Football: Redknapp's red-letter day

The Anniversary: 15 years ago FA Cup giants Manchester Utd were humbled in Bournemouth
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The Independent Online
THERE HAVE been precious few moments to savour in the 99-year history of Bournemouth and Boscombe Athletic Football Club. Known to the footballing world outside Dorset simply as AFC Bournemouth, the county's only Football League club finally reached Wembley last season for the first time only to lose to a "golden goal" in the Auto Windscreens Shield Final against Grimsby.

Yet on the rare occasions the club hits the back pages of the national papers, it is usually because of exploits in the FA Cup. In 1971, Bournemouth's legendary goal-poacher, Ted MacDougall, scored nine, still an FA Cup record, in the 11-0 victory over Margate. In 1957, Bournemouth, then in Division Three South, reached the quarter-finals and a home tie against Manchester United's Busby Babes, having taken the scalps of Tottenham and Wolves on the way. They lost 2-1 to the eventual League champions after a stirring display in front of 28,799 fans, a Dean Court record.

Their greatest moment, however, came 15 years ago this week. On 7 January 1984, the FA Cup holders, Manchester United, took the long trip south to begin the defence of their silverware against a Bournemouth side languishing in the old Third Division. It is a day still talked about in reverential tones among the Cherries faithful.

Ron Atkinson v Harry Redknapp - the managerial duel has been re-enacted many times since. But on that day Redknapp was the pupil about to turn the tables on Atkinson, an established master. Redknapp had taken charge of the Cherries less than three months before and was still cutting his teeth in the world of lower-division management. Eight months earlier Atkinson had presided while his team destroyed another South Coast club, Brighton, 4-0 in the FA Cup final replay at Wembley.

Redknapp's squad contained no household names and John Beck, the club captain, was forced to sit out with flu. Atkinson's squad, by contrast, oozed quality - Wilkins, Robson, Muhren and Whiteside were a midfield engine room the envy of all but Liverpool that season. Up front a pounds 900,000 summer acquisition from Arsenal, Frank Stapleton, led the line while the goalkeeper Gary Bailey, Arthur Albiston and Mike Duxbury marshalled the defence. They could even afford to leave Lou Macari on the bench.

In the opening skirmishes Bournemouth, with their stand-in captain Roger Brown leading by example, contained United before taking command. Such was the control exerted by Brown and his fellow defender Everald La Ronde, who both played despite having injured ankles strapped, that United's multi-million-pound side were unable to create a meaningful chance until the 57th minute, when the faultless Ian Leigh in the Bournemouth goal proved the equal to Arthur Graham's stinging drive.

The scare caused Bournemouth, already in command, to press forward with renewed vigour. Three minutes later it was the United keeper who cracked: Bailey fumbled a cross and the bustling little Eastender Milton Graham pounced for a goal accompanied by an eruption of noise from the 14,815 spectators.

Less than two minutes later Bournemouth had secured their place in history. Ian Thompson, a schoolteacher who had been playing for Salisbury City a few months earlier, picked up the ball from Trevor Morgan's flick-on and fired a superb second. "I don't know what happened," he failed to recall in the euphoria after the match.

Rattled, embarrassed and left devoid of ideas, United tried upping the physical ante, with Norman Whiteside coming in for particular criticism from spectators and opposition alike. Brown said of the 19-year-old: "He acted like a schoolboy on the pitch. Elbows may work against some defenders, but they're a total waste of time against me." He was equally dismissive of United's keeper. "I've always felt he was vastly over-rated," he added.

Atkinson, not normally the most reticent, was left lost for words. "I'll give you two seconds and that's it," he told the waiting pressmen before labelling his team a "disgrace" and striding away to the team bus.

A barrier collapsing five minutes from the end left spectators spilling on to the field and seven suffering minor injuries but nothing could detract from Redknapp's first taste of glory as a manager. "This has got to be the greatest day of my football life," he said. There would be quite a few more to come as he led Bournemouth to a Third Division championship in 1989 and now pushes his present West Ham side towards a place in Europe.

The next round was to be an anti-climax as, drawn away to First Division Middlesbrough, the Cherries lost 2-0. The following season in the third round they drew United again, this time at Old Trafford. Lightning does not strike twice and United won 3-0 on their way to lifting the Cup for the second time in three seasons. In that time they had lost only once in 15 FA Cup ties - and didn't Bournemouth know it.