On the eve of the FA Cup clash between AFC Wimbledon and Milton Keynes Dons, two estranged descendants of 1988 winners Wimbledon, let’s remind ourselves of some of the Crazy Gang legends who sprang possibly the competition’s greatest upset.
Possibly the last in the long line of famous hatchetmen to ‘grace’ the English game before the art of trying to cripple opponents became obsolete. Former hod carrier Jones was a brute who utilised physical,verbal and psychological intimidation to its full effect. From the moment he grabbed Gazza’s plums, he became a well-known national figure. The crunching tackle he meted out to Liverpool’s midfield general Steve McMahon in the opening moments of the ’88 final set the tone for Wimbledon’s finest hour. Jones had more ability than he was ever given credit for, and served the Dons manfully in two spells and also turned out for Leeds, Chelsea, Watford and Sheffield United. He has taken advantage of his reputation to make a successful acting career since retirement.
In a team full of giants, the jockey-sized Dennis Wise was something of an oddity. And within a team known for its hoof-ball tactics Wise also proved the exception because he was actually a good ball player as was proved during a successful decade at the heart of Chelsea’s midfield. But make no mistake, whether in the blue of Wimbledon, Chelsea or Leicester, or in the back of a London taxi, Wise could also be accurately described as a ‘nasty little shit’. As manager of Millwall he reached the FA Cup final but could not reproduce the seismic shock of 1988, when his side were soundly beaten by Manchester United.
Nicknamed ‘Fash the Bash’ due to his deployment as the Crazy Gang’s battering ram. Also known for his love of martial arts, Fashanu always played with a grudge against an opponent, whether or not they’d actually met before. His elbows brushed more cheeks than Estee Lauder during a career forged from his combative and unsettling style. The two international caps earned in the late 80’s, often qualify him for Top 10 Lists of Worst Ever England Players.
The curly haired goalkeeper etched himself into FA Cup folklore by skippering the side and being the first man to save a penalty in a final when denying John Aldridge’s spot kick attempt. Beasant’s career high was soon to be followed by the lows during his often comical spells at firstly Newcastle and latterly Chelsea, where he dropped some colossal clangers including a famous incident where he injured himself dropping a bottle of salad cream on his foot. He was an unused part of England’s 1990 World Cup squad but many would suggest his best form came later in his career during his time with Southampton and Nottingham Forest in the late 90’s.
The London-born midfielder spent the second half of his career with the Dons after a long spell with Reading. An otherwise unremarkable football career was punctuated by two monumental moments in the history of Wimbledon, as he scored the goal that got the Dons into the old First Division in 1986 (they had been a non-league club only 9 years earlier) and he scored perhaps the most romantic Cup Final goal when his flicked header from Dennis Wise’s free kick sailed past Bruce Grobbelaar in the Liverpool net. As manager of lowly Wycombe Wanderers he famously conquered Premier League side Leicester City with the help of a goal from a man he signed thanks to the help of Teletext.