Who was the Five Minute Man. How did the 1988 League Cup Final finish his career. Next Goal Wins takes a look back at the brief career of the Five Minute Man.
So who exactly was the Five Minute Man? How did the 1988 League Cup Final between Arsenal and Luton town effectively end his career? This week Next Goal Wins takes a look back at the career of Gus Caesar and how he became known as the Five Minute Man and how that fateful April afternoon at Wembley ended what his coaches at Arsenal had predicted was going to be a glittering career.
Gus Caesar was born in March 1966 a few months before Wembley hosted one of its greatest occasions, the World Cup Final. He joined Arsenal in 1982 as a youth team player and showed, according to his coaches, tremendous promise. Such promise that he was offered a professional contract in February 1984, the same month as a certain future Arsenal and England Captain Tony Adams. It could be said that Caesar’s luck was defined during those early months with Arsenal as he broke his ankle twice in his first year, injuries which he felt were not correctly treated by Arsenal’s medical staff and injuries which were to blight his career.
His Arsenal debut will be remembered as much as his Wembley horror show but for completely the opposite reasons. It was 21st December 1985 and Arsenal were playing away at top of the table Manchester United. Regular full back Viv Anderson had been booked in the previous game and was now suspended so Arsenal drafted in the young star to play. If making your debut against the league leaders was not enough, Gus was up against Danish international Jesper Olsen who had been in outstanding form all season.
Arsenal defended stoutly that night with Caesar imperious at the back and he marked Olsen out of the game. It was a typical 1-0 to the Arsenal performance but the mature way in which Caesar announced himself into the professional game had the commentators and media marking him out as a future England international. The expectation on his shoulders was to clearly affect him moving forwards, he was later to say “it was crazy to label me a future England international after just one game”.
Having made such an impressive his debut, Caesar found himself back on the bench for the remainder of the season as given the line up of the first choice Arsenal defence, he could not break into the starting eleven. Being understudy to Viv Anderson and David O’Leary, regular games were difficult to come by as neither were injury-prone and Caesar was limited to bit part substitute appearances. He did however break into the England U-21 side but did little in these appearances to show the promise with which he had announced himself on his debut. The next eighteen months were a similar pattern as Caesar came on as a sub, normally towards the end of the game, five minutes here, five minutes there and it was now that he started to become known as the Five Minute Man by the Highbury faithful. Of concern to them were though that these five minutes were starting to, and rather alarmingly, be accompanied with nervy clearances and high profile mistakes.
His career however will always be defined by the League Cup Final in 1988. Arsenal were the League Cup holders having beaten Liverpool the year before and were facing Luton Town, who despite also being in the top flight were typecast as major underdogs. Caesar was picked to start as David O’Learly who had been struggling with injury for the previous few weeks, failed to recover. What Caesar omitted to do, for a number of weeks prior to the game, was to admit to the Arsenal medics, he himself was struggling with a groin injury and he admits now, that this injury and lack of fitness were to contribute to his poor performance.
The game itself was a thriller. Luton took the lead early on through Brian Stein and despite constant pressure from Arsenal for the rest of the half they could not convert this dominance into goals. It was the same story in the early exchanges of the second half but Arsenal had to wait until the 70th minute before Martin Hayes scored to level the game. When Alan Smith headed them in front a few minutes later and continued to press for more no-one gave Luton a prayer. The game turned once more in the 80th minute, when after David Rocastle was fouled in the box. If Arsenal scored the penalty, 3-1 game over. But Luton keeper Andy Dibble brilliantly tipped Nigel Winterburn’s corner round the post. Still 2-1 in front, 10 minutes to go, Arsenal would close the game out, wouldn’t they?? Surely??
Luton threw everything they had at Arsenal and with seven minutes remaining sent yet another long ball into the box. It was an aimless ball and all Caesar had to do was calmly control the ball and deal with it. Inexplicably though he panicked and swung wildly at the ball to try and clear it and only succeeded in embarrassingly and comically placing himself flat on his backside. The ball ran through to the disbelieving Stein who calmly crossed the ball to Danny Wilson who netted from close range. The remaining few minutes were comical. Caesar by now was a rabbit in headlights, not knowing which way to turn or what to do and could not get near any ball’s played into the box. Luton pressed on sensing victory was theirs and Stein indeed compound Caesar’s misery by scoring a last minute winner.
Caesar never recovered from the humiliation of such a high profile and self inflicted mistake. Whilst he played again for Arsenal, each appearance was met with boos from his own supporters in addition to the the normal comical banter from the opposition crowd. This coupled with the arrival of more experienced defenders, Andy Linighan and Steve Bould spelt the end for Caesar. After five more games he was shipped out on loan to QPR and his career further spiralled downwards with stints at Cambridge United; Bristol City; Airdrie United and Colchester United. His career ended after a spell playing abroad in Hong Kong, where he stayed and started a successful finance business.
Ultimately Caesar will be remembered by most football fans as the man who dumped himself, unceremoniously on the Wembley turf and watched on helplessly as Luton equalised before spending the next five minutes playing like a man who had never played the professional game before. He will be remembered by Arsenal fans as the scapegoat for that defeat and the Five Minute Man, who after such an impressive debut, ended up playing just five minutes here and five minutes there.