9:00am Saturday 22nd December 2012
By Tim Ashton
It may be more than 24 years’ ago, but former Wimbledon skipper and goalkeeper Dave Beasant remembers the 1988 FA Cup final as clear as day - and why wouldn’t he?
Not only had Wimbledon defied the odds to beat Liverpool 1-0, but Beasant had saved John Aldridge’s penalty, and he would lift the famous trophy as a history-making keeper.
The BBC commentator on the day John Motson announced: “The crazy gang have beaten the culture club” – but there was nothing crazy about the Dons’ preparation for the game, their self belief or even the post-match celebrations.
It is perhaps fitting that Beasant would sign off his Wimbledon career in such style, as a move to Newcastle United in the summer took him away from Plough Lane after nine years and 340 appearances.
Now, at 53 years old, Beasant – or Lurch as he is affectionately known – can look back on a career that spanned 24 years, 774 professional appearances, two England caps and the claim of being the first goalkeeper to have saved a penalty in an FA Cup Final.
“Apparently John [Motson] says my penalty save is his second most famous moment in commentary, I’m probably behind some World Cup moment, or that Ronnie Radford goal,” Beasant, who is a part-time goalkeeping coach at League Two Bristol Rovers, said.
“In the week prior to the game, we had all the media come to an open day and John was there. He had asked me what would happen if I faced John Aldridge with a penalty because he had been so successful with his spot kicks.
“I told him I felt that he would do his run up, do his little stutter before he kicked it, and if I stood still he would put it where I wanted him to. And on the day, John’s commentary was all about what I had said.”
He added: “But I felt confident about the penalty, the whole team felt confident about the game.”
Lawrie Sanchez’s first half goal set up the Dons’ victory and one of the biggest FA Cup shocks of all time – Liverpool were almost invincible.
Under Kenny Dalglish, they had won the First Division title by nine points – losing just two games all season – for the 17th time, and they were going for a record second league and cup double inside three years.
Moreover, Aldridge had been on fire, hitting 29 goals in all competitions and not missing a penalty for Liverpool in that time, and John Barnes and Peter Beardsley had contributed 32 goals between them.
On the other hand, Wimbledon had been in the First Division for just two years, and although they finished seventh in the league and had drawn with Liverpool at Plough Lane, they were the massive underdogs.
But from within the club, that was not the opinion at all. Beasant said: “From the day we won the semi-final there was a lot of euphoria about just reaching the final. It was always a childhood dream to play in the final – I’d seen so many on TV, it was the biggest game of the season.
“But we were saying: ‘We have got to get our heads right, let’s not say we’re going to Wembley to just appear in a Cup Final, let’s say we’re going there and that we want to win it.’
“We were the only people on the day, apart from the fans, who fought we had a chance.
“The media had written us off, they were saying it was going to be the biggest one-sided scoreline in a Cup Final – it was going to be men against boys, we always felt we could do a good job because we were a good team.”
Contrary to their “crazy gang” tag, Beasant and the Dons did not party long and hard into the month, week or even the night at a swanky nightclub.
Instead, it was a case of enjoying the moment with family at the most appropriate of locations.
“The night after the game was surreal, we didn’t actually party that hard,” Beasant said.
“Stanley Read, the chairman, said we can go big time and go to the Hilton on Park Lane and have a dinner for you and your other halfs, and we said that is not us, that’s not the Wimbledon way.
“We said we’ll have a marquee on the Plough Lane pitch and have our family and friends there.
“And because you were in an environment with your family and not just with the boys, it was a quieter and toned down affair.”
He added: “Terry Gibson says we stayed there until about 2am. He could not get a taxi home and so Gibbo, unusually, got a lift in the back of a police car for the right reason.”
It was perhaps unsurprising that the attention of the football world fell on Wimbledon after the shock win and Beasant, and team-mate Andy Thorn made the move the north and Newcastle United.
Beasant said: “If you could write the script, you would say ‘I’ll bow out in a Cup Final’. I did not stay long at Newcastle, but then joined Chelsea.
“I still love the FA Cup, and would give anything to play in it again - but at more than 50, clubs are never going to look at me.
“So there is always a great deal of envy when the games come round. I love playing football and I love being involved in it.”
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