Tim Breacker: I still don't believe wonder strike against Derby County actually happened!
Full back discusses his stunner at the Baseball Ground
Former Luton defender Tim Breacker still can't quite believe he booked his place in Town history with a tremendous 35-yard blast at Derby County that set the Hatters on their way to Division One survival some 30-years ago today.
Back on May 5, 1990, the Town headed to the Baseball Ground needing a win to stay up, although even that might not have been enough, with nearest rivals Sheffield Wednesday having to lose at home to Nottingham Forest.
With one away triumph all season and up against a side containing big money signings Mark Wright and Dean Saunders, few gave the visitors a chance, but that quickly changed inside 60 seconds.
Winning a free kick some 35 yards out from goal, David Preece touched it to Breacker, who unleashed a wonderful first time drive into the top corner, beating Peter Shilton all ends up, the England keeper left completely rooted to the spot.
Few expected such a strike, including the right back himself, as it was Breacker’s first goal of the season and only his third in Luton colours having turned pro seven years earlier.
Speaking exclusively to the Luton News, he said: “It was David Preece, god rest his soul, I just said to him, ‘do you know what, I fancy this.’
“He literally went ‘go on then,’ he didn't argue with me, he just went ‘go on then,’ he just knocked it to the side, I just hit it, and it flew in.
“I don't think anyone believed it, least of all me and I still don't believe it actually happened.
“I remember my dad was really good, as the week before he did a note for me and a poem.
“It was a bit like ‘you won't believe what you can do,’ it was ‘enjoy the game, don't worry about that (relegation) and you'll be surprised what can happen.’
“That was in my mind, that’s how I felt going into the game, just give it our best shot and there were loads of supporters there, it was a fantastic atmosphere.”
Despite the brilliance of the strike, Breacker hasn’t been an avid viewer of it on the internet since, saying: “My kids and my nephews have googled it and said, ‘oh we saw this goal on YouTube.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen it again, I might have done once two or three years after, just a quick sort of glimpse, but I don't think the game was on TV.
“We were celebrating, it was a big party, everyone was having a few, there wasn’t so much in terms of now you can get things on demand, save things.
“It was the last game of the season too, so there was no going in and watching the video the next day.”
It could have all been so very different as well, with Breacker admitting there had been a slight doubt over him being actually being able to take the field for Town that day.
He continued: “I remember, I got injured on Boxing Day, I had a sesamoid bone under my foot, so from that day on, I had to have an injection every time to play a game.
“In those days, you didn’t always have a doctor that went with you, I remember going to Anfield, going into their medical room and having an injection in my toe before the game and then it was all right.
"I couldn't really train much and just played the games.
“Then on this day we were at Derby, I think it was our doctor who did it, he injected my toe and it worked, but it was almost like it was working too much.
“My foot felt like it was a bit numb and this was in the warm up.
"I was thinking ‘it’s got to come back soon and start feeling a bit more normal.’
“It just felt like when you've been to the dentist and it’s feeling a bit too numb, but I carried on anyway.”
Going into the game, despite the magnitude of the contest, Breacker felt Town, who had given themselves a chance by beating Arsenal and Crystal Palace at home in their previous two games, didn’t feel under too much pressure.
He said: “There was a little bit of even if we won, it wasn't definite that we were staying up.
“When you're Sheffield Wednesday you've got more to lose, as you think 'even if we don't win we might stay up.'
“We just knew we had to win.
"I've been in that situation quite a few times in your career, when you've got nothing to lose, it's almost straight forward, 'don't worry about anyone else, we've got to win.'
"What's the point of looking at anyone else's result, you've got to win and then see what happens really.”
After Breacker scored then the fun started, as Kingsley Black doubled the advantage to give Town breathing space, only for that to be dashed by half time, as the Rams, with nothing to play for themselves, drew level through Wright and Paul Williams.
Despite the blow, Breacker didn’t believe there were any nerves in the dressing room during the break or a feeling of doom from manager at the time Jimmy Ryan.
He said: “It was a strange sort of feeling, we all felt we could still do it, it wasn't like, ‘oh no, we've blown it.’
“Even with the supporters, they almost believed we could do it, there was no nervousness from the supporters.
“It was a different atmosphere than you would expect, and for Derby, it was a bit more like they were expected to beat us, but I think we all felt we could still beat them.
“He (Ryan) was always very positive and just that type of guy.
“He said ‘don't worry about anything, you're good enough to beat them. So what, they got back in the game, they shouldn't be, just go and play, enjoy the occasion and you’ll beat them, don't worry about anything else.’
“When he took over, we needed a miracle to get out of this and he was really good.
“He just tried to relax everybody and we just had a bit of fun, he tried to make it a bit, 'mountain to climb, but so what, let’s give it our best shot.'
“He took us out, from memory, playing American Football and things like that, took us round the golf course, instead of the intense training.”
Once the second half got underway, Town were back on the front foot, and went on to grab a third through Black’s effort which cannoned off the post and beat Shilton with 15 to go.
The Hatters then held on and with news filtering through from Hillsborough that the Owls had been defeated 3-0, it meant they could celebrate with their legions of visiting fans.
Breacker said: “I remember the fans (when Black scored), I was probably back at the half way line, thinking, 'come on, we can definitely do this.'
“From memory, it wasn't like we were holding on, or we didn't deserve it, we had one shot, it was we all felt, we just felt quite confident I think.
“It was radios that kept everyone up to date and then it was celebrating with the fans as by that time it was obvious we were staying up, it was really good, fantastic memories.
“There was a lot of toing and froing in the game, and then there was what was happening up at Sheffield, it was an unbelievable day."
Breacker, who played 262 times for the Hatters, scoring three goals, had a superb spell at Kenilworth Road, before moving to West Ham in 1990.
He was part of the side that made history by winning the club's only ever major trophy, beating Arsenal 3-2 to lift the Littlewoods Cup in 1988, but felt the victory at Derby was similar to that day at Wembley.
He added: "I've had promotions, but it's not always on the last day, sometimes staying up is.
"I remember Jimmy Ryan said that to us, to all of us, 'imagine if you guys as a group stay up, you'll remember that as much as winning something.' and it was true, he was right, he was absolutely right.
“There's normally drama, whereas somebody wins the league or gets promoted, it isn't always on the last kick, but so many times it is with a team that stays up as there's so many permutations that come up.
“It’s right up there, you feel like you’ve won something, although we probably didn't realise it at the time, you look back at it with a bit of pride.
"Against the odds, you’ve come through something as a group and that’s the beauty with football, a team sport, when you get that satisfaction of doing something as a team.
"It is a day that I’ll never forget, that’s for sure."