This piece follows on from my previous blogs on the first, second and third rounds of the 1984/85 FA Cup, which you can view here, here and here.
The chaos caused by the new ice age that was sweeping across Britain in January 1985, meant that when the draw was made for the Fourth Round of the FA Cup there were a number of either/ors to be sorted before we could get a clearer picture of the landscape ahead. When the snow cleared, the most appetising tie set before us seemed to be the Liverpool v Tottenham clash, a battle between the current champions and, according to some papers, the champions elect. Although this was chosen as the live FA Cup match on the Sunday, and the tie was undoubtedly the pick of the round, there were enough tales in the other fifteen matches to keep us warm inside, a footballing Ready Brek if you like. A round of big-time Charlies getting their comeuppance, missed penalties, shocks, culture clashes, ticket price hikes, and non-league glory. For this particular blogger however, it is not particularly a weekend of my life that I recall with total fondness.
York City. Those two words still fill most Arsenal supporters of a certain age with a feeling of doom. That1980sSportsBlogger decided the best way to deal with that game was to tackle the issue here in his first ever blog. To sum it up concisely: On the morning of the match, York City appealed for fans to turn up to Bootham Crescent at 8am, armed with shovels, to help clear the snow; Arsenal's big-time Charlie's arrived looking none too happy about the situation, the match went ahead and appeared to be drifting towards a replay, until referee Don Shaw gave a dubious penalty to York in the last minute, which Keith Houchen duly converted, and before you knew it, the mighty Arsenal had been dumped out of the FA Cup by a Third Division side. After the match, Houchen gave the press quotes that they wanted to hear - Nicholas was a bit of a disappointment and Steve Williams was mouthy - and I went to school to face the humiliation. Now can we move on?
Back to the tie of the round, or "the FA Cup clash that would have graced Wembley", according to Steve Curry of the Daily Express. Going into the match, Tottenham were just behind Everton in the league, and could point to the fact that they had beaten Liverpool twice already that season - both 1-0 victories in the league and Milk Cup, the latter ending Liverpool's four season domination of the tournament. Crucially though, Tottenham had not won at Anfield since 1912, and in the week leading up to the encounter, every reference to the Titanic was exhausted. Despite this, the Daily Mirror's Harry Harris was convinced that Tottenham would progress, writing in his Saturday preview: "Tottenham will tear up the history books and end a 73-year nightmare tomorrow. The hoodoo that has carried through two world wars and four monarchs should end at Anfield with Spurs getting the most significant result of the FA Cup's disrupted fourth round." Alas, Harris went one match too early (Tottenham would end their barren spell at Anfield in March), as Liverpool edged through 1-0. Inevitably Ian Rush scored the winner, his 13th goal in nineteen matches that season, but perhaps even more predictably it appeared as if Tottenham were denied a penalty early on when Ronnie Whelan challenged Steve Perryman in the box. Spurs' manager Peter Shreeves didn't seem too despondent despite the defeat: "We're out of the Cup now, so we can concentrate on the League. We've got to come to Anfield in the League so we've got one more tilt at them - another chance to refloat the Titanic!" Shreeves' wish came true in March, but Spurs title tilt would come unstuck after a poor run at the end of the season. Liverpool eventually pipped Tottenham for second place on goal difference, but in their first post-Souness season would have the unusual experience of a trophyless campaign.
Nottingham Forest v Wimbledon, a clash of footballing cultures in so many ways. It was fair to say that Brian Clough was not the biggest fan of the Crazy Gang: "Wimbledon...it's a place for tennis not football", pretty neatly summed up his feelings on the club. He had previous with Wimbledon boss Dave Bassett. Bassett had been captain of the Walton and Hersham team that had knocked Clough's Brighton out of the FA Cup in 1973, and Clough had never beaten Bassett in their previous meetings as managers. Forest completely dominated the first match at the City Ground, but a combination of the brilliance of Dave Beasant, Kevin Gage's two goal-line clearances, and the woodwork coming to the rescue, gave Wimbledon a second chance at Plough Lane. After the match, referee Neil Midgley was confronted by an angry Forest fan furious that the match had been finished before 90 minutes were up. It transpired that the error lay with Forest's faulty electronic scoreboard, but the supporter - who had his son with him at the time - was livid. Midgley defused the situation, taking the father and son to his dressing room, the referee later explaining: "His son was crying and I invited them both into my dressing room, calmed the man, explained things and gave them both an FA badge".
