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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Alan Cork urges Cardiff to 'believe' as they prepare for FA Cup tie with Leeds

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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Alan Cork urges Cardiff to 'believe' as they prepare for FA Cup tie with Leeds

For Alan Cork, the brainchild of one of the great FA Cup shocks of modern times when third tier Cardiff City defeated Premier League leaders Leeds United was bittersweet.

In football terms, it didn’t get much better than disappointing a star-studded team that included Rio Ferdinand, Mark Viduka and Robbie Fowler. But the battle at Ninian Park was about more than Cardiff’s epic 2-1 victory.

Cardiff were fined £20,000 and controversial owner Sam Hammam was banned from pitchside walkabouts after an orgy of trouble saw referee Andy D’Urso and Leeds players hit with missiles and a post-match pitch invasion that turned sour and required riot police to break up.

Cardiff pulled off one of the FA Cup's great shocks as they toppled Leeds in a fiery game

Cardiff pulled off one of the FA Cup’s great shocks as they toppled Leeds in a fiery game

D’Urso had to stop the game when a coin thrown in his direction left him with a cut on the head. Danny Murphy, who played for the visitors that day, told this newspaper that other objects thrown onto the pitch included empty miniature bottles of whisky, gin and vodka.

Among the supporters who were eventually jailed was a former Cardiff City player, Dai Thomas, who was filmed throwing an advertising hoard at fans.

Poor Cork, the Cardiff manager who got his tactics spot on, was completely unaware of the scale of the problem when he walked into his press conference expecting to be asked about a famous giant slaying.

‘The stupid thing is when you win big games, someone always spoils it,’ he said ahead of Sunday’s rematch between the two clubs 21 years ago. When the game ended, I went inside thinking the pitch invasion was a celebration. I went to one of Cardiff’s biggest press conferences without any information and the first question was “What’s the crowd like?”

‘I said you can’t stop people from enjoying a very important game, not realizing there was a big problem. I was killed for apparently inciting a fight that never happened. No one told me or let me know what happened.’

Cork, who won the 1988 FA Cup as a player with Wimbledon’s Crazy Gang, had a relatively short managerial career but deserves credit for getting the better of David O’Leary’s Leeds full of big signings and top players. international.

Viduka put the visitors ahead before they sent off Alan Smith and Cardiff rallied with goals from Graham Kavanagh and Scott Young. They wiped out the Leeds goal through set-pieces and Andy Legg’s long throws.

‘We’ve changed our normal system so that our regular centre-forward Robert Earnshaw can use his speed on the right wing to attack Ian Harte,’ said Cork. ‘Leeds have the right team but we have decent players for our level like Earnie [Earnshaw]Danny Gabbidon and Kavanagh, worth £1million.

David O'Leary was flying high at the top of the Premier League in the 2002 game

David O’Leary was flying high at the top of the Premier League in the 2002 game

‘We weren’t afraid to use the long throw. Our replacement Leo Fortune-West is 6ft 4in and Andy can throw it at the far post. If you have a machine, you can use it too. I was brought up on set-pieces from Dave Bassett’s days at Wimbledon. When I coached Leicester, Arsene Wenger said we had the best free-kicks in the world. I lay in bed with a pen and paper dreaming of the tasks in the corner. What you do in life is strange!’

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On January 6, 2002 it all came to fruition. Young’s winner in the 87th minute came from a corner right in front of Hammam, who was positioned behind the goal, rousing the Cardiff fans with his trademark Ayatollah gesture (raise and lower your hands over of your head).

Cork played for Hammam at Wimbledon before the Lebanese businessman went to Cardiff. The recruitment process to bring to Cork is generally difficult.

‘I was at Brighton as assistant to Micky Adams. We played Cardiff and there was a big row between the teams which ended up in a fight in the tunnel. The next day, I got a call from Sam. Do you want to come and work for me?!

Cardiff are set to face the same opposition in Sunday's FA Cup third round clash

Cardiff are set to face the same opposition in Sunday’s FA Cup third round clash

‘You can’t say anything to Sam. He’ll just say it’s his club, it’s his money and you can f*** off. He always stood by the pitch. David O’Leary didn’t like it but Sam didn’t mind causing issues. He liked such things. He was furious when the FA banned him but he still blamed us for not naming him in our dug-out for the next round against Tranmere. He wants to fire my assistant Ian Butterworth who made the list. We had a huge row before the game — no wonder we walked out.’

Just six weeks after beating Leeds, Cork is no longer Cardiff manager. Sam never picked up the phone to hurt anyone. Instead, I got a call from Lennie Lawrence after the Wigan defeat saying Sam wanted us to change jobs, so Lennie would be manager and I would go to director of football. I left on Monday.’

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Cork, who also manages Swansea City, has become a respected scout, especially in England. Now 63, he lives near the south coast, waiting for another chance. His son Jack plays for Burnley and the pair are known as Young Corky and Old Corky. Except for Crazy Gang, where Alan is referred to as Beagle — a mash-up of Bald Eagle.

Jesse Marsch's Premier League Leeds will once again be favorites in the tie

Jesse Marsch’s Premier League Leeds will once again be favorites in the tie

He still keeps in touch with some of his heroes in Cardiff in 2002.

I texted Earnie [Earnshaw] when he was on telly to comment about his new teeth! To be fair, he’s a very good pundit,’ said Cork. ‘I used to fine him when he did somersaults after scoring because his knees were bad.

‘This game against Leeds is at Cardiff’s new stadium which is fantastic. I hope the fans make some noise again — this time without trouble.

‘Sam had this vision of Cardiff becoming a powerful force representing Wales in the Premier League but needing a lot of money to compete now. But in a cup tie, they could beat Leeds. They just have to believe like we did.’