Sasa Ilic on the 1998 play-off final: "We went in as underdogs and I think that helped take the pressure off”

Former Chartlon goalkeeper Sasa Ilic sat down exclusively with Valley Pass to speak about the 1998 play-off final and relive some of his memories of that legendary match in Charlton's history.

Ilic spoke about his beginnings at Charlton and how he had to break into the team in an unorthodox way after failing to impress in his trial.

“Keith Peacock said; ‘listen, we couldn’t see much. But at the moment there is really nothing here for you’. I said okay that’s fine but asked if I could train there whilst looking for another club. And that’s when it all started really.”

Ilic explained how he trained hard and eventually was given another chance

“I started doing well in training, and then had the chance to play a couple more games and I did well. Then I got asked to train with the first team, it felt like I was meant to be there. It just clicked, I got on well with all the lads. 

"I travelled from Putney every morning and it took me like two hours, and I came in every morning with a smile on my face. I was skint at the time so asked if the club could pay for my train fare to get to training, and they did.

“I trained from the middle of October and didn’t make my debut until January the 18th when we played Stoke away when Petterson got injured”

“We won 2-1 and I played well, from then on I played like 18 games and got 14 clean sheets. Then basically 10 clean sheets on the trot leading up to Wembley.

Ilic explained how Chartlon went into the game as underdogs but insisted that only helped the team in the game. 

“Even after our amazing run, we went into the play off final against Sunderland as underdogs and I think that really helped take the pressure off”

“Even at half time we were 1-0 up, and thinking another game another clean sheet, I will meet you at the bar afterwards. And when the goals started flying in, and we were shell-shocked. It was crazy. And I imagine it was even more crazy for the people watching. Luckily, we were scoring just as many as they were!”

Ilic also spoke about his all-important penalty save which ultimately won Charlton the match.

“Once you are facing a penalty kick, there is no real stress. If we save it it’s great, if we don’t it’s not our fault. I was confident. But as their penalties started flying in, I felt a bit lost; do I go this way, do I go that way, do I stay on my feet?”

Ilic explained how he also made up his mind on which way to dive in an unorthodox way… 

“I remember seeing a two pence coin literally behind the line in the goal, and I thought sod it I will flick this, head equals left and tails I will dive right.”

“When Michael struck that ball, as soon as it was struck- I knew I was going to save it. Before I even caught the ball, I had a huge grin on my face…”

Ilic's full interview is available to watch on Valley Pass which costs just £6.50 per month.

Read Time: 3 mins