Saturday 4 September 2021

The Saturday List #320 - My top ten FA cup moments

Today, I'll be off to Hadley FC to watch them play Enfield Town in the first qualifying round of the FA Cup. I am really looking forward to a beer on the terraces, catching up with friends. It's a long road, that will finish next May at Wembley, which is a world away from Brickfield Lane, even if it's only five miles down the road.

 For football lovers of my age, the FA Cup will always be special. The final was just about the only match televised live, apart from the World Cup. In some ways the third round was even more exciting with non league teams facing the big boys, we all loved a shock. Here is my list of my favourite moments.

1. Have to start at the beginning. The first final I remember was the 1969 final when Manchester City beat Leicester City 1-0. I can't in truth remember too much other than the joyous celebration and taunting my Man Utd supporting brother Frank. Watching the clip again, the first thought that came to my mind is just how well Colin Bell would have fitted into a Pep Guadiola team. He was the finest footballer I ever saw on a football field, although David Silva and Kevin DeBruyne are up there.

2. The next game in this series was the the 1970 final between Chelsea and Leeds. I hated Leeds, and the 1970 Chelsea team had a bit of glamThis match is legendary for the tasty tackles. A modern ref stated that there would be 7 red cards and 22 yellows by todays standards. Is the game better today? Ask one of Chopper Harris's victims, not me!

3. Next up we have a legendary local game. Non League Hendon reached the 3rd round and got Newcastle away. To everyone's amazement, they got a draw. The replay was at Vicarage Road. It was amazing seeing Hendon on telly. Sadly I wasn't there, my Dad refused to take me. Half the school went. Sadly Hendon lost 4-0, but it was a great run.

4. And on to 1976.  Manchester Utd vs Southampton.  As a City fan, I wanted Southampton, with little expectation that they'd actually win it. I watched it with my cousins, who were staunch Man Utd fans. They'd only asked me so the could gloat. Utd fans are like that. As it turned out, I rather enjoyed this one. The only other City fan in the room was their Dad, my Uncle Jim, who just sat their smoking his pipe and chuckling.

5. If truth be told, I don't really like Arsenal at all. They always struck me as the Man Utd of the South. But when they met Man Utd in the 1979, clearly there was only one team I could support. This was perhaps the best cup final for an almost neutral that I'd seen. It was the talk of the school for weeks. I think many Utd fans were scarred by it.

6. The 1981 FA Cup final replay between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur was the first FA Cup final I attended. I went with my best mate Brian Shillibeer, we'd queued all night for tickets, as they were released at 9am on the Sunday. Brian is a Spurs fan. This was the first replay at Wembley. Unlike the final, there were no dignitaries, the ground was packed with fans, who'd gone to extraordinary lengths to get tickets. The game had two wonder goals, Steve Mackenzie's bullet shot and Ricky Villa's dribble through the whole City team. To my mind, it will always be the greatest final. I was gutted, but honoured to be there. 

7. Fast forward a couple of decades. I got my revenge on Brian. In 2004, City went to White Hart Lane in the FA Cup. At half time, City were 3-0 down and playing atrociously. To make matters worse, Joey Barton got sent off for arguing with the ref after the whistle blew. I contemplated going home. This was before the oil billions poured in and City were still a bit crap. What happened next has been billed as the best comeback in the history of the FA Cup, I won't argue

8. Onwards to 2011. The billions had arrived, but the 36 years without a trophy albatross was still hanging around the neck of City. They got through to the Semi's of the FA Cup. We got the draw we were dreading. It was Man Utd. I got tickets in the Prawn Sandwich ring, at great expense. I took my son Matt and we had a sense of trepidation. As we approached the stadium, we saw drunk Utd fans performing many acts of anti social behaviour, not a City fan in sight. The sense of anxiety rose. Where were the City fans? The answer was clear. We got to the stadium and the City fans had turned up early to soak up the vibe, whilst the Utd fans got drunk in the local hostelries, turning up five minutes before kick off. It was a tense game, until the legend that is Yaya Toure took measures into his own hands. City were through, the red plague was vanquished. Every time I hear a racist chant at a match, I think of Yaya. I know who'd side I'm on. Thank you Yaya. To make the experience even better, we were sat by 70's City legend Gary Owen. He is a proper gent.

9. The next time I saw City, was the first time I saw them lift the trophy at Wembley. They played Stoke in the final. TBH after the Man Utd game, it was almost an anti climax. City were the hot favourites and Stoke were not exactly a great football team. If it wasn't the first time I'd been there to see City lift the cup, it would not feature at all. But cometh the hour, cometh the man! Yaya yet again came up with the goods.

10. And finally, a journey that started in 1969, ends 50 years later back at Wembley. City Vs Watford (another of my favourite teams). In truth, it wasn't a match, it was a slaughter. The Watford fans seemed to enjoy the day out and there was a good atmosphere. FOr City fans, it was like a coronation, as it was the treble, something I'd never have dreamed of a decade before when I watched City beat Gillingham on penalties in the Third tier play off final. 

I just hope that if ever I have cause to update this list, maybe this seasons Hadley run will be a part of it. My absolute dream would be for them to face City, it would be great in the final, but I'd settle for the third round!

That's all folks!

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