My favourite game: Manchester United v Brighton, 1983 FA Cup final replay | Sport

It is hard for anyone much under 40 to grasp how important the FA Cup final used to be, how simultaneously desirable going to the Wembley showpiece was to an English football fanatic growing up in the 1970s and 80s. One of only two matches you knew would be televised live (along with England v Scotland), it overshadowed league football in a way unthinkable today.

In 1983, aged 15, I travelled to watch the 1983 final at the home of a Manchester United-supporting friend who lived at the far end of the London Underground line that runs through Wembley. Neither my friend Simon nor I settled down to watch United play Brighton with any thought of what might happen next.

My favourite game

What should have happened is that Brighton – just relegated from the top flight – should have added their name to the honoured list of small teams to shock the mighty. After a 2-2 draw, in the dying seconds of extra time, Michael Robinson teed up Gordon Smith, who had scored the first goal of the game. The moment has gone down in history to the words of Peter Jones’s Radio 2 commentary – “And Smith must score!” – but we watched it unfold in the company of John Motson: “There’s somebody to his right – it’s Smith – and Bailey saved! What an amazing opportunity for Brighton to win the Cup!”

Brighton’s Gordon Smith (far right) is foiled by the Manchester United goalkeeper, Gary Bailey, in the last moments of extra time during the first final. Photograph: Colorsport/Shutterstock

Moments later, the game finished 2-2. For the third year in a row, there would be a replay – and tickets would go on sale at Wembley the next morning. Smith’s “amazing opportunity” to win the Cup had suddenly turned into one for us to try to get to a final.

Delicate telephone negotiations ensued, for permission to be out on a school night, with O levels looming. But the next morning, we caught the first train from Chesham to Wembley.

A ticket to the 1983 FA Cup final replay.

A ticket to the 1983 FA Cup final replay. Photograph: Ben Ramos/Alamy

The Wembley queue was daunting in length from the first. Soon it was so tightly packed that at one point I lifted up my feet to see what happened and I just carried on moving forward, albeit slowly. People had to beg the police to be let out of the queue, over the barriers, to use the toilet and be let back in. The police started to turn newcomers away, then sent some people home, a few hundred behind us in the line. But eventually we made our way up the steps, through the turnstiles, and ran to what I think were greyhound-betting booths converted into ticket offices.

After a few days of bragging at school, we set out for heaven on the Thursday afternoon. We peered through the fencing and across the greyhound track as Bryan Robson gave United the lead and Norman Whiteside then became, at 18, the youngest scorer in an FA Cup final. Brighton battled, Bailey having to tip a shot over, but just before half-time Robson scored his second. Unlike the first game it was no thriller, but we were there, enthralled.

Manchester United fans enjoying themselves at Wembley ahead of the replay.

Manchester United fans enjoy themselves at Wembley prior to the replay. Photograph: PA Images

A fourth goal came, to Simon’s delight, from an Arnold Muhren penalty. But the moment that sticks firmest in the memory came just before that from Steve Foster, the Brighton captain, who had failed in a high-court attempt to overturn a suspension that ruled him out of the Saturday. The section of the crowd we were in struck up a chorus to the tune of Bread of Heaven: “Stevie Foster, Stevie Foster, What a difference you have made, What a difference you have made.”

He turned to us, with the ball safe, and put his left hand across his right elbow, before raising his right forearm in a universal gesture of “up yours”. As can be seen, 45 seconds into this video.

Arnold Muhren (No 8) turns away after slotting the ball home from the spot as his teammates celebrate Manchester United’s fourth and final goal in their victory over Brighton and Hove Albion in the 1983 FA Cup final replay at Wembley Stadium.

Arnold Muhren (No 8) turns away after slotting the ball home from the spot as his teammates celebrate Manchester United’s fourth and final goal. Photograph: Mirrorpix/Getty Images

I have been to Wembley well over a hundred times now and seen some great moments but few compare with simply being there that night. Gordon Smith’s FA Cup nightmare made my final dream a reality.

Source Article