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FA Cup
Saturday, 13th May 2006

Liverpool 3
West Ham United 3

by Gordon Thrower


Gnome’s FA Cup Final Diary: Monday 1 May

I put the finishing touches to an article for the Cup Final programme before popping over to the Boleyn to collect my Cup Final Ticket. The lovely girlfriend insists on listening to Heart FM (No Band Too Bland) in the car. As we turn into the club car park the unmistakable opening bars of “Build Me Up Buttercup” start up. The lovely girlfriend immediately hits the off switch. She’s very well-trained.

Sunday 7 May

All the post match press-conference following the Sp*rs match Martin Jol all the talk is of dodgy lasagne. Jol himself doesn’t look too well as the hotel catering comes in for a verbal mugging. Inwardly I laugh – though this burst of schadenfreude is to come back to haunt me over the next few days.

Monday 8 May

My boss has sent me on a course – ostensibly to improve my business skills but possibly because he thinks I’ll be about as much use as a chocolate teapot around the office in the week before the final. (No change there then). Sp*rs demand a replay. The Premier League pause only long enough to stop laughing before turning down the demand. I suspect this is one decision that they didn’t need input from David Dein for, though I also suspect that he might have made the phonecall anyway. The lovely girlfriend calls to inform me that the car has been broken into. The Metropolitan Police send over precisely zero officers, 20 fewer than were deemed necessary to investigate a dodgy lasagne 24 hours previously. The damage means that we are without transport for the final.

Thursday 11 May

The lovely girlfriend has sorted out a hire car. Me? I seem to have come down with a bug. In fact I’ve been lousy all week, ever since meeting Martin Jol. My suspicions are increased by the revelation that Sp*rs’ problems were caused by a bug not by the Marriot’s lasagne. I make a note to ask the Marriot to add my name to any law suit they might take out on Sp*rs.

Friday 12 May

The day, like much of the week, is spent in and out of the smallest room at the Hitchin Priory Conference Centre. My temperature is higher than a Christian Dailly defensive clearance and, if the game were any ordinary away game I wouldn’t travel. It isn’t and I do.

After the course the lovely girlfriend picks me up and drives me down to the Welsh borders where we are to stay with her conveniently-located sister. TLG congratulates me on not having called her to ask if she’s remembered to bring my ticket. On the way I receive a call from Sicknote who informs me of the meet-up plans. Breakfast at 8.30 at the hotel has been booked. I check the train timetable and work out that I will need to get a train from Hereford at 7.25 meaning we have to get up at 6am. I break the news to TLG gently. She takes it quite well really, keeping one hand on the wheel as she hits me with the other.

We arrive at TLG’s sister’s place. TLG’s young nephew seems impressed by the fact that I’m actually going to the game and by the splendid article in the semi-final programme. For all their street wisdom it appears that kids these days are easily impressed.

Saturday 13 May

I’ve had a bad night’s sleep. Not through nerves but because of the grip that Jol’s bug has had on me. I can’t stop shivering, I ache and have never felt less like going to a football match. TLG takes a look at me and suggests I ought to consider staying in bed before conceding that it was not one of the brighter suggestions she will ever make.

I arrive at the Jurys hotel and make a beeline for the smallest room. Whilst I am there Sicknote calls to check I have made it ok. We meet in reception where we are briefly joined by Chris Waddle. Waddle looks rough – though I reckon this was the result of a good night in the Jurys bar rather than having met Martin Jol. Gent arrives with a copy of the programme. It features a fantastic article on pages 64 & 65. I offer to sign it for Gent for a fiver and to leave it untouched for a tenner.


Gent and Sicknote are stunned by the quality of the writing on pages 64 & 65

The Romford crew arrive in an executive mini-coach that was last used by the Black Eyed Peas who, I believe, are a popular beat combo. I decide to risk the breakfast on the grounds that I’ve barely eaten for 48 hours. This turns out to be a dreadful mistake. At breakfast we bump into Phil Parkes who piles his plate high. We also have a brief chat with Alex Ferguson’s favourite full-back Kenny Brown.

After breakfast the bar opens. I am in absolutely no fit state to be drinking and am grateful for Romford’s tip as to the location of the disabled facilities, the queue in the Gents being quite lengthy. When I finally emerge back into daylight I go out onto the balcony. Cars, coaches and mini-busses all decked out in claret and blue go past. The best one is a professional claret and blue paint-job bearing the legend “Marriot Hotel Chef’s Special Lasagne”.

I adjourn to the Walkabout where I have arranged to meet various people. I bump into the lovely Jen and Alf Garnett’s lovely ex Missus. We are treated to Chevvy’s DVD of “Right Hammerings”. I am surprised how many of these seem to have involved us sticking five past Derby County. We also get the 1975 Cup Final – complete with beards, ‘keepers picking up back passes, a big letter “R” on the screen to show it’s an action replay and a massive clock popping up every 15 minutes. Marvellous nostalgia.

