Days Of Yesteryear #2 – Wembley ’88 (The Not Really Live Match Blog)

I’ve tried live match blogs before, notably on one occasion whilst listening to the game on radio two hundred miles away (a huge success, as the three readers who joined me for the afternoon will attest to). So what about trying a live match blog for a game that took place twenty-three years ago? Especially a game I haven’t watched all the way through for over a decade. Well I’m all for experimenting… I was only ten years old that sunny afternoon at Wembley, and its fair to say even if I thought of blogging from the stadium the technology wasn’t quite there at the time. Armed with my rapidly diminishing memories of the day, a copy of the DVD, and a packet of biscuits, here goes nothing. The Anonymous Don time machine has been put in gear…

12:00

I remember nothing about the morning of the game. I would imagine I was quite excited, and I can guarantee sugary drinks would have played a part (not Ribena though, that gave me nosebleeds…). I do remember the night before being like Christmas Eve, so its likely I would have been up for several hours by now.

Back in the 21st century, I didn’t feel the need to go to such levels of authenticity. If I did I’d be on the Metropolitan line right now. Instead the sofa beckons. A minor technical difficulty threatens to spoil the experiment… or at very least turn this ‘live’ blog into an examination of Sam Raimi’s campy 2009 horror ‘Drag Me To Hell’. In other words that was the DVD occupying the 88 Cup Final box. A ‘Brass Eye’ disc was in Drag Me To Hell’s box, with a season of ‘Ever Decreasing Circles’ having found its way where Brass Eye should have been. To cut a very long story short, the Cup Final disc was finally located in the ‘Game On’ box, along with a copy of ‘Love, Honour and Obey’ that doesn’t even belong to me, my copy of Game On presumably long since stolen…

14.45

Balls. I forgot the DVD copy uses Brian Moore’s vastly inferior commentary, so no ‘Crazy Gang beating the Culture Club’ stuff today. According to him, Dave Beasant lives ‘a mere Dave Beasant goal kick from here’, which considering some of Lurch’s clearances could easily have meant he lived in Slough.

By this stage, the ten-year old Anonymous Don was flouting Wembley rules by standing on the step behind but leaning forward to the crush barrier, effectively taking up two spaces and doing exactly what the stewards had told me not to do ten minutes earlier, but if I hadn’t I wouldn’t have seen a thing. In fact, coming in at this point is ignoring our journey to the stadium… which was relatively trouble-free and forgettable. As regular visitors to the stadium for England games, we had a regular spot we knew we could park in, simple.

Wembley Way was packed even hours before kick off, and the heat of mid morning meant the concrete burnt like hell if you touched it. Rather more Liverpool fans than Dons, some desperately searching for tickets, fended off easily by my large group of family and friends. It seemed to take forever in the queue for the turnstiles, various ticketless fans littering the place either desperately searching for spares or resigned, head in hands, propped against walls and in doorways obviously not really sure what to do next.

Still, that wasn’t my problem, we finally got ourselves in the ground… Old Wembley was as different to new Wembley as day is to night. Much was made of the new stadiums toilet facilities, partly as those who ever visited the old ground could ever forget the sight (or indeed the smell…).

14.55

Lady Diana is being presented to the players, and in the background you can make out the Liverpool support. Those younger fans who caught sight of Harry Enfield’s scousers with thick moustaches and perms might well have thought it was an exaggeration, that their stereotypical presentation was an insult to the fine city of Liverpool. As far as most Dons fans who were there are concerned, it’s a fairly authentic historical reenactment of Cup Final day. And this DVD is proof…

15.00

The teams change ends so the Dons will be attacking where I’m standing this half. Or back in the twenty-first century, kicking right to left. Bruce Grobbelaar runs like a chicken.

15.01

Hang on. New England manager Steve Nichol (who looks about twelve) blasted the ball back fifty yards to Grobbelaar, who just picked it up, the most blatant back pass you’ll ever see, and the ref just ignores it…. oh, wait now I remember… This isn’t the only Back To The Eighties piece of nostalgia I’ve picked up on, I’m forgetting it took at least another five years before the TV companies decided it would be a good idea to stick a clock in the corner.

15.02

Dennis Wise plays a thirty yard ball on the floor forward to Fashanu. Moore decides to describe this in commentary as ‘the first long ball of the afternoon’. No wonder we had such a reputation… Meanwhile, from the resulting move, Fashanu shoots tamely from an angle into Grobbelaars arms.

15.05

Aldridge heads over under pressure. Meanwhile Wise is hacked down on the edge of the box by McMahon but Wise drifts his freekick just over. This is already a better game than I remember…

15.08

Jones barrels through the side of McMahon with a late challenge. More recent examination of the game on ‘talking head’ type shows such as ‘Footballs 100 Greatest Moments That Just Happen To Be In The BBC Archive’ would have you believe Jones should have been sent off for this, but it was no worse than McMahon’s effort on Wise a couple of minutes earlier. In fact, it probably had a lot to do with that. Everyone just gets on with the game, including McMahon, the TV people don’t even bother showing a replay until a minute or so later. In fact the incident is so unremarkable, the ten-year old Anonymous Don soon forgets all about it.

