West Brom 2 – Woking 4
With the F.A. Cup once more upon us, the BBC football website is showing the best 50 goals scored in the competition. High on the list is Tim Buzaglo’s third goal for Woking against West Brom. So needing little encouragement, I have revised my short story from Born to Bet. It was a memorable day for both me and my family, so I hope you enjoy it.
Most good F.A. Cup stories involve giant-killers. This one in 1990 is no exception, and was one of the biggest upsets in the history of the competition. West Bromwich Albion manager, Brian Talbot, hitherto not known for his psychic powers wrote in the match-day programme:
“There is no worse feeling than being the slain giant” – and so it came to pass.
To put things in perspective, Woking, in their 102 year history, had never beaten a Football League team. At this time, they were playing in one of the three feeder leagues below the Conference, but in the previous rounds of the F.A. Cup had beaten three Conference Clubs successively – Bath City 2-1; Kidderminster 2-1 (after two replays) and finally Merthyr Tydfil 5-1.
After the draw for the third round, which sent Woking to West Brom, Geoff Chapple, the Woking manager, was besieged by the press for his comments.
All of my family agreed with Chapple, and we readily took the 11-1 odds available for a Woking victory. In fact our optimism ran so high that more than £50 was placed on Woking to win 3-1 at odds of 100-1.
At this point, I think it only fair to tell you the source of our enthusiasm. Stan, my father, had loyally watched Woking from 1911, until his death in 1989 (sadly 18 months before this match), and had started my obsession with the Cardinals or Cards, from my first home game at Christmas in 1945. But that explained, we are now driving in cavalcade, red scarves flapping out the windows, to Birmingham – The Hawthorns – West Bromwich.
Having parked our car 100 yards from the ground (a considerable achievement) on tarmac an inch under water, we went in search of a toilet, a pub and a sandwich, in that order. After a quick recce, it looked impossible to achieve the treble under one roof. The two pubs we passed had more than a hundred fans standing outside and they seemed to be getting their beer passed through the windows. The supporters’ club-rooms outside the ground needed a membership card, but half a mile away, a locked up garage allowed us to buy some snacks through a security hatch. As for the toilets, well, we managed with a little improvisation.
Forty minutes or so before kick-off, we climbed the steps to the away-end terrace turnstiles. Here we were searched for weapons and alcohol (usual practice), but whilst my family and friends were allowed to proceed, I was taken to one side and questioned about my hip flask of gin (a constant companion at all sporting events and funerals).
“For medicinal purposes is it sir?” A bean-pole of a policeman going on 19 towered above me.
“Y-y-yes, it calms me down,” I said feebly.
“Look here,” he said, “I have to confiscate this to get you through the barrier, but when you’re through, stand over there by the railings and I will pass it back to you!”
And he did.
To say that policeman, or more directly the flask of gin, was crucial to my afternoon might be pushing it, but I was deeply grateful for its soothing qualities at times of intense stress.
Our allotted enclosure (from the far left of the goal to the corner flag), had not got the best view of the pitch, but the 5,000 or more Woking fans wearing red and white Santa hats, scarves and carrying banners and flags, made that corner of The Hawthorns their own.
Football fans amongst you will appreciate our novel chants of “Give us a Wubbleyou,” “Woking, Woking, boing, boing,” (accompanied by manic synchronised leaping) and “When the Cards go steeeeeaming in,” (When the Saints Go Marching in).
But for all that, we were one down at half-time; Colin West heading the Baggies ahead from a Craig Shakespeare corner. By now it was bitterly cold and a sharp wind swirled around our corner of the ground – time for another gin. The strains of the pop instrumental “The Liquidator” welcomed the teams back on the pitch. Woking were kicking towards us this half – dare we hope?
For me and those loyal 5,000, the next 14 minutes and the name of Tim Buzaglo will probably be among the things that flash before our eyes when we are about to die.
Buzaglo’s hat-trick kicked off in the 59th minute with a precision left foot curler. six minutes later, he ran through two defenders and the goalkeeper, to head Woking into the lead, then, on 72 minutes, he sealed his place in history with a diagonal left-foot drive.
West Brom were truly in tatters, my flask was drained and rumour’s of the Church family’s correct score coup began to circulate. But it was not to be. Terry Worsfold, an 87th minute substitute for Woking, who incidentally lived in the same road as my Dad, scored a minute later – 4-1. Suddenly, reality replaced our suspended belief; we really were going to win. Wildly abandoned singing, dancing and laughter lit up our corner of the stadium. But, at the other end, there were very different emotions.
Disillusionment, discontent and anarchy broke out from their Birmingham Road End.
“Sack the board, sack the board, Talbot out, Talbot out.”
The Brommie fans’ chants grew louder and louder, so loud in fact, that no one noticed or cared that Darren Bradley had made it 4-2 a minute from time.
I had never before, or since, witnessed scenes like those that followed. On the final whistle, the West Brom fans invaded the pitch, not to cause trouble, but to congratulate the Woking players and their fans, especially Tim Buzaglo, who they lifted up on their shoulders and paraded in front of the stands to taunt their board of directors.
From these amazing scenes we left the terraces and made our way back to the car. Moving bumper to bumper along the road that runs parallel to the stadium, our red scarves trailing triumphantly out of the windows, we were suddenly surrounded by West Brom fans banging on our windows. Fearing the worst, I cautiously wound down mine an inch.
“It’s all right mate, you lot were brilliant. We just want to swop scarves and hats.”
And so we did, and wore them as trophies for the rest of the season.
After the match, it was reported that up to 4,000 WBA fans took part in a 40 minute pitch demonstration, calling for the board and their team manager, Brian Talbot, to be sacked. There was no violence.
The West Brom Chairman, John Silk, stated that, in view of the result, his board would discuss Talbot’s position over the next few days, adding, “It is best to look at these things dispassionately. And we will do that when things have calmed down.”
Talbot was sacked within 24 hours.
That evening, Tim Buzaglo (a computer operator) appeared as a guest on BBC’s Match of the Day programme. Des Lynham commenting on the events in and after the game, said to Tim, “See the trouble you’ve caused today? Terrific.”
POSTSCRIPT: “Are you West Brom in disguise?” So sang the Woking fans at Everton in the fourth round of the F.A. Cup. But sadly, here the dream ended. Woking going down 1-0, before a crowd of 34,724, which included over 10,000 Woking supporters.