the league sewn up by Xmas and by February the fans would be basking in the glory of being worshipped by Swedish nannies. Sadly, like every season until Jose Mourinho took over, my expectations were a tad inflated (apart from the nannies thing, they are ten a penny now). Chelsea started the season well but things started to fall apart after the New Year, it being no coincidence that this coincided with injury resulting in an extended absence from the first team for Dennis.

Prior to the 1993-94 season Glen Hoddle was appointed as player manager and we got rid of that snivelling wretch Andy Townsend (a human being that makes Guy Fawkes look honourable). This meant the armband was up for grabs and Dennis climbed on a box to grab it. It was not to be a particularly memorable season from a team perspective as we struggled in the league and although we did make it to the FA Cup final we never stood a chance against the combined efforts of Manchester United and, more significantly, David Ellerey. However on a personal level Dennis shone as Chelsea captain and was quite possibly the main reason we finished 14th instead of in the drop zone.

wise_dennis_oct%2095.jpg 1994-95 was to be something of a tumultuous season for cheeky little Dennis. A season more remembered for off the field events than on the field ones. In particular a run in with a London cab driver which saw Dennis found guilty of assault and handed a three month jail sentence. This resulted in his captaincy being withdrawn, albeit temporarily, and then after all that Wise was released on appeal and cleared of all charges. His brief time at her majesty’s pleasure, and the sense of helplessness, was something he admitted to being “the worst moment of my life”.

The following summer saw Sparky and Ruud Boy sign for Chelsea. Gullit, especially, was to be a milestone in Chelsea’s and Dennis’ career (didn’t stop Wise calling him ‘Big Nose’ – such respect!). Within no time it was as if Dennis and Gullit had played together all their careers, and Dennis, for me, developed more as a player in that one season than he had in his entire time at Chelsea to date. This was to be Hoddle’s last season in charge of Chelsea and we bid him farewell with a fairly mediocre mid table finish and as losing semi finalists in the FA Cup, losing 2-1 to Manchester United.

So with Hoddle off to manage England and bring a lot of faith, self healing and urban hip hop music to the dressing room (one of those things is made up) Chelsea are on the look out for a new manager. What were Chelsea looking for? A little stability maybe, a stout back line, a manager who could take a Ruud Gullit and try and turn him into a Martin Keown (though admittedly even a head on collision with a herd of wildebeest couldn’t have caused sufficient physical damage to render Ruud that ugly), could it really be we were seriously considering appointing George Graham? The fans spoke and, unlike Zammo, the fans said ‘No’ although maybe our language was a tad more colourful.

Ruud was appointed as player manager and his stature in the game, and Colin Hutchinson’s shrewd dealings in the transfer market, meant Chelsea could now attract players that in all honesty we couldn’t have realistically dreamt of seeing in a blue shirt. Robbie D, Luca, a dubious French centre half who took a cracking penalty, and then none other than the ‘Magic Man’ himself, Gianfranco Zola. What of cockney Dennis? In amongst all these household names, and Lebouef, surely Dennis would be squeezed out, his bite your ankles style not fitting into the new ‘sexy football’ regime. On the contrary, Dennis just got better and better, both as a player, but also as a captain. Never overlook the role Dennis played in welcoming these new signings to the Bridge and taking responsibility for ensuring they settled in with little or need for a transition period.

matt2.jpg The season kick started in somewhat erratic style with some good results but also some absolute shockers, notably a gubbing by both Wimbledon and the team followed by the ‘best supporters in the world’. Then, in October, tragedy struck Chelsea with the death of much loved (apart from by Ken Bates) club Vice Chairman Matthew Harding in a helicopter crash.

harding.gif This appeared to install a sense of duty in the squad, a desire to achieve the one thing that Matthew Harding would have wanted to see as much as any of us ‘normal’ fans did – Chelsea winning silverware. Maybe this wasn’t the reason things turned round but I like to think it played a major part, and I convinced that Dennis would have been the driving force behind it.

Three points were taken away from Old Trafford, revenge was gained against Liverpool and of course we got our standard six points off Tottenham. However it was to be the in the FA Cup that Chelsea were to find glory. Wisey got the ball rolling with the first goal of our campaign when he scored the first in a 3-0 third round win over West Bromwich Albion at the Bridge. The next round was to witness one of the finest (some say it was the very finest) game in the club’s history when we turned in a second half performance that still gives me goosebumps to turn an almost dead and buried position, into a 4-2 win over Liverpool. Leicester fell next, albeit after a replay, and Wisey scored a brace as we thumped Portsmouth in the quarter final.

wise%20lifts%20fa%20cup.jpg Wimbledon proved no match in the semis, a game where we witnessed one of the finest goals Zola ever scored in a blue shirt, and then Middlesbrough, in all honesty, were never really in the match for the final. Wisey became the first Chelsea captain to lift a major trophy at Wembley (with apologies to all Full Members Cup fans).

The 1997-98 season saw Chelsea flying high on multiple fronts. We were sitting in second in the Premiership, and had reached the semis of the Coca Cola cup and quarter finals of the European Cup Winners Cup when all of a sudden my world collapsed (OK slight exaggeration).

dennis%20and%20franco.jpg I was outside a bar in London (well I had to go outside, no bloody reception inside) when my brother called me to tell me Ruud had been sacked - surely this was a wind up. I went back into the pub (I am fairly sure it was early afternoon) and asked the publican to put the TV on. Sure enough Bates had done the unthinkable, luckily the publican was also a blue and so I spent the rest of the day in there, got sh*tted and at one point I am fairly sure I had convinced myself it was all a figment of my imagination. But it wasn’t…..

