SIM­PLY DREAD! How Gary Walsh was beaten twice by singer Mick Huck­nall pre-match, got the nod over leg­end Sch­me­ichel... then felt full force of a bril­liant Sto­ichkov-in­spired Barcelona

Sunday Mirror (Northern Ireland) - - Nou Camp Flashback - EX­CLU­SIVE BY JOHN RICHARD­SON

THE omens didn’t look good for Manch­ester United keeper Gary Walsh’s chances of keep­ing Barcelona quiet in the Nou Camp af­ter Sim­ply Red’s Mick Huck­nall fired a cou­ple of shots past him on the eve of the game.

The flame-haired singer and huge United fan had joined in the prepa­ra­tions as Alex Fer­gu­son’s side looked to defy the odds against Hristo Sto­ichkov, Ro­mario and Co back in 1994.

It was the era of the three­for­eign­ers-only rul­ing in the Cham­pi­ons League.

For the cru­cial trip to Spain Fer­gu­son jet­ti­soned his No.1 keeper, the Great Dane Peter Sch­me­ichel, in favour of Walsh in or­der to play Ukrainian-born An­drei Kanchel­skis plus Re­pub­lic of Ire­land pair Roy Keane and De­nis Irwin.

Keane and Irwin were classed as ‘for­eign­ers’ and with Sch­me­ichel sit­ting in the stand along­side the banned Eric Can­tona, Walsh and United were dis­man­tled by Jo­han Cruyff ’s bril­liant Barca 4-0.

Now in­stalled as West Brom’s goal­keep­ing coach, Walsh ad­mits har­bour­ing bit­ter­sweet mem­o­ries of the Novem­ber night that ef­fec­tively ended United’s am­bi­tions of ad­vanc­ing from the group stage.

“I had no idea I was go­ing to play un­til the morn­ing of the game,” said Walsh. “There was a knock on the door of my ho­tel room and it was the gaffer. I think he left it to the day of the game so I didn’t have too much time to get ner­vous. The three for­eign­ers rul­ing worked out for me but not for the team. There was no time for my fam­ily to book flights to come over, hav­ing only been told on the day of the game.”

Thank­fully, added Walsh, Fer­gu­son (right in Nou Camp) had ob­vi­ously not spot­ted the scor­ing feats of Sim­ply Red leader Huck­nall the pre­vi­ous evening.

“Mick was a big United fan who had trav­elled to Spain with us and had boarded the coach head­ing for the Nou Camp for our last prac­tice ses­sion,” ex­plained Walsh.

“We were do­ing shoot­ing prac­tice and Mick joined in. He put a cou­ple past me to be hon­est. It was amaz­ing I still got picked. The gaffer couldn’t have seen what had hap­pened!”

United couldn’t han­dle a Barca side that also in­cluded a young Pep Guardi­ola with Bulgarian su­per­star Sto­ichkov scor­ing twice, Ro­mario and Al­bert Fer­rer – who went on to play for Chelsea – notch­ing the other two goals.

“It was one of the big­gest games I have ever played in. I re­mem­ber there was a lit­tle chapel at the Nou Camp. I wish I’d have gone in there be­cause we needed a bit more help from the man above,” said a smil­ing Walsh.

Sch­me­ichel of­fered plenty of en­cour­age­ment. Walsh added: “Peter was re­ally good. I spent four years with him. He told me to go out there and play my own game and not to let the at­mos­phere get to me. He came down at half-time and re­as­sured me which was fan­tas­tic.

“It’s a lit­tle weird as there’s a goal­keep­ing con­fer­ence at St Ge­orge’s Park on Sun­day and he’s the guest speaker. I haven’t spo­ken to him for some­thing like 15 to 20 years. It will be great to catch up.”

Al­though the Nou Camp was a hum­bling ex­pe­ri­ence, Walsh is look­ing for a

DVD of the game.

“I’ve never watched a record­ing of the game.

“Maybe it’s time that I did,” he said. “De­spite the re­sult I was glad I had the op­por­tu­nity to play in front of more than 100,000 fans. Games like that don’t come along too of­ten.”

David Beck­ham, Paul Sc­holes and Gary Neville were on the bench. Five years later at the same venue they would lift the fa­mous tro­phy fol­low­ing the in­spi­ra­tional vic­tory against Bay­ern Mu­nich.

By then the re­stric­tions on for­eign play­ers had dis­ap­peared, which com­pletely changed the scenery as many of Europe’s lead­ing sides quickly be­came de­pen­dent on ex­pen­sive im­ports.

Walsh made three ap­pear­ances in Europe for United that sea­son as the club bowed out in the group stage – along with 10 games in the Pre­mier League when Sch­me­ichel suf­fered a back in­jury.

He be­lieves United are still in with a shout in Tues­day night’s quar­ter-fi­nal sec­ond leg in the Nou Camp even though they are a goal down.

“United have won at PSG and Ju­ven­tus so you can’t write them off,” he said. “Ole Gun­nar Sol­sk­jaer has given them mas­sive be­lief – 1-0 is noth­ing. Any­thing can hap­pen as we saw in Paris.

“You wouldn’t bet against United scor­ing, with the at­tack­ers they have.”

Just a bit of ad­vice. David de Gea should steer clear of Mick Huck­nall if the singer is in town.

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