The article was translated by me from Finnish.
Translated from the Finnish newspaper, Ilta Sanomat
An ex-professional footballer who is coming to Finland to coach made a stunning decision in his career â€“ "It was an embarrassing and strange situation."
Daniel Amokachi isn't afraid to make controversial decisions. One of them delighted and infuriated back in England.
The playing career of Daniel Amokachi, who is joining Finnish Second Division side, JS Hercules, is like a summary of the old Finnish saying "He who fears should not play". The Nigerian attacker's career saw a few stunning episodes, but one is remembered above all others, and that happened in what was arguably the biggest game of his career.
It was the spring of 1995, and Amokachi's side, Everton, were playing in the FA Cup semi-finals against Tottenham Hotspur. The Spurs side, led by JÃ¼rgen Klinsmann, were the media darlings of the time, thanks to some flamboyant football that season.
In the second half, the Blues were winning 2-1, but after Klinsmanns penalty goal, the mood in the Everton camp was getting darker by the minute.
"Tottenham were coming at us like crazy. Klinsmann played a great game. Then our attacker Paul Rideout was hurt. I was on the substitutes bench and I was waving to the manager, that I'm ready to go out on the pitch," Amokachi told us on Wednesday in Helsinki.
The Everton manager, Joe Royle, wasn't interested in making any substitutions. He wanted Rideout to stay on the pitch. The British striker was visibly struggling, but Royle wasn't making any changes, even though, according to Amokachi, the team doctor was saying that the striker should be substituted.
"Even though Rideout was struggling, nothing happened. I was warming up. In the 90s, there weren't as many people telling the refs about substitutions and mixing in between. I walked up to the assistant ref, and told him I'm going on. Rideout came off."
The substitution happened so quickly, that no-one on the Everton bench noticed what Amokachi was up to until it was too late. Royle was fuming.
"I went on, and everybody on our side were in shock. I was, however, already on the pitch and it was our last substitution, so they couldn't take me off, unless they wanted to finish the game shorthanded."
Amokachi knew that, if the game ended with Tottenham equalising and thus forcing a replay, he'd be in big trouble. Football history doesn't hold many examples of players who have managed to get themselves substituted onto the pitch without permission â€“ and even fever where they have actually made it through the discussions with the manager after the game still holding a contract.
"It was an embarrassing and strange situation, but it was worth it. I was in good shape, and everybody knew that."
Soon, things started happening. Amokachi and Everton managed to turn the tide, with the Nigerian striking twice in the last 10 minutes. Everton won 4-1 and were moving on to the FA Cup Final.
"I didn't really have a choice. If I would have failed, it would certainly have been my last game for Everton!"
Everton went on to defeat Alex Ferguson's Manchester United in the final, just as they were starting their unstoppable run at the top of English football. Rideout, who injured himself in the semi-final, was the hero with his strike in the 30th minute. Amokachi also got a sniff at the atmosphere in the final.
"People still remember me in Liverpool, and that final was huge in Africa as well. There was maybe two or three TVs in my home village. Everybody was gathered around them. I knew that, because I was always sitting in front of the same TVs in my youth, watching the FA Cup Final and dreaming about playing in it."
Now you are in the position of the manager. How would you react, if one of your players would substitute himself onto the pitch without your blessing?
"If he does that, and makes it on to the pitch, go for it! I would hope he does good things on the pitch. But of course, after the game we would discuss it. Then we are talking about the professionalism of players. My door is always open for my players."
The cup is still the last big win for Everton.
Amokachi went on to play the 1995-96 season at Everton; after that, he went to Fenerbahce in Turkey. After three good seasons, his career deteriorated fast because of knee problems that ended his career at the age of 28.
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