It is the FA Cup final of 1988, the game is minutes old, with tens of thousands of fans packed into the old Wembley, which is looking resplendent.
Favourites Liverpool are up against Wimbledon – affectionately known as “The Crazy Gang”. All 22 players are settling into the match nicely, well, almost everyone…
What happens next is something that has been talked about for over three decades – a “tackle” by Wimbledon hardman Vinnie Jones on Liverpool’s Steve McMahon.
It is open to debate as to whether or not the “tackle” should be referred to as a tackle, foul, or a downright assault. Take a look for yourself, and decide for yourself.
As seen, Jones absolutely launches into the challenge – bringing a new meaning to the term “leave a mark on your opponent early on”.
It is quite nostalgic looking back at this game, realising that Jones wasn’t even booked for this challenge. Not a police caution, not a red card, nor even a derisory yellow, just a plain and simple free kick and play on.
In an age where players go to ground clutching their face after the slightest contact, looking back on days gone by like this is truly magical. While such downright thuggery shouldn’t be condoned, there can be no doubting Jones’ commitment to the sport.
There is no doubt whatsoever that in the modern day, that tackle would be a straight red card, anything else would cause absolute chaos, and arguably bring the sport into disrepute. But the football played in the 1980s was very different to what we see in this day.
Vinnie Jones’ Recollections
Vinnie Jones is well-known for getting a yellow card after just three seconds – something regarded by most as the quickest yellow card in history. But it is this tackle that he is most remembered for.
As such, he has often discussed the tackle. In the build-up to the final, Jones openly said that in order to stop Liverpool, that he would personally need to stop McMahon.
Jones arguably followed through on his own thoughts a little too literally, and actually received a deep cut as a result of McMahon’s flailing elbow as he fell from the challenge.
Jones later stated in his autobiography that he wanted to “take out their top man”. It’s fair to say that Jones was a man of his word.
Jones told Talksport’s Alan Brazil that he had told his teammates of his plan to “smash” McMahon early on, with Jones having the theory that the referee wasn’t going to send him off in front of almost 100,000.
His teammates responded uneasily, but Jones was undeterred. And of course, the rest is history. That tackle will forever be remembered.
Famously, Wimbledon went on to cause one of the biggest upsets in FA Cup history as they defeated Liverpool, leading to wild celebrations. Jones was a key cog in the Wimbledon engine throughout his time at the club, which would end in 1989, before he re-signed for the club in 1992.
The Revenge of Steve McMahon
Something that isn’t as well known is that Steve McMahon was able to get a degree of payback on Jones, with the following season’s encounter between Wimbledon and Liverpool hosting another ugly challenge, as seen below.
But once again, no police caution, red card, nor yellow, it was a case of play on. Jones later received stitches following the effects of the tackle.
Both McMahon and Jones developed reputations as “hardmen” during their careers, with Roy Keane and Norman Hunter others afforded such handles.
There was nothing quite like the 1980s. While the days of wild lunges and hardcore players may be over, they will never be forgotten.
The picture used in the title of this page has been used via Creative Commons 2.0 license. Attribution: uncle_shoggoth, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons