Special Feature
Graham Rodger recalls big impact as FA Cup final substitute

By Steve Carpenter 19/04 Updated: 10/05 11:13

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Buy photos » Graham Rodger pictured in his playing days with Coventry. (Picture courtesy of PA)

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Coventry City’s famous FA Cup triumph over Tottenham Hotspur, the Observer has teamed up with Coventry City’s Former Players’ Association (CCFPA) to re-capture the memories of players, managers and fans from the club’s greatest day on May 16, 1987.

This week our sport's reporter Steve Carpenter spoke with Graham Rodger who had a hand in the winning goal after coming on as a substitute in extra-time.

Rodger was just 20 years-of-age when he was named as a substitute on the biggest day in his boyhood club's history.

And he recalls not finding out he was to be involved in the final until minutes before kick-off.

"I remember watching the match build up on the TV in the hotel with a couple of the other players on the morning of the match," said Rodgers, who signed for the Sky Blues in 1985 after impressing during a three-month trial. He lived in Kenilworth at the time and was a City fan.

"They were giving out some early team news and I saw my face pop up on the screen as one of the last players in the squad, but I convinced myself it was a mistake.

"It was early in the day so they might have got it wrong.

"That season I acted as cover to Trevor Peake and Brian Kilcline.

"I wanted to play as much football as possible but I was a young player and being part of a team that included the likes of Kilcline and Peake helped me develop as a player.

"I looked up to the two of them because they were like father figures to the younger team members.

"We went down to Wembley and did the customary walk around the pitch in our suits.

"We got into the dressing room at around 1.30-1.40pm and I noticed my boots were placed under the number 14 shirt.

"It was at that moment I realised I could be playing a part in one of the biggest days in the club's history. I didn't know if I was going to be involved but I was always hopeful.

"John Sillett and George Curtis kept it away from me right up until the final minutes so I didn't have any time to feel the nerves, I just knew I had to enjoy the occasion."

Rodgers, a defender who now works in a community role for Grimsby Town, could only watch on as his team mates fell behind in only the second minute, but he feels that was a blessing in disguise as he waited, not knowing he was about to cement his name in Coventry folk-law by playing an integral part in the winning goal.

"Brian (Kilcline) was a big player for us and I saw him go in for a challenge on the half-way line," he added.

"He took his fair share of knocks and would always get back up, but this he wasn't moving very well and he looked to be in serious pain so I was straight onto my feet to get warmed up.

"He was a colossus back then but he looked to be limping badly and it was clear he needed to come off.

"I would be lying if I said I didn't want to be on the pitch when I was watching from the touchline.

"I remember when he was coming off and I was coming on just thinking and asking who Kilcline was marking, so I had no time really to get caught up in the occasion.

"People are mindful are my pass out to Lloyd McGrath but it was always about the team.

"At the beginning of the 1986/87 season we had a lot of ingredients in our side that all went into a pot and we all saw the rewards.

"We had a good team, good players and extremely good characters. We had a motto of work hard, play hard. There are lots of special moments from the day that I will always remember.

"The M1 was a see of sky blue, which I don't think it ever will be again and seeing 250,000 people lining the streets of Coventry the following day was special.

"But I'll always remember when we were all on the open top bus going around the city, there was a young fan who had ran after the bus for ages and he threw a scarf towards me which I managed to catch.

"The effort shown by that young fan just optimised how much winning the FA Cup meant to the people of Coventry."

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