Sunday, 27 February 2011

We're on our way to Wembley.....

So after today's dramatic Carling Cup Final which saw Birmingham City book their place in Europe we thought we'd take a breather and look back at some of the great games played at the national stadium.
So to follow then are my top five games, that I've witnessed (be it live on the TV or by actually being there) at Wembley Stadium the home of English football.
My first game at Wembley was back in 1982! England against Holland and I think England won two nil, it was the last game for them before the Spain World Cup and too be honest I can't remember much more about it! Although I do know that I couldn't see a lot.......but anyway we're starting with those same two teams.

Number 5 - England 4  Holland 1 Euro 1996

Now some people will say that I should have picked England v Scotland, which is true it was a great game for an England supporter with Gazza's goal long remembered. But I remember this game with more of a sense of anticipation, not that I thought we would easily beat Scotland but because Holland were one of the great footballing sides and there was a bit of edge after they had put us out of World Cup qualifying under Graham Taylor. We'd started Euro '96 shakily with Shearer having not scored in the 12 games prior netting against Switzerland, but that opening game felt something of an anti climax once they had equalised. We were on a high following the game against the Auld Enemy but still knew that the Dutch would be a tough match. It's the third goal of course that did it for me, good build up play with Gazza, Shearer & Sheringham all linking up well. I feel after this result we did really start to believe that Football was coming home.

Number 4 - Manchester Utd 2 Brighton & Hove Albion 2 1983

The script for this one would be rewritten and used a few years later as Manchester United took on Crystal Palace, but more of that later. Brighton had already been relegated from the First Division and were poised to be the only team to be relegated & win the FA Cup in the same season if they were victorious, Manchester Utd had on the other hand finished third and were strong favourites. Steve Foster (pictured) was missing for the final and many thought his presence in the heart of Brighton's defence would spell disaster for the south coast club. But against the odds they took the lead early on and were still leading into the second half until Frank Stapleton equalised. Again two teams looked the equal of each other in a final and even though they then went down two one to a curling Ray Wilkins effort they came back again to take the game to a replay. In fact in the dying minutes they could have won the game with Gordon Smith through on Man U 'keeper Gary Bailey only for the Scot to lose his composure and let the chance slip by. The replay with Foster back in the Brighton side was a comprehensive four nil win for Manchester United, but for a moment the Mighty Manchester team were rocked.

Number 3 - Tottenham Hotspur 2  Notts Forest 1 FA Cup 1991

We're well into FA Cup Final territory now and our next entry takes us to the beginning of the Nineties and for me the last of the great FA Cup Finals. For me many of the recent finals have been one sided predictable affairs with only the one goal settling it, I want goals, drama & the occasional upset in my FA Cup finals. Well this one definitely had the drama, could Forest manager Brian Clough win the one trophy that that alluded him his entire career or would Spurs FA Cup veterans, win again for a then record eighth time? Since his tears in Turin at Italia '90 Gazza had become a footballing superstar and he arguably got Tottenham to the final single handedly. Following on from his wondrous free kick in the first ever FA Cup Semi Final to be played in front of the twin towers he was certainly up for the final. But as we all know now he was just too psyched up and a reckless challenge early in the game on Gary Charles saw him stretchered off injured, many would say that this saved the ref his job of getting the red card out instead. So as half time came any Spurs fan would be thinking, what else can go wrong? Your star player is off the pitch injured, you're one nil down as a result, you've had a goal disallowed for off side and to make matters worse you've seen only the second penalty to be saved in an FA cup final as the usually cool as a courgette Gary Lineker had missed the chance to draw the teams level.
But fate and maybe a bit of karma were on hand that day, as following an equaliser from Paul Stewart which took the game into extra time, Gary Mabbutt came up for a corner, his last appearance in a final saw him score a freakish own goal and his presence behind Des Walker saw the Forest defender head the ball into his teammate Mark Crossley's net giving Spurs the victory.

Number 2 - Manchester United  Crystal Palace FA Cup Final 1990
More drama and stories now, going back the year previous, 1990.Crystal Palace had performed miracles in the Semi Final knocking out Liverpool to set up a clash with Manchester Utd. It would be Palace's first final while United were looking for their seventh win.I think as a neutral when it comes to these sort of games, you pick your side and cheer them on and nine times out of ten we'll go for the underdog. Palace weren't given a hope, their main man Ian Wright had just come back from a broken leg and would start on the bench. But as is the way for these things the Londoners showed grit and determination,they were too physical for Manchester United and went a goal up. But with the scores reversed by United leading two one it looked like Palace were dead and buried. Roy of the Rovers stuff was to follow as Wright came off the bench and scored with his first touch with twenty minutes to go, having got the equaliser that took the game to extra time he scored again to put his team ahead. It wasn't enough of course as Mark Hughes scored his second of the game to take it to a replay which United eventually won by one goal to nil, but for a while it was heart in the mouth stuff.

Number 1 - Coventry  Tottenham Hotspur FA Cup Final 1987

So at number one I've gone for a great underdog story, Coventry City versus Tottenham Hotspur. Maybe not David v Goliath territory but still up there at least with some of the better giant slayings. Spurs had had a great season, David Pleat before his rather hasty exit as manager following some "car trouble" had got the best out of Tottenham's skillful players, packing a five man midfield that supplied the ammunition for Clive Allen who had scored for fun and eventually broke the Spurs goal tally record that season as they finished third in the League. Coventry on the other hand didn't have the flair so much or the big name players, although they did boast Cyrille Regis amongst their ranks. Spurs were expected to walk it, well things don't always go to plan as this season's Carling Cup shows. Coventry went for Spurs from the off and the game was an unrelenting spectacle, proper end to end stuff. Spurs lead at half time and there had been three goals already, more was to follow of course with Keith Houchen's flying, diving header taking the game into extra time. It was one of those games you didn't want to end but thanks to a desperate attempt at a block from Gary Mabbutt resulting in the Spurs skipper putting through his own net, Coventry finally land the knock out blow that saw them lift the trophy.

So there we are my top five, you won't agree of course but that's what it's all about! I could have come up with many more but we like these little bite sized nuggets for you to savour.
Let me know your views below.......

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