Luca took over and proceeded to finish off what Ruud had so successfully started. The League Cup final saw a first class performance by Wisey, he showed that tosser Andy Townsend the art of dominating the middle of the park and then proceeded to ruin Paul Gascoigne’s Boro debut my nutmegging him on at least two occasions. Wisey’s cross led to the opening goal off Frank Sinclair’s odd shaped head and then Robbie D made sure his was a name Boro fans would never forget. Once again Wisey was to climb the Wembley steps and send us Blues fans off to the pub in fine voice.

wise%20and%20luca%20ecwc.jpg Before you could catch breath we were at it again, another Wise assist, another trophy although this time it was the European Cup Winners Cup and it was Franco scoring the winner. A winner scored 17 seconds after a partially fit Franco had come off the bench. I watched that game in the living room of the flat I was renting in one of the sh*ttiest, and roughest, parts of Glasgow and for one night, and one night only, I didn’t care that I lived there!

We finished that season in 4th spot, our highest placing in the top flight since we had finished 3rd in the old first division back in 1969-70. That statement would only be valid for one season, 1998-99 saw us finish 3rd and, in the process, we only lost three games (remarkable when you think we had lost 15 league games in 1997-98).

dennid%20red%20card.jpg This was also to be a season where Dennis did us ‘proud’ in the red card stakes. He picked up three over the course of the season including one for an adult rated tackle on Villa’s Darren Byfield. It has to be said that Byfield had been going down faster than a two bob whore and was maybe asking for a bit of a hit but Dennis took matters into his own hands in a way that would have made Caligula blush! Just imagine what Dennis would have done to Cristiano Ronaldo….. hmmmmm imagine folks – it’s a nice image isn’t it! So third place and a crack at the Champions League beckoned.

Year after year after year, Wisey, unlike Clive Sinclair’s inventions, had got better and better and better however surely that had to come to an end. Maybe so but that plateauing wasn’t to occur in the 1999-2000 season. Amazingly his level of performance improved again, and this time he was to demonstrate it on the Champions league stage. Not only did he score the goal at the San Siro that spawned the opening paragraph on this profile (which seems a lifetime ago now) but he also got on the score sheet away at Galatasary when we mugged them 5-0 on their own turf, scored the solitary goal against Marseille at the Bridge and even managed to bag a header away at Feyenoord as we ran out 3-1 winners. Despite the fact that his goal against Milan is now immortal courtesy of the song that we should always sing in his honour (and if the person who berated me for singing it ever signs up to the forums then they better keep their identity a secret as they have no place on a Chelsea forum and as search will be banned in an instant) it is not my most prevalent memory of that Champions League campaign. That honour is awarded to Dennis on the team bus making its way from the airport when we travelled to Galatasary. The team was ‘welcomed’ by the customary, and duly ignored by UEFA, vitriol and intimidation by the Turkish fans and all Wisey could do in response was watch from the bus window, wave, and practically piss himself laughing.


Barcelona brought the Champions League run to an end after extra time at the Nou Camp (how did you miss Robbie?) and in the Premiership we secured a decent, if not spectacular, fifth position. Once again it was to be the FA Cup which provided Dennis with further success as Chelsea captain. Wise was amongst the goals in early rounds against Hull City and Nottingham Forest and Di Matteo’s winner at Wembley (in an admittedly disappointing game) gave Dennis the joy of climbing the famous Wembley steps to lift one last FA Cup for Chelsea.

wisebaby.jpg It wasn’t long before Dennis repeated the climb, this time to lift the 2000 Charity Shield, however life at Chelsea, and consequently for Dennis, was to be turned on its head just a few weeks later. Just as Gullit’s dismissal had come out of the blue, so did Luca’s. The man brought in, although well thought of in Spanish football due to his time with Valencia, was pretty much unknown to the Chelsea crowd. The appointment of Claudio Ranieri, now looked at retrospectively, marked the beginning of the end of Dennis’ Chelsea career. Ranieri has been given explicit instructions to reduce the average age of the Chelsea squad and Dennis was a long way the wrong side of 30 by this point. Wise and Ranieri were never close in the way that Wise had been to both Ruud and, especially, Luca and although he played more games that season than any other player he was often played out of position and rarely given the opportunity to influence the game in the way we all knew he could. On the last day of the season Dennis scored in a 2-1 away win at Manchester City and I think it is fair to say that the wagging of the Wise finger toward Ranieri was not to say ‘that one is for you boss.’


That summer Wise left for Leicester for £1.6m, exactly what we had paid Wimbledon for him over 10 years previously. Someone did tell me he went on to manage Millwall and Leeds but I know they are lying.

Dennis said of himself in an interview given to ‘The Independent’

"On the pitch, I've always tried to give as much as I could. And yes, I will wind people up," he says. "You do what you can to win. A lot of people didn't like that. But - how should I put this - I enjoy playing football. Whatever happens out there, happens. Afterwards I have a beer with them, and I haven't got problems with anyone."

Dennis is a thoroughbred Chelsea legend and anyone who doesn’t think we should sing his name at the Bridge isn’t fit to be at a Chelsea game.

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