Updated: Jul 16
The sound is deafening, a raucous, tribal, roar and rush of bated breadth excitement. The place is Old Trafford Manchester. The night is the 21st March 1984. Utd are 2-0 down from the Nou Camp Barcelona 1st leg of the Quarter Final. The impossible has to occur. Utd need to overturn the might of Barca and keep the young King of football Diego Armando Maradona at bay. With away goals counting double, that means at least 3 goals with zero in response. How can that happen with the majesty of this wonderful star?
I am 14 years old. My Dad has given me the best surprise ever, ferrying us across the Irish sea to see my hero Bryan Robson and the Red Devils, take on the maestro Maradona and co. With my red white and black Utd scarf wrapped warm around my neck we are squashed in like sardines with the communal mass of red supporters, down low on the terrace steps in line with the 18 Yard box.
I can't take my eyes of Robson and Maradona for different reasons. Robson, otherwise known as Captain Marvel, was the epitome of a midfield player in my eyes, all action, drive, determination and goalscorer, arriving late in the box. Maradona on the other hand was like a pocket dynamite, an incredible dribbler, so dangerously quick with gravity defying balance.
As the game develops I'm left with no voice as Robson scores twice. However the tension is immense, it feels like the atoms surrounding our bodies have tightened their grip, squeezing and not letting go. Every time the wonderful German International player Bernd Schuster looks for Maradona we hold our breadth. Every time Maradona sniffs the ball, we hold our breadth. Barca just need one goal and it's all over. And then........ and then, the miracle happens in front of our eyes, Irish International Stapleton scores for Utd. It's 3-0. The roof is lifted off the stadium. United triumph, they keep the mighty Argentine and Barca at bay. It's described by Utd players post career, such as 18 year old at the time, Norman Whiteside as the best atmosphere ever experienced at Old Trafford. A night to remember.
Little did I know that night that I would go on to share a field as a player with some of my Utd heroes just a few years later at Club and International level.
Diego of course left Barca not too long after for Napoli in Italy and an unforgettable winning World Cup in 1986, amongst European triumphs. He was a genius, a leader with such passion for the beautiful game.
Thank you for the memories Diego and the inspiration. In our One2Pro coaching program, we still use to this day your skills to inspire the younger generations coming through.