Sanchez recalls memories of Cup final glory ahead of Dons clash with Liverpool

AFC Wimbledon may not be dreaming of Wembley when they run out against Liverpool at Kingsmeadow. But Monday’s FA Cup tie will cast minds back to that golden May afternoon 27 years ago, when a swish of Lawrie Sanchez’s head humbled Anfield’s aristocrats and directed the trophy to SW17.

Wimbledon’s 1988 cup victory was the culmination of a fairytale only this grand old tournament could conjure. The FA Cup’s lustre may have been dimmed by the Premier League’s gaudy excesses as the financial imperatives of top-flight survival trump the cup’s magic all too often these days.

But Wimbledon’s win, perhaps more than any other, encapsulates the FA Cup’s singular charm.

A club that played its first football league game ten seasons beforehand triumphed against the most successful club in English football history. Des Lynam called it “the turn-up of the century”. Sanchez, however, rejects their underdogs’ tag.

“We certainly weren’t by our league position. We finished seventh that season. We’d actually drawn with Liverpool that season and we’d previously won at Anfield,” he said.

“On the day we were confident we could win and that’s for sure.”

The Dons settled any lingering pre-mach nerves in an unorthodox way at their Wimbledon base the night before the final.

“We went to the pub just up near Cannizaro’s. I had a shandy, a few others had soft drinks. We whiled away a couple of hours talking to the locals.” – Lawrie Sanchez on Wimbledon’s pre-match before the ’88 Cup Final

“We went to the pub just up near Cannizaro’s. I had a shandy, a few others had soft drinks. We whiled away a couple of hours talking to the locals,” said Sanchez.

“They dragged out an old dear from next door whose father had played for the original Wimbledon on Wimbledon Common, so that was a nice touch.

“We wandered back to our rooms about ten o clock. Watched a bit of TV and went to bed. So the story about players getting paralytic, I certainly didn’t see that and I was there.”

Sanchez is quick to debunk, too, the notion that any pre-match Wembley tunnel shenanigans unsettled Liverpool.

“A bit of myth has blown up about it. A few shouts went up. I don’t think it intimidated Liverpool because they were far too good a side to be intimidated by a few shouts,” he said.

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish had certainly assembled one of Anfield’s finest attacking sides, built around the fluidity and guile of John Barnes, Peter Beardsley, Ray Houghton and John Aldridge.

The apotheosis of their greatness came the previous month in a 5-0 drubbing of Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest that Tom Finney described as “the finest exhibition I’ve seen the whole time I’ve played and watched the game”.

However, Bobby Gould and assistant manager Don Howe had done their homework.

“We tried to shuffle the ball to [Gary] Ablett on the left-hand side rather than let[Alan] Hansen, [Gary] Gillespie or [Steve] Nicol have it, because they liked to play out from the back,” said Sanchez.

“We just broke up their play. And we were very, very good at set-plays which obviously proved crucial on the day.”

And when Dennis Wise prepared to flight over a free-kick midway through the first half, Sanchez was ready to make his mark on FA Cup history.

“I’ve got a nick to it and it’s gone into the opposite side of the goal. I’ve turned around to celebrate, and every photograph I’ve got of me celebrating has got Dennis Wise. He jumped straight onto me and every picture I’ve got my face is obscured with his back,” he said.

Sanchez says watching Beasant save Aldridge’s penalty was the moment he thought the cup was theirs. But the Wimbledon skipper’s historic intervention deprived Sanchez of a rightful inheritance.

“A few weeks later, I went over to Dave’s house for dinner and I saw the ball. I said: “What happened there?” He said: “‘Oh, Gouldy gave it to me after the game for being the captain”,” he said.

“I saw Gouldy not long afterwards and said: “How on earth do you give a ball to the goalkeeper? Being a centre-forward yourself?”” He’s still got it in his trophy cabinet.”

“There was no bonus. There was only appearance money for getting to the final.” – Despite being promised £1million for winning, Wimbledon’s players got nothing

Even more galling was the players’ failure to get owner Sam Hammam to commit to a bonus promise he had made two years earlier.

“We said: “What about the FA Cup?” And he said: “Oh, I’ll give you a million pound if you win the FA Cup!” The following morning he came down. “No, no, that would be silly. We won’t do that”.

“Of course, we weren’t that bothered because we never thought that two years later we would be winning the FA Cup. So we let him take it out. In fact, there was no bonus. There was only appearance money for getting to the final.”

Hammam had, at least, arranged a Plough Lane marquee for the players after the game, but Sanchez recalls passing his incredulous brother as he drifted to bed, exhausted, at 11pm.

“He’d gone to the bookies to get his winnings on me, cos he had me to score a goal at 33/1. So he earned more money than I did from the final,” said Sanchez.

“He said: “How can you go to bed, you’ve just score the winning goal in the Cup Final! You can stay up all night on that!””

When the doorman at Cannizaro’s asked Sanchez what papers he wanted in the morning, he replied “every one in the English language”, and he was not disappointed.

“In the morning, there’s a knock on the door and this bloke’s come up and no joke, he’d probably a foot width of papers,” said Sanchez.

“I remember lying in bed just reading them, re-reading them and reading them. That’s when, I think, the significance of it hit me.” he said.

Sanchez will be at Kingsmeadow on Monday to make the FA Cup draw, and he senses Liverpool’s defensive frailties are there to be exploited by Neal Ardley’s team.

“I don’t think the centre-halves at Liverpool will have come up against a player like [Adebayo] Akinfenwa before, so that’ll be a real test,” he said.

“This is what the third round of the FA Cup is all about. There wasn’t a shock on Saturday, It’s all primed up for a shock, so let’s hope we can go and do it.”

Related Articles