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FA Cup

Roy Essandoh, remember him? Perhaps not. Well let’s enlighten you then.

Essandoh is a footballer that has had more clubs than Lee Westwood, but in 2001 he took the phrase ‘the magic of the FA Cup’ and lived it to the maximum.

His winning headed goal at the quarter-final stage against then Premier League-graded Leicester City at Filbert Street is not only one of the biggest in Wycombe Wanderers history, but remains one of the most memorable since the famous old cup competition commenced.

Ringing any bells now? Yes? Good!

The path in which Essandoh took to write his name into FA Cup folklore is a famous one.

The story goes that Wycombe manager Lawrie Sanchez (another man with a famous FA Cup upset under his belt) had seen his strike force decimated with injuries and as a result opted to put an advert on Ceefax – pleading for a centre forward to lead the line.

Essandoh answered the call and after making his first appearance in a 2-1 loss to Port Vale, was thrust into the Leicester encounter as a substitute with the scores level at one apiece and the rest, as they say, is history.

A fairy-tale set of events you’d agree, although the former Motherwell man has a slightly different take on things.

“I’d been playing in Scandinavia before linking up with Rushden & Diamonds when my agent at the time told Lawrie that I could do a job for Wycombe,” says the Ghanaian born frontman.

“So I went training and it was decided that I would join the club until the end of the season.

“At the same time, there was a story on teletext which said Wycombe had four forwards injured and it seemed people put two and two together and got five.

“I guess the version that everyone knows makes for a better story.”

The goal that saw Essandoh write a fresh chapter in Cup history came at a time where his Wycombe side were hanging on.

The Chairboys took a second-half lead courtesy of Paul McCarthy, only to see the tie levelled up courtesy of Leicester’s Muzzy Izzet.

Boss Sanchez was then removed from the touchline by referee Steve Bennett for an overzealous penalty appeal, but despite the detrimental set of circumstances, Essandoh popped up in injury time to head home Jamie Bates’ flick on and set up a lucrative semi-final clash with Liverpool at Villa Park.

Reliving that moment, Essandoh reveals that it is only when he looks back now that he can appreciate just how important his goal was.

“It’s hard to explain how I felt when the ball went in the net,” says the now St Neots Town man. “I was sitting on the bench thinking if I got on that I might be able to snatch a goal, but at the same time you don’t expect it to happen.

“At the time I just saw it as another goal, it was my job after all, but when everything settles down I realised that I had scored the goal that knocked out Leicester of the Premiership.

“It’s a great thing to happen and it is only now that I appreciate how huge a moment it was for me and the club.”

In spite of giving a good account of themselves during their tie with Liverpool, Wanderers dream run was halted with a 2-1 loss. But their style of play and set of results captured the hearts of football supporters up and down the country.

With the likes of Notts County and York City making daunting trips to Sunderland and Bolton Wanderers respectively this weekend, Essandoh has some words of advice for all the players that will be lining up against the Premier Division big boys.

“You can’t go into a game like that with a negative attitude,” believes the 34-year-old. “Granted there is a possibility you could end up getting hammered, but with the right mind-set that shouldn’t happen.

“There is nothing for clubs like Notts County and York to lose – all the pressure is on their opponents.

“As a player you want to play against the best and this sort occasion provides the perfect opportunity.

“The lads that have the chance this weekend have just got to go out on the pitch and do what they do week in, week out.

“It’s important that you don’t let yourself or the club down and if everyone plays to their maximum, like we did at Wycombe, then you could spring a surprise.”

Like Essandoh, the FA Cup has a habit of throwing up previously unknown heroes.

Who will claim the title this year?


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