new frontiers (issue 7)

Look Back: 1984/5 Part 4

The big day arrived, so did Arsenal.

Arsenal were greeted by a crisp and sunny but inhospitable winter afternoon when they arrived at Bootham Crescent. City had left the snow on the pitch until the morning of the game when a volunteer army of supporters assembled very early to clear the pitch. A 10,840 crowd greeted the sides. Arsenal having returned some unsold tickets. City's side cost 19,000 to assemble, only Keith Walwyn and Keith Houchen cost transfer fees. Arsenal fielded 8 internationals.

In the first half, City attacked the Grosvenor Road end. Mick Astbury being called into early action, diving at the feet of Paul Mariner as the referee blew for offside. At the other end, Walwyn and the rest of the City attack were frequently caught offside, the icy conditions not helping. Consequently, chances were rare. From one, Gary Ford shot wide after good work by Martin Butler. City's best chance of the half came after Keith Walwyn went down the right wing, Alan Pearce, unmarked at the back post was undecided whether to shoot or head when the ball came across. He stooped, and headed weakly wide.

At the other end, Arsenal's best chance came from a Kenny Sansom cross, Alan Hay managing to head the ball away with Paul Mariner waiting, unmarked, at the far post, (John MacPhail was laid injured on the ground), with a wide open goal beckoning.

The second half saw the temperature plunge and the pitch became even more icy. Mick Astbury made one fine save when Tony Woodcock ran free. At the other end, Martin Butler was running at defenders, keeping his feet while all around him were falling over. One run resulted in him shooting over the bar, another ended in a cross which Viv Anderson desperately cleared just as Keith Walwyn was ready to strike.

Soon after, Walwyn went close again. From Hay's lobbed pass, he ran clear into the penalty area and lobbed John Lukic, as the ball dropped agonisingly towards the undefended goal, Tommy Caton managed to head clear from underneath the cross bar. The strength and guile of Walwyn and Butler was causing Arsenal's defence much trouble, the better chances were now all going City's way. Butler shot over, Walwyn's cross narrowly evaded Keith Houchen. Arsenal substituted Charlie Nicholas, bringing on Ian Allinson in an attempt to stem the flow of City attacks. It didn't work. City continued to press forward with only 10 minutes left.

City continued to attack, but the game seemed to be heading for a 0-0 draw. And a Highbury replay. City won a throw in just inside Arsenal's half. Gary Ford left it for Steve Senior who throw the ball down the touchline towards Keith Walwyn, the ball broke for Martin Butler who charged off towards the corner flag. Defenders moved back, Keith Houchen lead the City forwards towards the area, as Butler crossed, Steve Williams' determined challenge on Houchen resulted in him going down. The referee, Don Shaw had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.

Williams' challenge had begun outside the area but continued as the players entered the area. Houchen finally going down just a couple of yards inside the box, in a position which was not really threatening. Besides Williams, Arsenal had other defenders back in position.

The fouled Houchen took the penalty instead of John MacPhail, the usual penalty taker. Keith Houchen took a classic penalty, placing it low into the extreme left hand corner of the goal as Lukic dived the other way.

From the kick off, Arsenal pumped a high ball forward, it bounced around City's penalty area pinball fashion before breaking to an Arsenal player whose shot felled Steve Williams. City were able to relieve the pressure and win a corner, their first of match. As Lukic collected the ball from Hay's corner, the referee blew full time.

Another chapter in City's FA Cup history had been written. Watch It - CITY 1 Arsenal 0

"Anyone, except York at York", is the FA Cup draw Bill Shankly once wished for during Liverpool's hey day. It was the 5th round draw in 1985.

Before the Liverpool game, City had unfinished business to conclude. A home won over Doncaster saw City progress in the Freight Rover Trophy. The game being memorable for the way Dale Banton and Martin Butler linked up in attack and for a thoroughly inept performance by Doncaster's rookie keeper. Keith Walwyn missed the game through injury. Increasingly, the treatment he was receiving up front was taking its toil.

