Wally Downes said the fear of being humiliated on live television inspired his AFC Wimbledon players to a historic FA Cup win against West Ham on Saturday night.
A late goal from the substitute Toby Sibbick ensured the League One side will be involved in Monday’s fifth-round draw as they sealed a thrilling 4-2 victory at Kingsmeadow. Downes, the former Wimbledon midfielder who returned to south London as manager in December, was delighted to have caused an upset against the club where he spent 18 months as a coach.
“If we had played like we did on Tuesday, it would have been a cricket score,” he said. “Fear is the biggest motivator in the world and it forced them into playing well. Now they’ve shown me they have got that ability.
“This should breed confidence because we’re going to Sunderland next, who were a Premier League club two years ago and are at the top of the table now. You can’t go there as shrinking violets and you can’t go there as Charlie Big Potatoes. They have to perform again.”
Several members of Wimbledon’s 1988 FA Cup-winning side were at Saturday’s Cup tie, including Vinnie Jones, who was working for BT Sport and saw the new incarnation of his former club race into a 3-0 lead.
Even though West Ham cut the deficit to 3-2 with 19 minutes left after goals from the substitutes Lucas Pérez and Felipe Anderson, Downes insisted he had remained calm throughout. “They had chances to make it 3-3 but you have to ride your luck against a Premier League team,” he said. “You need to be in control of your emotions and you need to be thoughtful about what you’re going to do.
“To be honest, I hadn’t planned to be 3-0 up and hanging on for grim death. That was the first time we have had that. You can’t allow your thinking to be clouded. You need to be measured and not lose your head.”