Tuesday, 10 February 2015

1983/84 FA Cup: Fifth round

This piece follows on from my previous blogs on the first, second, third and fourth rounds of the 1983/84 FA Cup, which you can view here, here, here and here.

With most of the main leads out of the 1984 FA Cup already, it was time for the supporting cast to take centre stage as Fifth Round weekend approached. Two First Division clubs would fluff their lines, bundled out by lower league opponents during a round that was blighted by the continuing issue of hooliganism, as clubs and the police struggled to control the angry young men gathered in and around the grounds (as Andy Townsend might say).

Some may have been sneering at the apparent lack of quality left in the FA Cup (a slightly snobby attitude), but the competition somehow managed to limp on regardless.

The Pilgrims sail on

It is often perceived that a change in manager can help turn around the fortunes of a team, acting as a kick up the backside to under performing players, yet in the case of West Bromwich Albion in February 1984 it seemed to be a case of fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Just five days before their crucial cup tie against Plymouth, manager Ron Wylie and coach Mike Davis left the club, the former unhappy with the lack of faith shown by the board towards the latter, both men leaving the club with eighteen months left on their contracts.

The board of directors had initially called the emergency meeting after a 1-1 draw at home against Everton - watched by a season low crowd of 10,313 - had seen West Brom drop closer to the relegation zone (albeit still eight points clear of the dreaded 20th place), their run of three wins from their last twelve league matches a worrying slump. Even so, the timing of Wylie's departure was hardly ideal, and it would prove to be an expensive experience on and off the pitch for the club.

Albion reportedly spent £250,000 in bringing Johnny Giles back to the club, with his assistants Norman Hunter (recently sacked by Barnsley) and Nobby Stiles (Giles' brother-in-law) making up what the board hoped would be a dream team. Giles had enjoyed success at Albion previously, gaining promotion to the top flight and finishing seventh in Division One under his management regime in 1975-77. "The board are confident the appointment is the right one and he will certainly be a popular choice," stated Albion chairman Sid Lucas, as Giles rode into town. If Giles needed any indication of the task ahead, his eyes would be well and truly opened on the following Saturday.

Third Division Plymouth, backed by their 5,000 fans, arrived at the Hawthorns, totally outplaying their supposedly superior opponents, so much so that victorious manager John Hore was truthful in his assessment of the match: "In 90 minutes they never bothered us, not once". Argyle dominated the midfield, their trio of Kevin Hodges, David Phillips and Leigh Cooper constantly getting the better of Martin Jol, Romeo Zondervan and Steve MacKenzie, with Tommy Tynan's winner after 58 minutes just reward for Plymouth's display.

For Tynan and Plymouth there was further cause for celebration. The striker had been on the transfer list, mainly due to the fact that he could not sell his house in Newport - the location of his previous club - but when his estate agent contacted Tynan on the eve of the match to inform him that the sale had gone through, Tynan declared his intention to stay. "It was nice to get that goal as I have now decided to stay at the club," Tynan said, as Plymouth celebrated reaching the last eight for the first time in their history.

To use the words of the Daily Express' Barry Flatman, Giles had been greeted like a Messiah prior to the kick off - "I'm glad I went out there before and not after," Giles joked later - but West Brom's total capitulation on the day highlighted the troubles at the club. Giles would help West Brom avoid relegation and steered the club to a solid 12th place in 1984/85. But after a shaky start the following season, Giles resigned, with Stiles taking over for what turned out to be a disastrous reign at the club. The inevitable relegation followed, and it would take sixteen years for West Brom to get back.

Giles would outlast his opposite number by a significant distance. Cornishman Hore had been plucked from Bideford Town to take charge of Plymouth in October, but despite the heroic cup run, former player Hore would be sacked in November 1984 with the club in 21st position in the Third Division. But all of this must have seemed a million miles away as Hore and his players made history and sent 5,000 supporters back to Devon dreaming of the Twin Towers.