15.14

Corky nods one wide. The Dons fans can be heard singing ‘We’re Gonna Score In A Minute’…

15.26

A moment I still remember to this day. Houghton’s cross is steered goalwards by Aldridge, his effort seems to take Beasant by surprise and the ball bounces up off his knee, with John Barnes bearing down to knock it into the empty net. Lurch somehow gets a hand up to tip it away before Jones knocks it away for a corner. A miracle save, somehow the TV pictures don’t do it justice. Liverpool forced a couple of corners on the spin from there, I remember mentally preparing myself for the inevitable goal that would follow…

15.30

Beardsley tricks his way to the byline before rifling into the side netting. An absolutely nothing piece of play watching back in 2011, but at the time it was enough to give a nervous ten-year old the fright of his life…

15.33

Beardsley is fouled on the way through to goal, the referee’s whistle goes, but Beardsley carries on and puts it in the net. My younger self hasn’t heard the whistle, and the relief I felt when I realised the goal hadn’t stood was unlike anything I’ve felt in life until Eastlands…

15.34

Phelan is tugged back by Nichol down by the left corner flag. As Wise prepares to take, we know whats coming next…

15,35

1-0 Wimbledon

Once I realised the ball was in the net, and the goal had been given, I remember jumping around so much I have no recollection of what else was going on around me. Presumably other Dons fans were doing similar. For the first time in the afternoon, I believed (although that belief was to be tested during the half time interval…).

15.40

As the ball is floated in by Nichol, Aldridge collapses under no pressure from the lurking Eric Young. What a fucking cheat. I said I wouldn’t go down the ‘these days you would have…’ route, but that would have been a card in this day and age, and quite rightly too. It just shows how desperate Liverpool already were.

Meanwhile, down the other end, Grobbelaar goes walkabout and drops a cross at Terry Gibsons feet, who can’t steer into the net with goalkeeper stranded. To be fair Nichol was lurking, and the angle was really tight. Brian Moore’s measured response to this is to scream ‘No foul on the referee!’. I should have hoped not, Brian…

15.42

Moore’s repeated references Little Dennis Wise and Big John Fashanu makes me wonder whether, in his head, he actually thinks he’s commentating on Liverpool v The Bash Street Kids.

15.46

The half time whistle goes. A happy Anonymous Don relaxes in the space created by those nipping off to the gents. Until my dad leans over and tells me he thinks Wimbledon need another goal, that one wouldn’t be enough. Bear in mind, at that stage of my life I believed pretty much everything my dad told me, especially regarding football.

16.00-ish

The second half kicks off…

16.11-ish

Corky makes way for Laurie Cunningham RIP. Even now its surprising how contained Liverpool are, they haven’t even threatened in this half so far.

16.15-ish

Penalty to Liverpool

Aldridge runs on to a ball dinked through the Dons back four, Clive Goodyear spots it and slides in, diverting the ball back to Beasant. Aldridge tumbles over his outstretched leg, the referee points to the spot!

From my vantage point, behind the goal, I could see this wasn’t a penalty. I knew it was a great challenge. I was as furious as a ten-year old can get, more furious than I was two years earlier when England played a friendly against Germany in the USA but I got sent to bed (I subsequently sneaked down and tried to listen through the door, this worked for ten minutes before my parents spotted me – partly because England scored and I celebrated. Fortunately they decided this show of determination on my part needed to be rewarded, and I was allowed to watch the rest of the game… but that’s a story for another day).

Back to TV land, and Brian Moore has immediately determined it was a penalty, hesitated on being shown the replay before to his eternal credit Ian St John, Mr Liverpool himself, bailed him out by telling the nation it wasn’t. I wasn’t fully vindicated myself until hours later, on my return home, where my mum confirmed to me it definitely wasn’t a penalty. And what mum said went in our house.

16.16

The Save

Theres only been one penalty missed in FA Cup final history, and you have to go back to 1913 for that.

A ten-year old Dons fan is believing again… surely, after all this, we can’t lose?

16.30-ish

Now I can see why neutrals don’t rate this final. Literally nothing has happened since the penalty. Liverpool have largely held possession in the Dons half, but have created absolutely nothing. Still, the clock is going backwards as far as I can make out, with fifteen minutes to go I was set for the longest quarter-hour I’ve ever experienced…

16.40-ish

Now I might have only been young, but I already knew that heartache and agony in football could come out of nowhere. The previous seasons FA Cup campaign had taught me as much. I was convinced Wimbledon’s name was on the cup, until our defeat to Spurs. So the fact that Liverpool hadn’t done anything so far in the half was if anything more worrying…

Three minutes to go, every Dons clearance is greeted with ever louder cheers from the Dons end.

16.45-ish

The last few minutes or so has seen Liverpool resort to the long ball game. Fortunately they aren’t very good at it. The Dons fans erupt at the whistle… but it’s only Fashanu caught offside.I have no recollection of this happening, but the real whistle comes not long after…

Big Dave Beasant lifts the cup for Wimbledon, before Dennis Wise shouts the infamous ‘Oi oi you bastards!’ at the Dons fans… three sides of the ground had departed, leaving Dons fans to celebrate, to pinch ourselves, was this real? I don’t remember leaving the ground, my next memory was turning into our street, standing up through the sunroof on my dads car, cheering my head off.

Then the next morning, heading to Wimbledon to see the open top bus. So many people were out on the route, cheering the lads home, for one day the people of Wimbledon remembered they had a football club. What became of them? While on my return to school a few of my schoolmates had become Wimbledon fans overnight, it lasted only a couple of weeks, until the new season started and it was all about Man U and Everton once more. Crowds remained the same next season, people had forgotten again.

Still we had our moment. Ever since that day, on meeting people and revealing I was a Dons fan, they would ask ‘Were you there?’, and I could proudly say yes, yes I was. It was one of the greatest moments in my life, and probably always will be.

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