FA Cup: The within story of when non-league Aylesbury United performed Bobby Robson’s England

“I used to be in Ibiza and needed to interrupt my vacation to fly house. After I informed everybody I used to be going again to play in opposition to England, they have been like ‘yeah, no matter’,” says Cliff Hercules.

It stays one of the unlikely warm-up video games England have performed earlier than a significant event.

The Three Lions have been making ready for the 1988 European Championship. Their opposition earlier than flying to West Germany have been made up of lecturers, postmen and taxi drivers who had not performed for 4 weeks.

Gary Lineker had simply accomplished his second season at Barcelona, whereas John Barnes and Peter Beardsley have been recent from serving to Liverpool safe the league title.

Bobby Robson was the person who took England to non-league Aylesbury United – nicknamed the Geese – for one final recreation earlier than a event that might finish in enormous disappointment.

As Aylesbury put together for Saturday’s FA Cup third qualifying spherical tie with Ebbsfleet United, that is the story of how the part-time membership hosted a full-strength England 33 years in the past – and why Aylesbury haven’t performed of their hometown for the previous 15 years.

The match programme value £1 whereas Peter Beardsley (proper) scored 4 objectives

‘Aylesbury weren’t allowed to sort out England’s gamers’

“There have been 6,031 followers packed inside a floor constructed for 4,000-5,000. Half of them could not see a factor and there have been individuals in bushes attempting to catch a glimpse of England’s gamers.”

Hercules is recalling the chaotic scenes at Aylesbury’s Buckingham Street house on the afternoon of 4 June 1988, eight days earlier than Robson’s facet tackled Jack Charlton’s Republic of Eire in Stuttgart.

The England boss had been persuaded to ship his gamers to the Buckinghamshire minnows by Observer sportswriter Frank McGhee,external-link a resident of the city of Aylesbury and eager supporter of his native group.

Robson, whose squad was primarily based 23 miles away at Bisham Abbey in Berkshire, agreed a recreation in opposition to non-league opposition could be good preparation earlier than the Euros.

Two weeks earlier his facet had lifted the Rous Cup at Wembleyexternal-link and arrived in Aylesbury recent from a 1-0 pleasant win over Switzerland because of Lineker’s winner in Lausanne.

One other consider Robson’s resolution to threat his star gamers in opposition to part-time opponents on the eve of a significant event was the standard of Aylesbury’s enjoying floor, extensively thought-about as among the finest in non-league on the time.

“I heard there was an settlement that Aylesbury’s gamers weren’t allowed to sort out England’s gamers,” says Andy Martin, chairman of Aylesbury United Supporters’ Belief.

“Aylesbury’s season had completed a month earlier with promotion to the Vauxhall Convention and the gamers had gone on their summer season break. They have been dragged again to play and have been most likely not match.”

Hercules, a Geese legend with 301 objectives in 669 appearances,external-link was holidaying within the Balearic Islands when he returned to face the likes of Tony Adams and Mark Wright.

“We might first heard in regards to the prospect of dealing with England a number of months earlier, however we put it to the again of our minds as a result of we have been concentrating on promotion,” he provides.

“Aylesbury paid to fly me again on the Friday, I performed on the Saturday, we had a meal with the England gamers afterwards, earlier than I flew again to Spain.

“I used to be studying in regards to the recreation within the nationwide newspapers on the seashore in Ibiza the following day.”

England and Aylesbury United players line up together before a warm up match on 4 June 1988
Followers could be seen in bushes as England and Aylesbury United gamers line up collectively earlier than the match. Geese legend Cliff Hercules is pictured far proper

‘It simply would not occur now’

“I had an amazing probability to attain. If it had gone in it will have modified my life.”

Hercules, who would later go on to handle Aylesbury, is recalling the second he headed a free-kick over the bar as a substitute of previous Peter Shilton, who was getting ready to profitable his a hundredth cap.

