Saturday, 21 May 2011

Sutton United blog: Michel Platini and AFC Wimbledon v Luton

If it wasn't for a ridiculous ruling by Michel Platini and his pals at UEFA  I'd be getting all excited about a trip to Wembley today to watch Wimbledon take on Luton in the Blue Square Play-Off Final.

It appears UEFA want to give Wembley a bit of breathing space before next Saturday's Champions League Final between Manchester United and Barcelona. So, the game which would have been staged at Wembley is now taking place at the City of Manchester Stadium.

I used to like Platini. He was the star of the first European Championships I can remember in 1984 as host nation France triumphed over Spain 2-0 in the final, although his goal from a free-kick was helped by some hapless goalkeeping from Luis Arconada. 

I can remember watching the competition mesmerised as a young lad, often sat in my pyjamas for the latter stages of matches. Ah, I'm getting all soppy now.

For me, Platini personified the excitement of the competition. The most memorable match I recall was the semi-final with Portugal where France battled back from 2-1 down to snatch victory with Platini pouncing in the last few seconds.

The goal was the catalyst for a magical moment from John Motson's back catalogue. His shreik of  'GOAL!' left me cowering behind the sofa like a frightened cat. Mum coaxed me back out with the promise of a Milky Bar.

Any rate, back to today. There's no doubt about it, there would have been a big crowd at Wembley, with plenty of casual observers being tempted to see two non-league heavyweights going head-to-head. You never know, there might be a decent turn-out as it is.

Football fans are a hardy bunch and, as far as Wimbledon are concerned, it's their biggest match since AFC came into existence, so their fans would travel to the ends of the earth if they had to.

Instead, while thousands of fans are bombing up the motorway to Manchester, I am off to hunt for a pub which has the channel Premier Sports so I can watch the game. Platini is not in my good books, let me tell you, our relationship has definitely soured over the last 27 years.

I have never been one to follow the crowd. When the Dons and the Hatters met in the FA Cup Semi-Final at White Hart Lane in 1988 I was put under severe pressure from pals to join them at the big match. But, I held firm, and my reward was seeing Sutton gain a gallant point from a 2-2 draw at Aggborough, the home of Kidderminster Harriers.

I have to admit, I was tempted by the prospect of watching the Cup tie. The chance to see little Terry Gibson, big John Fashanu, hairy Steve Foster and average Mal Donaghy was almost too good to turn down. But, I saw sense, and went to Kidderminster where Barry Williams's boys battled hard for a share of the spoils.

Football back then had a very different look about it. The Dons and the Hatters were high-flying First Division sides, while Sutton were a top-ten Conference club.

As well as Wimbledon and Luton, the First Division featured such oddities as Oxford, Sheffield Wednesday, and Watford. Chelsea finished fourth from bottom and were subsequently relegated to the Second Division after a play-off with Sutton's FA Cup conquerors Middlesbrough.

If that all sounds a little strange then the Conference had it's fair share of curiosities too, such as Fisher Athletic, Runcorn and Lincoln...hold on, scrap the last one, they're back for another dose of non-league's big time. It a time before Dagenham had hooked up with Redbridge to form the super-club we know today.

Any rate, I hope the Dons can turn the clock back to 1988 today and beat Luton. I would have written more but I am off to get my drinking boots on and, hopefully, I will be raising a glass to Wimbledon's return to the Football League by 4.45. 

Come on you Dons!


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