FORTY-SEVEN YEARS ON, IT'S SUTTON AGAIN
On Monday the 9th of January 2017, the FA Cup Fourth Round draw was made prior to Leeds United kicking off their Third Round tie away at Cambridge United. The winners of that game knew they would face to a trip to either Sutton United or AFC Wimbledon.
Sutton, who play in the fifth tier of English football, had held their neighbours, a club re-born out of a franchised farce and now in League One, 0-0 at Gander Green Lane and would face a replay.
The fact that Leeds had seen off Cambridge presented the two sides with extra incentives to triumph in the return fixture. A date on national television, an opportunity to spark a cup upset and of course, huge financial reward.
In addition, it would stir memories of 1970s FA Cup football. Don Revie and his all-conquering Leeds United team visited Borough Sports Ground, to play Sutton, in 1970 and five years later, Jimmy Armfield's Leeds needed a replay, at Selhurst Park, to see off Wimbledon after a goalless draw at Elland Road.
On Tuesday night, Sutton United upset the odds and defeated Wimbledon 3-1 with two goals at the death after falling behind in the ninth minute. The result prompted wild celebrations and 47 years on, history is set to repeat itself.
On the 24th of January 1970, Sutton United of the Isthmian League, faced a team of international superstars, all household names. The matchday programme described the game as the greatest home game in the club's history. It told how the President, Jack Goossens, who had witnessed the formation of the football club had tears in his eyes after the replay win over Hillingdon, claiming that he never thought he would see the day.
Sutton were the first amateur side for 14 years to reach the Fourth Round stage and they were determined to enjoy the occasion. Fourteen thousand fans packed the stands on Gander Green Lane, the majority hoping to witness the cup shock of all cup shocks.
It wasn't to be as a meticulously prepared Leeds United side put the hosts to the sword with a display that produced a 6-0 win. Allan Clarke bagged four goals and a brace from Peter Lorimer completed the rout. After the game, Don Revie signed the Sutton centre-back John Faulkner who had clearly impressed him over the 90 minutes.
In 1987, Leeds, who were then playing their football in the Second Division, faced a non-league side in Telford in Round Three. Billy Bremner, the captain throughout the vast majority of the glory years, and captain on the day of the Sutton game, was the manager.
Leeds, once again, avoided a shock and Telford were beaten 2-1, in a game played at The Hawthorns, thanks to two goals from Ian Baird. The same Ian Baird that on Sunday week, will be in the Sutton United dugout in his role of Head Coach.
Bairdy, to this day is fondly remembered by the Leeds United faithful and the 755 fans who travel to Gander Green Lane will no doubt give him a warm reception before the game that Ian can't wait for:
"It will be a strange feeling, I enjoyed two fantastic spells at Elland Road and this will be the first time in my career as a player, manager or coach that I have come up against them. The fans still remember me which is a great honour and the tweets and best wishes that I have received from the Leeds supporters are overwhelming.
"When the draw was made, there was a hell of a lot of football to be played. Leeds had a banana-skin tie at Cambridge and we had to upset the odds and win at Wimbledon so I wasn't getting carried away.
"The manner in which we won the replay is what cup football is all about. We had a game plan to stop the centre-forward Elliott but he goes and scores in the first ten minutes. After that, we dug in and produced a tremendous performance. We fully deserved the win.
"I said to 'Dos' (Paul Doswell, Sutton United's manager) that I had enjoyed good times as a player against Wimbledon. I scored twice there for Leeds in a 2-2 draw and then the following year I scored again in a 3-0 win. As a manager, I had beaten them twice in the Conference South with Eastleigh in the year that Wimbledon were promoted to the Conference National, so the omens, for me, were there."
Bairdy told me that at the start of the season, the Sutton United management had set the players a target of getting to Round Three and after beating Forest Green, Dartford and Cheltenham, they achieved it and the Head Coach is not fearing the opposition in Round Four:
"Leeds are on a great run. Garry Monk has got them playing but they will come to our place with a team that has six or seven changes and we have to fancy our chances."
Last season Sutton United won the Conference South after a club record breaking run in which they went 25 games unbeaten and they currently sit in 15th place in the Conference National League:
"We have a good squad of lads", says Ian, "Nicky Bailey once of Middlesbrough and Charlton, Craig Eastmond has played in the Champions League for Arsenal and in Jamie Collins, a non-league stalwart, we have the best signing we have made during my time here.
"All the ingredients that go into the cake to make it tasty, are there. We have nothing to fear and anything can happen in the FA Cup."
The Elland Road Kop used to chant "Bairdy's Gonna Get Ya!", he's now out to get us!