This is the 16th in the first series of exclusive FA Cup Memories from all across the football spectrum.
Every day, having started on May 1st 2020, a new set of exclusive FA Cup memories are being published via this FACupFactfile blog, and today is the turn of an Aldershot Town supporting BBC Surrey Sport Commentator.
SERIES ONE, No. 16
Connection to the world of Football: BBC Surrey Sport Commentator, a member of the Aldershot Town FC Media Team and a member of the NL Full Time Podcast team.
First memory of the FA Cup: Rob says, “I was born in 1966, so my first memories of the FA Cup were as a child watching on TV. There may have only been three or four TV channels then, but both BBC1 & ITV gave it tremendous coverage and the build-up would begin from mid-morning. I was glued, flicking between the two channels to find which was showing the more interesting features, interviews and quizzes. It was a huge event and by the time the teams emerged at Wembley, “FA Cup Fever” had built to a crescendo!
Aldershot FC/Town would soon become my passion, but I’ve also been a Liverpool fan since childhood and I recall being absolutely gutted at The Reds 2-1 defeat to the Red Devils in 1977.
Nine years later, that defeat paled into insignificance as I stood on the terraces at Wembley to witness my first ever FA Cup Final in the flesh! Ian Rush & Gary Lineker in their absolute pomp. In all truth, the Toffees dominated it early on, Lineker smartly tucking away his 40th goal of the season, further warranting his PFA ‘Player of the Year’ award. Only a couple of brilliant interceptions by Hansen and Lawrenson, plus an amazing Bruce Grobbelaar ‘tip-over’ save from Sharpe kept ‘The Reds’ in it.
After the break, two goals in six minutes, from Rush and Craig Johnston turned the final around for Liverpool and Rush added the gloss (remember that strike that knocked over a camera just behind the net?) to wrap up a League & Cup Double for The Reds under player/manager Kenny Dalglish.”
Rob’s FA Cup memories are similar to those of most of us of a certain age, split between those childhood memories of watching the FA Cup Final, build up and all, on TV, and those more formative years’ memories of actually being at an FA Cup match, in Rob’s case that being an FA Cup Final.
Ian Rush holds the record for most FA Cup goals scored in FA Cup Finals, with four of them coming against Everton in two separate years (the 5th versus Sunderland). Rush also scored 44 goals in the FA Cup in total, second only to Harry Cursham who netted 49 times for Notts County in the 19th Century.
Favourite memory of the FA Cup: Rob says, “11th December 1982 – Fratton Park. Portsmouth 1 Aldershot 3.
I was sixteen and stood on the terraces as ‘The Shots’ pulled off an unlikely FA Cup ‘giant-killing’ (well, in truth, Pompey were in the Third Division that season, but would go on to become Champions) thanks to a couple of Dale Banton goals and one from Les Briley, who had levelled things after Neil Webb’s opener for the home side.
32 years later, I was also at Fratton Park on Armistice Day to witness a ‘spine-tingling’ occasion as representatives of both the Army and Navy took part in an extended ‘Remembrance’ parade prior to kick off. The match itself was a cracker! Jed Wallace gave Pompey an early lead, but Shots levelled on the stroke of half time through Jordan Roberts. On 68 minutes, Mark Molesley sent 2000 ‘Red & Blue’ supporters into raptures as Town fans dared to dream, only for a late Danny Hollands header to earn Portsmouth a replay.
It was to be a money-spinning one though for Aldershot, as it was chosen for live TV coverage and another Molesley strike would go on to earn ‘The Shots’ a 1-0 victory, not to mention the Hampshire bragging rights.”
Two cracking memories of North Hampshire beating South Hampshire in the FA Cup, and very poignant memories for Rob, associated with a military town like Aldershot, to witness first-hand the Armistice Day pre-match parade. There is a strong connection between football and the military, and in the FA Cup even more so, with Royal Engineers participating in the first ever FA Cup Final in 1872 and being the only military side to lift the Trophy in 1875.
Last FA Cup match attended: Rob says, “November 2019, FA Cup 1st Round, Bromley 4 Aldershot Town 3. I commentated on the tie for BBC Surrey Sport, but in all truth, it wasn’t quite the ‘cracker’ that the score line suggests. Bromley were 2-0 up inside ten minutes and led throughout, but the home side, flying high in the National League and in great form at the time, did have to negotiate a rather nervy final few minutes after Aldershot pegged them back to 4-3.”
It must be very difficult to commentate on a football match when you have a passionate interest in the outcome, especially so when your club is on the wrong end of a result. I had the pleasure of joining rob at an Aldershot Town FA Cup match against Bradford City, and it was fascinating to witness him in action. Although the pre-match report live to the radio, transmitted from inside a sweet-shop after being drenched in a torrential downpour, was more entertaining.
Thoughts on the future of the FA Cup: Rob says, “There’s no doubting that, at the top end of the game, its importance has diminished, which is tragic. However, lower down the pyramid, in the EFL and Non-League, I genuinely believe that it’s valued as truly and highly as ever. Whilst I’m not a fan of extra-time, I would love to see ‘replays’ retained and though it’s unlikely to happen, a return to the traditional kick off time of 3pm on a Saturday. Long live the FA Cup!”
It is often perceived to be nostalgic whimsy to pine for the FA Cup to return to how it was, but the truth of the matter is that replays and extra time, and Saturday 3.0pm kick-offs, are still the norm for the competition and happening all across the Qualifying Rounds. And coincidentally, as Rob identifies, the FA Cup is valued the highest at this level of the game, too. Funny that.
Maybe there is a correlation there that the FA might want to look into, to help bring the competition up higher in priority in the minds of those at the top, professional end of the pyramid?
My sincere thanks to Rob for sharing his FA Cup memories and recollections. If you get a chance do try to listen out for him on BBC Surrey radio on a Saturday afternoon, if for nothing else, to hear how he controls his passion when commentating on Aldershot Town.
No. 17 in this FA Cup Memories series, the recollections from an ITV Sport presenter and BT Sport Score presenter, can be read by clicking on this link: https://facupfactfile.wordpress.com/2020/05/17/fa-cup-memories-series-117-mark-pougatch/
No. 15 in this FA Cup Memories series, the recollections from a football presenter / reporter for the Premier League & BT Sport, can be read by clicking on this link: https://facupfactfile.wordpress.com/2020/05/15/fa-cup-memories-series-115-becky-ives/
You can read this exclusive FA Cup Memories series from where it all started with BBC 5 Live Commentator John Murray by clicking on this link: https://facupfactfile.wordpress.com/2020/05/01/fa-cup-memories-series-11-john-murray/
Follow @FACupFactfile on Twitter for news of when future memories are published.