Against Wigan on February 2, he took a fearful battering, mainly at the hands of Steve Walsh, but still managed to help set up goals for Gary Ford and Alan Pearce. Eventually, Walsh was to receive his marching orders. The crowd that day was 10,948, the biggest home league crowd of the season, and bigger than the Arsenal game, as people received cup tie vouchers as they entered the ground. Not everyone was happy.

They included those who:-

So strong was the sense of injustice felt by some, that chairman Michael Sinclair offered a full page explanation in the club programme as to the reasons behind City's ticket allocation scheme.

Whatever, the build up passed quickly. BBC, ITV and The Leeds Evening Post were just some of the outside media concerns who jumped on the bandwagon. The big game came, the gates opened early. I joined the queue about 12:45, it snaked through the car park, all along Grosvenor Road and round the corner.

Watch: CITY 1 Arsenal 0

Next Issue: "Anyone except York at York".


30 years on, York City's victory over Arsenal in the fourth round of the FA Cup still resonates as one of the competition's big shocks. To mark the 30th anniversary of the game, ThePress asked Former York City manager Denis Smith, ex-players Ricky Sbragia and Keith Houchen and former Yorkshire Evening Press chief sports writer Malcolm Huntington to recount their memories of the encounter - a game that still stands as one of the Minstermen's finest results.

A star-studded side, put together at a cost of more than 4.5 million and featuring eight internationals, arrived at Bootham Crescent on January 26, 1985, confident of straight-forward progression into the last 16. But on a snow-bound day in York, they met their match against a heroic side that defied the odds to record a famous 1-0 victory.

January 26, 1985. FA Cup fourth round day. But, at Bootham Crescent, the game between York City and Arsenal is in doubt. With snow covering the pitch, the club issues a plea for fans to come and help clear the surface. A battalion of some 200 arrive, armed with shovels, and are rewarded when Sandbach referee Don Shaw gives the all-clear. Smith: "The odds would be against it taking place now. The staff were all out - myself and assistant manager Viv Busby too - but it was about the supporters basically, along with the groundsmen."

Houchen: "It was a really cold winter and there was a lot of snow on the pitch. They had put canvas sheets and straw along the top. Come the matchday, all that had to be cleared off. That was the thing about the FA Cup in the old days that you never see any more. The whole community, and all the supporters, used to get involved. They would be out on the radio for volunteers to come to the ground and clear the pitch - see if we could get the match to go ahead. I remember the referee inspecting the pitch, with the linesmen and the different managers. The players were out there having a look and you wouldn't have been surprised at all if you were getting back in your car and driving home."

Huntington: "I remember their manager (Don Howe) wandering about saying 'give the referee a cigar and let him get his feet up and have a coffee. It's not fit for play'. The referee decided it was fit for play."

Sbragia: "We had still got to play on it. No-one (on our side) grumbled about the pitch. We knew it was never going to be off. We just needed to get on with it. They had to play on the same pitch. We caught them. We felt that we could beat them. They weren't invincible. We had to play at our maximum and hope they had a day off."

With a team that included many internationals, the likes of Kenny Sansom, Viv Anderson, Tony Woodcock and Charlie Nicholas, Arsenal were huge favourites to win - despite fears the pitch would be a leveller for Third Division York. But there was a quiet confidence running through the Minstermen outfit that they could deliver a mammoth upset.

Huntington: "I think they had eight internationals and it was a 4.5 million Arsenal side and a 19,000 York City side."

Smith: "Arsenal were one of the top clubs and they still are. We were decent, though. I know it seems ridiculous to say we thought we would have a chance but we did. It was the way we were playing and there was a total belief in the side."

Sbragia: "There was always the belief. We'd had such a good year and we had a really good team. We always felt at home that we could beat anyone. The pitch was really tight and there were some conditions that really helped. They didn't fancy it. There weren't any negatives. Even the build up, it was similar to what we did in the league. We had a day off. We carried on doing the same things in training. We didn't really speak an awful lot about Arsenal. We knew they were really good players."

