June 19, 2024
When Dave Went Up is the fairytale story of Wimbledon’s famous 1988 FA Cup final win over Liverpool. 

Here is a section from the book, which focuses on captain Dave Beasant’s crucial penalty save to deny Reds striker John Aldridge.

Next was Beasant’s big moment, even though it should never have come about. It’s now firmly in the Dons’ history. “In those days you didn’t have diving, and he didn’t dive,” was Beasant’s fair assessment of Aldridge earning the penalty.

“He’s come across Clive (Goodyear) from right to left, and Clive’s facing me. He just toed it to me and Aldridge has not been able to stop, and [referee] Brian Hill gave it. I jumped up and everyone was after him. I said: “Leave it to me. I’ll sort it,” but I’m thinking he isn’t going to change his mind.

“It was the most energy I’ve exerted chasing the ref and I’ve got to get my breath back before facing the penalty. I wasn’t aware but they were getting ready to take him [Aldridge] off as he wasn’t having a great game.

“Commentary said it was lucky they kept him on as he’s the penalty taker, and I’m thinking the same as I’ve no idea where the other takers would have gone.’ That strange twist of fate again. Thorny and Wisey were in his ear: “Miss, miss, he’s going to save it” as much as they could do.

“You see his face, he doesn’t look that confident, but he struck it well, but it’s where I thought so I was pushing and if it were a yard outside the post, I’d have still reached it as I had all that adrenaline and energy. I felt I could do anything; two hands pushed it around the post.

“Fash jumped in front of me and I’m trying to organise, and he’s on his knees at my feet! Then the corner, Barnes puts it in at the near post, and no one was there so I thought this is a piece of cake, and I’ve dropped it, but I’ve fallen back on it. It was a good thing for me as I was treating the corner as easy, and that reminded me that the hard work wasn’t done.”

The final whistle went while the Dons were under a bit more pressure, but facing no real chances of note. The tactics were played out to near perfection. “Unbelievable. I went to get my glove bag I used to have from the sponsor, and Thorny jumped on my back. We were just walking around with him on my back, I looked, and people were cuddling on the floor here and there, others jumping around. The FA official came and got me and said: “Will you take your boys together and go and get the trophy?”

“I went to Bruce [Grobbelaar] at the end of the game and he gave me a pair of sunglasses, they were two tennis rackets that overlapped. He jokingly said: “I was hoping to give these to you during the game.”

“Maybe they were thinking they could be that dominant that he could come up for a corner.

“They were in a beige case, and I put them in my glove bag, and I said we’ll swap shirts, he said OK. We go up and get the cup and people were giving us stuff. I got a hat and gave it to Wisey.

“I was always getting my hands damaged. I had my hands all strapped up. You could see the strapping and at the cup final they thought I’d started a new trend as keepers now always go and get the trophy with their gloves on showing the sponsor or manufacturer name.

“The fact was my left hand was quite strapped up; we didn’t want people to see all the strapping on it so I had no glove on my right hand, but my left hand I kept the glove on so you couldn’t see it all around my thumb and finger.

“I can’t remember what Princess Diana said to us, but I did what every other cup captain does and showed it to our fans. Wisey behind was “oi oi, you bastards” right in front of Diana.”

Back down the 39 famous steps, and the team posed for the photos that were sent all around the world. ‘

“Vinnie was so excited and Gouldy was telling us not to let ourselves down now with what’s going on.

“The lap of honour was brilliant, it took us forever, and some Liverpool fans stayed and applauded us. But in front of our fans going round the sand of the old dog track, it was amazing.

“You suddenly realise what effort you’d put in to win the game, and in that heat worked your bollocks off to achieve it. So you sit down and take it in, then get ready for the journey home.

“Gouldy was sitting in front with the trophy next to the driver so everyone could see it. It was literally my journey to work every day, Hammersmith roundabout, down Fulham Road, over Putney Bridge.”

With the final won it was time to celebrate, and something had been long in the planning.

“The week after the semi-final, Stanley Reed and Sam Hammam spoke to me and asked: “What do you want to do after the cup final? Whatever the result, we can either go to the Hilton Park Lane, you and your partners and have a meal there, or we can have a marquee on the pitch at Plough Lane with a table for 10.

“Straight away we said on the pitch, that’s the way we do things. We got back to the hotel and then on to Plough Lane. Our families come over. People think we must have gone mad that night, but we didn’t. Everything had been taken out of you from the game.

“If we were at the Hilton, it would be the women together, and the lads together, and would have been quite lively. Whereas we had a table of 10 with friends and family. We’d go to the bar with two or three of the lads together, have a chat then go back to them.

“It was more or less a sedate night in Dons terms, no Crazy Gang celebration throwing drinks over each other or getting naked.

“Gibbo was one of the last back, we had people shuttling us back to the hotel and he got back in a police van! After a quiet drink in the bar, we ordered every paper for the morning, and there was piles of papers outside each room. We wanted everything to do with it.”

After maybe a couple of hours’ sleep everyone was up again for breakfast and then they headed to Wimbledon town centre.

