Football League Division One, 26/2/83
Team: Sherwood, Rice, Rostron, Taylor, Sims, Bolton, Callaghan, Blissett, Barnes, Jackett, Jobson
Scorers: Blissett, Rostron
Aston Villa 1
Wilf to the rescue
Report by Colin Wiggins
Opponents Aston Villa, Champions of Europe, were fifth in the First Division
and due to play Juventus the following Wednesday. Watford were second,
behind Liverpool, with Manchester United trailing in our wake. It's true, it
Torrential rain over the previous twenty-four hours had left a sodden
surface that soon became transformed into a good impression of a ploughed
field. This match was played on a quagmire. But this was 1983, not 2000, otherwise
the twenty-two delicate little flowers would probably have been spared the
ordeal of performing in front of the paying supporters. But things were
different in those days. I don't remember the trains running on time, but
I certainly do remember matches played and completed on surfaces far, far
worse than the pitch for the Burnley match last Saturday (25th November 2000). But
there was less TV and sponsorship money sloshing around then, so the income from paying supporters
was seen as more important than it is now.
This was a fantastic, exhilarating match. The week before, the Hornets had
been routed at Villa Park in an FA Cup tie. This week though, things were
astonishingly different, about as one-sided a match as you could wish to
see. After ninety minutes, Villa were miraculously holding a rampant Watford to a
one-all draw. Luther had opened the scoring early in the match, blasting
home from fifteen yards as the ball ran loose to him. Mark Walters had scored a
brilliant if flukey equaliser, lobbing Steve Sherwood from the edge of the
box, after Ian Bolton had uncharacteristically dithered.
Chance after chance went begging until, deep into injury time, Wilf Rostron
stretched to reach a half-chance in the six yard box. He connected but,
somehow, the ball scraped the outside of the post and went for a goal-kick.
Lucky, lucky Villa had now surely got the point they did not deserve. Wilf
limped away, having apparently damaged himself in stretching too much.
But then, even deeper into injury time, a poor clearance from the Villa
defence saw the ball rolling slowly through the mud towards the stricken
Wilf, some ten yards outside the box. If you were there, you will remember
this moment. If you ever saw Wilf play, you will know he was special. Villa
keeper Nigel Spink never stood a chance. A screamer! Wilf was engulfed, his
limp forgotten. Kenny Jackett was the first to him, followed by Les Taylor,
Nigel Callaghan, John Barnes, Luther and Ross, Steve Sims. Legends, every one
The sensation of walking on air lasted for days afterwards. Highlights of
the match were shown on ITV, and I still have that tape, which includes so
many memorable moments from this, and other matches of that time. Watching
it again is an ideal antidote to the Postponement Blues. There in the
Directors' Box is Sir Elton, with fellow director John Reid nearby, I wonder
what happened to him. And there is Jim Harrowell, pretty ancient even then,
an old style director who was there when it mattered.
Great days, they were...and in the year 2000, this match would never have
happened. We'd all have been sent home.