Let me tell you why I love the FA Cup Final. Cup Final day, at the end or the middle of May, always seems to be a sunny, sunny day, heralding the start of summer (through my rose-tinted spectacles). It was the FA Cup Final this weekend, and it made me realise how much football is a barometer of life. It was also a gloriously sunny late-spring day. Just like favourite songs can take you back to a certain time in your life, the FA Cup Final does this for me too. It all started with the first final I can remember: 1970, Arsenal v Liverpool, where Liverpool scored first, but Arsenal came back to win 2-1 after extra time. I can still see Charlie George throwing himself onto his back, arms aloft, waiting to be jumped upon by his jubilant team mates after scoring the winning goal. He now runs tours around the Emirates Stadium for Arsenal. But he was a man of the times and truly looked like the hero of the early 1970s that he unquestionably was.
Every year, myself and my friend, Stewart Sutherland, over the road, would take turns to host FA Cup Final. It would start at lunch time with the build up and appearances from such greats as Eric Morcombe to lighten the mood. And snacks. We’d watch the whole three-hour build-up before the game. And eat snacks. Happy times.
And then there was the Wimbledon-Liverpool final in 1988. Having won the league already, Liverpool would have become the first club ever to win the League/FA Cup double twice if they had won. This takes me back to Zimbabwe, where I was in a small village/mining settlement deep in the bush near Masvingo. Wimbledon (known as the “Crazy Gang”) were an amazingly dirty outfit and much worse than their opponents. I could tell tales of the club I support, who are always underdogs, but on the rare occasions when they are the opposite (i.e. “hot favourites” – although I would prefer “overdogs”) always seem to fuck up big-time. I guess Gazza would be the man to ask about Wimbledon’s tactics and how they dealt with being the underdogs:
I don’t know why, perhaps it was because my brother’s friend, Jim, said it would be a walk over (as it should have been), but I took on a $Z20 bet supporting the underdogs. Jim was so confident that he gave me odds of 20:1, so it could have lost me one zimbo dollar. And we were able to sit in the middle of the bush in Africa and watch the match live on TV. The Dons went one nil up and Liverpool were awarded a penalty. The Wimbledon keeper, Dave Beasant, saved it.
And that is when Jim threw twenty zimbo dollars through the air my way.
Now to this year, where I was able to find a lovely spot in our garden to sit and watch the FA Cup Final. This one will go down as a football-is-life-experience, enjoying the terrace we had worked so hard to dig out and build.
And at half-time, going for a walk with the dog-hound and appreciating the fact that we live on the edge of town; although I can walk into town in ten minutes, if I walk in the other direction, I am in the countryside surrounding Totnes.
I can not tell you where I was for every Cup Final, but I do remember certain ones as benchmarks in life, just like certain songs. This is one of the reasons why I love the FA Cup Final.