Houchen: "We weren't overawed by anything. Denis and Viv had us set up to have a go at them. We certainly weren't saying 'we'll keep the goals down or anything like that'."

The game gets under way. Teenager Martin Butler, the youngest player in the York side at just 18, latches on to a mistake by Sansom and surges forward. After breaking through a tackle and sweeping into the box, Gary Ford flies in behind and drags his shot wide. York are more than holding their own. It's 0-0 at half-time.

Smith: "I think they were shocked by the intensity of our play. We closed down as well as anyone in the league. We had good attacking players. The work rate throughout the team was incredible. We closed them down far quicker than they would have expected. And they struggled."

Sbragia: "We pressured them. You could get away with murder in those days. Physically, we dealt with them. As a back four, we felt really comfortable. We had two midfield players and certainly that massively helped us. But we always felt comfortable. At half-time, we felt 'we are in here, we've got something. We can win this game'."

Huntington: "It was a very level game. Mick Astbury had to make a couple of good saves from Paul Mariner and Woodcock - two important saves in the second half."

The second period. Anderson has to clear away at the far post with Keith Walwyn waiting after Butler again causes carnage down the right. Tommy Caton then clears off the line after Walywn lifts the ball over advancing Arsenal keeper Lukic.

It is heading for a draw. But, in the last minute, Butler again surges down the right. Houchen, arriving from deep, gets into a tangle with Gunners midfielder Steve Williams.

Huntington: "I can picture it. I couldn't understand why Williams had to foul. He was going nowhere."

Houchen: "It was a crazy foul. A needless foul. I always wondered what happened about that. I always wondered if he got fined for it or what his manager said after the game. It was probably ten yards outside when he first started to foul me. He had switched off and got a little bit lazy. We were in a really threatening situation. He realised I had a yard on him and, if the ball comes in, I am going to have a chance of getting on the end of it. He has obviously tried to take me out as quickly as he could. I think he fouled me again just as I got towards the box. I could actually feel his arms and legs all over me as I was coming into the box. The final time - it's always one of them. In the old days it was all well and good being honest and staying on your feet but, if it is a foul and if it is a penalty, make sure you get the penalty. He was hanging all over me. I thought 'I'm going to go to ground here anyway'. We went down in a clatter of arms and legs flying. Straight away, you are looking. Where's the ref? Has he seen anything? I always remember as I hit the ground, and he fell with me, I looked across and the ref was just coming into the box and he was actually putting the whistle to his lips. It was 'where's the ball? Where's the ball? Let me have the ball."

Huntington: "He (Williams) was tugging at him all the time. I saw it as a penalty on the day, I must say. And that's not just because I was hoping York City would win. He fouled him and I don't think they had any complaints, really. It was a daft thing to do."

As Arsenal players surround the referee, Houchen stands alone in the penalty area, the ball on the spot.

Smith: "Everyone seemed to be nervous except Keith. I was quite happy to watch it. I had belief in him. Within the team, the feeling was that he would do it. It was a team which believed in themselves, believed they were better than the level they were playing at. "

Sbragia: "I thought Keith would score. I was hoping he would. You would hope to score from that distance. He was confident taking the penalty."

Huntington: "It was very nail-biting. I admired Keith Houchen on that day. You can imagine anyone in football shaking when they are taking a last minute penalty against Arsenal in an FA Cup tie for a small club. I seem to remember talking to him and he said he felt very cool about it."

Houchen: "I loved taking penalties. I really loved it. I always called it a free goal. My wife, Yvonne, was in the stand that day. "When the penalty was given, there was all the commotion and everything kicked off and the crowd were going mad. Arsenal were very professional and they held it up for three, four or five minutes. She said she was watching me all the time everything was going on and she said 'You looked like a little boy stood on the edge of the box waiting to take the penalty'. "She thought 'you are stood there all on your own and everyone is just waiting for you to knock it in the net. What if you don't?' People say 'did you pick your spot? Did you decide and not change your mind?' I think I used to put the ball down and just trust instinct. In my own mind, up until a couple of paces before I hit the ball, I wasn't sure myself whether I was going to go bottom or top. With that one I did give him (Lukic) the eyes. I was lining up and looking down at the right hand corner and looking and looking at the right hand corner. As I've hit it, I am looking at the right hand corner and cutting across it to hit in the left hand corner. I took him with my eyes and off he went. It was a sweet enough strike. When I watch it back now, it was always a goal. You know in your mind if you have scored and, as soon as I hit it, I could see that he was going the wrong way as I have struck it. It was right in the corner and it was the type of penalty where, if he had dived the right way, I am not really sure if he would have been able to save it. I think it went into the side netting in the end."

