CITY 3 WIMBLEDON 1
League Division 1
23rd August 1986
City Suckling, May, Wilson, Clements, McCarthy, Redmond; Davies, McNab, Christie, Baker, LBrightwell – sub Simpson
Wimbledon Beasont, Kay, Winterburn, Galliers, Morris, Thorn, Wise, Cork, Fashanu, Sanchez, Hodges – sub Gage
Brand-new First Division, and three brand-new faces in the City team for the home clash with the newcomers to the top flight. It was only the second time the two sides had met at Maine Road.
Who were the newcomers? In goal there was Perry Suckling, who had been traded for Welsh international David Phillips in a part-exchange deal with Coventry City. In the front line was experienced striker Trevor Christie, who had scored 18 goals for Derby County in the previous campaign. He, too, had been signed in part-exchange, with Mark Lillis moving the other way.
The third new face – although not to supporters of City Reserves – was a fresh-faced young man who is still an important part of the Blues’ first-team squad … Ian Brightwell.
“It was the biggest thrill of my life when I was called up to make my League debut against Wimbledon;’ he later recalled. “Unfortunately, I didn’t get into the game very much. I suppose I found it a bit difficult to adjust to the pace:”
Ian also remembered how he was replaced after 57 minutes by Paul Simpson, the City Under-21 winger now with Derby County. “Even though I’d played in four or five of the preseason games in Switzerland and Spain, the pace was totally different in those games from the speed of the First Division. Paul came on and he did really well; in fact, he won the man of the match award.”
City were playing with a sweeper in a five-man defence, which left no room for Simpson, and it was the substitution that destroyed Wimbledon’s hopes of a winning opening to First Division life.
The Dons took the lead through Andy Thorn. After 54 minutes, they were awarded a free kick and while the ball was being lined up, in galloped big John Fashanu to distract Suckling’s attention. Thorn placed the kick high into the far corner of the net, just inside the post. just after that teenager Dennis Wise, playing in only his second game, slipped through the City defence to try and increase the lead, but Suckling had now found his bearings and he made two splendid saves from the zippy Wimbledon player.
The Londener’s lead lasted for only three minutes. “On came Simmo” said Ian “and he caused real problems for Wimbledon because he ran at them in such a direct manner.”
The man who was the victim of Simpson’s running with the ball was the full back, John Kay. The men who reaped the most benefit from his direct style were midfielder Graham Baker and Christie.
Paul had been on the pitch for two minutes and the Blues were level. He got possession out on the left-hand side and set off towards goal, and once into the penalty area, he slipped the ball to Baker, who left goalkeeper Dave Beasant groping helplessly with his finishing effort.
Andy May repeated the dosage six minutes later – same move, same gallop, same pass, this time from the right, and the same result via Baker.
Sixty seconds later, Christie was on the end of another accurate Simpson cross, and he celebrated his arrival at City by increasing the lead. It was a rapid reversal of fortunes for the visitors, and it was all down to the astute substitution made by Billy McNeill.
Interviewed after the game, Simpson refused to let a matchturning performance go to his head.
“This is only the first game in a long season,” he observed, “and I’ve only been on the pitch up to now for a matter of minutes. I’ll be happy if I can make significant contributions in lots of other games as well.”
McNeill’s verdict on the Division One new boys from London?
“They will frighten the life out of a lot of teams – especially on their own tight, little ground,” he said.
“Their style is difficult and uncomfortable to play against. I can see them causing more than a few upsets.”
TAKEN FROM AN ARTICLE BY JOHN MADDOCKS IN THE CITY PROGRAMME 22ND NOVEMBER 1995