Iwan Roberts: When Vinny Jones and the Crazy Gang ended my FA Cup dream
PUBLISHED: 11:58 30 January 2020 | UPDATED: 11:58 30 January 2020
What a great win it was at Turf Moor last Saturday.
Burnley were going into the game after back-to-back wins against Leicester and Manchester United and manager Sean Dyche fielded quite a strong starting XI. The lads' reward for that impressive win is an away trip to either Spurs or Southampton - two places where they've lost narrowly in recent weeks.
As expected, Daniel Farke rested a few of the lads who've been heavily involved in recent months and the lads who came in impressed and gave the head coach food for thought as to team selection for the hugely important trip to the north east this weekend. Let's be honest, all 14 Premier League games left are now hugely important.
The closest I got to an FA Cup final was a quarter-final substitute appearance for Watford against Wimbledon's Crazy Gang, a game that, looking back, we really should have won.
We played at Plough Lane and believe you me, there were no frills and spills about that place. It's fair to say that many teams were beaten before they kicked a ball as it was a proper non-league ground and it suited Vinny Jones and his team-mates down to a tee.
Another factor that went against us that day was that Dave Bassett, the former Dons manager who'd brought them from non-league to Division One in about five seasons, had just been sacked by Watford and his former players were determined to make us pay for what they thought was a huge injustice.
It was a bruising game and Wimbledon had a man sent off before Malcolm Allen fired us in front and we all thought, this is it - semi-final here we come. But the Crazy Gang had different ideas. As they often did in those days, they equalised from a set-piece through Eric Young, who would later be a team-mate of mine with Wales and Wolves. The whole momentum of the game changed and you'd have thought we were the team down to 10 men. We were hanging on by our fingernails going into the last few minutes and just as we thought we'd weathered the storm and forced a replay, big John Fashanu raced past our defenders and slammed the ball past Tony Coton - we were down and out.
Wimbledon went on to beat Luton in the semi-final and then caused one of the biggest FA Cup final upsets in the history of the competition when they beat Liverpool 1-0, courtesy of a Lawrie Sanchez header from, yes, yet another set-piece.
It was a tough couple of years for Watford as the season before we'd reached the semi-final only to be beaten 4-1 by Spurs at Villa Park. But that was an easier pill to swallow as we had our club secretary Eddie Plumley's son Gary in goal for us on the day.
Watford were having a goalkeeping crisis before that semi-final as Tony Coton - one of the best keepers I've ever played with - had broken his leg and then just a couple of days before the semi-final Steve Sherwood, our second choice keeper who'd played in the 1984 Cup final for the Hornets, broke his hand so we were up a certain creek without a paddle!
Anyway, to cut a long story short we signed Gary on a short-term contract. It was that short he played only one game for the club. Gary had played in the lower leagues, mainly for Newport County. and if my memory serves me right he was now an estate agent who was about to play in goal for us in an FA Cup semi-final against Spurs.
Yes, you guessed it ... he had a shocker and was at fault for all four goals, but you couldn't really criticise him as the game and the occasion was far too big for him. And let's be fair, we weren't spoilt for choice in the goalkeeping department. Looking back, Graham Taylor would have been better playing our youth team keeper, Shaun Murphy, as he was a very capable keeper if a bit on the short side. But hindsight is a wonderful thing I guess.