Almost Healthy – Sweet F.A in 91

CLOUGH statue stands at the base of the curve. King Street/Queen Street. Overlooking the vast expanse of the square, where da Nottz peeps doth scatter

Danny Peacock, editor and football aficionado will correct me if I’m wrong, but Brian had bagged nearly all major silverware except for that of the F.A Cup.

This was his 34th attempt.

On this very day 29 years ago. 18.5.91. The Shoop Shoop Song by Cher was no 1 in the charts. Pop Tarts. Push Pops. The Shell Suit dying out. And Nottingham Forest were arriving at the Twin Towers of old Wembley.

Against Spurs. Against Lineker. Against Gazza. Against Venables. Against Mabbutt and Thorstvedt and Sedgley and Samways and Stewart.

Red vs White, playing on green. Holsten vs Shipstones. It’s a boozy affair.

Gazza dazzles. Maybe the best in the world at that time. Only a year on since his Italia 90. Tears and trophies and tackles. He makes a horrific one with only a quarter hour gone.

And we’re off!

Gary Charles chopped down on the edge of the box.

Should have been sent off??

Only the perpetrator rolls around more than the victim.

Is he trying to distract the ref, or what?

Forest fans see red and they want to see more red. They wait for a card. A red one. A card which stays where it is. In the top pocket of Somerset referee Roger Milford. Paul Gascoigne surrounded by physios and this game is well underway without us really realising it.

Stuart Pearce steps up. Black band at bicep. Captain Psycho.

Gazza hobbles to the wall. A wall which Pearce finds a gap in. His left tree-trunk in-swinging. Pearce does what Pearce does. Not an elegant curl of a Bend It like Beckham, but a different style of specialist. Full force. Straight blast. Top corner. Red erupts around Wembley. All hysterical except for two men. The scorer and sharpshooter himself and his manager. No expression. No emotion. Or if there is it is kept inside. Bottled till later. A pair of stoic masks. Business as usual.

Not pantomime after all. Gazza really hurt. Get what you give. A karmic turn. Still sore from the Charles crime. Limping on pins. Off he goes. Spurs star switched off.

Nayim replaces him and life goes on. Game goes on.

Lineker lives in a box. It’s where he resides for 90 minutes a week. Mr Dependability. Nothing fancy. He gets the job done. And he gets it done again because the ball is in the Forest net on minute 25. Crossley cleared. World of white waving. Tottenham equalise. Only the job was not done after all as a flag flies to the right. Offside. Disallowed. Does not count. Still a ‘0’ on the Spurs side of the scoreboard.

Replay…or was he? Was he really off?? Let’s leap forward 30 years and VAR it!!

Game goes on.

At the other end…

One on one.

Crosby vs Thorstvedt.

Keeper wins.

Wall to wall stuff. At the other end once more.

One on one.

Crossley vs Lineker.

Keeper wins.

Or does he?

Only by way of foul. Golden boy has his legs swept from under him. Gary Lineker down and a penalty is presented on a plate. Spurs want the red keeper redded but the ref is feeling like Ghandi today. Cards stay where they are.

Gary steps up. Like so many of the penalties he bedded the year before in Italy his confidence must be high. But to be the only man to ever save a Le Tiss pen so must be the keeper. The twain shall meet. And meet they do. Only the Immovable Object beats the Unstoppable Force this time. Crossley following Forest future man Dave Beasant in being an FA final saver. Miraculously Forest are still intact, still ahead. One nothing. Our boys have all the luck. Destiny is on our side you can feel it. A red day. Winds blowing leftwards. Robin Hood has his arrows on point. Clough with silver on his hands.

So…Gazza off. Pearce belted. Lineker denied. Lineker squandered. Crossley saves lives.

All this and it’s not even half-time…yet.

Wind still blowing leftwards cos Spurs find the same net that Forest did only ten minutes into the second, Paul Stewart, “with accuracy and venom.

Tables are made for turning.

And turn they do as North London starts an onslaught. London Blitz. Midlands in bits.

We hold them off until the time is done. The second 45 not having the drama of the first but still these teams are tight and times are tense. One-one. Straight down the middle. Drawing upon a draw after the full 90. Players in nameless shirts are shattered, chunky numbers on their backs, stamped by Umbro.

Bring out the oranges.

We’ve got another half-hour to solve this puzzle. To write history.

Clough in his trademark green does not go, but stays where he is. No need to pep talk, team talk. Trust in his troops…

…Paul Walsh loops, a dizzying header, from nowhere, up in the air, stays there, and hangs. Only to land on the Forest woodwork with a tink. Keep your ears open and you can hear it, tink. Crossley lands bad. Whole feeling is bad.

My ten-year-old self draws breath and knows that this game nearly came to an end then.

And so from here we’ll wrap this up and tell you what you already know.

The past doesn’t lie, and the future knows this.

It’s all about The Dez. “You’ll never beat Des Walker.” Only no one had to beat him cos he beat himself, that day. His own worst enemy. Taking it into his own net in the dying breaths of the game. Lost his head and his head did the damage. Face down in the dirt once the deed was done. No fun. Eyes full of grass and Wembley black. Earth and oblivion. Team mates just step over him. One set of red socks and then another. Arena roars with pandemonium. Two sides split of an 80,000 crowd. Different kinds of noise. Exaltation and devastation.

“Own goal, I think.”

Venables can’t contain his control like Clough. Punches the air with a whiff of certain victory. Victory, certain, as the final whistle whistles off the distant echoes of the Trent.

A last-ditch effort by Gary Charles but nothing to write home about. Nothing to change the course of history by.

After all, this article is called Sweet F.A for a reason.

*Article provided by Joe Archer (Health & Lifestyle Correspondent).

*Main image @thfcnostalgia Walker scores an extra time own goal to gift Tottenham the cup.

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