POUNDING the streets around Dean Court, Cherries supporters might have thought the magic of the FA Cup had taken a winter break this weekend.
The saga over whether we would see any action against Burton Albion on Saturday ended in a damp squib just as many fans were braving the elements, trudging through puddles in vain.
But 24 hours later, that old sparkle resurfaced to make a mockery of the weather. Liverpool at home, as long as Cherries can leave the Brewers punch drunk. From a weekend of frustration with no football fix to guarded excitement – a tiny measure of the unbridled joy from beating Manchester United 30 years ago.
How fitting, then, that Cherries will look to avoid the type of upset they caused in 1984 when they finally face Albion in eight days time, only to seek another historic chapter in round four against those other mighty Reds should they succeed.
Cherries have enjoyed quite the renaissance over the past five years but toppling the Merseyside giants, even on Dorset soil, would indelibly mark the names of the chief protagonists into the club’s folklore, much like the Manchester United success which gave Cherries’ stars of yesteryear their 15 minutes of fame.
Defensive mainstay Phil Brignull had been with the club for two-and-a-half years and would go on to become player of the year in 1984 before a host of knee problems curtailed his Cherries career in 1986.
“It meant a lot and was the highlight of many of our careers,” he recalled. “Not many of the boys were at the club when they got promoted three years later so it was certainly the biggest game for many of us.
“I would have thought it was one of the biggest games ever played at Dean Court. Chances are we could have sold it out two or three times over and the whole thing was electric.
“The atmosphere just hits you. Whether you have 10,000 or 75,000, it’s the same intensity, that feeling inside a full house when the roar goes up. It is still massive for you on that day.”
Goals from Milton Graham and Ian Thompson famously saw Harry Redknapp’s charges shock the FA Cup holders, who lined up with revered England stars such as Bryan Robson and Ray Wilkins as well as Ireland international striker Frank Stapleton.
But despite the grandeur of their illustrious visitors, Brignull, now a 53-year-old financial adviser living in Cheltenham, insisted Cherries had been worthy winners and that the then Division Three minnows had always been confident of causing a stir.
“I can’t recall anyone being nervous,” he added. “We started so well and if anyone had panicked we might have had a jittery start, but we didn’t. The nerves just weren’t there.
“We had changed our pre-match pattern and went for a meal on the Friday at La Lupa in Charminster. The owner was a friend of Harry’s and he famously offered goalkeeper Ian Leigh free pizza for life if he kept a clean sheet.
“Apparently, Harry later bought the restaurant and, with Ian not being the skinniest of goalkeepers, that offer was revoked as he didn’t want to go out of business!
“It was a nice place and the players used to go there a lot. It was a bit of a treat from the usual pre-match routine and, I don’t know why, but from there on we really fancied ourselves to win.
“Harry played a bit of a trick as well. He came in about 20 minutes before the game and told us all the Man United players were still in the bar watching the racing and that’s how seriously they were taking it.
“It probably wasn’t true, he just wanted to get us wound up, but we always felt we had a proper chance and on the day we fully deserved to win. There was no fluke about it, it was a proper win.
“We played really well and they just didn’t settle. I don’t remember them having an effort on goal until we were 2-0 up. It was an odd game.
“Most of the players in that side had been at a top club, so most knew about big games without necessarily playing in them, while the likes of Ray Train and Browny (the late Roger Brown) had a lot of big games behind them. That helped.”
A repeat against Liverpool would hit the headlines within seconds. Facebook and Twitter would be awash with viral videos, granting the giant-killers of 2014 instant celebrity status.
But, as Brignull recalls, that would be a far cry from the dragon slayers of the past.
“Bournemouth was a sleepy town in terms of its football. Many of the players went on the town and took their wives but there was no red carpet treatment.
“When we arrived at a nightclub, we saw there was a massive queue to get in so we went to the front to try and jump in and got told “we can’t tonight, we’ve got all the Bournemouth players here. ‘Hang on a minute’ we said, ‘we are the Bournemouth players!’
“A load of lads had conned their way in for free and were having our drinks. We couldn’t get it in.
“Everyone seems to remember it now because it was one of the big giant-killings. Hereford against Newcastle was probably number one and a few non-league teams beating first division clubs, but because it is Manchester United, ours really sticks in the mind.”
A very different club in a very different age, but who knows, Cherries could tread that path to notoriety once more.
The FA Cup – football’s everlasting glimmer of hope.
CHERRIES 2 MANCHESTER UNITED 0 - FA CUP THIRD ROUND
Saturday, January 7 1984.
Cherries: Leigh, La Ronde, Sulley, Savage, Brown, Brignull, Train, Nightingale, Morgan, M Graham, Thompson. Unused sub: Carter.
Goals: M Graham 60, Thompson 62.
Manchester United: Bailey, Moses, Albiston (Macari h-t), Wilkins, Hogg, Duxbury, Robson, Muhren, Stapleton, Whiteside, A Graham.