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The Giant Killers

Every F A cup slaying since 1888

All time greatest F A Cup Giant Killings

Number 4




Copyright Historical Football Kits and reproduced

by kind permission.

Third Round [last 64]

Saturday January 4th 1975

Attendance: 19,683

Turf Moor, Burnley

Scorer: Mick Mahon {49}

  • Mud’s Lonely This Christmas was top of the charts.
  • Richard O’Sullivan took his ‘Man About the House’ role from TV to cinema with Paula Wilcox and Sally Thomsit.
  • President Nixon aides, Mitchell, Haldemann and Ehrlichman are found guilty for their parts in the Watergate cover up.
  • Prices continued to soar with inflation sitting at 17%.
  • The Shadows appeared on the Lulu show to perform the first of the six UK song for Europe entries.

When Alan Batsford arrived in the summer of 1974 to take over as manager of Wimbledon he couldn’t believe the state the club was in. The Non-League game was in a transition period and he’d left Walton & Hersham due to lack of money. At Wimbledon, considered a League higher, there was even less. Worse still, Batsford didn’t even have a full starting eleven of first teamers to chose from as the entire squad had been made free agents, with many setting off for pastures new.

Those that stayed included keeper, Dickie Guy, Bob Stockley, Jeff Bryant, Selwyn Rice and long-standing captain, Ian Cooke. All five spent their entire careers in the Non-League game and all were holding down day jobs, Guy was a tally clerk at the docks while Cooke worked in a Bank. The only ex-Football League experience on the books was Mick Mahon, whose claim to fame was being part of the Colchester side that humbled Leeds in the cup a few years earlier.

Batsford’s own cup exploits weren’t quite to that standard, but in Non-League circles he was famed for having humiliated Brian Clough when his Walton & Hersham team went to the Goldstone Ground and murdered Brighton 4-0. Clough, in typical style, boasted to Batsford’s players that it would be donkeys versus thoroughbreds before the tie.

Batsford’s first job as Wimbledon manager was to return to his old club to bring no less than five of his stalwarts to Plough Lane. British Airways employee, Dave Donaldson came to shore up the defence and Billy Edwards was a police officer. Among the three others was perhaps the most iconic signing Wimbledon made in the 20th Century. Dave ‘Harry’ Bassett was known as the epitome of a tough Southern League style enforcer with disciplinary record to match. Roger Connell and Kieron Somers were both reunited with Batsford, via a season at Hendon, to score the goals and by the start of the season he had something resembling a team.

The omens weren’t good on the opening day of the 1974/75 season, losing to a side tipped for relegation, but Batsford’s mean defensive tactics, while not necessarily entertaining to watch, sent the Dons on the road to a twenty-six-game unbeaten run from August to December, which included six F A cup ties.

That run almost ended in the First Qualifying Round in September as the Dons trailed to the Spartan League side, Bracknell Town. An upset was averted 3-1 to set up a Second Qualifying Round demolition of Isthmian League Maidenhead 4-0. Another Isthmian League outfit, Wokingham Town left Plough Lane beaten 2-0 in the Third Qualifying Round before the short-lived Southern League Division One side, Guildford and Dorking United were beaten 3-0 to book a place in the First Round Proper.

So far Wimbledon’s cup run was routine against sides they expected to beat. Southern league title rivals, Bath City were a much tougher proposition when they visited in Round One. The difficulty of the tie was measured by the tight 1-0 victory. Another home tie in Round Two with title rivals, Kettering Town presented the greatest chance in the club’s history of reaching the Third Round and a crack at the big time. To date, four previous attempts all ended in defeat, but this time they made no mistake with a 2-0 victory. Their reward would be a trip to title chasing Burnley in Round Three.

The 1975 First Division title race was developing into perhaps the most wide open in history with as many as ten teams harbouring genuine title ambitions. Burnley spent much of the first half of the season on the fringes of the battle. Always in touch but never quite able to string the consistency together to go to the top of the table under the guidance of Jimmy Adamson, a playing hero of the club’s most recent title success fifteen years earlier. Burnley’s bid to bring a trophy to Turf Moor depended largely on their flying Welsh winger and top scorer, Leighton James in a side that also contained former England International, Keith Newton.

The whole demeanour of the press and media, in the lead up to the tie was one that focussed on the grand day out for the Wimbledon players. Only a small number of fans of the Southern League club were expected 

to make the trip to Lancashire and the Turf Moor crowd was expected to be well down on its normal 19,000 average. It was fifty-five years since a Non-League team gained a victory at a First Division ground and two further divisions had been added to the structure since then, emphasising the consensus that it was now impossible for a Non-League side to perform the feat. Even Allen Batsford’s initial response to the draw was disappointment that a day trip to Burnley would mean certain defeat in front of a low gate that wouldn’t provide Wimbledon with the payday they desperately craved. Everyone saw the game as a foregone conclusion.

