LOOKING back ten years, Nigel Clough has hailed Burton Albion’s FA Cup draw with mighty Manchester United as “a great achievement”.
The Brewers held the Premier Leaguers at the Pirelli Stadium on January 8, 2006, while still a non-league team.
Clough was the Brewers manager back then in his first spell in charge.
He said: “The first thing I remember is the struggle to get the game on. It was the first year of the Pirelli, there was trouble with the pitch and there was a big bubble over it. We had experts in who said to put 50 tons of sand on it and the next experts said we needed to take it off.
“Once we did get the game on, getting a 0-0 was a tremendous achievement.
“I remember looking at the scoreboard after 59 minutes and they brought on Ronaldo and Rooney. You think you are in trouble from the start as, although it was a supposedly weaker side, you look at that team now and Pique played and he’s not done too bad at Barcelona in the last few years and Saha played. There was already plenty of ability and then they brought those two on and we feared the worst.”
Burton Albion already knew who they would face in before they played Burscough in the Second Round, because that game was called off due to a water-logged pitch and the Third Round draw had been made.
Clough says: “All of a sudden there was much more at stake and the interest in the Burscough game was much higher. We were looking forward to a quietish game in front of 1,000 to 1,500 and all of sudden we got more than 4,000 and everyone was more nervous than they would have been.”
Clough remembers the atmosphere at the Pirelli for the Third Round tie.
He says: “We had sold the whole ground out and the away end was full. It was a lovely atmosphere. I remember a shout we had for handball and we thought it was a penalty as well. Pique came over the top of Shaun Harrad and the ref gave a foul against Shaun but when we looked at it later it was a good shout for a penalty. But a draw was the best we could have hoped for.
“We held our own. They came out in the second half and put us under pressure but they went direct as well. They were playing some incredible football at that time but they made a conscious effort because of the surface to get it forward quickly to Saha and that caused us more problems. There was a chance in the last minute that Saul Deeney saved with his foot. You know it’s going to be your day when he saves that.”
The financial significance of the games wasn’t lost on the manager at the time.
He said: “It was a big financial decision by the chairman to move grounds. Like with any building project, it had gone a little bit over budget. The first game had gone some way towards solving that but when we went to Old Trafford that paid off the stadium. That game and the move here to the Pirelli has given the club the platform to do what it has done over the last 10 years.”