GARY WADDOCK (Former footballer, Premier League)
WITH the FA Cup reaching that interesting stage again, where the minnows usually get shafted and the big clubs flex their muscles, Gary Waddock looks back to 1982 when he was with Second Division QPR, who made it to the final and only lost 1-0 in a replay to holders Tottenham, the goal coming from a Glenn Hoddle penalty.
"You need a certain amount of luck," he says, "and we had that with Clive Allen's goal in the semi-final (against West Brom). It certainly wouldn't be in the top 10 of Cup goals, as he just poked it home. Then there was the artificial surface at Loftus Road, which some people thought was an advantage for us. But we had a very good group of players with an outstanding manager, Terry Venables. You just have to look at what Bradford have achieved.
"Spurs were a great team at the time, but we took them to a replay and won friends for the way we played in the two games. It was a fantastic experience playing at Wembley, one of the highlights of my career, and we did play in two Cup finals.
"Losing was devastating because we had worked so hard to get there. It wasn't about being pleased about that and doing a tour of the stadium, we wanted to win, and we didn't achieve that.
"The penalty was given for Tony Currie's tackle on Hoddle, and there were no arguments. You have to dust yourself down and move on. That's been a big part of my career," he laughs.
The ups and downs of Gary's career are well known and earlier this season he was let go as manager of Wycombe Wanderers. "The club was taken over in the summer and there was a transfer embargo, then we had injuries, but none of these are taken into account when you have a string of bad results," he explains.
He has landed on his feet as he is now working for the Premier League in their Youth Department. "I am Club Support Manager to four clubs – Fulham, West Ham, Chelsea and Tottenham – looking at their under 18 players, seeing how they are progressing.
"There is more emphasis being placed on getting Academy players through the system. It was decided that a lot of money was being invested but the players weren't coming through, whereas other countries, like Spain, seem to be able to get players through their system. And with the UEFA cap coming along, clubs will have to bring players through. It will make for a better national team, and will benefit all the home countries, including Ireland."