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Record not broken: Dave Bassett on Wimbledon’s achievements in 1986-87

Remembering Wimbledon's fantastic away form during the club's first top-flight season

23 January 2018

By Chris Slavin

For those who may have missed the interview in Saturday’s programme, we caught up with Dave Bassett about setting a record against the big clubs that still stands to this day.

The article is reproduced in full below with the man who guided Wimbledon from the old fourth division to the top flight talking in detail about upsetting the odds.

The fantastic achievements of Wimbledon’s 1986-87 team deservedly received press attention when Manchester City’s expensively assembled Premier League Champions-elect were defeated at Anfield.

A £360 million outlay by Pep Guardiola has put City on the verge of a runaway title success, but they were unable to match the exploits of Dave Bassett’s team, who were enjoying a memorable first season in the top-flight.

A half-time quiz on BBC Radio Five Live stated, ‘The only side to win at Liverpool, Man United, and Chelsea in the same season since the 2nd World War is Wimbledon in 86/87’.

Dave Bassett reckons the Dons don’t really get the credit they deserve for such an achievement – and he added that his boys also won at Tottenham Hotspur in the same season!

“We had the lowest budget by a million miles in the top-flight that season,” said Dave. “We had a budget of £300,000 a year that included my wages and the staff. I don’t think we get the credit in the press for what was achieved that season. It was more or less regarded as a fluke, but we won 4-0 at Chelsea, 2-1 at Anfield, and our 1-0 win at Old Trafford meant that we did the double over Man United.

“They were big local derbies against Chelsea and Tottenham and it was special to beat them. Tottenham also finished third that season. To go to Liverpool and win was a big achievement. They finished as runners-up and they were challenging Everton at the time for the league. With us beating Liverpool and Everton winning at Arsenal, it cost them the title.

“Tottenham and Liverpool finished near the top of the league and though Chelsea and United were not up there it was still tough to win at those places. All these teams had top international players. We were the lowest ranked team by a long way as we had just come up. It’s a fact, it’s in the record books, and no one can away what we did that season. City are capable of doing what we did, but it’s not easy to go to all those places and win.”

The well documented Crazy Gang spirit certainly played a big part in such an achievement, but Dave is quick to point out the team had a lot of quality too – and there was a commitment to attacking football on their travels.

“When we played away from home we played the same way,” added Dave. “We thought, ‘why play any different away from home?’ I think we surprised the bigger teams because we attacked them. We did not just set out to defend. We had good players, but people did not think we had good players. The problem is that most of the sides come up and they just look to survive, so they play defensive instead of going for it.

“You have to be brave enough to say, ‘if we are going to Liverpool we may as well try to beat them’. If you lose 2-0 having played defensively, it’s the same outcome as losing 4-2, but at least you’ve had a go, it’s a more enjoyable game, and you’ve frightened them.

“Our team had been together for a while and we had a number of players who had come through the youth system. Kevin Gage, Brian Gayle, Andy Thorn, Glynn Hodges were just some of the players who had come through the ranks. Dennis Wise came a bit later, but Dave Beasant, Nigel Winterburn, and Alan Cork had all played for us in the third and fourth divisions. We did not buy loads of players for the top-flight, but we had a good team that had come up through the leagues and we had a spirit.”

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