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Hero McParland tells Villa's class of 2015 they have to believe

By Stuart McKinley

Published 30/05/2015

Wave of emotion: Peter McParland with the FA Cup
Wave of emotion: Peter McParland with the FA Cup

Peter McParland is such a humble hero and an absolute gentleman that when he says he didn't mean to injure Manchester United goalkeeper Ray Wood during the 1957 FA Cup final there's a tendency to believe him.

That moment is one of the most famous in FA Cup final history, not least for the fact that nowadays it would cause an outcry.

Aston Villa striker McParland headed the ball towards goal and chased it in himself. As Wood gathered there was an almighty collision. At the time there were suggestions that Newry-born McParland was laughing as the pair lay stricken on the ground just six minutes into the Wembley showpiece.

Photographers snapped him as he also rolled around in pain at the same time as United medical staff attended to their keeper, who had suffered a broken cheekbone.

While United played on with 10 men - there were no substitutes in those days - having put Jackie Blanchflower in goal, McParland was Villa's match-winning hero.

"Jackie (Sewell) played this beautiful ball as I'm coming in from the left," recalled McParland, who was just 23-years-old at the time and is now aged 81.

"It was a big chance. I made contact with my head and Ray Wood came off his line to cut me out.

"I put my shoulder into him. At the last minute he pulled out, that's why we had the collision.

"I hit the side of my head below my ear. It got Ray on the cheekbone and it must have cracked.

"We were lying on the deck and there were 100,000 people all around me. My head was spinning. I thought I was bleeding on the side of my face. I put my hand up to check.

"I was gritting my teeth and there were photographs in the paper the next day saying that I was laughing. I was in pain.

"I thought I was finished. I was lucky to recover."

He may not have been laughing then, but McParland was at the end, after scoring twice inside six minutes during the second half.

Although Tommy Taylor pulled one back for United with seven minutes to go, which prompted Sir Matt Busby to put Wood, who had returned to the action on the right wing, back in goal for the remainder of the game.

Even against 10 men for a short period and an unorthodox goalkeeper, Villa didn't find it easy, but McParland did silence those who had been jeering him after he left his mark on Wood.

"It was even between the teams and the crowd were giving me a bit of stick," said McParland.

"The United people were all having a bash.

"I came into the dressing room at half-time and our trainer Bill Moore walked straight up to me and said: 'You can shut those people up, go out there and stick one in the back of the net.'

"I put two into the back of the net so that shut them up."

Villa haven't won the Cup since McParland's heroics of 1957. The class of 2015 will attempt to end the club's 58 year wait tonight against Arsenal at Wembley and the legendary striker is backing them to emulate his success.

"The situation is the same as when we played United," said McParland. "They were heavily fancied to win, just like Arsenal. We believed, and these players now have to do the same. I'm sure Tim Sherwood will make them believe. I think they can do it."

Belfast Telegraph

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