Dennis Wise: Whatever Happened To The Chelsea cult Legend

Throughout his career, Dennis Wise came to encapsulate the title of ‘Scrappy midfielder’ in just about every way. Starting his career as an apprentice with Southampton, the future England international fell fowl of the then Saints manager Lawrie McMenemy. Without a club to his name, it was no accident that Wimbledon, a club that made a habit of picking up hardworking players with particular, lets say, character traits, came in for the then 18-year old.

Dennis Wise played a key role during The Dons’s famous FA Cup run of 1988, playing alongside the equally fiery Vinnie Jones at the heart of the Crazy Gangs midfield. Infact it was his floated free-kick that led to the Lawrie Sanchez winner. The famous win was the icing on the cake for Wise following a five year period in which the club had elevated themselves from the fourth division to the first.

Wise was signed for Chelsea by manager Bobby Campbell on 3 July 1990 for a club record fee of £1.6m. Playing alongside fellow Blue’s cult legends such as Steve Clarke and Craig Burley, Wise impressed on his debut against Derby County with his side running out 2-1 winners. The players combative nature as exhibited previously for the Dons going a long way to making Wise an immediate crowd favorite.

Whilst The Kensington born player scored an impressive 13 goals in his debut season (8 pens), he failed to re-discover his impressive form as displayed at his previous club. Perhaps with the club desperate to see the best out of their record signing, Chelsea signed Vinnie Jones from Wimbledon the following season. the decision seemingly worked wonders as Wise went on to become the clubs leading goal scorer for the 91/92 season with a ‘Lampard-like’ haul of 14 goals.

The appointment of Glenn Hoddle in the coming seasons saw the midfielder’s stature in the club elevated, Whilst league form was somewhat disappointing, they did achive a 1994 FA Cup final place – Wise’s chance to claim a 2nd FA Cup medal was thwarted by a rampant Manchester United who ran out 4-0 winners.

A ill-judged fracas with a London Taxi driver the following year however proved to be Wise’s true career lowpoint. After a three-month prison sentence was given to the player (overturned after appeal), Hoddle saw it fit to strip Wise of his captaincy.

Chelsea would soon lose talented manager Hoddle to the England position, Wise benefited from his replacement, former European footballer of the Year Ruud Gullit, but the signings of a string of Premier League legends such as Roberto Di Matteo, Gianluca Vialli, Gianfranco Zola and Frank Leboeuf.

Whilst the club never reached the heady height of the Jose Mourinho chapter in the clubs history, they did go on to banish the 26 year strapless baron spell, claiming the FA Cup against Middlesbrough in 1997 and against Aston Villa on 2000 (the latter ins shich Wise claimed the MOM), as well as a 98 Cup Winners Cup win over Stuttgart, which Wise’s superbly judged pass over The German sides defense set up Gianfranco Zola for the dramatic winner.

Chelsea soon made the leap to Europe’s elite after a third placed finish lead to the clubs first ever Champions League appearance. The Blues eventually exited the competition at the quarter-final stage, not without giving Blue’s fans some memorable moments along the way, most notably a Wise equaliser in the San Siro against AC Milan in the first group stage. Wise would also feature in England’s forgettable Euro 2000 campaign, playing parts in all three of the countries group games before an inevitable exit courtesy of Romania.

The sacking of Gianluca Vialli and the appointment of Claudio Ranieri signaled an end to Wise’s Chelsea career. With the Italian boss looking to bring in some young blood, an offer from Leicester City on 25 June 2001 for £1.6 million was accepted by the upper hierarchy of the club.

Whilst the player may have lost the yard of pace, his fiery nature was no less tempered during the latter stage of his career. After being embroiled with a tete-a-tete with a fellow Leicester player whilst on tour. Wise proceeded to break the nose of Callum Davidson who, ironically enough, was trying to act as peace maker during the incident. The incident led to his dismissal, not before Wise had the decision over turned through appeal.

Wise would later sign for First Division club Millwall in a player-manager role. His influence would result in an FA Cup final appearance, the first time a club from outside the top division would do so since 1992. A Cristiano Ronaldo featured Manchester United side quickly dissipated any hope of cup glory for the Londoners, as the Red Devils ran out comfortable 3-0 winners. As United had already claimed a Champions League place prior, Millwall were awarded a shot at Europe the following season in the shape of the UEFA Cup, however Wise’s side were knocked out at the first time of asking after coming undone to Hungarian champions Ferencvaros in the first round.

A falling out with the club’s upper hierarchy led to his departure during the 2004/05 season, short playing spells with Southampton and Coventry followed before Wise would attract positive praise after joining Swindon Town as manager.

A successful three year tenure resulted in Wise, his then Assistant Gus Poyet and Goalkeeping Coach Andrew Beasley all upping sticks to got to Championship side Leeds United.

The decision prove to be to the former Chelsea players detriment as poor displays led to the Yorkshire sides relegation to the third tier of English football, a forced 10 point deduction as punishment for the clubs administration status certainly didn’t help matters.

Whilst Wise impressed during the early months of the 2008/09 season, his next career moved proved to be his worst to date. After being tasked with providing then first team manager Kevin Keegan a list of potential transfer signings during a tenure as Executive Director of Football at Newcastle United, the Magpies would became a toxic football club when their cult legend decided to part with his beloved side. Keegan’s sacking/decision to leave meant Wise was victim of finger pointing from angry fans after it was believed his interference made the former strikers position untenable.

Taken from the Guardian. The incident played out:
“Mr Wise telephoned Mr Keegan and told him that he had a great player for the club to sign, namely Ignacio González, and that he should look him up,” read the statement from the arbitration panel. “Mr Keegan tried to locate him on the internet but could find no reference to him. Mr Wise told him that he had been on loan at Monaco but having checked out the details, Mr Keegan was unimpressed and told Mr Wise that he did not think the player was good enough.

“Mr Wise then told him that the player was on YouTube and that Mr Keegan could look him up there, but he found that the clips were of poor quality and provided no proper basis for signing a player to a Premier League club. Moreover, no one at the club had ever seen him play.

“However, notwithstanding that he made it clear not only to Mr Wise but also to Mr Jimenez and to Mr Ashley that he very strongly objected to the signing of Mr González [he was to be signed on loan with an option to purchase], the club proceeded with the deal and the transfer was concluded the following day, on 31 August 2008.

“The club did so, according to its witnesses who gave evidence before us, because it was in the club’s commercial interests to do so. It was what the club described as a ‘commercial deal’ by which the club meant a deal which was in the commercial interests of the club.

“The ‘commercial interests’, according to the club, were that the signing of the player on loan would be a ‘favour’ to two influential South American agents who would look favourably on the club in the future.

“The loan deal cost the club nearly £1m in wages for a player who was not expected to play for the first team but no payment was made by the club to the agents in respect of the deal.”

With his reputation in tatters since, Wise as yet has been involved in the game at a high level.

Written by Michael

Obsessive fan at heart, football blogger, David Brent quote enthusiast and father of one.

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