Kevin Gage knew the importance of the Dons' rearguard in Nottingham: "We'll get Forest rocking at our small ground - they're really in trouble now." Having beaten Forest in the previous season's Milk Cup, Wimbledon were confident going into the replay, and rightly so. Their 1-0 win, courtesy of a Paul Fishenden strike, put the club into the Fifth Round for the first time in their history, in a match that from the start Forest were made aware would be testing to say the least. On the pitch, Forest's skipper Ian Bowyer was twice taken out with tackles by Steve Galliers and was forced to limp off after 16 minutes. Meanwhile on the touchline, Clough became involved in an altercation with an elderly fan after being prodded with the supporters' walking stick, resulting in a policeman stepping in to mediate. Forest and Clough would not be the last to come away from Plough Lane feeling as if they had been ambushed. The 'PLOUGHED UNDER' headline in the Daily Mirror was very apt.
How is this for a definition of fixture congestion? Between January 26th and February 6th, Chelsea played a total of six games in twelve days, comprising two FA Cup, three Milk Cup, and one Division One game, in all 480 minutes of action (due to extra time in the second Milk Cup match - a dramatic 4-4 draw with Sheffield Wednesday). In the days before squad rotation had been invented, it was hardly surprising that Chelsea were ripe for the picking when Third Division Millwall visited Stamford Bridge on Monday February 4. Without the leading scorer in Division One - 28-goal Kerry Dixon - Chelsea struggled against George Graham's confident side, Steve Lovell giving the visitors a 1-0 half-time lead. Normality was restored in the second half, when Nigel Spackman and Paul Canoville gave Chelsea the lead, but a George Graham side never knew when it was beaten, and on 61 minutes John Fashanu levelled things up. Just as in the previous round Lovell would again score the clincher, in a conclusion to the match that was a tale of two penalties; Lovell's winner in the 71st minute, and David Speedie's miss three minutes from time, staggeringly Chelsea's 11th miss from the spot in their last 17 attempts (five missed by Dixon, Speedie and Pat Nevin two each, and one apiece for Colin Lee and Spackman). For a normally level-headed man, George Graham's statement declaring "That has to be my greatest night as a manager", highlighted just what an achievement Millwall's victory was. Chairman Alan Thorne went even further: "It's the greatest night of my life. My ancestors have watched this club since 1885 and they can never have known an occasion like I've enjoyed tonight."
Two other teams that would pay the price for missed penalties were Coventry and Oxford. Trailing 2-0 at Old Trafford to strikes from Mark Hughes and Paul McGrath, Coventry had the ideal chance to get back into the match during the first half, when they were awarded a penalty. Stephen Pears, standing in for Gary Bailey who had dislocated a finger, saved Terry Gibson's effort, and although Gibson did halve the deficit three minutes before the break, United held firm to book a Fifth Round berth away at Blackburn. Division Two table-toppers Blackburn made it through with a 1-0 win away at second-placed Oxford. Unusually, Oxford actually started the match with ten men, striker Billy Hamilton twisting his knee in the warm-up and only able to join the action after four minutes (he only lasted three minutes). Jimmy Quinn gave press men up and down the country the chance to wheel out their Mighty Quinn references, scoring the winner in a smash and grab. Oxford probably knew it wasn't their day when Bobby McDonald missed a penalty after 64 minutes, Blackburn manager Bobby Saxton honest enough to admit that his team had ridden their luck: "This really is a daft game - we didn't play at all well. I feel very sorry for Jim Smith." Just two days later, Oxford beat Carlisle 1-0 to displace Rovers at the top of the table, and never looked back. Very much a case of losing a minor battle but ultimately winning the war.
A good FA Cup run has always been beneficial to a financially struggling club, and in 1985 Orient were definitely in a need of an injection of cash. Losing more than £1000 a week, and languishing near the foot of Division Three, Orient's chairman Neville Ovenden seized upon the opportunity to increase ticket prices ahead of their Fourth Round tie against Southampton. Don't be concerned though, these price hikes were hardly hitting the supporter in the pocket quite so much as today. Terrace tickets were to go up from £2.60 to £3, and seats to £4/£6 from £3.80/£5.50. Ovenden justified his decision: "We've put the prices up slightly and I'm sure our supporters will understand. Our average gate is down to 2300 and we need 5000 to break even." A good gate also ensured a cash bonus to Orient's players, who were on wages between £100-£250 a week in comparison to Southampton's Peter Shilton who was believed to be on over £1000 a week. The attendance of 17,622 was therefore just what the doctor ordered for the club, even though Southampton won 2-0 with Joe Jordan and Steve Moran scoring. Orient's relegation at the end of the season was less welcome however.