The English disease

On the face of it, Birmingham City's 3-0 win over West Ham at St Andrew's was not all that surprising. West Ham's appalling injury jinx - Geoff Pike, Alan Devonshire, Paul Goddard, Steve Whitton, Alvin Martin, and Trevor Brooking all missing - coupled with a poor record in Birmingham (they had lost the league match 3-0 a month earlier), was hardly the ideal recipe for success. Yet come the end of the match, Birmingham's comfortable win was not the main topic of discussion.

To the football first. Goals from Robert Hopkins and Tony Rees within the opening 13 minutes put West Ham immediately on the back foot, and it was no surprise when Billy Wright added a third late on from the spot. "We expected to win," admitted a bullish Wright after the match. "West Ham play nice, attractive football. But they don't compete the way we do. If you get an early goal against them, they collapse. It was the same when we beat them 3-0 recently in the League".

What West Ham may have lacked in fight on the pitch was certainly made up for by the behaviour of their fans. After 80 minutes, hundreds of disgruntled Hammers' fans invaded the pitch, the press speculating that they were attempting to get the match postponed, although referee George Courtney assured worried Birmingham players that they would stay until late if needed. The match was held up for four minutes, Courtney taking the players off the pitch. But there was more trouble ahead.

Soon after the restart, fans from both clubs got on to the pitch, Hopkins apparently saving Courtney from the hands of an aggressive supporter, with Birmingham Kevan Broadhurst punched squarely in the face for his troubles. "It was a frightening moment," Courtney explained about the invasion. "In 11 years on the League list, I've never known anything like it".

The match was finally concluded after the second delay of seven minutes, yet the damage had been done. Over a hundred people were hurt, 109 arrests made, and more than 200 seats ripped out, with fighting in the streets of Birmingham continuing afterwards. Understandably the events were frowned upon. FA chairman Bert Millichip seemed at the end of his tether over the whole affair: "We've been 15 years trying to solve this problem and we are no nearer than when we started".

An FA Commission was set up to discuss possible measures against both teams, with the decision taken to hand suspended FA Cup bans to the pair. If there was any further trouble involving the clubs that season then they would be banned from the 1984/85 FA Cup, with the threat of a ban in 1985/86 rolled over to the following campaign too. A pity really that the events overshadowed a fine win by a Birmingham side that come the end of the season would be relegated.

The Derby soap opera rolls on

Now on to another Midlands team that would progress to the quarter finals with problems of their own. Derby's preparations for every round of the competition seemed to be dominated by financial matters, and the Fifth Round was no different. In the week leading up to their match against Norwich it was revealed that the NatWest Bank had frozen the club's account, and with a High Court case looming on the horizon concerning £129,000 owed to the Inland Revenue, rumours that a Hong Kong based company had pulled out of a potential takeover was the last thing anyone associated with the club wanted to hear.

You would have thought that a good FA Cup run was just what the club needed, but nothing was that clear cut with Derby in 1983/84. With cup tickets included on season tickets already, Derby were not making a great deal of money through home ties, and the enormity of their plight was highlighted when the club failed to pay Telford £20,000 owed from gate receipts in the previous round within the six day limit. Such was Derby's perilous state that the FA advised Norwich to keep the £14,000 they made in ticket sales from their travelling fans, just in case Derby could not pay up.

Somehow the players managed to put the turmoil to one side and produce a performance that shocked First Division Norwich. In truth Norwich were poor, manager Ken Brown admitting that his players had let themselves and the club's supporters down. Paul Haylock had an afternoon to forget, his trip on John Robertson allowing Archie Gemmill to give The Rams a 54th minute lead from the spot, although Norwich were adamant that the Scottish winger had gone down a little too easily. Haylock again would take centre stage in the 74th minute, with his misplaced pass/clearance allowing Bobby Davison to double the lead. John Deehan pulled one back for Norwich, but it was too little too late.

