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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 May 2007, 10:20 GMT 11:20 UK
Houchen ready for Wembley return
By Pete Oliver

Keith Houchen heads home his memorable Cup final goal in 1987

Twenty years after diving into FA Cup history, Keith Houchen will be back at Wembley to relive the moment on Saturday.

Houchen's goal for Coventry City - a brilliant full-length header - helped the Sky Blues beat Tottenham 3-2 in the 1987 final.

It was one of the great Wembley goals in one of the last memorable finals and has earned Houchen a fitting place in the FA's parade of legends which will precede Saturday's showdown between Manchester United and Chelsea.

"I have always been fascinated by the history of the FA Cup and Wembley," Houchen told BBC Sport.

"It's amazing that long after my career has finished that I am part of that history of the famous competition and the famous old ground. I am very chuffed."

Houchen, 46, spent 20 years as a professional with seven different clubs but not surprisingly his career is defined by that single moment when he threw himself at a Dave Bennett cross to equalise for Coventry and pave the way for their extra-time triumph.

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"It's a long time ago but in my mind it does not really seem like it," he said.

"It's still quite vivid - the goal and everything about Coventry.

"I am very flattered and very proud of that goal and the whole thing of being part of that side. It was a massive achievement by the whole team and everybody involved that day."

Houchen describes the goal in his recently written autobiography, A Tenner and a Box of Kippers, as the perfect header.

He said: "I think all football is instinct and the only way I could get on the end of the ball was to throw myself.

"I do remember actually heading it. I like the picture where I am so intent on watching the ball. I am actually watching where I am heading it and (Ray) Clemence was right in front of me.

"I headed right past him, right into the corner. It was past him before he could move."

The picture now resides beside the fireplace in Houchen's North Yorkshire home and has ensured his place in Cup folklore.

"Twenty years later you can guarantee that once you get past Christmas and the FA Cup starts, the phone calls start and carry on right up to the final. That's the amazing thing about it," he added.

Two years earlier Houchen, an honest goalscorer whose career started and finished at Hartlepool United, had his first brush with Cup fame when his penalty for York City knocked out Arsenal at a snowy Bootham Crescent.

Coventry celebrate Gary Mabbutt's own goal in the 1987 final
Coventry celebrate Gary Mabbutt's own goal in the 1987 final

But in 1989 the biter was bit when Coventry were humbled by non-league Sutton United.

"I have seen both sides of it, a giant killing and being giant killed. It can happen," Houchen added.

Unfortunately to Houchen's mind, though, it is not happening enough.

Since 1992, only Everton have broken the stranglehold on the trophy held by the big four of Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea.

And Houchen is disappointed that more clubs no longer try to emulate Coventry and make a more serious attempt to win the competition.

He said: "Some Premier League managers are not really bothered about it, for the sake of being fourth from bottom of the league and that astounds me.

"If you are earning 60,000 or 60 a week, there are only three competitions most teams can win. Surely they are not playing just for the money.

It's a new ground and has to create its own history. It's a new start and it needs to get some history together

Keith Houchen

"But a lot of players don't know any different. I was brought up on the history and the players in the FA Cup."

The cream has again risen to the top at the new Wembley stadium, rebuilt at a cost of 850m and staging the final for the first time since 2000.

Houchen hopes the match does it justice and is banking on United to take the game to Chelsea to create an open, attack-minded contest.

The opportunity awaits for someone to join Houchen, who now coaches young players for Middlesbrough and provides statistical information from lower league matches, on the list of legends and provide a link with the past and the present.

"It's a new ground and has to create its own history. It's a new start and it needs to get some history together," Houchen said.

"But Wembley will always be the place as a footballer that you will want to go.

"I expect it to be fantastic and it should be a great experience for me.

"It's a shame they couldn't incorporate something to do with the Twin Towers. But I will still be able to walk down Wembley Way."

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