Here’s one for sports fans, on FA Cup Final Day here in London. If you could change the result of one sporting fixture in history, which would it be? If you’re a Crystal Palace fan it’s probably a straightforward choice between today’s defeat against Manchester United or the 1990 defeat to the same team.
For me, as a Leeds United fan, the choice is easy: the European Cup Final of 1975. Leeds lost 2-0 to Bayern Munich, but were denied a clear-cut penalty and had a goal disallowed for offside which should have been given. That’s the result I would change; we’d have a Leeds victory instead. It probably wouldn’t have altered the club’s up and down course through the next 40 years (mostly down, as we face our 13th consecutive season outside the Premier League) but we could always console ourselves that we were the Champions of Europe at one point, just as fans of Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa can. Leeds, Forest and Villa will begin next season in the second tier of English football.
If you could change the results of three sporting fixtures from the past, what would they be?
All three, for me, would be Leeds games: first that European Cup Final of 1975; second, the League game against Wolves at the end of the 1971/2 season; third the European Cup Winners’ Cup Final of 1973. That game at Wolves finished with a 2-1 defeat. A draw for Leeds would have been enough to win the League and give Leeds the Double. The Cup Winners’ Cup Final, along with a European Cup win, would have made Leeds the first team to win all three European trophies. (Juventus managed it 10 years later when they beat Liverpool in the European Cup Final, at Heysel. Ajax, Barcelona and Chelsea have subsequently done it.)
Finally if you could change the results of 10 historical sporting fixtures, what would they be? My top 10 is as follows:
- Leeds 0 Bayern Munich 2, European Cup Final 1975. (Leeds would win this one.)
- Wolves 2 Leeds 1, 8 May 1972, final Football League fixture of the season. (I’d take a draw for this one – it would still have given Leeds the League and Cup double.)
- Milan 1 Leeds 0, 16 May 1973, Cup Winners’ Cup Final. (Another Leeds win, please.)
- Australia beat England, Cricket World Cup Final 1987. (Neither side had won the Cricket World Cup when they met in this final. England still haven’t, and Australia have gone on to win it five times, starting with this match. I’d switch this to an England win.)
- Pat Cash beats Ivan Lendl, Wimbledon Men’s Singles Final, 1987. (I’d swap this for a Lendl win.)
- Barcelona 2 Arsenal 1, 2006 Champions League Final. (Arsenal, my wife’s team, and Leeds United are the only English clubs to reach a Champions League / European Cup Final and not win the trophy, but I would reverse that: Arsenal hold onto their 1-0 win for the last 20 minutes of the game.)
- Tipperary 4-17 Kilkenny 1-18, 2010 All-Ireland Hurling Final. (Kilkenny had already won 4 All Irelands in a row and, greedily, I would let them get an unprecedented 5th successive title by winning this one.)
- Man U 1 Crystal Palace 0, 1990 FA Cup Final Replay. (In my time machine Ian Wright’s extra time goal would be the winner in the Final, there’d be no Replay, and Palace would have had their first FA Cup. Alex Ferguson might well have been sacked for failing to win a trophy in his first four seasons at Man U and English football over the last 25 seasons would have been very different.)
- Man U 2 Arsenal 1, FA Cup Semi-Final, 1999. (In my reworking of history Dennis Bergkamp’s late penalty is not saved by Peter Schmeichel and Arsenal win; there’s no extra-time, no Ryan Giggs winner, and no treble for Alex Ferguson – assuming he was still there after the previous item on this list.)
- West Germany 2 Holland 1, 1974 World Cup Final. (I started my list reversing a German football win and I’ll finish with another, to give Cruyff and Holland a World Cup win.)