The FA Cup Final was a football match worth watching. I have been to Wembley - I watched West Bromwich Albion beat Preston North End in 1954. My father was the Secretary of the Aldershot Town FC supporters club, and as all league clubs were allocated small numbers of tickets for the final, he was able to obtain a ticket. He had been at the 1953 final when Blackpool came back from the dead to beat Bolton Wanderers 4-3. This was Stanley Matthews' final. Some regard Matthews as the greatest footballer ever better even than Pele. He was known as the wizard of the dribble. He played on the right wing and had the beating of every full back. On this great day he provide crosses from the right to enable Stan Mortenson to score three goals. No-one has scored a hat-trick in a Cup final since. Matthews went on playing top football until the age of 53!
The other great winger of that era was Tom Finney who played for Preston North End. In 1954 we thought that Finney might repeat Matthews's feat and win a medal. Alas West Brom won. I was taken to the match by Mr Calton, my headmaster. My father had obtained a ticket for him too. Astute readers will realise that this was the year that I took the 11+ exam. I hope that the bribe wasn't necessary.
Yesterday's match began with defences on top, with very little activity in the first twenty minutes. Then in eleven minutes came three goals. First, West Ham, the underdogs, struck. Ashcroft, the mid-season signing from Norwich, put through a well-timed pass to the overlapping full back, Scolari, who centered immediately. It was the goalkeeper's to deal with, but needing a shout, Jamie Carragher in attempting to clear, shinned the ball into the net with his trailing leg. Minutes later, a shot from Etherington was blocked by Raina, but the goalie lost control of the rebound and Ashcroft punced to slide it home.
West Ham looked to be cruising, but Steven Gerrard, the Liverpool captain, as so may times before, rescued his side. A cross pitch pass cut out both full back and center back, allowing Djibril Cisse to steal in and volley home Liverpool's first.
Peter Crouch is a skinny giant who wins everything in the air. He nods down a high ball for Gerrard to equalize with a screamer from the edge of the penalty area. Within a few minutes West Ham are ahead again. Kanchesky atempts a cross from the left, but he overhits it. Raina misjudges it and it flies over his head and into the net; 3-2.
Time passes. On the stroke of 90 minutes, just as the announcer lets us know there will be 4 minutes of overtime for injuries, Stevie Gerrard lets loose abeauty from even further out and it scorches into the net; 3-3. West Ham are stunned. The cup was theirs. But as teams prepare for extra time it is West Ham who are on their feet and eagar; Liverpool are in agony, cramps and crocks everywhere lying spreadeagled on the pitch.
Overtime: only one incident: a West Ham corner bounces off the back of o0ne of their players. Liverpool cannot clear and the pull falls to Harewood, the West Ham forward who is barely able to stand with a sprained ankle, but all the substitutes have been used and he must soldier on half crippled. Harewood swipes at the ball, but it trickles feebly past the post.
And so to the penalty shoot out. Raina, responsible for two and possibly all three of West Ham's goals become a hero. Only 40 year old Teddy Sherringham's nerve holds for the Hammers. Raina saves three and Liverpool win the cup.