Tuesday 12 December 2017

Pizza and second-hand cars the reward for beating Manchester United

Harry Redknapp
Harry Redknapp

Jack Pitt-Brooke

When the Bournemouth players and their wives went out to celebrate the greatest win in the history of the club - over Manchester United in the FA Cup in 1984 - they were not expecting very much. But when they arrived at their favourite nightclub, beneath a hotel, and found a long queue, they thought they were entitled to skip it.

"Any chance of us getting in?" one asked. "We're the Bournemouth players who just beat Manchester United."

"No you're not," said the bouncer. "They're already in there."

No-one would be able plausibly to impersonate Matt Ritchie, Harry Arter or Simon Francis in Bournemouth this evening, regardless of the result.

Tonight's game with United is not quite a meeting of equals, but it is a league game.

If Bournemouth win it would be less of a surprise than their 1-0 victory at Chelsea last Saturday. There would probably not be articles written about it 31 years on.

Harry Redknapp was the manager of Third Division Bournemouth in 1984 and he prepared the team with his own mix of motivational techniques, going for a jog on the beach and then out for a meal.

"Harry kept the build-up very low-key," the goalkeeper that day Ian Leigh, now 53, recalls. "We went to La Lupa, an Italian restaurant, for dinner. We had pasta."

Preparation on the beach was not usual but there was very little routine for that side when it came to training.

"We used to train all over the place. We would beg, steal and borrow pitches and facilities," recalls former defender Phil Brignull.

"We used to do pre-season at the Parley sports centre. We would train in the park. We would go running in the forest. We would go running up a quarry. On a really bad weather day we would go and use an army gym somewhere. There was nothing salubrious about it."

Bournemouth liked to use an enclosed red asphalt pitch 100 yards from the ground.

"The groundsman was a miserable old swine," says Leigh. "When we trained on it he would lock us in. On the Monday, two days after United, the guy came round and locked us in. We all had to climb over the fence to get out.

"But we were never a poor club - we never had to take our kit home; it was washed for us. Our boots got cleaned by apprentices. It was a well-run football club."

When United arrived at Dean Court on the Saturday morning, the Bournemouth players were not intimidated. The teams had met in the League Cup the previous season, drawing the second leg 2-2 on the south coast.

Leigh says they were "semi-confident", Brignull that they "fancied their chances".

Redknapp told the players United were still watching racing in the directors' bar 20 minutes before kick-off.

"It probably wasn't true," Brignull says, "but it got us all going a little bit extra."

Bournemouth, as is well known now, surprised United with their intensity, and won comfortably thanks to goals by Milton Graham and Ian Thompson.

"It wasn't a lucky result, given how we played," Brignull says. "They didn't have a shot on goal for 68 minutes. We dominated possession, and we shocked them."

The players had been promised a holiday in reward for winning but that did not materialise.

This was a club, after all, where signing-on bonuses were paid not in cash but in used cars. The win bonus that day was little more than £50 each, which is not nothing given that the best-paid players were on £250 per week.

Leigh had been promised free pizza for life in La Lupa if he kept a clean sheet against Bryan Robson, Remi Moses and the rest.

"I got a few meals out of him," Leigh says. "Then Harry Redknapp bought the restaurant and changed the rules. He said that I would eat his profits."

The whole club listened to the fourth-round draw, when Bournemouth were rewarded with a trip to Middlesbrough.

They travelled up on the coach once, but it was called off because of snow and they had to return. They went up there again, still in appalling weather, and lost 2-0.

"We travelled to away games on a coach that didn't have toilet facilities," Leigh says. "There was a bin at the front of the coach - good luck."

(© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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