Wednesday, 22 March 2023

1983 FA Cup final: Manchester United v Brighton

Manchester United and Brighton will soon meet at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-final. Forty years ago, the clubs contested a final that would live long in the memory.

It is possible that Gordon Smith has been contacted quite a few times recently by journalists willing to rake up his infamous last minute chance in the 1983 FA Cup final. But it would be unfair to remember Smith and the 1983 final for that moment alone. 

As with many finals during the glory days of the competition, that day in May was about so much more than the match itself. The cast of characters involved, the fairy tale of relegated Brighton reaching Wembley, the pain of Steve Foster, the team songs, banners, awful pitch, a helicopter. 'And Smith Must Score' is naturally the point where all roads lead to with this tale, yet dig deeper and there is so much more to enjoy.

Monday, 6 March 2023

1983/84: Tottenham v Nottingham Forest

It was a move that divided opinion. When news broke in the summer of 1983 that Division One matches would be shown live on BBC and ITV, there was more anxiety than expectation. From this point in time, the relationship between the national game and television would change the sport forever.

The £5.2 million deal struck would see both channels allocated five league matches each, although the BBC only covered four due to a technicians' strike leading to the Watford-West Ham fixture being scrapped. There was certainly no chance of over exposure during the first full season of live coverage.

Wednesday, 8 February 2023

Golden goals: Peter Beardsley (1987)

It seems a bit strange to consider that Peter Beardsley was under pressure at the start of his Liverpool career in 1987. Admittedly the forward had only scored three league goals in his opening nine league matches for the club. But Beardsley had always been more a scorer of great goals rather than a great goal scorer.

Obviously the £1.9 million Liverpool paid Newcastle had a lot to do with the added scrutiny. The record deal between British clubs was part of a summer spending spree by manager Kenny Dalglish, with John Barnes and Ray Houghton also arriving. John Aldridge had joined in January 1987, as Liverpool aimed to prepare for life without Ian Rush.

Monday, 30 January 2023

1988/89: Everton v Arsenal

Maybe the Propellerheads and Shirley Bassey knew their ball, as the kids may or may not say now, in respect to Arsenal's 2022/23 season. "The word is about, there's something evolving. But to me it seems quite clear, that it's all just a little bit of history repeating."

You may be wondering if the introduction above is one of those legendary unfathomable clues on 321, yet it really is just my ham-fisted way of drawing comparisons with Arsenal's forthcoming match at Goodison Park and their Division One fixture at the same ground in January 1989. Because, in certain regards, what is evolving at Arsenal in 2023 does have elements of history repeating itself.

Tuesday, 17 January 2023

1984 FA Cup Fourth Round: Brighton v Liverpool

Could lightning strike twice? In February 1983, Brighton under the management of Jimmy Melia visited Anfield and pulled off the shock of the FA Cup by beating Liverpool 2-1 in the fifth round. A little under a year later the teams were paired together again in the competition that Liverpool had not won since 1974.

There were noticeable differences for the sequel. This time Brighton would play the part of hosts, but many of the component parts behind their 1983 FA Cup run were no longer at the club. The biggest change had seen Melia resign in October 1983.

Thursday, 12 January 2023

1979/80: Tottenham v Arsenal

Squad rotation is now sadly a pivotal part of the FA Cup third round experience. Each year most Premier League clubs and those in the Championship striving for a slice of the cash cow make sweeping changes to their starting XIs, with the famous old competition suffering as a consequence.

Of course it wasn't always this way. There are a number of tales from the distant past of marathon seasons, cup replay sagas, and players out on their feet as managers without the luxury of vast squads attempted to drain every drop of energy from their reserves.

Wednesday, 4 January 2023

1986 FA Cup Third Round: Birmingham v Altrincham

It was a fitting chapter in the shambolic story of Birmingham City's 1985/86 season. When Gola League Altrincham visited St Andrew's in the 1986 FA Cup Third Round and left victorious, it says a lot about the state of the First Division side that it was not a huge shock. On and off the pitch, Birmingham City were spiralling out of control.

Manager Ron Saunders had predicted the trouble ahead. After leading the club to promotion in the previous campaign, the former Aston Villa boss urged chairman Keith Coombs to spend some money, otherwise the club faced an instant return to the Second Division.