Some 27 years have passed since Dave Beasant graced the FA Cup final, but his exploits back in 1988 – along with those of the teammates around him – will live forever in the annals of football history.
Back then, unfashionable Wimbledon stunned all-conquering Liverpool, with John Motson’s immortal line of commentary summing up the occasion superbly as he declared: ‘The Crazy Gang have beaten the Culture Club’.
Beasant found himself at the forefront of that memorable showing, becoming the first man to save a penalty in an FA Cup final – as he denied John Aldridge from the spot – and the first goalkeeper to captain a side in one of English football’s most prestigious fixtures.
As skipper, it was he that got to hoist the famous trophy aloft at Wembley Stadium, sparking wild celebrations as a club that no longer exists in the Wimbledon guise toasted the greatest day in their history.
Since that afternoon, many a goalkeeper has enjoyed similar success on the grandest of stages, while some have endured moments that they would rather forget.
On Saturday, Aston Villa’s Shay Given – if he is fit - and Arsenal’s Wojciech Szczesny – assuming that he is selected ahead of David Ospina – will position themselves under the microscope and hope that their efforts are remembered for all of the right reasons as part of a winning cause.
Given is likely to be the busier of the shot-stoppers on display, so the Republic of Ireland international could be the man to steal the show and make himself a hero to those of a claret and blue persuasion.
He will certainly be hoping that is the case, with the vastly-experienced 39-year-old having graced the final once before, and sat on the bench for another, but found himself on the losing side with Newcastle United on both occasions, in consecutive seasons back in 1997/98 and 1998/99.
On what he can expect this weekend, Beasant – who was speaking on behalf of Vauxhall, the England team sponsor – told HITC Sport during a phone interview: “Shay has got all of the experience in the world - he’s played in a cup final, he played in it for Newcastle. The thing is for a goalkeeper, you know that you have to wait for the game to come to you, you can’t go and really influence the game. If you try and influence the game and go for things that you shouldn’t necessarily go for, then you end up making mistakes. All he’s got to try and do is, when the game comes to him, make the right decision at the right time and hopefully be lucky enough to be in the right place to make some saves.”
If Given can play his part, then Villa should have every chance of ending their 19-year wait for major silverware.
They will, unquestionably, start as underdogs, but Tim Sherwood’s arrival at the managerial helm has helped to turn their fortunes around – preserving their Premier League status in the process – and the belief that he has restored should stand the Villans in good stead when they lock horns with cup holders Arsenal.
Beasant said on their chances: “We have seen teams at the wrong end of the table putting in performances. Hull against United, Sunderland, they were under pressure but worked so hard. If they had played like that all season, they wouldn’t be in that position. You do know, for some reason, on any day, a team can perform at the level that is expected and the level they are capable of playing at. Villa know that if they aren’t on their day, they could be on the wrong end of a hiding. That should be incentive enough to make sure that they don’t get battered, that it is their day and hopefully cause a shock.”
On Sherwood’s impact, he added: “You can see what he has instilled into the club. He has got them playing and got them believing in themselves that they can score goals. Now that they know where Benteke wants the ball, they have delivered balls into those areas and when you do that, Benteke has the ability to, and has been doing, to put the ball in the back of the net.”
Getting Christian Benteke into the game will be crucial for Villa, with it important that he is offered the opportunity to disrupt Arsenal’s defensive unit and pull them into positions and battles that they would rather avoid.
It will, however, be the best collective effort that emerges victorious on the day, with Sherwood and Arsene Wenger fully aware that they cannot afford to rely on the efforts of any one player to swing the tie in their favour.
Dave Beasant was visiting Gordon Saunders Goalkeeping as part of the Vauxhall Football Youth Programme in partnership with Tustain Motors. For more news, views and competitions go towww.vauxhallfootball.co.uk