Sunday 20 January 2019

Coventry's Cup run reviving warm memories of 1987 - Ogrizovic

Coventry goalkeeping coach Steve Ogrizovic. Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images
Coventry goalkeeping coach Steve Ogrizovic. Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Luke Brown

Even now, nearly 31 years on from that scorching Wembley afternoon, Steve Ogrizovic cannot escape Coventry City's famous day in the sun.

"Wherever I go, there will be somebody mentioning the 1987 FA Cup final against Spurs," he says, smiling. "People will say it was the best day of their lives. I always ask them, 'What about the day you got married, or the day when your kids were born' but they just want to talk about the final. The fans who went to Wembley have dined out on it ever since. Not a day goes by without it being mentioned. If you talk to the staff here, they'll also say I mention it every day - but I can assure you it's not true…"

With Ogrizovic in goal, Coventry secured one of the most memorable victories in the Cup's long history when they defeated Tottenham 3-2. Spurs - runaway favourites, despite only finishing eight points ahead of Coventry in the First Division that season - led twice but City, playing in their first major final, were in no mood to lie down.

After Keith Houchen's spectacular airborne header took the game into extra-time, the decisive moment came in the 95th minute when the unfortunate Gary Mabbutt diverted Lloyd McGrath's cross over his own goalkeeper Ray Clemence for the winner.

For Ogrizovic, now Coventry's goalkeeping coach, the memories remain vivid. "It was the game which really put Coventry on the map in terms of being the first major trophy the club had ever won," he recalls. "The great thing about that game is not only Coventry winning but how it's remembered as an entertaining, exciting final. The finals weren't always that entertaining in those days, which people forget. There weren't too many with five goals. It really doesn't feel so long ago."

Yet Ogrizovic's warm recollections of that May day are also tinged with sadness. Leading the line for City was Cyrille Regis, whose death at the age of 59 last month left the English game - and the West Midlands, in particular - in mourning. "Everybody was devastated, not just in Coventry, West Brom or Wolverhampton, but throughout the country," says Ogrizovic. "He was not just a fantastic footballer and team-mate but a fantastic friend. You've seen that with the eulogies and testimonials. He is such a loss."

Regis's passing should ensure even more support from the neutrals today when Coventry attempt to revive their FA Cup pedigree with a visit to Premier League Brighton. In an ironic twist, the man in charge of Brighton - Chris Hughton - played in the Spurs defence on that day.

Coventry will be backed by nearly 5,000 fans at the Amex Stadium, and there is a sense of the feel-good factor returning to a fan base that has spent much of the last decade fighting the ownership of hedge fund Sisu - a period which has seen them temporarily abandon their Ricoh Arena home, plunge into the bottom tier of English football and work their way through nine managers.

Throughout this period, Ogrizovic, now 60, has been a reassuringly constant presence. He made 601 appearances for the club after joining in 1984, and has held a variety of roles - including caretaker manager - since his retirement in 2000. For many fans, he represents hope that better times will be around the corner.

"My first contract was for three years and never did I envisage being here for so long," he says. "I've been academy manager, U-18s coach, caretaker manager and now goalkeeping coach. The best part of football is playing, the second best is coaching and being part of the set-up. Football keeps you young. I just love coming in every day. It's been quite a journey but such an enjoyable one."

A second Premier League scalp of the season - after Stoke - would be another memorable instalment of Ogrizovic's Coventry story, and he is not discounting an upset.

"The form book says Brighton on their home soil should win comfortably but things don't always pan out that way," he says. "Players are quite bright now, they know what it takes for a Cup upset. The gulf between Premier League and the old Fourth Division is enormous but it all goes out the window in the Cup - as we proved against Stoke.

"I've been on both ends of it - I've been fortunate enough to win it and unfortunate enough to be on the end of a giant-killing against Sutton United [in 1989] The Cup can throw up some strange things..." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

  • Brighton v Coventry City, Live, eir Sport 1, 3.0

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