The Wimbledon players travelled up the morning before the game, performing an adhoc training session in a local park littered with more than a few unsavoury obstacles left behind by the dog walkers. Some of the players chose to relax with a pint in the hotel bar that evening, where they encountered the local Burnley fans’ bravado. It was all good natured, but the locals emphasised to the players that they should simply enjoy the day and not worry too much if the defeat was heavy. Few of the Wimbledon players could say they didn’t have a feeling of trepidation about the following afternoon.

When the players arrived at Turf Moor, it was already clear that the attendance was going to be well up on what was expected. They also inherited a new mascot as one of Mike Batt’s Womble characters, from the hugely popular children’s TV show, was on the scene to lead the team out. However, television cameras wouldn’t be present. Burnley chairman, Bob Lord wasn’t a fan of Televised Football and only rarely and very begrudgingly allowed the cameras inside. Today wasn’t to be one of those days. Fearing a poor attendance, Lord wouldn’t even allow so much as a cine camera in. The gate receipts rather suggested his view that TV hurt attendances to have some truth to it.

As the players emerged from the tunnel, many of them were briefly overwhelmed by the noise and scale of a crowd of almost 20,000. Many of them also noted the quality of the pitch, which didn’t seem any better than those they were used to in the Southern League. They’d expected better at this level. The main instruction given to the team was that Burnley could be stopped if Leighton James was controlled. Bob Stockley was the player tasked with marking him, but Allen Batsford knew the Welsh flyer would be too quick for him and gave Dave Bassett and Selwyn Rice the job of making sure that every time James knocked the ball past Stockley, they would double up to challenge him.

In the first half the tactics worked like a charm. Burnley’s play was much slower and more ponderous than the Wimbledon players expected. With the Dons’ plan being simply not to get beaten. The Clarets still should have been ahead at the break, carving out three good chances, each repelled by Guy. Burnley upped the tempo in the second half as the urgency on the terraces to find a break through grew. Now Leighton James became useful by simply not being used. When Burnley got the ball, they kept it away from their star player, effectively taking two Wimbledon players out of the game in the process. If the Dons changed their tactics, they risked giving James the space to hurt them. Burnley were now carving Wimbledon open but coming up against a keeper who was about to have an inspired afternoon.

The second half was just four minutes old when Ian Cooke gambled on a Dickie Guy clearance. On such a bumpy pitch he anticipated a Burnley midfielder might mis control the ball. Sure enough, as he attempted to trap the ball, it bounced past him to Cooke who was already on the front foot, sliding the ball between two hastily retreating Burnley defenders and clean in on Stevenson’s goal. The keeper raced out, unsettling Cooke sufficiently to force him into a snatched effort that the keeper pushed away to the edge of the penalty area where it fell perfectly to Mick Mahon who drove the ball crisply through a crowd of bodies before Stevenson could react. Wimbledon had the lead in a competition where they hadn’t conceded a goal in over seven hours of Football.

The game took an expected pattern for the remaining forty-one minutes. Burnley poured forward in increasingly desperate waves while gasp after gasp rose from the crowd with each Dickie Guy save becoming seemingly more impressive than the last. By the time the referee blew for full time; the Wimbledon players had given everything to defend their lead. They’d achieved something thought impossible in the modern era in winning on top flight, albeit bumpy, soil. The Burnley players didn’t realise it at the time but would have a lot to thank Bob Lord for. Without TV evidence, they haven’t had to endure seeing Mick Mahon’s goal every January since. An impressed Leighton James told them they were the best organised side to have visited Turf Moor that season.

If Wimbledon thought they were headline news after winning at Burnley, it was nothing to what was to follow in defeat in round four. This time the dra delivered what the club wanted, a trip to mighty Leeds United at Elland Road. Now there would be a packed house, TV cameras, huge media attention and a big pay day.

Leeds were arguably the biggest and at times the most devisive team in the land. They'd been described at one time by Brian Clough as a machine, a description that had irked their manager, Don Revie but was very apt. Leed's were exceptionally well drilled and were a team that fulfilled the potential of the sum of its parts. Every position on the putch was occupied by a giant of the game and even when injury and suspension crept in, the deputies were often of an equal calibre. It was perhaps the first true world class squad assembled in the English game. But there was another side to Leeds too. A tough, sometimes overphysical element to their game, which earned them a reputation as a dirty side. Despite Don Revew repeatedly pointing out that his team rarely topped the dsciplinary charts in a league where the likes of Chelsea, Everton and Liverpool all knew how to throw in a bite of muscle when needed too.

By 1975 Revie was gone. He'd left his team as League Champions and surprisingly in the hands of their biggest critic, Brian Clough. The experiment had been disastrous and after forty days he was gone. Replaced by Jimmy Armfield. The club quickly turned around their dreadfull start to their defence of the title and by fourth round day were just four points adrift of table toppers, Everton. However, such was the tight nature of the campaign that Leeds were sitting ninth. It was a terribly frustrating season where they really should have been running away with the title had the Clough experiement not taken place.

