Gary Lineker recalls Leicester's last FA Cup semi in 1982l

‘Absolutely NOTHING went right’: Gary Lineker recalls Leicester’s last FA Cup semi in 1982 which featured an awful Foxes own goal, a broken leg and an escaped COCKEREL… as Brendan Rodgers’ men prepare to face Southampton at Wembley

  • Leicester made it to the last four, only to be beaten by eventual winners Spurs
  • Gary Lineker says Spurs were too good for them because of their ‘class players’ 
  • After a goalless first half, Keith Burkinshaw’s team prevailed and won 2-0
  • Their goals came from Garth Crooks and a remarkable own goal from Ian Wilson 
  • Leicester finished with 10-men after Tommy Williams made leg-breaking tackle 

The man who would become England’s greatest World Cup goalscorer drew a rare blank in his first FA Cup semi-final — but perhaps Gary Lineker was cursed from the off.

In a 16-year professional career in which he scored 330 goals at club and international level, Lineker never found the target or finished on the winning side at Villa Park.

It was back in 1982 when his Leicester City side, then in the Second Division, made a raucous run to the last four, only to be beaten 2-0 by eventual winners Tottenham at Aston Villa’s ground. Leicester have never lifted the trophy and Sunday’s clash with Southampton at Wembley is the first semi-final they have reached since then.

‘I remember not getting a kick,’ Gary Lineke recalls of Leicester’s last FA Cup semi-final

Tottenham striker Garth Crooks turns to celebrate after scoring the first goal in a 2-0 win

‘I remember not getting a kick,’ smiles Lineker, who remains a keen fan of his hometown club. 

‘Tottenham were much too good for us on the day. They had so many class players in the side — Ossie Ardiles, Garth Crooks, Steve Archibald, Glenn Hoddle.

‘We did ourselves justice but we were an up-and-coming lower-league side compared with an established Division One team with some excellent players.

‘I haven’t seen it for years but it’s one of those games you remember as we were so close to an FA Cup final and it’s very rare for a side outside the top flight to manage that. 

‘But Villa Park was my bogey ground. Never won a game there, never scored there, even though I played youth-team football, reserve-team football, senior football for all sorts of people. I scored against them plenty of times, just never there.

Lineker (right) says Tottenham were too good for them because of their ‘class players’

‘The only time my team won there was in the 1986 semi-final when Everton beat Sheffield Wednesday — and I was in the stand after tweaking my hamstring in training during the week.’

Leicester have contested three League Cup finals since then — lifting the trophy in 1997 and 2000 — and won the Premier League in 2016, but the FA Cup is the one domestic trophy that still eludes them. 

Thirty-nine years ago, Leicester were underdogs but they will be favourites this time, notwithstanding the Covid breach that ruled playmaker James Maddison, forward Ayoze Perez and midfielder Hamza Choudhury out of last weekend’s 3-2 defeat at West Ham.


Leicester City: Wallington; O’Neill, Williams, May, Friar; Kelly, Peake, Wilson, Lynex; Lineker, Young (Melrose).

Manager: Jock Wallace.

Tottenham: Clemence; Perryman, Roberts (Miller), Price, Hughton; Ardiles, Hazard, Hoddle, Galvin; Archibald, Crooks.

Scorers: Crooks 56, Wilson (og) 76.

Manager: Keith Burkinshaw.

Attendance: 46,606.

Lineker is being a little modest when he says he didn’t get a kick. He gave Spurs — who he would join from Barcelona for £1.1million in 1989 — the jitters twice in the first half, once when Ray Clemence just beat him to a through ball and then with a shot on the turn at the far post that fizzed over.

But after a goalless first half, Keith Burkinshaw’s team prevailed thanks to a volley from Crooks and a remarkable own goal from Ian Wilson, who somehow managed to chip keeper Mark Wallington from the edge of the penalty area.

Leicester finished with 10 men — they had already used their sole substitution when defender Tommy Williams broke a leg in a challenge with Tony Galvin.

‘Absolutely nothing went right,’ admits Lineker. ‘You dream of playing in a final but it never looked likely.’

The highlight of Leicester’s route to this year’s final was their 3-1 dismantling of Manchester United in the quarter-finals, though the 1982 side’s victory in the last eight, over Shrewsbury, was rather more spectacular.

Lineker scored Leicester’s fourth goal at Filbert Street as Jock Wallace’s team prevailed despite using three goalkeepers — Wallington was injured early on so forward Alan Young and winger Steve Lynex took turns between the posts. Amazingly, neither let in a goal.

Leicester narrowly missed out on promotion that season but their local hero was starting to make a name for himself. Lineker, then 21, finished the campaign with 19 goals. The following season, he hit 26 to help them reach Division One. 

‘Spurs were probably the best team I’d played against by that stage,’ says Lineker. ‘I was so determined to make my mark and score but it didn’t happen. It wasn’t happy but it was part of the path to better things.

Ossie Ardiles played for Tottenahm in the FA Cup semi-final against Leicester at Villa Park

‘It drove me even more for the next season, which is when I won the Silver Boot for top scorer in the old Second Division. But the semi-final season was my breakthrough year. 

‘In the first couple of seasons I’d played on the right wing, which was a bit mad as I’d never played there. When I played more regularly through the middle, things started to happen. That year we played some decent attacking football and went a long way in the Cup.’

The backdrop to the semi-final was more memorable than the match itself, which took place on a dreadful pitch. Leicester’s team coach was delayed because their police escort was late, and then kick-off was pushed back by several minutes because a cockerel — the Spurs symbol — had been released on to the pitch.

Kick-off was pushed back by several minutes because a cockerel had been released onto pitch

On April 2, the day before the match, Argentina had invaded the Falkland Islands, which had been in British possession since 1833. Argentina great Ardiles was in the Tottenham team the following day and was booed throughout.

A banner in the Spurs end read: ‘Argentina can keep the Falklands, we’ll keep Ossie.’

‘I was always aware of what was going on in the world and had an interest in politics even back then,’ says Lineker. 

‘I do remember the boos going around the ground but it isn’t something we would have condoned. Come on — Ardiles and Ricky Villa are lovely people, they had come to England and were brilliant ambassadors for the game and their country. To be in this country at that time must have been very difficult, though it never seemed to affect their performance.’

Leicester’s place in the football hierarchy then was as it was for much of the 1980s and 90s, shuttling between the top two divisions. Lineker was the standout player and joined Everton in 1985 after 51 Division One goals in two seasons.

They are a different proposition now, and Lineker believes Brendan Rodgers’ team is even better than the 2016 title winners. 

 Lineker believes Brendan Rodgers’ Foxes team is even better than the 2016 title winners

‘It’s one of the best Leicester sides we’ve ever had, if not the best,’ he argues. ‘It was miraculous when they won the league but at that time, most of the other big clubs were going through transitional phases and Leicester exploited that.

‘They’ve been in the top four all season and were for most of last season. They play good football, they have really good players and they’ve coped with a terrible injury list. Top four and an FA Cup win — I would love that. If you gave me the choice between them, I would take the FA Cup. After 137 years without winning it, it would be marvellous — but I’d like both.’

After Leicester’s Premier League triumph five years ago, Lineker had to make good on a promise that he would present Match Of The Day in his underpants. So what about a repeat? ‘No, no, no,’ he laughs. ‘I don’t think I’d put the nation through that again.’

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