Due to their first match being postponed because of poor weather, the winners of the Darlington-Telford match knew beforehand that they would be rewarded with the very enticing prospect of a trip to face Everton in the Fifth Round. According to the Daily Mirror, this meant that a £40,000-plus prize awaited the victors, although Darlington's manager Cyril Knowles was reluctant to get too ahead of himself: "If that's the incentive for us, it's just the same for Telford. Obviously it's a super draw." The first match at Feethams saw the non-league side take the lead through Colin Williams' sixth FA Cup goal of the season, but a Mark Forster equaliser meant a replay was needed six days later. An 8000 crowd crammed in to the Bucks Head ground, and witnessed another giant killing act Telford style, as goals from Dave Mather, Eddie Hogan, and John Alcock saw the Gola League side through in comfortable fashion. Telford's 3-0 win meant they were only the fourth non-league team to reach the FA Cup Fifth Round, and was their eighth victory over league opposition in three years. No wonder manager Stan Storton stated that "This is the peak of my managerial career."
Grimsby v Watford was hardly the most glamorous of ties in the Fourth Round, but for two men, progression through to the next round held even more importance than usual. Watford manager Graham Taylor had spent six years playing for Grimsby, so when his team fell behind to a Steve Foley goal in the first half, he probably feared an embarrassing return to his old stomping ground. However, Luther Blissett was on a mission to right the wrong of the previous season, when he visited Wembley as a TV pundit, whilst the rest of his former team mates lined up against Everton in the 1984 final. "It was a terrible experience standing by a goal at one end and watching the Watford players walk out," said Blissett, who had now returned from his ill-fated spell at AC Milan. He scored two goals and made the other, as Watford fought back in the second half to win 3-1. His six goals in two FA Cup games had propelled the Hornets into the last sixteen, and Blissett must have had high hopes of visiting Wembley as a player in May this time around.
Holders Everton continued their impressive run in the competition, easily beating Third Division Doncaster 2-0 at home, meaning that they still had not conceded in an FA Cup game since the Sixth Round of the previous season. The team that had come closest to defeating Everton in their 1984 run gave First Division Ipswich a fright at Portman Road. Gillingham, without their key front men of Tony Cascarino and David Shearer, came from 2-0 down to draw level, before an error from skipper Peter Shaw let in 17-year-old Jason Dozzell for the winner. "It's down to me. I should have cleared the ball," admitted a sad Shaw after the match. Disappointment would visit Gillingham again at the end of the season, as they missed out on promotion to the Second Division by just four points.
There were no shocks in three First v Second Division matches. Leicester defeated a Carlisle side that had been unable to train outdoors for weeks due to the wintry Cumbrian weather; David Pleat recovered from minor back surgery in time to take his seat in the dugout, as Luton beat Huddersfield 2-0; Sheffield Wednesday, fancied by many to win the competition, hammered Oldham 5-1. Barnsley joined their Yorkshire neighbours in the Fifth Round, beating fellow Second Division side Brighton 2-1, despite having to replace the experienced centre backs of Paul Futcher and Larry May, with 20-year-old Wayne Goodison and teenager Simon Jeffels.
In a round that was littered with missed penalties, it was almost fitting that one of the final ties decided would be via the boot of penalty specialist Ray Stewart. West Ham, trailing 1-0 at Upton Park to Norwich, struck twice in two second half minutes, to book a London derby with Wimbledon in the next round. Dennis van Wijk conceded the penalty in East London that proved costly. A little over a month later, van Wijk would do the same in the capital, handling in the Milk Cup final to give Sunderland's Clive Walker the chance to equalise. Luckily for van Wijk, Walker proved he was no Stewart from twelve yards out. Then again, not many were.
So after months of toil, shocks and snow, fixture congestion and squads stretched to the brink, we were down to the final sixteen teams in the 1985 FA Cup. Ten First Division clubs, three from the second tier, York and Millwall from the Third Division, and the feelgood team of Telford, were now just three games from the famous twin towers. My 'Up For The Cup' wallchart was taking shape nicely, even if I couldn't bring myself to acknowledge the fact that York had gone through (pathetically I didn't write the score on my chart for weeks, due to a stroppy refusal to accept facts). It was refreshing and very representative of the 1980s that teams such as Watford, Luton, Southampton, and Sheffield Wednesday had progressed, and still held high hopes of winning the trophy in May. Three of the so-called big five - Liverpool, Man Utd and Everton - were through though, and it was hard to look beyond these clubs for the winner of the 1985 FA Cup. Eventually this would be the case, but there are still a few blogs to get through, and a catalogue of talking points to discuss, until we reach that point.