Last year, Terry Neill spoke about his ‘special win’ with Arsenal vs Manchester United in 1979’s FA Cup final, something worth reading ahead of Chelsea.
Neill spent 11 years at Arsenal as a player before hepatitis cost him his place in the first team in 1970 when he was still just 28. He moved onto Hull as player-manager but just three years later retired from playing altogether.
He returned as manager of Arsenal in 1976 to replace Bertie Mee, moving across London and deserting Tottenham were he had been manager for two seasons, saving them from relegation in his first season and then guiding them to a ninth-placed finish in his second.
At Arsenal, he guided the Gunners to UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup final in 1980 that they lost on penalties to Valencia.
But, it was in the FA Cup that he had his most success, taking Arsenal to three finals in 1978, ’79 and ’80, although he only won one of them – against Manchester United in 1979, the same year he almost signed Diego Maradona for the club.
Neill almost didn’t even win that one, however, as his substitution, with seven minutes remaining as Arsenal coasted 2-0, saw his side pegged back to 2-2 before Alan Sunderland, thankfully, scored a last-minute winner in what has been since termed the ‘five-minute final’.
“United had nothing to lose late on, we were starting to look tired and needed fresh legs,” Neill told the Mail on Sunday. “David Price had done a great job but Stevie [Walford] was quick, so it made sense. The rest is history.
“When United equalised, I should have won an Oscar. I knew the cameras were zooming in so I tried to stay cool, studying the game. Inside I’m thinking about the previous year’s final [which Arsenal lost to Ipswich] and, if United go on to win this, that’s me a failure. To lose two on the trot, it doesn’t bear thinking about.
“My over-riding feeling at the end was relief,’ added Neill. “As we walked down the tunnel, I grabbed the hand of my assistant manager Don Howe and held it up to the Arsenal supporters. Don and I were like blood brothers. Our wives used to say we should have been married to each other!
“Sundy was an expert at that type of goal. When I went to scout him at Wolves, he was playing right-back. I was thinking it was odd because he was quick, brave and had a good touch. This was a centre-forward.”