Pandemonium ensues. Houchen is buried under his team-mates. Moments later, the referee blows the final whistle. York City have beaten Arsenal.

Houchen: "That stand was slightly bigger in those days, behind the goal, and there were people up on the stanchions of the floodlights. You are watching. It has gone in and the crowd absolutely erupted behind that goal. I have gone running towards that side of the crowd, in the snow and everything, and Keith Walwyn was the first one who got me. Cor, he hit me - bang - came right in the back of me. "He was twice the size of me, 16 stone, and down we went and I don't remember much after that because I think everybody else came in as well. It was such an achievement for everybody. It's the recognition. It's a massive cup upset."

Huntington: "It was one of the headlines on the six o'clock BBC news, which was very unusual for football."

Sbragia: "They were really good times. I loved the club. I loved it when I was a coach. I really enjoyed it and they gave me my first chance. The club was fantastic. There are good people who run it and you wish them all the best. We were really buoyant. We had some bad times but we had some really good times as well."

Smith: "It was a day to remember. It's another piece of FA Cup history. We are there in the record books. It's something to be proud of and I think all the lads think of those days very fondly."

CIty v ARSENAL - Match Report

Twenty-nine years ago today magnificent York City were once again shocking the football world as multi-millionaires Arsenal were dramatically beaten by a last-minute Keith Houchen penalty in an FA Cup fourth round tie at a freezing cold Bootham Crescent.

The mighty Gunners fielded eight full internationals against a York side who were then mid-table in the third tier of the professional game. City were always great cup-fighters but this was really something else on an afternoon of incredibly high drama.

Three inches of snow had to be cleared from the pitch prior to kick-off and moved to the perimeter of the playing area. The London aristocrats clearly didn't fancy the occasion as much as their fabulous opponents, with eighteen-year-old rookie striker Martin Butler leading the way as they adapted themselves far better to the trying conditions.

England centre-forward Paul Mariner had an early header saved by Mike Astbury and Tommy Caton was marginally wide from a free-kick. At the other end, Houchen went close and the irrepressible Butler saw a shot charged down before Gary Ford dragged the rebound wide.

It was certainly thrilling stuff despite both defences performing strongly. Renowned international strike pair Mariner and Tony Woodcock forced Astbury into a couple of fine saves after the break before the imperious Keith Walywn showed strength and determination to lob goalkeeper John Lukic - but Caton somehow recovered and scrambled off the line.

The Minstermen were fighting magnificently and Butler hoisted over on the end of a brilliant solo run, although a replay was looking the most likely outcome until history was made amid massed hysteria in the very last-minute.

Gallant York attacked one last time down the right through the combined efforts of Walwyn and Butler, and Houchen surged into the area only to be inexplicably brought down by Steve Williams. Referee Don Shaw instantly pointed to the spot directly in front of the vast, swaying ranks of home supporters.

Houchen picked himself up and as the high tension cut through the cold winter air, steadied himself to calmly sidefoot a famous winner inside Lukic's right-had post and write another piece of glorious folklore.

York City: Astbury, Senior, Hay, Sbragia, MacPhail, Haslegrave, Ford, Butler, Walwyn, Houchen, Pearce. sub (unused): Chippendale Goals: Houchen (pen 90)

Arsenal: Lukic, Anderson, Samson, Talbot, O'Leary, Caton, Robson, Williams, Mariner, Woodcock, Nicholas (Allinson 77)

Ref: D. Shaw (Sandbach)

Att: 10,840


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