Thursday, May 15, 2003

Final destination

The Cup Final actually meant something in our house. That day more than any other saw my family (excluding my philistine sisters) acting like the archetypal 1950’s nuclear family round the television watching the build up and the game.

Dad had the inordinate talent for naming every cup winner since 1872, usually annotating his answer with a neat bit of trivia; “Ah yes, 1939, the Monkey Glands Final”. Such a feat was made all the more staggering in that he usually fell asleep ten minutes before half time waking up ten minutes before the end to announce that “This is the worst cup final I’ve ever seen”.

What was special about the cup final was the build up. It always started early, perhaps with Cup Final Swap Shop. Then you’d see the players getting up (having their first fag, kicking the old tart out the bedroom etc.), you’d see them choosing their cup final suits (grey, shiny, white flecks), going on the coach to the game and finally disappearing into Wembley.

Intertwined was the showbiz element. Stan Boardman, Cup Final Question of Sport (Emlyn Hughes, Bill Beaumont), the celebrity fans. What’s more, it was BBC and ITV at the same time. One year we set up a portable black and white next to the normal telly so we could watch both sides at the same time. As technology progressed, we’d record ITV whilst BBC was on live. We’d often miss bits because there weren’t three strong men available to lift the new tape into the machine. This was when you hit record; the buttons would give off a satisfying “KERCHUNK” noise.

You were usually exhausted by kick-off. Traditionally it’s always hot, often you’d get some old pro announcing that it was 450 degrees at pitch level and that the players, dehydrated from the previous night’s booze up wouldn’t cope. Cramp was an occupational hazard and there are many stories of players having to go off after scoring because they exhausted themselves celebrating.

The games weren’t always classics, Alan Sunderland’s last minute goal in 1979 probably making that year the best cup final in a generation. His hairdo was probably the best perm in a generation too. Coventry in 1987 was a classic, Liverpool v Everton in 1989 set to the backdrop of the Hillsborough disaster was an amazing day. Not least seeing people scaling the walls of Wembley to get in.

Anyway, I shall be thinking about all this as I sit in my seat on Saturday.

Oh sorry, did I forget to mention I’m going to the Cup Final this year?


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