THE HISTORY OF WIMBLEDON FOOTBALL CLUB
1987
1987-88

Now into the managerial hot seat came Bobby Gould, ably assisted by England team coach Don Howe. A new back four formed the rearguard, with John Scales, Eric Young, Clive Goodyear and Terry Phelan drafted in and adapting to the Wimbledon way just as smartly.

Fate pitched Gould straight into a match against Bassett's Watford, which ended in a single goal defeat, while goals in successive matches from Cork secured home draws against Everton and Oxford United.

Cork and Fashanu were to share quite a few between them in consecutive wins over Derby, Charlton and Newcastle, with Wise the marksman in a 1-1 draw at West Ham. But that was the end of a six game unbeaten run and four defeats followed before a superb 3-0 win at Tottenham.

A new wave of youngsters were now coming through. Wimbledon had been the envy of a host of First Division clubs when they convinced one young schoolboy, in England prospect Vaughan Ryan, to sign for them years before.

He had made his first team debut towards the end of the 86-87 season and was duly named the club's Young Player of the Year, winning the Eric Willcocks Memorial Award long serving clubman Willcocks having tragically died of cancer the year be­fore.

Ryan was in that winning line-up at Spurs, as was another former youth teamer, John Gannon. And it was Gannon's goal that helped sink the Spurs, with Fashanu and another newcomer, experienced former Manchester United striker Terry Gibson, adding.

A 1-1 draw with Liverpool followed and Wimbledon were off and running again, with just one defeat, at Sheffield Wednesday, in 13 matches.

Manchester United, Norwich, West Ham, Arsenal, Derby and Oxford United - the latter by 5-2 - were all dispatched during this spell, which put Wimbledon in fine heart for their FA Cup opener, at home to West Bromwich Albion.

1988 Photo Gallery A 7,262 gate reckoned this one to be worth watching, with Ron Atkinson's West Brom, although struggling near the foot of the Second Division, dominating early on.

But Wise made the first, headed home by Fashanu, before drilling in a 30 yard second. He was injured making that shot, but replacement Robbie Turner came on to score his first for the club since signing from Bristol Rovers, with Fairweather scoring the fourth in a comfortable 4-1 win.

Watford brought the club's fine League run to an end the next week at Plough Lane before Wimbledon's Cup travels took them to Mansfield for round four.

Goals from Cork and a first for the club from Phelan seemed to see Wimbledon home and dry inside the first hour.

But Mansfield, in front of a near capacity crowd, snapped back when Beasant boobed and Kent cashed in.

But if that was down to the giant Wimbledon 'keeper, he certainly made amends just minutes later, pulling off a fine penalty save.

Newcastle United were next in round five and Wimbledon and Vinny Jones in particular, were going to need all their composure. Jones, now established in midfield, had clashed with Newcastle's Paul Gascoigne the previous fortnight in a goalless League draw at Plough Lane. It was a match remembered not for its football, but for a photograph of Gascoigne grimacing as Jones applied the big squeeze.

There was talk of Jones apologising with a red rose and Gascoigne offering a toilet brush in return - hardly the build up Gould wanted.

And come Saturday, February 20, a 28,000 Geordie crowd was baying for vengeance in a tense St James' Park atmosphere. But Wimbledon and Jones, this time took a more orthodox grip on Gascoigne and company, silencing the Geordie roar with a goal inside six minutes.

Gibson, at £200,000 Wimbledon's most expensive signing, began to repay that when he headed in a Wise free-kick and then Gayle and Fashanu added as Dons clinched, yet again, a place in the quarter finals.

Before that tie, though, there was a 2-0 win over Luton to be savoured, followed by an even better three goal triumph against Spurs at Plough Lane, with Jones, Fashanu and Wise the scorers in a 3-0 win.

But now for round six, with Watford the opponents and Morris and Hodges among them.

It was to prove a mountain. A goal from Malcolm Allen gave Watford the lead and Wimbledon looked dead and buried when Gayle was sent off a minute before the interval. But, here we go again.

Never write off Wimbledon, for 'defeat' is not a word featured in the Dons' Dictionary. Gould produced a masterstroke reshuffle at half-time, sending on substitute Young and he promptly repaid his manager with a towering header from a Wise free-kick. Seventeen minutes from time and the turn around was complete. Fashanu cracked the winner and Wimbledon were into the last four.

A pair of two-all draws, at Everton and Southampton, had to be seen off before Wimbledon's date with destiny, or rather, a semi-final tie against Luton at White Hart Lane, arrived on Saturday, April 9. Wembley was just one short step away, but there was no danger of any glory going to their heads. Gould's travel arrangements to Tottenham took care of that, with the team arriving in a procession of cars and club mini-bus.

