Philliskirk’s Famous Five… Which Never Happened

By on Feb 26, 2013 in History, Latest | 0 comments

A recent tweet by the BBC’s Ian Dennis brought some memories flooding back. Not of Dennis’s angry reaction to my criticism of a Radio 5 Live show he hosted about UEFA’s Financial Fair Play initiative (although I thought Dennis was the programme’s only decent contributor). But memories of a curious FA Cup first-round tie from 1992. Dennis’s tweet concerned Oldham Athletic caretaker-supremo Tony Philliskirk. On February 16th, before the 2-2 draw with Everton at Boundary Park which set up tonight’s FA Cup fifth-round replay at Goodison Park, Dennis tweeted “Until today highlight of Tony Philliskirk career in FA Cup was scoring five goals for Peterborough only to have them expunged.“ Indeed, Philliskirk scored six times in the tie – a remarkable effort considering his Peterborough United side progressed 1-0 in a replay at their London Road ground, after a 1-1 draw in the first match. So, how so?

More people will almost certainly be aware that Dennis Law is the answer the pub quiz-style question “Who scored seven goals in an FA Cup tie but ended up on the losing side?” In 1961, Law scored all six Manchester City goals as they led 6-2 in a fourth-round tie at Luton Town’s Kenilworth Road. The match was abandoned after 69 minutes due to a waterlogged pitch. And when they started again, Law scored again, only for City to lose 3-1. Law’s six goals in the first match were, like Philliskirk’s five 31 years later, “expunged” from the record books, otherwise he would have been the 20th century’s leading FA Cup goalscorer. Philliskirk wasn’t quite so unfortunate – Posh won anyway – and it could be argued that he wasn’t the most unfortunate “expungee,” as I’ll explain later. But the story of the tie was more remarkable.

Because the “FA” Premier League was formed in 1992/93, Peterborough’s consecutive promotions in 1991 and ’92 brought them from the ‘old’ fourth division into the ‘new’ first division of the Football League. But a mathematical quirk meant that one reward for promotion into English football’s second-tier, a bye into the FA Cup third round, was denied them. Their FA Cup first-round opponents were my lot, Isthmian League Kingstonian. Despite being one of the leading clubs in Amateur football for much of the time, the Ks’ appearance in 1992’s FA Cup First Round (“the competition proper” as it is known from our place in English football’s pyramid system) was our first since 1933, hence the wildest celebrations ever seen for a 2-1 home win over Welling United after our fourth qualifying round victory.

Ks had contrived some pretty remarkable on-field methods to avoid the first round in those 59 years. But in 1960, all they had to do was overcome opposition from the length and breadth of England, including a replay in Durham mining village Ferryhill, to get to the Amateur Cup Final at Wembley before applying for a first-round place by mid-June. The Amateur Cup bit, they managed, Ferryhill and all. The second bit, the “Dear FA, Please can we play in the first round proper of the FA Cup, love Kingstonian FC,” bit, they managed too. The third bit, posting the application in time…erm…

The first game, at Ks’ Kingsmeadow ground, took place when there were no “FA” Premier League fixtures, as England had a World Cup qualifier the following Wednesday (and the Premier League was – you remember, don’t you? – set up to assist the national side). So the BBC’s Match of the Day featured the Ks/Peterborough clash, with the one and (thankfully) only John Motson as commentator. They were there far more in hope than expectation of a Cup shock, but in striker Francis Vines, Ks had “the Prime Minister’s postman” in their ranks, Downing Street being technically on the van driver’s round, possibly just for the occasion. If the match was remembered at all, it was for Kingstonian’s “dying fly”  goal celebrations after they went one-up, a minute before half-time. Ks acquitted themselves very well, but clear-cut chances were “at a premium” (trans: the match wasn’t much cop). Philliskirk equalised from close-range after Ks keeper Adrian Blake spilled a longer-range effort. Blake’s central responsibility for the replay was appropriate, given what proved to be his central role in it.

The replay, as replays often do, exposed the full four-division gap between the sides (Posh were to finish 10th in that season’s first division, still their highest-ever league finish). Peterborough led 3-0 at half-time, with two more for Philliskirk. And he and Peterborough looked ready for more when Blake fell to his knees clutching the back of his head as he prepared to take a goalkick after an hour. An observant Clive Tyldesley was the BBC’s Sportsnight reporter (much-missed in my house… Sportsnight, not Tyldesley). He said Blake had “clearly been struck by a 50p piece” and the dazed keeper had to be replaced. Ks put stocky, five-foot-not-very-much-at-all midfielder Andy Parr in goal (think David De Gea in a hall of mirrors) and six more goals inevitably followed. Philliskirk completed his hat-trick to make it 5-0 before Ks John Finch pinged one in from “fully” 30 yards – inspiring some more “dying fly” celebrations, this time from Ks 800-or-so travelling fans, well most of them, anyway. Philliskirk grabbed his fourth and fifth of the night (Posh’s eighth and ninth) in the stoppage-time allowed for Blake’s treatment on the pitch and departure from it. And we trooped from the ground, bedraggled both by our goal celebrations and our team’s partly understandable capitulation.

