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Wimbledon 1988

Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy - British Council
 This article was generously provided to ClubFootball by the British Council, which operates in China as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy.


When Wimbledon stunned Liverpool to win the 1988 FA Cup final, commentator John Motson described it as "a victory for the Crazy Gang over the Culture Club". Ben Lyttleton looks at the unlikely team that somehow summed up the feeling of the time in late '80s Britain.
Certainly Wimbledon's attitude was more unconventional than their aristocratic opponents: they had spent the night before the game on a heavy drinking session and belted out inspiring (if out-of-tune) songs in the tunnel as the teams came out.
Wimbledon's scorer that day was Lawrie Sanchez, who knew no-one expected his side to win: "People said before the Cup final, 'Thanks Wimbledon. It's a great story but see you around'."
Their success was one for the collective: the team, which had no stars, had less individual ability than Liverpool but more spirit, even if it showed itself in unconventional ways (like setting new signings' clothes on fire, or fighting during training). It was an attitude that perfectly reflected that era, as Margaret Thatcher came to the end of her third term as Prime Minister.
"The City culture [London's business district] dominated the 1980s and Wimbledon embodied that attitude," said Andrew Curry, director at social trends consultants The Henley Centre.
"The team adopted a trading-floor* mentality: it did not matter what your background or education was, you could still be a winner. You were only as good as your last deal. This culture is high-risk but also high-reward: the key is that you go through it all together, as a team."
Michael Lewis described the same attitude in Liar's Poker, a book about the trading-floor culture in England and United States: nothing matters apart from results.
"No-one could accuse us of playing nice football," admitted the team's midfielder and unofficial leader Vinnie Jones. "We wanted to win at any cost and did not mind how. It was a very tribal set-up, all for one and one for all."
Wimbledon's long-ball style was not only a way of achieving results, it was also an antidote to the 'pretty' football that preceded the influx of foreign players to England post-Italia 90.
The other defeat for Liverpool was a geographical one, according to Curry. "There was an underlying attitude that 'the north' was history. The coal-miners' strike had come and gone and the Thatcher government did not care about manufacturing, which was all based in the north. It was the government of the south and their policies made the south prosper."

Ben Lyttleton, July 2003

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