Despite the four tweets the club sent out this week to drive ticket sales and several other links plugging the programme and preview material on their website, there will not be too many at the football club shedding tears if the Hornets exit the FA Cup tomorrow. That’s not to say they will be unhappy about booking a place in the fourth round and collecting prize money of £67,500, even if it may cost the players a mini-break to, say, Dubai; the top sides knocked out in the third round usually take the opportunity to get some sun on their backs and recharge the batteries when the fourth round ties are played.
The last thing anybody wants at either club, though, is a replay. It will mess up the scheduling of Watford’s Premier League away game at Swansea City on Monday, January 18; the Newcastle media team will have to churn out a programme at short notice and Watford will have to haul their weary squad up to Newcastle on a chartered plane, risking incurring the wrath of environmental groups.
Spare a thought then for the class of 1989 who played four FA Cup ties against the same Newcastle opposition in 11 madcap days and squeezed in a league game against West Bromwich Albion in between. Talk about burnout. Imagine the uproar today if a pampered Premier League player played five matches in 11 days, three of which went to extra time?
Two years after the quartet of games against Newcastle, the Football Association decided that one replay, then extra time, then a penalty shootout would be a suitable alternative to a fixtures backlog.
“We had no ice baths, no massages and no lads wearing skins,” Nigel Gibbs told WD Sport when recalling the quadrilogy of games with Jim Smith’s Magpies. “There were no energy drinks and no food straight after the game. It was straight back on the coach, we probably stopped somewhere on the way home and then were back in the next day. Our fitness levels were incredible. We prided ourselves on our fitness and that’s what got us through.”
“I remember we flew up from Luton for the second game up there,” Tony Coton told us. “It was apparently cheaper to fly three or four light aircraft than it was one big one aircraft. It was me [director] Jim Harrowell and John McClelland. There was nothing luxury about it. It was so cold. John McClelland didn’t fly with us on the way back, it was me, Jim and Steve Harrison.”
Harrison, Watford’s manager at the time, loved a joke and was renowned for his sense of humour but even he must have been struggling to see the funny side of 450 minutes against the same opposition in just over ten days. Dave Beasant was in the Newcastle goal for the first two matches but, perhaps through boredom, he then joined Chelsea. Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill was in the Newcastle side while future managers Kenny Jackett and Tim Sherwood were in Watford’s ranks.
“We had just been relegated from Division One so we’d have taken a draw all day long long up there but then we had to go back up there again for a second replay,” said Gibbs. “We had a decent team and they had a half decent team too. Mirandinha was big player at the time and Glenn [Roeder] was a top player.”
“It felt like me versus Mirandinha at times,” said Coton. “It was a bit of a running battle. He only beat me once and that was from the penalty spot.
Two of the three games ended 0-0 while, in the second, Neil Redfearn put Watford ahead with a first minute free-kick and then sent the game to a second replay with a late penalty. In between times, Kevin Brock levelled the scores with a wonderful piece of skill to wrong foot Paul Miller and then dink the ball over Tony Coton. Mirandinha put Newcastle ahead with a penalty.
“I gave the penalty away,” said Gibbs. “It was never a penalty. The ref gave it for handball. I was gutted but thankfully Redfearn got the equaliser.”
Remarkably, Watford started two of the four ties with the same XI, only making a change in the second and third replay when Harrison brought in Kenny Jackett to replace Gary Porter. A fifth tie beckoned until Roeder deflected in an extra-time cross from Rick Holden. Cue huge relief. Roeder signed for Watford that summer and went onto eventually become the club’s manager.
Watford beat Derby 2-1 in the fourth round before being knocked out at home, 3-0 by Nottingham Forest.
FA Cup third-round
Newcastle 0 Watford 0
Newcastle: Beasant; Ranson, Scott, Sansom, Wharton, O’Neill; O’Brien, Brock, McCreery; Hendrie, McDonald.
Watford: Coton, Gibbs, Falconer, Gibbs, McClelland, Miller; Redfearn, Porter, Sherwood, Holden; Thompson, Wilkinson
FA Cup third-round replay
Watford 2 (Redfearn 2) Newcastle 2 (Brook, Mirandinha) AET
Watford: Coton; Gibbs, Falconer, McClelland, Miller (Jackett); Redfearn, Porter (Roberts), Sherwood, Holden; Thompson, Wilkinson
Newcastle: Beasant; Ranson, Sansom, Scott, Roeder; Wharton, McCreery, O’Brien, Brock; Hendrie, Mirandinha.
FA Cup third-round second replay
Newcastle 0 Watford 0 AET
Newcastle: Wright; Ranson, Sansom, Scott, Roeder; Wharton (O’Neill), O’Brien, Bogie (McDonald), McCreery; Brock, Hendrie
Watford: Coton; Gibbs, Falconer, McClelland, Miller; Redfearn, Jackett, Sherwood, Holden; Thompson (Roberts), Wilkinson
FA Cup third-round third replay
Watford 1 (Roeder own goal) Newcastle 0 AET
Watford: Coton; Gibbs, Falconer, McClelland, Miller (Holdsworth); Redfearn, Jackett, Sherwood, Holden; Thompson, Wilkinson (Roberts)
Newcastle: Wright; Ranson, Sansom, Scott, Roeder, Wharton; O’Brien, Brock, McCreery; Hendrie, Mirandinha (McDonald).