Steve MacKenzie: The Forgotten Wonder Goal

by Jonathan Smith

Ask a Manchester City fan who scored the best goal of the 1981 FA Cup final and the name of the player will probably be shot back pretty quickly: “Steve MacKenzie”.

Technique, power and style: the midfielder’s thunderous volley that rifled into the top corner is about as pure a strike as you would dare dream of scoring in the showpiece occasion at Wembley.

But in an unforgettable and dramatic final, there would be plenty of twists and turns, many of them coming in the solo run from Ricky Villa that saw Tottenham Hotspur snatch glory deep into the replay of the 100th FA Cup final.

More than 40 years on, Villa’s mazy winner is a staple of FA Cup highlights reels while Mackenzie’s wonder-strike is somehow often forgotten.

The man himself has no problem with the Argentinian matchwinner being remembered as the hero.

“Not at all,” MacKenzie says. “They were the winning team, they should take all the glory, that's fair enough.

“In some respects it's at least a little consolation to score such a goal in such a great game. It's only right that the winner take all the glory and obviously Villa's goal was a fantastic goal.”

Villa’s 76th-minute winner secured a 3-2 win for Tottenham and capped what is remembered as one of the greatest finals in the competition’s 142-year history.

For many, MacKenzie’s strike deserves its place alongside the greatest goals to ever be scored at Wembley.

Three minutes after Villa had given Spurs an eighth-minute lead in the replay, a cross was cleared to the edge of the box where Tommy Hutchinson headed the ball square for the midfielder to smash an unstoppable volley into the top right-hand corner.

“What a time to bring out a volley like that, Steve MacKenzie!” was the late John Motson’s commentary as the City fans went wild on their second trip to the capital for the hastily-arranged replay just five days after a 1-1 draw.

“Everyone goes on about the Ricky Villa winner, but Steve MacKenzie’s effort was the best of the lot,” 1981 goalkeeper Joe Corrigan recalled.

“It was such a great strike, and no-one ever looks at the fact that it was Tommy Hutchinson again who was stood outside the box and glanced to his left, dinked a header to Steve who finished brilliantly.

“It was a phenomenal goal. You don’t get better strikes than that.”

Winger Dave Bennett added: “No one talks about Macca’s goal, but what a volley that was. Amazing.”

MacKenzie looks backs on those two matches with fondness even if the result didn’t go our way.

Like this year’s all-Manchester FA Cup final between City and United, which will mark 100 years since the national stadium became the home of the showpiece event, the 1981 final was a landmark occasion.

Our clash with Spurs was the Centenary FA Cup final and 100,000 fans were at Wembley for the first game that ended 1-1.

Hutchinson put City ahead with a flying header before the City midfielder deflected Glenn Hoddle’s free-kick past Corrigan to send the game to a first Wembley replay just five days later.

“It was such a massive day the Cup final,” MacKenzie recalls. “You'd watch the build-up on the telly but obviously the way things have gone the whole thing has been diluted a little bit now.

“That was a nice thing that it was the Centenary Final, that was that was a great thing to be involved in. You're just lapping up the atmosphere and it was fantastic.

“You're just so excited to get going. Everyone knows it's one of the biggest games in football to be a part of it. It was just a fantastic thing. You like to think you've prepared well and you're looking forward to it.

“I just think it was a tough game, a really good battle between two good sides and one of the things I'm pleased about is that for both games whatever happened we couldn't have done any more.

“We didn't let ourselves down in either game and obviously giving ourselves another chance was great for us.”

City’s run to the final had begun in January with a 4-0 victory over Crystal Palace that saw Malcolm Allison return to Maine Road with the flamboyant manager running to the centre circle to receive a huge welcome from the Kippax.

Allison had started the season in charge at Maine Road and signed MacKenzie in 1979 as a teenager but the focus was in the legendary coach after he was paired against his old club.

He had also been critical of John Bond, but his successor secured an impressive victory and an even better one in the fourth round when City were rampant in a 6-0 victory over Norwich City.

The fifth round draw brought a tough test away to fourth division Peterborough with a sell-out London Road crowd swelled by around 8,000 fans travelling from Manchester.

Tommy Booth scrambled a late winner and City’s FA Cup run was gathering momentum.

