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Thursday, June 03, 2010

The 1977 FA Cup Final

by Matthew Eastley, author of From Bovril to Champagne (ordering details below) where these extracts come from, a highly recommended book on the 70s FA Cup, now out

The sun rises on Cup Final morning and it looks like being a warm one, which is hardly surprising as we’re closer to June than April. The red exodus from the north west is in full flow.

Train after train pulls out of Lime Street or Piccadilly. Both sets of fans are buoyant. Liverpool because they think they are going to complete the second part of the elusive treble. United fans because they think they are going to stop them. On one of the ‘special’ trains is Ian Brunton. He hasn’t missed a single first team game at Old Trafford since 1972. He and his mates are desperate to see United stop Liverpool in their tracks. “Although the press thought differently, we were confident we could stop them,” he says. It’s only 6am, but there’s already the distinctive sound of beer cans being fizzed open. By Crewe, Ian and his mates are already on their third can. By Stafford they’re up to six. It’s going to be a long day.

The southbound motorways are alive with cars sounding their horns. Scarves bearing either the famous Liver Bird or the trident-holding red devil flying from what seems like every other car. Though punk has been dominating the news, the charts are still dominated by radio-friendly, mainstream sounds: Deniece Williams’ ‘Free’, Kenny Rogers’s ‘Lucille’ and Elkie Brooks’ ‘Pearl’s a singer’ are the songs being played on the radios of the Wembley-bound cars and coaches.

As the United fans travelled south, many of them were in thoughtful mood as Mick Gorman explains: “For United fans of my age, in our late 20s and early 30s, there was the distant memory of the Babes being reduced to ten men and a passenger, by what in modern terms could only be described as assault by Aston Villa’s Peter McParland on our keeper Ray Wood and us consequently losing what should have been the ‘Double’. Twelve months later a ‘rough house’ Bolton side beat a scratch United side. Yes, there had been the moment in the sun when Leicester were beaten in 1963, but Wembley had no favourites and I went more in hope than anticipation. After all Liverpool had already won the League and the European Cup beckoned for them – European Football was what United dreamt about!”

Coach after coach pulls into the car park. United fan Pete Darby recalls a light-hearted confrontation with some Liverpool fans carrying a placard depicting Tommy Docherty as a skeleton and the line ‘that shave was too close, Doc’ – basically a piss-take of an ad campaign for the new double-bladed Gillette GII being fronted at the time by The Doc. Like their previous two finals in the same decade, Liverpool’s supporters are at the East (Tunnel) end of the stadium.

Thousands of fans are still outside. Ian Brunton and his ticketless mates have somehow made their way to the ground and are thinking how to get in. The obvious thing is to simply leap over the turnstile. The problem is, this manoeuvre requires a level of agility beyond the capability of someone who has drunk 12 cans of bitter. “I had drunk myself into a stupor,” says Ian, “and simply wasn’t capable of jumping over a turnstile. I had also spent all my money so a bribe was out of the question too. As the kick-off got nearer, I began to realise what a fool I had been and I had blown my chances of seeing the game.”

But fellow United fan Mick Gorman is now safely in the stadium. He remembers the Old Wembley with some ambivalence: “It was a magical place, but it was also a tip. The views were terrible and, with the athletics track and the low sloping terraces, the view was atrocious. So having a ticket in the Lower West was not the greatest view in the house – but at least I was in the right end. My ticket cost £2.50 and the programme 50p. But the noise was intense and the colour of the occasion with flags and homemade banners was what made the occasion so special.” Just behind Mick is a banner that is getting plenty of laughs from the United fans. It reads: “I’d rather be a Muppet than a Scouser.” Another refers to United’s potent strike force and, with another reference to that Gillette ad, says: “Jim and Stu – the new 1-2.”