‘It was a bloody nightmare’: Tim Buzaglo, Woking’s reluctant FA Cup hero, on the game that changed his life
On one freezing Saturday afternoon 28 years ago, Tim Buzaglo was responsible for one of the greatest upsets in FA Cup history.
A pacy, left-footed striker for non-league Woking, Buzaglo’s hat-trick helped his side to a 4-2 win at the Hawthorns, stunning hosts West Bromwich Albion and thrusting the shy semi-pro into the limelight.
Back page headlines, radio interviews and even an appearance on Match of the Day followed but for Buzaglo his 15 minutes of fame was, in his own words, “a bloody nightmare”.
“I enjoyed playing football, I loved playing football, but all the after stuff… I didn’t like it,” Buzaglo recalls.
“The next few weeks was ‘Can you do this? Can you do that?’ It’s funny, for professional footballers I suppose it’s the norm and they have to do these things, but for me I had a job as well and I wasn’t really used to the limelight. I didn’t want anything to do with it.”
As much as he disliked the attention off the pitch, Buzaglo, now 57, lights up when talking about the action on it, a flicker of that David vs Goliath defiance reigniting in his voice.
“We weren’t even a Conference side then, or National League as it is now. We were one below. People forget that,” Buzaglo says of sixth-tier Woking, a side who began their FA Cup run that year as 5000-1 outsiders.
“We didn’t let them play. We dominated them for the whole 90 minutes. Even their first goal was against the run of play.”
Indeed, Woking fell behind thanks to a Colin West header on the half-hour, a thumping effort at the back post from a corner.
“When they scored that goal I thought that was it,” Buzaglo admits.
But he was wrong, the second-half would see a thoroughly one-sided contest: Woking humbling the Baggies, five-time winners of the competition, and entering Buzaglo’s name into FA Cup folklore.
The equaliser came shortly after the break, midfielder Dereck Brown sending Buzaglo through for his first, a low left-footed shot from the edge of the box. His second followed soon after, a header from close range, and the travelling fans behind the goal could barely believe their eyes. When Buzaglo’s third and a fourth from substitute Terry Worsfold went in, they were in raptures.
A late consolation wasn’t enough to save Baggies manager Brian Talbot and his assistant, a certain Sam Allardyce, from the sack.
‘Sign him on, sign him on'
For Buzaglo, the next 24 hours was a whirlwind of attention and, ultimately, regret.
“After the game, I just wanted to come off and have a shower,” Buzaglo recalls.
“But as I was leaving the pitch, the manager Geoff Chapple said ‘Right, go down to the West Brom fans and applaud.’ I was thinking: ‘You’ve got to be kidding. After what we’ve just done to them you really want me to go down there and clap?! There’s no way I’m going down there!’”
Eventually Chapple persuaded his reluctant hero to head over to the home end – and the West Brom faithful responded with something quite remarkable.
“In those days there were no hoardings or barriers to stop fans going onto the pitch,” Buzaglo says.
“I couldn’t believe what they did. They started clapping and they were chanting for Woking. The West Brom fans chanting us! Then they got me on their shoulders and started singing ‘Sign him on, sign him on.’”
Buzaglo, by this point soaking wet, freezing cold and desperate for that shower, thought the excitement was over when he made it back to the sanctuary of the changing room. Yet more requests came.
An interview with 5 Live took place before he was told to jump in a car and head down the motorway to London where Des Lynam and the Match of the Day studio lay in wait.
“I really didn’t want to do it but they told me I had to. I missed all the fun in the hotel, in the coach on the journey back. I missed it all.”
‘The best atmosphere I ever played in'
On the Monday morning, Buzaglo returned to his day job as a computer operator at an engineering firm (not an estate agent as several reports suggested at the time: “I’ve no idea where that came from!”) but even there he wasn’t sheltered from his new-found fame – the phone ringing off the hook with reporters looking for interviews.
Respite eventually arrived with a 1-0 defeat to Everton in the fourth round, but not before Woking had once again given their mighty opponents a run for their money.
“If you watch the game, they only had two chances – one of which they scored from,” Buzaglo, who feels Woking were robbed of a goal by an incorrect offside decision, says.
“We took 10,000 to Goodison that day, 125 coach-loads. The best atmosphere I ever played in.
“We did very well to keep it to 1-0. You’ve got to remember Everton were a Premier League side. So playing Woking they must have thought they were going to score five or six, at least!”
Dreaming of another upset
Injury meant Buzaglo’s football career never again reached the heights of that 1990-91 season but he did taste success – and more giant-killing – on the cricket pitch, where he represented Gibraltar at international level. “I think our biggest victory was over Argentina. Country-wise, it’s massive compared to us.”
As for Woking, they are now preparing to face top tier opposition once again, with Watford set to visit the Kingfield on Sunday, and Buzaglo, whose goals are sure to feature on television montages in the build-up, is dreaming of another upset.
“I’ve got no expectations,” he says. “But you’ve got to enjoy it, enjoy the game and play the best you can.
“I just want Woking to do well and if they do beat Watford… well, at least somebody else will get the limelight.”
Buzaglo's warning to Watford
Watford head to the Kingfield Stadium on Sunday as heavy favourites for their FA Cup third round tie against Woking, but Tim Buzaglo has warned manager Javi Gracia not to underestimate their non-league opponents.
“It’s a tough game for Woking but it does depend on what team Watford put out. They’ve got some good players – Troy Deeney, [Roberto] Pereyra – but the manager might look at it and think: ‘It’s only Woking, maybe I can get away with playing half the first team.’”
Buzaglo’s hat-trick fired Woking past West Brom in 1991 in what ranks among the competition’s greatest giant-killings and he believes a lack of motivation on the Baggies’ part might have had a hand in the result.
“I remember going out for the warm-up and walking past the West Brom team and all of them were reading the newspaper,” Buzaglo recalls. “Now, I’m there thinking, do they think ‘We’re just playing Woking. All we need to do is go out onto the pitch.’ It looked very casual.”
He believes anything similar from Watford could well lead to another upset.
“You never know, do you? Nobody gave us a chance against West Brom, not a prayer. And just look what happened.”
The post ‘It was a bloody nightmare’: Tim Buzaglo, Woking’s reluctant FA Cup hero, on the game that changed his life appeared first on inews.co.uk.
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