Luton drew first blood, with Mick Harford scoring just after the break. But when Gibson was sent crashing, up stepped Fashanu to drill his 21st of the season from the penalty spot. It was pretty tense out there now, but in the 80th minute Wise produced a gem. Cork swung over the cross and Wise slithered through the mud for what proved the winner.

White Hart Lane erupted as Wise set off in a dash of delight before disappearing under the entire Wimbledon team. This was an achievement that defied be­lief, even by Wimbledon standards. Just five years earlier they had been at Crewe sec­uring promotion from the Fourth Division.

Now here they were celebrating a place in the Wembley final of the most famous Cup competition in the World. Their opponents would be Liverpool, the League Champions and three times past winners of the FA Cup. They were a club born and bred on big time success. Their first Division One Championship title had come way back in 1901. Wimbledon had won a championship that season as well - The Clapham League Championship. There wasn't an honour in the game that hadn't gone Liverpool's way, including four European Cup triumphs.

There wasn't a team in the League to match their multi-million pound line-up. Their forward line alone, in Beardsley, Barnes and Aldridge, read: £1.9million; £900,000; £750,000. Surely, this time, Wimbledon would roll over on that hallowed Wembley turf and admit to being second best. Surely, this time, the big match nerves would get to them. Surely, this time, they would settle for just having made it to the final and leave it at that. Surely? SURELY NOT.

For come a few minutes before 5pm on that Saturday afternoon of May 14, there was the Wimbledon skipper, Dave Beasant, up in the Royal Box and turning to proudly hoist aloft the Cup. His beaming smile would have lit up south west London in a power cut. His roar of triumph would have been heard there as well. Lawrie Sanchez's goal, a cleverly directed header, had won for Wimbledon the game's biggest prize, but their victory owed much to a remarkable penalty save by Beasant, as well as the tactical awareness of Howe.

All season, the League Champions had been teasing and tormenting down their left flank. Beardsley, Houghton and Bames were their key performers in intricate pas­sing triangles that first bemused and then battered the opposition. It was a Liverpool tactic that ensured a pulsating season for Barnes. Twice Footballer of the Year, he was their king pin.

Howe's tactic of employing Wise up against Barnes on the right side of the Wimbledon midfield was a simple move on paper, yet so brilliantly effective on the park. Barnes had no room to maneuver and was marked out of it. The triangle was bro­ken and the threat was gone.

In the game itself, Kettering referee Brian Hill had angered the Liverpool camp by failing to adopt the advantage rule when Beardsley evaded Thorn's clumsy challenge. Beardsley ran on to clip the ball home, but Hill's whistle had already gone for the foul. Three minutes later and fortunes had turned full circle. From being almost a goal behind, Wimbledon took the lead. Nicol's shirt pull on Phelan led to a Wise free-kick from the left. And an inch perfect cross found the head of Lawrie Sanchez who flicked the ball into the net past the stranded goalkeeper.

The Wimbledon fans were understandably jubilant. All the way along Wembley Way they had had to turn a deaf ear to a thundering Scouse chorus of: "Underground, overground, Wombling free. You'll be so lucky if we only score three." But now here were those Reds, 36 minutes gone, a goal behind and failing to match Wimbledon's commitment any­where on the pitch.

When they did get through, Beasant was masterful. His second-half save from Aldridge's penalty was, quite simply, brilliant. The Liverpool sttiker hadn't missed in 11 previous efforts from the spot. He was supremely confident and their leading marksman on 29 goals. A penalty had never been missed in a Final.

Beasant, like Howe, had done his homework. "I've seen a lot of his penalties on television," he said, "and know that if the 'keeper doesn't move, he tends to put the ball to the left." Beasant stood tall, making himself as big as he could and Aldridge, sure enough, went for his bottom left hand comer. Beas­ant swooped, got a hand to it and palmed the shot away. "I should have caught it really," he said afterwards.

It was a sweet and sour moment. While Beasant was being mobbed and trying to wave his players aside, a dejected Aldridge was making his way to the substitutes' bench.

His number had been up, quite literally, moments before the penalty incident, with Craig Johnston ready to come on. Aldridge's blank shot from the spot was his final contribution. Beasant's afternoon was still honing up, but he defied Liverpool's late, desperate surge.

Wimbledon were triumphant and the FA Cup was theirs, presented by the Princess of Wales, no less.

Who said fairytales don't come true? Well, they had done for this club and the next day's celebrations were just as stagger­ing.

Throughout their entire history Wimbledon had begged and pleaded for greater support. But the crowds they deserved strangely stayed away. Yet, on that Sunday morning Wimbledon ground to a halt. Twenty-five thousand fans lined the streets as their heroes paraded the Cup in an open top bus journey to the Town Hall.

The club's colours were draped from every lamppost and window; messages of congratulations dominated every shop display. It was a carnival atmosphere to mark the club's greatest day and most memora­ble season: FA Cup winners and seventh in the First Division. Now how on earth was Bobby Gould going to follow that?