Wednesday 24 May 2023

The greatest play off final ever - new interviews

The latest Four Four Two has a special feature article on then Greatest Game with interviews with Curbs, Clive Mendonca, Sasa Ilic and Mark Kinsella.   Curbs said: ''Finals are normally an anti-climax and a bit flat. That game was not a bit flat.'

Clive Mendonca recalled: 'Really I wanted to sign for Sunderland.  I'd come down to Charlton, spoken to Alan Curbishley, and was really happy with what he said.'

When Sasa Ilic didn't concede in either leg of the play off semi-finals, it extended Charlton's streak of not letting in a single goal to nine matches.   Ilic comments: 'Your mindset becomes "There's no way I'm going to concede."  You need loads of luck, but when things go well and you're thinking positively, things happen.'

At Sparrows Lane, 'coach Les Reed changed the dimensions at their training ground to match the playing surface at Wembley.  Mendonca commented: 'Wembley - honestly, it's like an ocean.  It's huge.'  Meanwhile, Mark Kinsella was concerned that Mendonca was preoccupied with arranging tickets for his Sunderland supporting family and friends.

Curbishley admits: ''We were the underdogs that day, I suppose.  But we were confident because we hadn't let any goals in and it was a settled team.'

Sunderland charm merchant Niall Quinn recalls: ''Charlton all had suits with flowers on the lapel.  I think we turned up wearing tracksuits, we were the North East tough guys who were going to take down the soft southerners in their suits.'

Curbs observed: 'We had Sunderland where we wanted them.  Because they were a very offensive team and we were quick on the counter attack.  If they committed bodies forward, as I knew they would, we could hit them on the break.'

Quinn recalls ruefully, 'Richard Rufus' goal is the one thing I still insist should have been avoided.'  Curbs states: 'When Rufus scores, you think "Blimey, perhaps our name's on it."'

Had Charlton not won, Curbs believes that the team would have been broken up.  Mendoca says: 'I wish I could have done it against any other team in the league.'

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