This is the 19th 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 a serial non-league manager, a British club record holder, and a FA Vase winner.
SERIES ONE, No. 19
Connection to the world of Football: 30 years in Non-League Management (now retired). A couple of Highlights are British record of 78 unbeaten games with AFC Wimbledon and FA Vase Winner with Chertsey Town. Also Pundit for 15 years on “Non-League Football Show” and Host of “Non-League Gaffer Tapes”.
First memory of the FA Cup: Dave says, “Growing up in Belfast, FA Cup Final day was magical. TV coverage started in the morning and I never moved all day!! Also remember 1977 Man U beat Liverpool 2-1. Jimmy Nicholl, United’s right back, was first school boy international ever at my school and I was the second!! So I remember watching him and dreaming of playing at Wembley.”
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the FA Cup was watched, loved and adored outside of England, in particular in those other countries that make up the British Isles. In the 1970s you could count the number of non-British Isles players involved in English football on the fingers of one hand, but there always seemed to be plenty of Irish, Welsh and Scottish players participating in the FA Cup Final.
Alongside Jimmy Nicholl in that 1977 Manchester United team was fellow Northern Irish team-mate, the versatile David McCreery, who became involved in the game late on. There were also three Scots in the Man United side as well as a Welshman and an Irish Republic player in the Liverpool team.
It meant that the FA Cup final was followed as passionately by youngsters growing up outside England as it was by those in the country. And Dave’s memory of not moving all day on Cup Final day was replicated by statue-like young and old everywhere the Cup Final was broadcast.
Favourite memory of the FA Cup: Dave says, “Exeter v AFC Wimbledon, lost 2-1 but had 1,500 traveling fans which was unbelievable!! Also had six of my mates over from Belfast and got them on the team coach back to London 🍻🍻🍻🍻😬. Also being at the game when my mate Norman Whiteside scored the winner for Man Utd against Everton.”
As a fan, going to a game with mates produces fantastic shared memories, whether the team wins or loses. It’s not just about what happens on the pitch, but the journey to the match, the pre-match gathering, the singing, chanting and joshing during the game, the post-match drinks and the journey home. Wonderful memories, whatever the result.
But how much greater must those memories be if you have a vested interest in the game over and above just being a fan. Dave remembers with equal fondness, not only the pride of witnessing so many others coming to support the team he was managing, but also the more personal recollections of shared experience with his mates, despite the result.
And who can forget that winning goal by Norman Whiteside in the 1985 FA Cup Final? Man United had been down to 10 men from the 75th minute, owing to Kevin Moran becoming the first player sent-off in a Cup Final, and Everton, the team of the moment, were going for an unprecedented treble, when up steps 18 year-old Norman Whiteside from the right wing.
He cut into the box, produced a couple of step-overs, before curling a beautiful left-footed effort into the left hand side of the net, to not only win the Cup for Manchester United, but also to put his name into the history books as the youngest person ever to score in an FA Cup Final.
Last FA Cup match attended: Dave says, “My last FA Cup game was a Preliminary round match as Manager of Chertsey Town away at Arundel. We lost 4-0!!! We were stuffed! A few months later we were walking out at Wembley the day after FA Cup Final (for FA Vase Final). Funny old game 😳.”
That was a terrific season for Dave and Chertsey Town, culminating in promotion and lifting the FA Vase at Wembley. But none of that could have been foreseen following that FA Cup defeat in early August that season, a match that created its own piece of FA Cup history.
One of the goal-scorers for Arundel that day was a young player carrying the potential burden of a more renowned name of Liam Brady. So young, in fact, that this Liam Brady became the first player born in the 21st Century to score a goal in the FA Cup.
Thoughts on the future of the FA Cup: Dave says, “As a kid it was the biggest day of the football calendar!! I really think the FA need to enforce its stature in our game. Give the winners a place in Champions League. That would raise its profile back to where it should be. I think it’s with in their rights to do it.
Otherwise I’m afraid it’s only magic now is at Non-League Level.”
Dave is right that the FA need to do more to ensure that the FA Cup is regarded at least on a par with all the other competitions. Offering the winners a Champions League place is touted quite often as a way to ensure that the big Premier League clubs take the FA Cup seriously.
Having said that, it has been the bigger Premier League clubs who have dominated the FA Cup Finals over the past 30 years, so would that really change anything. It might make the also-rans in the Premier League and Championship sides take the FA Cup more seriously, but the reality is that the bigger clubs’ can often field a stronger second string side than the other clubs could produce with their best first team.
The problems for the FA Cup have been caused by factors outside of the competition (although there has been a shameful acquiescence by the FA to demands for it to change to accommodate those factors) and so changes need to be made elsewhere before there is any point in trying to rejuvenate the oldest of all competitions.
Many, many thanks to Dave for taking the time out to provide his personal FA Cup recollections and candid thoughts on the future of the competition. Do listen out for him on the brilliant Non-League Show and on his recently launched series, The Gaffer Tapes.
No. 20 in this exclusive FA Cup Memories series, the recollections from a presenter and reporter for BBC Essex Sport, can be read by clicking on this link: https://facupfactfile.wordpress.com/2020/05/20/fa-cup-memories-series-120-victoria-polley/
No. 18 in this FA Cup Memories series, the recollections from the Isthmian League’s social media content producer, can be read by clicking on this link: https://facupfactfile.wordpress.com/2020/05/18/fa-cup-memories-series-118-ian-townsend/
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.