The Day We Won The Cup by John Middleton
Where were you The Day We Won The Cup? I know a fair few London Saints were at Wembley that sunny spring day, with many more watching on telly, some of which may have been colour sets bought especially for the occasion. Some of you reading this weren’t even born, while I’ve heard of one of members now residing in Luxembourg who still has an unused ticket from that momentous day….
I personally can’t remember, but it’s odds-on I would have been having a kickabout with my oldest friend Chris, blissfully unaware of what was going on around 15 miles away. However, the result of what happened just after half past four that May Day, along with a couple of other contributory factors, meant I became a Saints fan and am writing this now. I sometimes wonder what might have happened if the lino had put his flag up in the 83rd minute; might I have followed one of the local teams, Watford or QPR? Or worse?!
As my only direct knowledge of the game is my BBC video from around 1988, plus numerous pieces of information absorbed over the years, I made a fairly late decision to attend the 40th anniversary The Day We Won The Cup event and hear about it from the mouths of the various horses, so to speak (a sort of Mick Channon reference there). Thanks to the Premier League refusing Pellegrini’s request to put the Manchester City game back to the Saturday, it could hardly have worked out better – watching that amazing 4-2 win and then a leisurely stroll down to the Mayflower Theatre. And it didn’t matter that it was a late Sunday night (actually Monday morning) home as the next day was a bank holiday, one that I like to think is there every year to mark our FA Cup win, particularly as it was first observed in this country in 1978.
The evening was compered by BBC Radio presenter and Saints fan Garry Richardson. He did a pretty good job despite the script handed to him, involving a few excruciating jokes. At times the night had elements of panto with some questionable “comedy” turns and routines thrown in. In my opinion, a night of Saints celebration did not need such skits as “How the match was reported on P*rtsmouth hospital radio”, but I guess a whole evening had to be filled, and this was what producer Mike Osman thought the nearly sold out 2,000+ audience would like.
After a slightly surreal beginning of a military brass band, but not the same regiment who marched across the Wembley turf 40 years previously, playing a few numbers, it all started in earnest. As you may have heard, Peter Rodrigues was double booked for the night, but all other surviving players were in attendance. It was nice that they included Paul Bennett, Pat Earles and Gerry O’Brien who all played their part in the earlier rounds.
The meat of the evening consisted of three armchairs at the front of the stage around a coffee table occupied by Garry and Big Lawrie and then in turn each of the players who otherwise were lined up further back under a big screen. As each got called up, we all watched a minute or so of their highlights from the game, followed by just a couple of minutes of questions from Richardson, with inevitably Lawrie chipping in with his anecdotes about that particular player or the incident being discussed.
This was the part of the event that slightly grated with me, as we really didn’t hear too much from the Wembley heroes. OK, so Ian Turner didn’t have a lot to say, but as we know Jim Steele can talk all night, but all seemed to have their couple of minutes before being sent back to the naughty seats at the back of the stage. Over the years I’ve been fortunate to meet most of the team including Bobby Stokes not long before his tragically early death, but I’ve never heard from Jim McCalliog and just as he was engaging us with stories of the day, he was sent on his way as it was time for yet another comedy routine. Everyone had been interviewed until the lengthy interval except Mick Channon, so we assumed he’d have a much longer time in the interview seat after, but no he just had his two or three minutes. Still, it was lovely to hear their little personal memories even if some weren’t exactly new stories to most present.
Quite rightly, every player gave fulsome praise to dear old Ossie and Stokesy. McMenemy was quick to acknowledge various club staff from the time who were in the audience along with relatives of those no longer with us. James Beattie and Frannie Benali popped up from stage left to pay testimonials to the team, with of course Frannie’s being somewhat more heartfelt and from genuine memory. Throughout the evening the big screen played video messages sent in by (from memory) Ronald Koeman, Roy Hodgson, Geoff Hurst, Alex Stepney, Jimmy Tarbuck (!), Bobby Charlton and it has to be said the contributor who was most generous in his praise, Alex Ferguson.
Towards the end we were joined by referee Clive Thomas and a very sprightly 88 year old Tommy Docherty, the Manchester United manager that day for those of you too young to remember. There was somewhat of a love-in between Lawrie and The Doc, but all very nice to see and a reminder of how wonderful football can and should be. The climax was Matt Le Tissier bringing on the FA Cup and re-presenting it to the squad to thundering applause while the big screen showed footage of the open top bus parade from 2nd May 1976, and thus leaving a few moist eyes around the house.
Overall, despite a few little niggles as mentioned above, it was a tremendous evening of nostalgia, and one I won’t forget. For the players it was the culmination of a wonderful few days involving a dinner, golf day and that recreation of the open top bus ride prior to the Manchester City game. I’m sure though that other members will agree that we hope we don’t reach the 50th anniversary with this still being our only major success.