“I remember Peterborough was a tough game, a good lower league team, so beating them 1-0 was a grind of a game and it always stick in my mind for some reason,” MacKenzie says.

“The other thing is with a lot of teams that play youth and reserve players now, when you get giant-killings it's not exactly the same as it was years ago.

“After that, the Everton game was a great game to be involved in. It was a draw and the replay, they were such exciting games.”

City headed to Goodison Park in the sixth round and the game ended in a 2-2 thriller with Paul Power snatching an equaliser six minutes from full-time.

Back at Maine Road, City completed the job with Bobby McDonald scoring twice in two minutes before Power added a late goal in a 3-1 winner to set up a semi-final clash with Ipswich Town.

Bobby Robson’s team were one of the best English sides of the era with a starting line-up filled with quality and they would go on to win the UEFA Cup and ran eventual champions Aston Villa close in the first division title race.

Their treble hopes were ended by the Blues at Villa Park when Power’s brilliant free-kick in the 100th minute sent the delirious City fans to Wembley.

“We knew we were really up against it they were a really top team at a time,” MacKenzie says of Ipswich. “We knew we had to fight it was a one-off game and luckily we got the vital goal.”

It was an impressive achievement for a young City side that included locally-born players Ray Ranson, Dave Bennett and Nicky Reid who were just 20 along with teenager Tommy Caton.

With the experience of Corrigan, Power, Hutchinson and Booth, it was a blend that carried City all their way to Wembley.

MacKenzie was also just 20 and had been signed from Palace without playing a single game for the Eagles but his talent had been identified by Allison.

Signed for £250,000, he became the most expensive teenager in Great Britain but his composure and style excited the City fans.

After struggling to nail down a regular starting place and spending some time with the reserves in the Central League, he established himself in the first team at the start of the 1980/81 season.

MacKenzie’s best form came at the turn of the year with a brilliant goal in the FA Cup win over Norwich and he grabbed the only goal in a derby victory over United at Maine Road in February.

The Romford-born player was thriving in a young dressing room that was playing without fear.

“All the young players were great. Tommy Caton, Ray Ranson, Dave Bennett, Nicky Reid, we were all young lads. It was all fantastic.”
Steve MacKenzie

Following the 1-1 draw, a replay at Wembley was scheduled for Thursday night for the first time in the competition’s history and just 24 hours after England had been beaten by Brazil at the same venue.

Tens of thousands of City scrambled back to the capital and Bond’s side suffered an early blow when Villa put Tottenham ahead.

But MacKenzie equalised three minutes later with his moment of magic.

“The ball went in the box and came out and Tommy Hutch knocked it across to us,” he says.

“I didn't really even think too much about it.

“Luckily it was ingrained in me to think about shooting at various times.

“I suppose the quick decisions that you make in a way it seems the best thing to do.

“If I took it down, probably I would have got quickly closed down.

“The main thing was because I was always thinking about having shots it just seemed natural to have a go.”

A thrilling game ebbed and flowed with Kevin Reeves putting us ahead in the 50th minute from the penalty spot.

But Garth Crooks levelled again on 70 minutes before Villa’s winner that has gone down in history as one of the great goals in FA Cup history.

It was a heartbreaking finish for City and it would be another three decades before we returned to the FA Cup final, beating Stoke City in 2011.

More disappointment was to follow with the Club relegated on the final day of the season two years later with many of those young players moved on.

MacKenzie would make only one appearance for City, a 1-0 defeat away to Liverpool five days after the FA Cup final replay.

He was sold to West Bromwich Albion for around £600,000 as City bought in England international Trevor Francis.

While it was a healthy profit, it was a disappointing departure for a player with so much promise.

The following season, MacKenzie was part of the England under-21 team that played at the 1982 European Championships and would make more than 150 appearances for the Baggies before moving onto Charlton Athletic, Sheffield Wednesday and Shrewsbury Town.

MacKenzie looks back at his time at City with pride and happiness.

“It was fantastic,” he says. “I loved it.

“I loved every minute of it.

“I'm sad in a way that I didn't have longer there but that's the just the way things go sometimes.

“They will always have a fond place in my heart because of those times, it was fantastic.”