What should have been a reason to be cheerful was soon turned sour, however, when FA Secretary Ted Croker made noises that Derby would be kicked out of the tournament should they fail to pay the remaining £4,000 owed to Norwich before the following Friday. "There is a very real danger that unless Derby pay this outstanding amount by Friday they might not be allowed to compete in the quarter-finals at Plymouth. They have already broken the rules," said a determined Croker.

Webb hit back, claiming that the FA statement was poorly timed, and that the club would honour their debt. "I can understand pressure from outside soccer, such as the Inland Revenue's winding-up petition against us next month, but surely we are entitled to expect a certain measure of tolerance, and sympathy inside the game". Derby County would continue to fill column inches in the coming months, as the club lurched from one disaster to the next, so it was probably understandable that Webb, a man with so much on his plate, should come out fighting.

Reid all about it

Bit by bit, the pieces of the Everton jigsaw seemed to be slotting into place as the FA Cup rounds progressed. If Neville Southall and Andy Gray had been the inspiration behind the Fourth Round marathon with Gillingham, then midfield warrior Peter Reid was the central figure in their much easier win over Second Division Shrewsbury.

Reid played a part in two goals (scored by Alan Irvine and a Colin Griffin own goal) and netted the other in Everton's 3-0 win, prompting The Times' David Powell to pen the following tribute: "Watching Peter Reid on Saturday was like trying to follow an ex-convict on his first few hours out of jail. Determined to make up for lost opportunity, Reid could not stay still for a minute. A moment's inattention and you were likely to miss a piece of devilish improvisation".

Powell was hinting that Reid was trying to make up for lost time, his previous injury record restricting the development of the England under-21 midfielder, both at his previous club Bolton and Everton, who he had signed for in 1982 for the fee of just £60,000. "This is my first full season without injury for a long time, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I keep going," Reid related after the match. Keep going he would. In a remarkable few seasons for Reid he would reach four Wembley finals, win two League titles, a European Cup Winners' Cup, the PFA Footballer of the Year in 1985, and play for England during the 1986 World Cup.

It may have been a different story had Steve Cross' early effort gone a few inches lower instead of striking the bar, but on the day Shrewsbury were well and truly outplayed. "It was difficult to pick out a good performance in our side," bemoaned Shrewsbury boss Graham Turner, with keeper Steve Ogrizovic kept constantly busy by an Everton side now just three games away from two trips to Wembley (earlier in the week they had beaten Aston Villa 2-0 at Goodison in the first leg on the League Cup semi-final). The speed behind the Everton bandwagon was building and building.

The Saints go marching on

For the third round in a row, Southampton were drawn away from home, and would again win by a single goal. Second Division Blackburn provided Lawrie McMenemy's side with a stern test, the promotion chasers unbeaten in sixteen matches and still to taste defeat at Ewood Park in the league. BBC bosses obviously thought the match would be a close affair, the tie covered live on the Friday night. In front of a crowd of 15,357 (almost twice the average gate during the season) Southampton rode their luck.

Two goal line clearances in the first half kept Southampton alive, Simon Garner particularly frustrated, especially when he appeared to celebrate a goal bound effort a little too early and could only watch in horror as Reuben Agboola got back to avert the danger. Garner was again thwarted late on in the first half, Peter Shilton denying him with a fine save, and as the match went on it did look as if Southampton had weathered the storm. Steve Moran would provide the extra bit of quality needed to separate the teams, his run down the right wing setting up David Armstrong for the winner just after the hour, as FA Cup favourites Southampton marched on.

The continuing development of Southampton under McMenemy was highlighted when Bobby Robson, who had been at Ewood Park, named three players in his squad to face France in the forthcoming friendly against France (Shilton, Mark Wright and Steve Williams), with Danny Wallace and Moran also in the under-21s.

"The good teams are not out, just the glamour teams," stated a determined McMenemy, who would lead the club to the runners-up spot in Division One come the end of the season. It would be a season to enjoy, although ultimately the luck that had gone their way in the previous rounds would run out during their eventual Highbury date with Everton in April.

