Life with Lyons and Owls stirs FA Cup memories

Flashback: Mike Lyons in action during his time with Wednesday
Flashback: Mike Lyons in action during his time with Wednesday
Have your say

MIKE Lyons was a guest of the Owls at the Leyton Orient game while paying one of his occasional visits to England from his home in Australia.

It stirred up a few memories for me in FA Cup week.

You must have the heard one about Lyons’s fitness test before the semi-final against Brighton in 1983, and what happened when the team bus arrived at Highbury before the game, and how the result saved my summer holiday.

No? Well they’re good stories and I like telling them anyway.

Mike needed a fitness test so left the team hotel with Maurice Setters via taxi for Hampstead Heath.

Maurice wore everyday clothes and shoes, not training gear, as he put the skipper through his paces - watched by me and another reporter - and everything went okay until the assistant manager - a rugged performer in his playing days - demanded that Lyons test himself in a block tackle and Mike came out of it yelping: “Maurice, you went over the top!”

Test passed, we all walked back to the hotel where Jack was sitting in reception reading a newspaper - his usual laid-back self as he was told the result of the test.

Gary Megson, like me, has always remembered the next bit. When the team coach arrived at Highbury a voice (Gary Shelton’s) came up from the back: “Where’s Millsy, where’s Heardy?”

David Mills and Pat Heard had been left behind because the departure time had been brought forward for traffic to be avoided and nobody told those two, who were rooming together. They weren’t delayed for long and arrived by taxi.

That season I had a holiday booked for the same time as the cup final and knew I would have to cancel it if the Owls got to Wembley. So I wagered enough money on them reaching the final to recoup my losses if they beat Brighton. In a way I couldn’t lose.

An equaliser by Ante Mirocevic put them back in the game. Then when an Andy McCulloch header was seemingly on its way to the net it flashed through my mind for a split second that I’d be going to Wembley rather than Italy. But the boot of Steve Foster made a miraculous clearance, and Brighton went on to win.

Those were memorable days, and not only was it this week’s second-round tie against Aldershot and Lyons’s visit to Hillsborough that provoked memories.

David Mills has just had a book published. It includes a chapter on his Wednesday days, and one on tragedy.

His face had to be rebuilt after a 1988 car crash in which he was seriously injured and his father was killed. I would not have recognised him from recent photographs in the book,

Mills, a decent bloke from what I remember of him in his seven-month Hillsborough career during 1983, suffered a broken arm, fractured eye socket, a shattered middle third of his face, broken upper and lower jaw, punctured lung, fractured ribs and chipped ankle, the roof of his mouth was split in two, his lips were severed, he had 80 stitches and four titanium places inserted into his face, and needed extensive dental work.

No wonder the book is titled There But for Fortune,