The first half was actually something of a timid affair and Dickie Guy recalled thinking to himself that, if this was the mighty Leeds, he wasn't overly impressed with them. The second half was a siege, which turned Guy into a household name, with yet another string of good saves, even though he and most of his team mates believed his performance at Turf Moor was better. His performance earned him a spot on the following day’s Big Match on ITV with Brian Moore. However, it was a late penalty save from dead shot, Peter Lorimer that sealed his place in the folklore of the club.

The replay initially fell foul of the weather with the Plough Lane pitch not fit before it emerged that the police had discovered thousands of forged tickets on the black market. The advice to Wimbledon was to switch the tie to Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park. One major positive of that was a bumper crowd of over 45,000, giving Allen Bassett a cash windfall of £34,000. Much more than he’d dreamed possible.

On the field it was a fractious evening where Wimbledon could have been two goals up inside the first ten minutes and clearly got Leeds rattled as the frustrations of their players began to come to the surface. Dickie Guy yet again was equal to anything the Champions could throw at him until Johnny Giles’ shot, early in the second half, deflected off Dave Bassett’s outstretched knee beyond Guy. It was the first goal the Dons conceded in the cup run since going behind to Bracknell nine games earlier and it proved decisive. It was a cruel way to go out of the competition.

By this stage Burnley were deep in a concerted bid to make amends for their cup exit by delivering the League title. They climbed to second on goal difference with eleven games to go but, in the cavalry charge that was this season’s run in, they ultimately finished a lowly tenth.

Wimbledon still had four trophies to play for but by mid-March were in danger of ending up empty handed as the huge fixture list started to look like taking its toll. Knocked out of two cups in the space of three days, the Dons got their game back on track to win the London Senior cup and, more importantly, deliver their first ever Southern League Championship.

It was to be the first of a trio of titles in a dominant semi pro era for the Dons under Allen Batsford but there were others at Plough Lane with bigger ambitions. Ron Noades took over as Chairman in 1976 and set his aim on joining the Football League. With their recent record, Wimbledon proved hard to turn down and were duly elected to join the Fourth Division in 1977.

Bob Stockley and Kieron Somers both moved on the previous season, but for the remaining nine members of the Giant Killing side, they now had the dilemma of turning full time. Most decided to give it a season and see how it went but long serving Ian Cooke realised during preseason that he couldn’t commit to the new training routines while still working in a Bank and chose his career, dropping back into Non-League before the season began. Selwyn Rice and Mick Mahon also both left during the summer.

The move to a full-time club didn’t all go well though. Allen Batsford’s relationship with Ron Noades grew increasingly strained until he left the club midway through the first League campaign. That was also Billy Edwards’ cue to return to Non-League, although when his playing days were over, he remained a regular at Plough Lane on matchdays as a Police Officer. Alas for Dickie Guy, the step up to League Football also saw him lose his keeper’s jersey and, after spending the second half of the season out of favour, he too chose to return to the semi pro game.

Jeff Bryant, Dave Bassett and Roger Connell all opted to go full time while Dave Donaldson managed to stay part time into a second season where the meteoric rise of Wimbledon took another step with promotion to Division Three in 1979. Bryant moved on to Bournemouth while Donaldson and Connell dropped back into Non-League. Dave Bassett had already moved into the coaching staff.

Harry, as he was better known, would later oversee the most incredible modern rise of any Football club when he took over as manager and guided them to a top six finish in the First Division, passing Burnley heading in the opposite direction in 1982, where this time a Third Division game ended 2-2. The last direct connection to the 1975 Giant Killers was broken when Bassett resigned as Wimbledon manager in 1987 to take a new challenge at Watford.

Wimbledon fans have been through great days and heartache in the years since, ultimately losing their ground and then their club entirely in the only modern franchise style club move in English Football. A phoenix has risen from the ashes in the years since with Ian Cooke and Dickie Guy both heavily involved in the new club.

Burnley: 1:Alan Stevenson, 2:Keith Newton, 3:Ian Brennan, 4:Billy Ingahm, 5:Colin Waldron, 6:Peter Noble, 7:Brian Flynn, 8:Ray Hankin, 9:Paul Fletcher, 10:Doug Collins, 11:Leighton James, Sub:Colin Morris. Manager: Jimmy Adamson

Wimbledon: 1:Dickie Guy, 2:Bob Stockley, 3:Jeff Bryant, 4:Dave Donaldson, 5:Billy Edwards, 6:Dave Bassett, 7:Ian Cooke, 8:Selwyn Rice, 9:Roger Connell, 10:Kieron Somers, 11:Mick Mahon. Manager:Allen Batsford

Were you at Turf Moor in 1975? Share your merories of the day