Most good FA Cup stories involve a giant-killer. On 5 January 1991, the fairy tale of Woking and Tim Buzaglo etched its name into the history books. After navigating their way past Bath City, Kidderminster Harriers and Merthyr Tydfil in earlier rounds, Woking travelled up the M40 to take on West Bromwich Albion. The Cardinals were playing their football in the Diadora League, the sixth tier of English Football and one below the Football Conference. In contrast, The Baggies were a Second Division team and heavily expected to extinguish the dreams of their non-league opposition.
After the draw for the third round, Woking manager Geoff Chapple was besieged by the local press for his comments. “Let’s face it,” he mused, “on paper, we’ve got no chance, but fortunately for us, the game isn’t played on paper.”
On a bitterly cold afternoon, there was no hint of the drama to come when the Baggies led one-nil at the break courtesy a Colin West header from a Craig Shakespeare corner. If the opening half was straightforward and uneventful, the story of the second half was magical and has gone down in FA Cup folklore.
Roared on by their 5,000 fans, Woking equalised on the hour mark when Tim Buzaglo took a pass from Dereck Brown in his stride before curling a low shot into the bottom corner past WBA goalkeeper Mel Rees to bring his side level. It wasn’t long before the pacey striker struck again as a flick on from a big punt upfield saw him nip ahead of the Baggies defence. Buzaglo’s touch was heavy but he just managed to get to the ball before Rees, and when the ball cannoned off the luckless keeper and looped into the air, he followed up to head it into an empty net. The 29-year-old computer analyst was not finished there, as he rounded off a great team move with a left-footed finish from six-yards to complete a 13-minute hat-trick.
With the Albion defence was in disarray, substitute Terry Worsfold headed a fourth Woking goal sending their fans into dreamland. Despite a late Darren Bradley consolation goal nothing could dampen their spirits as players and fans celebrated in unison at the end of the match. Woking had played a team four divisions above them off the park with some scintillating football earning them their biggest result in the club’s 102-year history. Thousands of West Brom fans invaded the pitch at the final whistle, not to cause trouble but to congratulate the Woking players and fans. Buzaglo was then chaired around the pitch by the home supporters to chants of “sign him up”, aimed at their clubs hierarchy.
All eyes were on the fourth round draw as Geoff Chapple’s men awaited their opponents. Woking came out of the velvet bag first to play Everton at their Kingfield Stadium. The game was switched to Goodison Park as 10,000 Woking fans travelled north to watch their team narrowly lose one-nil to a second-half goal by Kevin Sheedy. Buzaglo almost grabbed more headlines with an equaliser but his poked finish hit a post. The Woking players left the field to a standing ovation from both sets of supporters for their performance and headline-grabbing exploits.
The high of his cup exploits was followed by a crushing low as weeks after the Everton clash Buzaglo suffered a severe cruciate ligament injury that would keep him out of the game for 18 months and effectively end his time at Woking.
However, football was not Buzaglo’s only sporting love. A man equally at home scoring runs as he was at scoring goals, dual nationality gave the former Cardinals striker the chance to play cricket for Gibraltar at international level. He represented them in the ICC Trophy between 1982 and 2001.
Fittingly, Tim Buzaglo was named in the FA’s Team of Heroes to commemorate 125 years of the FA Cup in 2006.
By Lee Wynne
Part of our Magic of the Cup series