BEFORE celebrating the “greatest day” of his footballing life, Harry Redknapp had to endure one of his least enjoyable experiences.
Appointed manager just days before Cherries’ memorable 1983-84 FA Cup adventure had started, Redknapp’s plotting of the downfall of mighty Manchester United is now legendary.
But it was an earlier date with non-league minnows Windsor & Eton which had filled Redknapp with dread as David hosted Goliath on the Royal Estate.
Cherries’ reward for a convincing 4-0 victory over Walsall in the first round was a tricky trip to the Royalists’ picturesque Stag Meadow, situated on the edge of Windsor Great Park.
At the time, Cherries were anchored in the Division Three relegation zone with Redknapp having been handed his first permanent managerial post following the departure of Don Megson.
“We scraped through,” recalled Redknapp, recounting his FA Cup memories in an interview with the Daily Echo. “It was a tight game at their place. We had to go there on a Tuesday night because the game was postponed on the Saturday. The floodlights were terrible and everybody was ankle deep in mud by the time the game had finished.”
A 0-0 draw against the Isthmian League champions set up a replay at Dean Court the following Monday. By then, both clubs knew a home tie against the holders would be the prize for the victors.
Goals from John Beck and Ian Thompson helped Cherries see off the part-timers before the town was gripped by FA Cup fever ahead of the visit of Ron Atkinson’s aristocrats in January 1984.
Redknapp said: “They brought a team of internationals. It was a great occasion for us but, in all honesty, it wasn’t a game we expected to win. We just hoped we could give a good account of ourselves and turn in a really good performance.
“For me, I thought back to the days of Ollie Norris and the club’s great FA Cup run of the 1950s. I thought it would be nice if we could emulate that. When you come to Bournemouth, you hear about those days. People always used to talk about the cup run and I met a few of the players who played in that team. They put the club on the map.”
A crowd of 14,815 packed into Dean Court, most of them hoping to see Cherries claim only their third top-flight scalp in the FA Cup following wins over Wolves and Spurs on their way to the sixth round in 1957 where they were eventually beaten by Manchester United.
Revenge was both sweet and quick as two goals in as many minutes midway through the second half from Milton Graham and Thompson saw Cherries pull off one of the greatest giant-killings in FA Cup history. United would go on to regain the trophy the following season.
“We won quite comfortably,” said Redknapp. “It was amazing. We weren’t under any severe pressure and coped very well. We weren’t hanging on for grim life and it wasn’t as if they were having shot after shot. We played ever so well and somehow lifted our game on the day.
“It was a special day. They were the holders and in Division One and we were just a middle-of-the-road third division team.”
While a furious Atkinson labelled “a disgrace” United’s performance, a euphoric Redknapp emerged to tell the waiting press it was “the greatest day of my football life”.
He added: “We don’t mind who we meet in the next round as long as it’s not Telford!”
The fourth round draw was unkind to Cherries, handing them a trip to Middlesbrough where a 2-0 defeat saw Redknapp’s heroes bow out having carved their names indelibly in the club’s history.