From our vantage point behind the opposite goal, it was not at all clear what had happened to Blake. The idea that he had been struck by a missile thrown from the crowd didn’t really occur to us. Fine keeper though he was, Blake tended to get ultra-tense for big matches, and this was his biggest of all. So the idea that he took ill with nerves made more sense than a home fan chucking money at Blake with Peterborough 3-0 up…and the country in newly-depressed economic times – “Black Wednesday” and Britain’s departure from the European Exchange Rate mechanism, which I hesitate to call the “erm crisis” (sorry), had been only two months earlier. But I arrived home to be told by my father that “it looks like you’ve got a replay.”  And indeed it did. Ks, Tyldesley told the nation, were “demanding” one and the nation were then informed and possibly shocked by the fact that it looked like the FA were “going to give them one.”

Tyldesley pointed out a precedent, when Burton Albion and Leicester City had to replay their 1985 third-round tie. Burton keeper Paul Evans was struck on the head when City fans decided ripping up their seats and throwing them on the pitch was an appropriate way to congratulate Burton on equalising. A dazed Evans decided to continue and Leicester, unsurprisingly, eventually won 6-1. But the FA ordered a replay behind closed doors, which Leicester won 1-0. Gary Lineker, ‘only’ a studio pundit in those early days of his media career, played and scored a hat-trick in the 6-1 game, which meant two things. First, if the question “who scored a hat-trick in Leicester’s 1-0 FA Cup replay win over Burton Albion, after a 1-1 draw,” ever appears in a pub quiz you can now get the points. And second, Lineker could offer first-hand experience of the scenario and explain to viewers what was likely to happen. So, using the searing intellect and razor-sharp broadcasting instinct which has served him so well in the intervening 20 years, Lineker said: “It’s an interesting one” and… er… that was it. Thanks, Gary.

The Blake braining became national front-page news, thanks mainly to Ks chairman Barry Chaveau and manager Chris Kelly’s vociferous clamouring for a replay – Kelly fully living up to his “Leatherhead Lip” sobriquet from his days inspiring the Surrey outfit’s famous 1970s FA Cup exploits. The Burton/Leicester tie had not been an exact precedent, though. Burton were, of course, level when their keeper was hit – their equaliser was the start of the whole incident. And while it had a demonstrable impact on the score, the more important impact was the fact that the result – all that matters in cup-ties – was in doubt. The same could not at all be said of the Peterborough/Ks game. That was very 3-0 indeed when Blake got hit. And while 9-1 might not have been the final score, Peterborough would undoubtedly have won – football is “a funny old game” but it’s not that funny.

Kingstonian fans were split on the issue of a replay, with some against the idea (me) and others in favour of it or at least warming to it (everyone else). It wasn’t clear to me how Peterborough could have prevented the incident, unless they could have successfully confiscated all change from all supporters. And a replay could only have been a punishment, which would also have punished Ks John Finch – a goalscorer every two blue moons – and, of course, five-goal Philliskirk. So, naturally, a replay it was. Naturally it was behind closed doors (sort of, see below), as crowd ‘trouble’ had necessitated it. And, naturally, as a Peterborough ’fan’ had thrown the coin, the game was staged at… er… Peterborough. Kelly, in “Leatherhead Lip” mode again, raged at the latter decision, suggesting, correctly, that the replayed replay should have been behind neutral closed doors. And the Friday lunchtime kick-off hardly lightened his mood, as Ks players would, he claimed, struggle to get time off their various jobs. Ks managed to field a full-strength team – but there was so little respect for the process that Ks tickets for ‘officials’ fell into some distinctly unofficial hands – two of which were mine.

These days, I might have got in as Ks’ match reporter for ‘The Non-League Paper’ (“the first and the best”). But back then, The NLP was no help, not being published for another seven years. Other ingenious methods of entry through the closed doors included a friend of mine who worked for London Weekend Television. He was, though, a film researcher for The South Bank Show, so it was perhaps just as well no-one asked him what assignment Melvyn Bragg had sent him on. Peterborough won the replay 1-0, as Leicester had in 1985, against a hugely-improved Ks side. But Philliskirk had to content himself with supplying the cross which was bundled over the line by a combination of Posh winger Worrell Sterling and Ks wing-back David Kempton’s arse – a suitably scruffy goal to end a scruffy saga. Philliskirk’s goalscoring feats in the ‘proper’ games did not deserve to be expunged from the records and thereby at least partly expunged from the memory. A win for his side at Goodison tonight would give Philliskirk the place in FA Cup history which should already be his.

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