A happy honeymoon

A sell-out crowd bringing record gate receipts of £75,000 would witness another chapter of the Watford success story, with George Reilly and Mo Johnston again amongst the goals as Graham Taylor's side beat Brighton 3-1 at Vicarage Road. A Reilly header after nine minutes and Johnston's 26th minute strike gave Watford the ideal start, Brighton's Steve Foster not particularly covering himself in glory for both goals. Danny Wilson pulled one back after 71 minutes, but Kenny Jackett put the tie to bed when he cracked in a volley shortly afterwards.

Both Jackett and Les Taylor ran the show in midfield, dominating Wilson and Tony Grealish, a surprise to many newspaper journalists who appeared to dismiss Watford's midfielders as unused members of the team due to the direct style of play adopted by Taylor. With full backs David Bardsley and Wilf Rostron restricting the effectiveness of Brighton wingers Steve Penney and Neil Smillie, the chances of a return helicopter trip to Wembley 1983 style were greatly reduced for the away team.

One man undoubtedly happy to hear of Watford's win was chairman Elton John. The singer had married Renate Blauel on Valentine's Day (four days before the Fifth Round clash) and was apparently paying £120 for the privilege of phoning back home to listen to the hospital radio commentary of the match during his honeymoon. As a man who watched Arsenal v Real Mallorca during his own honeymoon, I couldn't possibly pass judgement on the actions of Mr Dwight.

In a nutshell

The remaining two ties were not particularly adverts for the beautiful game, more indicative of the rough and tumble world of 1980s football in Britain. Notts County, who like Birmingham would suffer relegation come May, defeated Malcolm Allison's Middlesbrough through a single John Chiedozie strike - the winger happy to switch flanks after a Tony Mowbray reducer just 20 seconds into the match - his jinking run and fine finish the footballing highlight of the day.

Even before Mowbray's tackle had made Chiedozie aware of his presence, Middlesbrough fans had also done the same towards the County fans and the police, invading the pitch prior to the kick off, and infiltrating parts of the home terraces. It seemed to set the tone for what followed.

Described by The Times' Nicholas Harling as "an unpleasant match" and "ordinary and abrasive", this was not an afternoon for the faint hearted, Harling questioning if the ball had suffered from vertigo throughout. Two struggling teams - Allison was sacked a little over a month later - unsurprisingly didn't provide a rich offering.

Another team that did not win any prizes for attractive football were Second Division high-flyers Sheffield Wednesday. The Daily Express' Steve Curry used adjectives such as dour, dogged and determined when describing Wednesday's approach under Howard Wilkinson, with The Times' Clive White writing about their "economical long ball game" and their reliance on getting the ball in the box and relying on a mistake by their opponents.

A trip to Oxford's Manor Ground looked tricky on paper, the home team playing in their 18th cup tie of a very successful season which had seen them beat the likes of Manchester United, Newcastle and Leeds at home in both cup competitions, and push Everton all the way until that Kevin Brock back pass.

But in many ways, Wilkinson's side were a much tougher proposition than some of the sides that had fallen before, and so it proved. Two Gary Bannister goals and an Imre Varadi strike saw the Yorkshire side go through comfortably, with Oxford at least afforded the ample consolation of being crowned Third Division champions at the end of a long season.

So after eight matches played over two days, the FA Cup Fifth Round was done and dusted, the first time since 1963 that there had been no replays required at this stage of the competition. Of the eight remaining teams, only three had won the Cup since the Second World War - Derby 1946, Everton 1966, and Southampton 1976 - with journalists pondering whether a new name would be engraved on the famous old trophy in May.

One of the big five in Everton; the emerging Southampton; three struggling Midlands' clubs faced with the real prospect of relegation from their respective divisions; teams that preferred a more direct style in Watford and Sheffield Wednesday; and a Third Division underdog that had already exceeded expectations. Lawrie McMenemy may have been right that generally the more glamorous teams were no longer involved in the FA Cup, but it certainly did not make the competition any less interesting.

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