THOUSANDS of Islanders will be tuned into this evening’s World Cup final between Germany and Argentina, but very few probably know that the South American’s head coach, Alejandro 'Alex’ Sabella, played against Newport FC over 35 years ago.
A crowd of 3,900 turned up to watch Sabella play for Sheffield United at Newport’s former ground, Church Litten, for a Monday evening game on October 16, 1978.
A full strength side, managed by Harry Haslam, were invited to play as part of Newport FC’s 90th anniversary celebration.
The game’s star attraction, Sabella, a gifted skilful midfielder who won 22 caps for Argentina, joined for a club record fee of £160,000.
He helped the Blades, who played in the former Second Division, to a 2-0 victory over Newport.
Newport FC’s former chairman, Roy Dew, a friend of Haslam, helped to broker the fixture — a coup for the club at that time.
One of the crowd at the game, Pete Ranger, of Gunville, said: "Sabella was certainly a draw for the game. Foreign players playing for English teams was a novelty at that time and to see him play on the Island was something else.
"Sheffield United had played Southampton on the previous Saturday, so they didn’t have to travel far. There were a lot of away fans at the game.
"Afterwards, a reception was held for the Sheffield United players at the Holmwood Hotel, Cowes, which I attended. I managed to get all their autographs, including Sabella’s."
The Sheffield United and Newport FC teams.