Video of the Day: Newcastle United vs Wimbledon, February 1988
After a few mixed seasons, by the start of 1988 things were starting to look up somewhat for Newcastle United. The team that won the club promotion back to the First Division had been largely built around highly experienced players such as Kevin Keegan and Terry McDermott, but these players had moved on and been replaced by a generation of locally based youngsters such as Peter Beardsley, Paul Gascoigne and Chris Waddle, although the financial restraints of the era had already forced the sales of Beardsley and Waddle by 1987, and Gascoigne would soon follow.
Beardsley’s sale to Liverpool in the summer of 1987 had set a new record UK transfer fee record of £1.9m, but manager Willie McFaul had managed this latest departure well. The arrival of teenager Michael O’Neill from Coleraine for £100,000 in October was -initially, at least – a surprise success, Beardsley’s replacement, the Brazilian Mirandinha, was scoring goals and had settled in well, and Paul Gascoigne was showing further signs of the precocious talent that would eventually propel him to international celebrity. In the First Division, Newcastle United would finish the season in eighth place in the table, the club’s highest league finish since 1977.
It was in the cups, however, that Newcastle saw their best chance of success. The club hadn’t reached Wembley since losing the 1974 and 1976 FA Cup and League Cups respectively, hadn’t won a major tournament since the 1969 Inter Cities Fairs Cup, and hadn’t won the FA Cup since 1955. Therefore, it was unsurprising that the highest crowd of the season should turn out at St James Park for their Fifth Round match against Wimbledon, who were narrowly above them in the league table at the time, but who were not widely fancied to do that well in the Cup. What could possibly go wrong? Commentary comes from Martin Tyler.
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