Football

Les Sealey: The 'Other' League Cup Final Goalie Who Refused To Budge

Les Sealey: The 'Other' League Cup Final Goalie Who Refused To Budge

The dust has settled. The carefully planned PR responses have been given the "ah right, dead ons" and if we are all honest, we've all been left feeling a little bit shortchanged by the fallout from yesterday's League Cup final.

For all of approximately 45 minutes, it seemed that civil war had taken hold within the Chelsea ranks, as Maurizio Sarri lost the total rag with newly crowned King Brat, Kepa Arrrizablaga. The goalkeeper's refusal to come off in the final minute of extra-time to allow penalty shootout specialist, Wily Caballero, to take his place in goal to face imminent Man City spot-kicks was the footballing equivalent of watching a parent try to deal with a whole-hog, dive-to-the-floor, fist-pumping, feet-kicking Tesco toddler tantrum. You shouldn't watch, but you can't help yourself.

Setting aside the disappointment of the Italian manager's limp post-match comments about the incident, and equally benign subsequent statements from Kepa and the club itself, it would take a hardened soul not to feel some sort of sympathy for the former Napoli supremo - the latest victim of yet another respect-free, cancerous Stamford Bridge dressing room revolt it would seem. No party line is likely to make us feel anything to the contrary. And all the while you can't help thinking, what in God's name attracts anyone to that job? He'd have had less hassle in the bank, God love him.

Kepa's theatrics yesterday drew parallels with another stubborn refusal from a goalkeeper to be withdrawn, in another League Cup final, but frankly, that's where the similarities end.

In 1991, Second Division Sheffield Wednesday upset the odds and climbed the famous steps to collect what was then known as the Rambelows League Cup, defeating a Manchester United side who, little did we know then, were on the cusp of immortality. Ireland's John Sheridan grabbed the only goal of the game in the 37th minute - and a rasper it was too.

Keeping goal for United that day was Les Sealey.

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The hindsight of time has told us that Sealey, alongside the likes of Mark Robbins, played pivotal unsung roles in laying a platform for the trophy-laden Alex Ferguson era with the Londoner probably most fondly remembered by Mancs for keeping a clean sheet in the previous year's FA Cup Final replay win over Crystal Palace.

But despite ending up on the losing side to Wedesnday on that particular Wembley day, Sealey's refusal to be withdrawn as United chased the game in the latter stages has become more enduring than the game itself. Well, everywhere outside Sheffield.

Hobbling around on a gammy leg after suffering a nasty gash on the knee in bravely thwarting Paul Williams on-rush on goal, Sealey and United physio Jim McGregor had a heated exchange in the penalty area, with the latter reportedly telling the goalie that he needed urgent medical attention.

That was not enough to budge big Les.

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Roll on to around the 23-minute mark to see Sealey's clash with Williams, but be sure to watch the agony the man is clearly in thereafter. Alternatively, take a half hour to enjoy some brilliant throwbacks including Mark Hughes mullet-man, Ron Atkinson being Ron Atkinson and Gary Lineker in a very timid co-commentating performance.

Football was a different animal then. In the era of two-named-one-used substitutions, the idea of naming a sub-goalkeeper on the bench was still laughable and the fact that Mike Phelan (legend) had already replaced Neil Webb, the netminder wasn't down with having one of his outfield teammates forced to don the gloves, putting the game chasing Red Devils at a numerical disadvantage and condemning them to certain defeat.

A defeat that would eventually play out in the end, but the gimpy goalie would remain unbreached. Despite only ever making 22 competitive appearances for United, Sealey, who tragically died of a heart attack aged 43 in 2001, remains a cult hero amongst the Old Trafford faithful to this day. Telling Jim McGregor to get stuffed on that April day certainly went a long way to cementing that.

Any comparison to what happened yesterday should only be taken in the context of the footballing landscapes of the pre-Premier League era and 2019, player power, and Kepa more or less being a petulant, ridiculously well imbursed, child. Les Sealey only really ever got going in the climes of Coventry and Luton in what was the quintessential journeyman career, but when it comes to learning how to be a footballer, the 24-year-old Spaniard could do worse than Youtubing big Les today.

SEE ALSO: Are Elton John Transfer Suggestions The Key To Watford's High Flying?

Aaron Strain

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