UNFASHIONABLE, unfancied and uncultured; the team formally known as Wimbledon got a hard rap in the ’80s and many believe that the team they would become are a symptom of the greed that encapsulates the modern game, but today in 1988 the Dons pulled off one the biggest shocks in FA Cup final history by beating Liverpool at Wembley.
Eleven years earlier Wimbledon won promotion to the Football League and tore up the leagues, being either promoted or relegated in every season from 1979 to 1984, landing in the top flight in 1986, using uncompromising long-ball tactics that won them few admirers.
This direct play, coupled with the physical approach from the likes of Vinnie Jones, Dennis Wise and John Fashanu, won the Dons few admirers and when they faced the freshly crowned champions Liverpool, few expected the cup to head south.
But, dear reader, that’s why we love the game so much. Renowned for their pranks, Wimbledon started early with the mind-games, as manager Bobby Gould putting the dressing-room clock back two minutes so that Liverpool had to wait in the tunnel before kick-off. “The FA Have got their rules but you can tweak them a little bit, just don’t tell anyone till 20 years later,” he recently admitted.
Future Norn Iron manager Lawrie Sanchez headed Wimbledon into the lead in the 37th minute and then they battened down the hatches.
Liverpool huffed and puffed, but couldn’t blow the Crazy Gang’s house down. The scousers were given a dodgy looking second-half penalty, but John Aldridge had the ignominy of being the first player to see a spot-kick saved in a FA Cup final as Dave Beasant dived to his left and denied the Irishman.
Wimbledon held out to win the cup and their only major honour, and one can only imagine the carnage that followed that night as we’re sure the crazy gang knew how to party.
It’s been twenty years since the final and nowadays the cast from that day haven’t all had the most traditional career paths. Whilst Sanchez went to manage his country, Dennis Wise can be found as an Executive Director (football) at Newcastle, Vinnie Jones is lauding it in Hollywood, Fash the Bash was Ian Wright’s predecessor as Gladiators host and Eric Young is probably still wearing a headband somewhere.
The club itself has been trough the wringer, losing their top-flight status in 2003 before their infamous move to Milton Keynes when they were rebranded as MK Dons, angering the majority of the football community. Phoenix club AFC Wimbledon were created and have been racing up the leagues, including a play-off win at the new Wembley stadium last month.
MK Dons have also had a day out under the new arches, as they bagged the Football League Trophy this season at the expense of Grimsby Town. Paul Ince has also lead them to the League 2 title, and we reckon this is karma in play, as earlier in the season they agreed to hand over 500 pieces of memorabilia to AFC Wimbledon.
See footage from Wimbledon’s cup run below and head over here for the tale of a final that was won with a goal that was fit for any occasion.
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