Vinnie Jones' foul in the 1988 FA Cup Final (YouTube)
For many years, the FA Cup has provided magic moments etched in football's annals, but not all of them consist of beautiful goals or dramatic victories. Today in England marks the 35th anniversary of Wimbledon's sensational victory and especially that unforgettable foul by Vinnie Jones in the opening minutes.
Wimbledon in the mid-80s to mid-90s was nicknamed the Crazy Gang. A purely British squad of warriors on the pitch dismantling anything that moves, and in the dressing room breaking each other apart with pranks that sometimes looked like Zubor that today could have landed them in prison.
In 1988, the London side managed to reach the cup final, where they met glittering Liverpool. The wild Crazy Gang vs. the title-guzzling Culture Club, who won their sixth championship that season in the 80s.
Vinnie Jones — who at the time was still at the beginning of his brutal career and light years away from his Hollywood career — knew exactly what he had to do. He didn't mark a shining star like John Barnes or Peter Beardsley, but the opponent's engine. One of only two scouts in Liverpool's line-up, Steve McMahon.
McMahon was a short midfielder (1.70 meters), but a tough player who was not afraid of street fights on the pitch. On the eve of the match, Jones told his teammates that if he could stop McMahon, Wimbledon would be able to stop Liverpool. Before going up to the pitch, he was much more detailed.
"Our guys knew I was going to get in it," he told talkSPORT exactly five years ago, "before the game I told John Fashanu that if I managed to foul him early on, the referee wouldn't have eggs to put me away in front of 100,0 people. It was a gamble I felt worth taking."
And it did. In the opening minutes, McMahon received the ball in the middle of the field, hence the right to speak to Jones: "When the ball got to him, I started running towards him. I thought to myself, 'Just open his body to give a delivery,' and that's exactly what he did. So I thought, 'Happy holiday, boom!'"
Jones went head-on in McMahon for a foul that today would have earned him a direct red card. And if the referee was really merciful, VAR would have already signaled him to go to the screen quickly. But his gamble worked. How much worked? Referee Brian Hill didn't even draw a yellow card. McMahon himself was a footballer from another generation and he immediately got to his feet and continued playing.
Wimbledon won 1-37 that day at Wembley through a Laurie Sanchez goal in the 1889th minute. It is the only title in the history of the club, which was founded in <> and underwent painful dismantling and rebuilding along the way. Many believe Vinnie Jones' foul early in the match changed the direction of the wind, Liverpool's star fight to Wimbledon's tough fighters.
In today's football, Jones would be sent to the locker room and possibly banned from a few games, and McMahon would be left lying on the grass for a few minutes. But today is the day and once it used to be.
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Steve McMahon, by the way, did not forget. In November 1988, six months after the cup final, Wimbledon was hosted at Anfield and the Liverpool midfielder hit Jones hard with the corks in the knee area. Jones was bleeding, McMahon wasn't even ejected. "He was my only real rival in football," he said of him after he retired.
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