There has, inevitably, been plenty of talk of 1988 in the build up to Monday’s FA Cup third round clash between AFC Wimbledon and Liverpool.
This may be a different version of the Dons to that which caused one of the competitions greatest ever shocks at Wembley, but memories of Dave Beasant and Lawrie Sanchez have come flooding back.
Back then, Wimbledon were a top-flight outfit with enough guile to go with their graft to be able to topple one of European football’s leading lights.
A lot has changed since then, but the 2015 version of the ‘Crazy Gang’ share the same beliefs that anything is possible in a one-off cup clash.
Liverpool may have returned to Champions League competition this season and consider themselves to still be in the race for a top-four finish in the Premier League, but Adebayo Akinfenwa forms part of a Dons squad that knows a notable scalp can be secured if fortune favours the brave.
Akinfenwa, who enjoys cult status among football fans as the strongest player in EA SPORTS FIFA 15, told HITC Sport: “We need to ply out of our skin, they need to have an off day and we need luck. They are the boxes that need to be ticked. We can control playing out of our skins and luck just needs to be there. But we’re looking forward to it. It’s the FA Cup, it’s one game, it’s not a league game. Everyone likes the underdogs and will be looking for an upset, so hopefully we can do that.
“We finished the year pretty strong, so we’re going to focus on our strengths. We see Liverpool, which is maybe a bit of an advantage for us. We get to see them but they won’t watch AFC Wimbledon every week. They will do their scouting reports and know what our strengths are, but they will concentrate on them and we’ll concentrate on us. Hopefully it’s enough to cause an upset.”
There would appear to be areas in which Neal Ardley’s plucky League Two hopefuls can hurt their more illustrious opponents.
Liverpool have looked far from solid at the back at times this season, with set-pieces proving to be a particularly uncomfortable thorn in the Reds’ side.
Akinfenwa added: “That’s one aspect. We’ve spoken about set-pieces. We’re not really a big team, but that’s one element where Liverpool have struggled this season. We have to get the set-pieces first. We will just take the game as it comes.
“It’s been difficult for them this season. To try and replace (Luis) Suarez was next to impossible, and then to lose (Daniel) Sturridge. The way Liverpool play is all about speed and pressing and I thought the personnel, to get to grips with the tactics, it’s taken time. It takes character to get things right and hopefully the second half of the season can be much better than the first, just not on Monday!”
Whatever happens at Kingsmeadow, AFC Wimbledon are determined to enjoy the occasion, with the club having come a remarkably long way since they rose out of the ashes back in 2002 in the Combined Counties Football League – the ninth tier of the English league pyramid.
There have been a number of highs along the way, but a meeting with Liverpool takes them onto a whole new level and thrusts them back under the spotlight they so famously thrived under some 27 years ago.
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