England, 2-0 up after 10 minutes, ran out comfy 7-0 winners, with Beardsley scoring 4. Lineker – in addition to Everton duo Dave Watson and Trevor Steven – additionally chipped in.

“We could not get close to them,” provides Hercules. “England modified their entire group after half-time and had recent legs. We have been shattered. After I assume again it is surreal. England coming to Aylesbury? It simply would not occur now.”

The end result didn’t do Robson’s group a lot good.

Two years after reaching the World Cup quarter-finals in Mexico, they returned from West Germany and not using a level after defeats by the Republic of Eire, the Netherlands and the Soviet Union.

Whereas Hercules has vivid recollections of 4 June 1988, lots of England’s gamers don’t.

“I am unable to keep in mind the rating, I am unable to keep in mind the sport, nothing in any respect,” Barnes informed the Guardian in 2020.external-link

Hercules, whose 21-year-old son Max now performs for the Geese, celebrated his 58th birthday in April. Certainly one of his presents was a match programme and ticket from the day England visited Buckingham Street.

He provides: “We swapped shirts on the finish of the match. I received Glenn Hoddle’s however I am a Manchester United fan so I exchanged it with a team-mate who had Bryan Robson’s Mexico 86 shirt.

“Thirty-three years on, I am simply getting spherical to framing it.”

England's Chris Waddle in action against Aylesbury United in 1988
Chris Waddle takes on the Aylesbury goalkeeper Tim Garner through the warm-up match at Buckingham Street

‘It is a miracle we’re nonetheless going’

“At any time when I drive previous Buckingham Street, I believe ‘I had some superb occasions there – how did it get to this?'”

Martin, who was 5 when his Aylesbury heroes hosted soccer royalty, is reflecting on the unhappy state of affairs which has left the Geese and not using a everlasting house for the previous 15 years.

Whereas the membership’s youth and women’ sections nonetheless play within the city – Manchester Metropolis and England ahead Ellen White is a former Mini Duckexternal-link – the primary group has shared services at three golf equipment, together with Leighton City in Bedfordshire and Thame United in Oxfordshire, since being made homeless in 2006.

Aylesbury United's former Buckingham Road home pictured in March 2020 - 14 years after the club last played a match at the ground
Buckingham Street pictured in March 2020 – 32 years after England performed there

They’re at present again in Buckinghamshire at Chesham United, round 15 miles from Buckingham Street, the place followers banged drums and sang songs down one facet of the bottom regulars known as the “Rooster Run”.

In 2019, the Geese tried to purchase their outdated house again however have been outbid at public sale. It was bought to a developer for £800,000.external-link

The bottom, which additionally hosted an England coaching session in 2002external-link and, two years later, an Ajax facetexternal-link that includes Zlatan Ibrahimovic, lies derelict and has fallen right into a state of disrepair.

“It appears an enormous waste,” provides Martin, who can also be a membership director whose quite a few roles contains match-day announcer and merchandise vendor.

“We’ve missed out on a technology of latest followers since we final performed within the city.

“It is a miracle the primary group remains to be round. It is because of our improbable followers and hard-working volunteers that we’re nonetheless going.”

Aylesbury United fans have to make the 15-mile journey to Chesham to watch their team play 'home' games
Aylesbury United followers should make a 15-mile journey to Chesham to observe their group play ‘house’ video games

Attendances for ‘house’ video games in Chesham this season have ranged from a excessive of 171 to 96. No less than their four-match profitable run in FA Cup qualifying has netted them simply in need of £8,000 in prize cash – a lifeline for a membership that doesn’t know when they may return to Aylesbury.

“We’re extremely grateful to Aylesbury City Council who’re doing an enormous quantity of labor attempting to open up some avenues for us to return again,” says Paul Snell, the membership’s head of communications.

“It is our one hundred and twenty fifth anniversary in 2022. What we wish is a sustainable membership that may final for an additional 125 years. We’ll solely have the ability to try this with the following technology of followers coming to observe.”

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