“The open-top bus arrives, wives and partners with us. From the Common to tennis courts, then to Plough Lane.

“We’re all on the top deck going 30mph, and we’ve got flies hitting us in the face, the wives’ hair all blown everywhere. Around 200 people there, we’re thinking “this isn’t going to go well, average home gate of 7,500, and we got 200 people here walking alongside us.

“A few more people down the side of the road, but not deep, going slowly and people walking alongside us. We get to the Village, and it’s a bit busier, then we turn to the Town Hall and suddenly there’s a mass of people.

“It was a relief as much as anything. It was a great sight to see. All the fans enjoying themselves, then on the balcony to show the trophy to them and say a few words and have a laugh.”

There was one more game to play, although it wasn’t in an official capacity; Alan Cork’s testimonial would end in more controversy.

“A very light-hearted affair,” said Beasant. “I turned up an hour before and there were more beers in the dressing room.

“We go out and start playing, I think it was a Terry Venables London XI, the fans were in party spirit; a few chants of “Vinnie show us yer bum” then another player, and so on.

“Some would, some wouldn’t, then we got to half-time and I said to the lads: “We can’t bottle it, we’ll all do it together.” So we stood there in front of them and did a team moon. Cheers went up and someone took a photo.

“The next day it was in the Daily Mirror, and it was “look what they’re doing now”, and it was a spot the ball, “and for anyone who’s not got a dirty mind it’s under Phelan’s foot”.

“You could literally say: “There’s Bes ’cos his bum’s up there, there’s Wise ’cos he’s down there,” you could go along the line and work out who it was. Then we get a call from the FA and me and Bobby have to go to the FA to answer about the picture.

“You must have been paid for this,” they said. So we told them the story. “No, you must have got a reward,” and they hit us with a £750 each fine.

“We got no win bonus for the cup so it actually cost us money.

“The start of the season me and Sanch would go in and talk about bonus schemes. Sam [Hammam] said: “You could put down £1m for winning the cup!” but then thought he better not put that just in case.

“We got appearance money, but no win bonus, but the lads that played in the Charity Shield, they got nice appearance money which was like a cup bonus.’

Beasant would leave the club that summer, bringing to an end his long reign between the sticks at Wimbledon, but he recalled what it was like to be part of the story.

“Dave Bassett was our mentor. He took us through the leagues, and I would say not just the player, but the man I am, is down to Bassett.

“He put a lot of good traits in me and the lads.

“If you were weak-minded, you wouldn’t survive at Wimbledon. Very much a place for men to stand up and be counted, not just in a game but every day in training, and if you couldn’t handle it you wouldn’t last at the club.

“Ian Holloway, he’s a bit of a character, a personality on TV. He came and he struggled, a west country boy who wasn’t used to the banter we used to give him.

“We’d do shooting practice, and we had no nets, so when it went behind the goal in the stinging nettles he’d get the nickname Stinger, as he’d fetch the balls and say in his thick accent, “I’d best get that ball out them stingers!”

“He found it tough but when you see him now he must have learned a lot from it, but at the time he couldn’t handle it.

“Bassett left. It was his second attempt at leaving. The first, we went up north to play a game, and after we got back and off at King’s Cross, we’d go into Frank McLintock’s pub there and have a few beers.

“He was his normal self and he finally told us: “I’ve made a decision, I’m going to Crystal Palace,” and we had him up against the wall saying you aren’t going anywhere. He went, but knew he’d made a mistake. But he made the move.

“He’d taken us from Division Four, and I was the same. My ambition was to play in the top flight and I’d never had dreamed it would be for the first club I signed for in the fourth. I thought if I want to play at the top, I’ll have to leave the club. So Bassett said: “I’ve gone as far as I can go,” and I’m thinking the same way.

“Don Howe was coming in and he’s told me: “You’re in our mind for England,” but my thoughts are ‘I’m in your mind, but I won’t get picked while I’m playing for Wimbledon’.

“We had a stigma; people didn’t want Dons players playing for England.

“So I said that to Don, I wanted to go to a bigger club and he said: “You’re not going, but I’ll let you know if someone comes in for you. I promise.”

“After we beat Newcastle in the cup run, Bobby said: “Newcastle have come in for you, £350,000.” Blimey, that’s a lot of money, but he said: “I told them to come back with £1m.”

“I thought ‘no-one’s ever going to pay that for a goalkeeper’. And that was it: “I said I’d tell you but you’re not going.” So the cup run went on and after we won he turned to me and said: “I bet you’re pleased I turned down that offer now.”

“I got a call in the summer from Bob saying they made another offer and it’s been accepted. “What’s the fee then if you accepted it?” “That’s not for me to tell you, so you need to speak to them.” Newcastle rang me up and said come and chat, and that’s how it happened.

“I’m so pleased I can say I played for Wimbledon, at Plough Lane, that was my home. I never had to ground-share, I never had to go through the stupidness of going to Milton Keynes, and if you’re going to pick a game to go out on why not pick the biggest game in football history?”

When Dave Went Up, published by Pitch Publishing, is out now.

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