Chris Maume: FA Cup nostalgia-fest captures an era of dives and driving lessons

View From the Sofa: FA Cup Giant-Killing Weekend, ESPN Classic Saturday, Sunday
Click to follow
The Independent Online

My favourite sports channel, ESPN Classic, which trades on the stunningly simple idea of showing old footage, linked wherever possible to what's happening now, was well up to standard over the last couple of days with a weekend of FA Cup upsets to tie in with the third round. Nostalgia, I'd say, is what it used to be.

Yesterday's late game, Southampton v Manchester United, had a certain resonance, even though in the end Jan Poortvliet's side weren't able to emulate the history boys of 1976. But one thing's for sure: they attempted the feat with much longer shorts and much shorter sideburns.

And I can't imagine there's a single one of them without a driving licence – unlike Bobby Stokes, the hero of nearly 33 years ago. After he'd pounced on a through-ball from Jim McCalliog – who'd gone to the Dell from Old Trafford the previous season – and turned Martin Buchan before putting his 83rd-minute winner past Alex Stepney (who seemed to take around three days to go down for the ball), David Coleman observed that someone had promised the scorer of the first goal a car: "He said he's already started taking driving lessons."

If you look at what some of the Saints' class of '76 did next, you can see that it really was old times.

The captain, Peter Rodrigues, became the landlord of a pub, the King Rufus in Eling, Hampshire, then ran another in his native Wales; centre-back Jim Steele ran a bar in Washington DC after playing for the Diplomats there, and went on to run the 19th hole at Naunton Downs golf club in Hampshire; Peter Osgood made a bit of a mess running the Union Inn in Windsor with his old Chelsea mucker Ian Hutchinson; McCalliog managed pubs in Yorkshire and Ayrshire; are you spotting a theme here? Stokes never ran a pub but drank a few dry, succumbing to alcoholism before dying of pneumonia in 1995 at the age of 44.

Some things haven't changed a bit, though we like to think they have. The received wisdom on diving is that it only infected our morally upstanding national game when filthy foreigners brought their dirty tricks with them (forgetting dear old Rodney Marsh, who once admitted to winning 14 illicit penalties in a single season).

Steele's challenge on Stuart Pearson might have brought the Southampton man a red card in today's game, when officials seem well-nigh incapable of spotting dives.

Steele quite clearly went for the ball on the edge of the area, and Pearson's response – a reverse three-and-a-half somersaults with tuck, if I'm not mistaken – met with a withering response from the referee, Clive Thomas.

Pearson got up and pretended to hobble away, but at least he had the good grace to grimace sheepishly as he did so.

In the 1988 final, when "the Crazy Gang beat the Culture Club", the penalty won by the Liverpool striker John Aldridge – following a challenge from the Wimbledon defender Clive Goodyear – was a dive as blatant as Pearson's, but the Liverpool man got away with it.

Happily, justice was done, thanks to Dave Beasant – the first goalkeeper, as John Motson reminded us, to save a penalty in an FA Cup final.

At the end, Motty followed up his "Crazy gang..." line with the spot-on observation, "It's a weird and wonderful world if you come from Wimbledon."

At which this viewer felt a tinge of sadness. "It's a weird and wonderful world if you come from Milton Keynes" doesn't have quite the same ring, does it?

Allow me to chime in – Pompey won it

Christine Ohuruogu's appearance with the rower Steve Williams on last Monday's Olympic edition of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? provided ample confirmation of sports stars' tunnel vision when they had to phone a friend to confirm that Portsmouth won the FA Cup last May. What planet are they on? Still, they raised 10 grand for charity, so who am I to mock?

Comments