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Dons seek spirit of 1975

9 December 2014

Wimbledon v Burnley on Thursday brings back epic memories

AFC Wimbledon Under-18s will need plenty of fighting spirit to cause an FA Youth Cup upset on Thursday night and it was a quality that the Dons had in abundance during a famous cup victory against Burnley in 1975.

Captain Ian Cooke recalled that Wimbledon’s players – then Southern Leaguers – were out on their feet at the end of a match that stunned the football world as top-flight Burnley were beaten 1-0 by the Dons at Turf Moor (the picture above shows Mick Mahon netting the winner).

Our Under-18s host Burnley on Thursday (7.00 pm start at the Cherry Red Records Stadium) and this meeting between the two clubs brought memories flooding back for Wimbledon’s prolific forward of the 1960s and 1970s.

There was plenty of sweat and toil to earn such a momentous win, but also a master game plan from manager Allen Batsford to deny Welsh wizard Leighton James space to work his magic.

“Allen and our coach David Hall knew that Leighton was the real danger and everything came through him,” Ian recalled. “Bob Stockley man-marked Leighton with Dave Bassett and Selwyn Rice told to double-up on him. We cut the supply line to Burnley’s forwards by doing this. When you got tackled by Selwyn you certainly knew about it!

 “Dickie Guy pulled off several fantastic saves to keep Burnley out. Even though he made that famous penalty save against Leeds, he had more to do against Burnley. When we got into the second-half the game got quicker and they absolutely battered us. We were on our knees and could hardly run anymore at the end, but we clung on. We got a great reception from our fans afterwards and it was a wonderful day.”

The circumstances will be completely different on Thursday when Wimbledon’s young guns will be aiming to beat Burnley, but Ian has seen enough talent to believe that the Dons can do it.

“I watched our Under-21s recently with several of the Under-18s involved and I was very impressed,” added Ian. “I think there are quite a few who could make it. Both Alan Reeves and Mark Robinson are doing fantastic jobs. When you look higher up at the Premier League clubs they would sooner spend £10 million on signing a player from outside rather than giving youngsters a chance. I think there must be young players at these clubs who could do a job.

“Neal Ardley is trying to bring players through this season. Ben Harrison has made the step-up and Tom Beere would have played more times but for having injury problems. I think we’ve got some great talent coming through.”

Ian may not be able to make Thursday’s game as he recently had an operation on his knee and is getting about on crutches, but he hopes the young Dons can do it.

 It will offer an opportunity for a Wimbledon team to again upset the odds against Burnley, almost 40 years since Mick Mahon struck the winner at Turf Moor.

“It still stands out in my memory when we scored the winning goal at Turf Moor,” recalled Ian. “When we looked at the pitch the day before the quality of the surface was not as good as we expected. It was a bit bobbly and as Dickie’s clearance went towards their defender I ran forward hoping he would miscontrol it. That’s what happened and I managed to get a shot in at their goalkeeper Ian Stevenson, who saved it, but Mick scored the rebound.

“I can remember a fantastic atmosphere at Turf Moor with 21,000 fans there and great celebrations in the changing rooms afterwards.”

Though there will not be as many spectators at the Cherry Red Records Stadium on Thursday, it would mean so much to the Under-18s if they could beat Burnley and earn a place in the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup.

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