This is the 23nd in the first series of exclusive FA Cup Memories from all across the football spectrum, published on the day the FA Cup Final was scheduled to be played.
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 5-Live commentator and sebior football reporter.
SERIES ONE, No. 23
Connection to the world of Football: 5 Live commentator and Senior Football Reporter
John Murray and Ian Dennis
First memory of the FA Cup: Ian says “Hazy memories of Ipswich v Arsenal in 78 but watching the Final the following year with my twin brother of Arsenal v Manchester United. Steve had a soft spot for Arsenal so was dancing around the living room as Alan Sunderland slid in at the far post. The beauty of the Cup Final in those days is that it was an all-day affair with the build-up starting many hours before the match. The interviews at the team hotel, on the team bus, the various features meant the day had a real sense of occasion. I know times change but it’s because of those wonderful memories that I cherish the competition.”
Ian is in great company, as this series has shown, in that the FA Cup, as it was presented as a whole day event in the ‘70s and ‘80s, has stayed with those who lived through that presentation, resulting in them having a huge fondness for the competition for evermore.
Those two Finals at the back end of the 1970s, not only involved Arsenal in both matches, but also resulted in Brian Talbot becoming the first player in 100 years to win an FA Cup Winner’s medal in two consecutive seasons with two different clubs.
Favourite memory of the FA Cup: Ian says, “My first FA Cup final was very special. I was working for BBC Radio Newcastle and although Newcastle lost 2-0 to Arsenal, I enjoyed everything around it from the build up to the amazing reception the supporters gave the players upon their return to the city. I know from being close to Kenny Dalglish on the double decker bus for their homecoming that he was humbled by the sheer number of Newcastle fans that greeted them.
In terms of goals then it has to be Chris Waddle, Bradford City v Everton, 4th round 1997 at Goodison Park. A goal to lift you out of your seat and I often remind him of it when we work together. Just a few yards outside the centre circle, Chris comes onto the ball at the side, rather than running onto it, wraps his left foot and strikes the ball as it sails over Neville Southall into the net.
He then runs away to the far side and dances deliriously in front of the 9,000 travelling fans.
An outrageous goal!”
I love that description of Chris Waddle’s goal for Bradford, the way that Ian can describe it so perfectly. Upon reading it, I immediately searched for a clip of it on the internet, and it is exactly how Ian tells it, right down to the ‘delirious dance’. The look of disbelief on Neville Southall’s face after he realises it has gone in is worth seeing.
It just goes to show that a favourite memory in the FA Cup doesn’t have to be about your team winning a big match or lifting the Trophy. Both of Ian’s memories recall particular events associated with the competition; one an experience that covered two whole days, the other a piece of outrageous magic produced in a matter of seconds.
Last FA Cup match attended: Ian says, “Chelsea v Liverpool in the 5th round at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday 3rd March, 2020.
It seems so long ago and I only commentated on 2 more matches, (Arsenal v West Ham and Leipzig v Tottenham) before disruption due to coronavirus.
A successive defeat for Liverpool was the story but my main memory will be the display of Billy Gilmour for Chelsea. I thought he gave an assured display beyond his years for someone who is just 18. Always willing to receive the ball, tidy in possession, creative and combative, Gilmour stole the show as Chelsea won 2-0.”
Chelsea have the upper hand over Liverpool in the FA Cup, with the victory in March being their seventh in eleven FA Cup meeting against the Merseyside club, an imbalance that includes an FA Cup victory in 2012. A strange quirk is that the two sides have never played out a draw in the FA Cup, the only such head-to-head of more than 10 meetings in the competition’s history for that to be the case.
Billy Gilmour won Man of the Match in the two clubs’ latest FA Cup encounter, an award I’m sure Ian would have given, too. Chelsea have a fantastic record in the FA Cup in the 21st Century, and with youngsters such as Billy Gilmour coming through, I’m certain they will be up there challenging Arsenal as the best team in FA Cup history before too long.
Thoughts on the future of the FA Cup: Ian says, “I love the FA Cup and I’m a traditionalist, I have through my position at the BBC often spoken about protecting its values while the competition has come under threat.
Questions have raged in recent seasons whether the FA Cup still has the same level of prestige. Tweaks have been made and I was critical of how the 3rd round appeared to be decimated through a carve-up of fixtures to purely suit the demands of TV. What about the fans and their wishes?
At the time of writing, football is facing an uncertain future. Many industries have been hit hard by coronavirus but the football industry will be one of the last to get back to normal. The financial challenges are going to be vast, clubs may be lost; the landscape could easily change.
When football presses the reset button, the love for our game will be cherished even more and the importance of the FA Cup will never be diminished, not in my eyes anyway.”
There’s no doubting that Ian loves the FA Cup.
I do hope that he is right, that when football re-sets it becomes a better version of itself than had been the case before the pandemic, and that the FA Cup can be treated with respect for years to come. The FA Cup celebrates 150 years during the 2021-22 season, so there is time between now and then to make the necessary changes and commitments to ensure the famous competition has a healthy future way beyond that celebration.
It is down to those that have responsibility for running football to help make that come to fruition, and for those who participate in the game to give history and prestige of the game the same priority and regard as the ongoing pursuit of other more financially rewarding goals.
Ian Dennis with Radio Newcastle Station Managing Editor, John Harle
Sincere thanks to Ian for sharing his personal FA Cup memories, showing his fondness for the FA Cup, and his passion for ensuring a positive future for the competition.
No.24 in this exclusive FA Cup Memories series, the recollections from an actual FA Cup Winner from the 1980s, can be read by clicking on this link: https://facupfactfile.wordpress.com/2020/05/24/fa-cup-memories-series-124-micky-hazard/
No. 22 in this FA Cup Memories series, the recollections from the Chief Football Writer at the Yorkshire Evening Post, can be read by clicking on this link: https://facupfactfile.wordpress.com/2020/05/22/fa-cup-memories-series-122-graham-smyth/
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.