I am joined by Alan and Trevor, my two fellow inmates from the West Stand and, eventually, the lovely Margot. The lovely Margot has had a different journey to most today, her morning having started aboard the cruise liner Oriana. As you do.


The Lovely Margot – Cruise Liner Not Shown

We adjourn to the quieter location of Potters. Apart from the ease of getting served, Potters has one major plus point as far as I’m concerned. It has no queue for the loo and I gratefully disappear for 20 minutes.

We decide to get to the ground earlyish in order to soak up some of the atmosphere. Alan sportingly queues for programmes to allow Trevor and me to take our seats. In the past, at times of great emotion, regular readers will be aware that I have blamed watering eyes on dodgy contact lenses, shampoo in my eye, that sort of thing. However, I am not ashamed to say that the pre-match rendition of “Bubbles” has me blubbing my eyes out. I am determined to enjoy all the Cup Final Traditions. Abide With Me is sung with gusto and I cast a thought back to the 70’s when the FA decided to abandon the traditional hymn only to be forced into a u-turn by fan power. The FA being out of touch with supporters is not a modern thing.


Some traditions you just don’t mess with

I am sat with a number of KUMB regulars including an incredibly nervous –looking Chalks. I spend a quick moment responding to text messages of support from Sp*rs, Arsenal and Geordie fans. The team news is that, but for the scandalous absence of Mullins who has been denied a place by Garcia’s play-acting, we are at full strength with both Matty and Deano pasing fitness tests.

The game starts and the first 20 minutes pass without much in the way of incident save for Konch’s early clattering of Gerrard. We’re looking, dare we say it very comfortable. Then, gloriously, and wonderfully we take the lead. Liverpool give the ball away in midfield to Yossi. Yossi feeds Deano whose ball inside the full-back channel is sublime. Len has made a marvellous run from the deep and plays the ball across and, with Marlon hovering menacingly, Carragher makes a right mess of things and puts the ball into the empty net. Pandemonium. The Liverpool supporters are even more silent than they have been all afternoon. Bonehead and I look at eachother in disbelief. We suddenly dare to believe we can win this. I receive a million and one texts – if I haven’t replied to you you’ll understand why.

Five minutes later we double the lead. A ball is played in from the right towards Ashton who wins the header. Matty gets on the end of it and beats Hyppia with ease getting a shot in that has direction but little pace. Reina fumbles and Deano is on hand to squeeze the rebound home. I have paused for a good fifteen minutes at this point to find words to describe how I was feeling at this point but I’ll be honest I am struggling. You had to be there and I’m really sorry if you weren’t.

Back up the other end Fletch wins the ball off Kewell. Kewell dives. This Liverpool side seems to contain more than its fair share of, shall we say, unstable players but seem to escape the criticism that other sides deservedly get. The free-kick is taken quickly and Crouch puts the ball away as the flag goes up. Later reports suggest that the decision was marginal but given the free-kick shouldn’t have been awarded in the first place I’ll accept the justice.

Shortly afterwe are not so lucky. Gerrard plays a long ball over the top. Cisse has got the wrong side of Scaloni and puts the ball away first time. The Liverpool supporters sing for the first time. Never has the chant of “we forgot that you were here” seemed more apt.

Deano ends a fine run with a shot going just wide and we finish the half looking ok and good value for the lead. I meet up with Alan at half time and we discuss the match. We both agree that there’s a long way to go. I manage to get into one of the few empty cubicles in the Millennium Stadium loos and spend te remainder of the interval there.

The second half starts. Deano plays another fine ball inside the full back and Matty plays it across for Marlon whose first time effort is saved by Reina. The ball rebounds to Yossi who cleverly skips inside a challenge only to see his shot blocked again by Reina. We should be 3-1 up. We’re not. Highbury returns to his seat having arrived seconds after the incident.

Then our luck runs out. Riise goes on a run forward and, losing the ball to NRC, throws himself to the floor. Ref Wiley, who has given every 50-50 decision to Liverpool, falls for it. It’s never a foul but it’s given.. The ball gets played in and the ball is headed down to Gerrard who puts an unstoppable shot past Shaka. This again wakes up the Liverpool support who have been very disappointing up to now.

We steel ourselves. We up the volume. Deano picks up a very unfortunate yellow for a nothing challenge. Anton just fails to get on the end of a Yossi corner and the break looks dangerous until the magnificent Gabbidon comes across to intercept.

The hour passes. Yossi finds Konch who steps forward and puts over a cross. It’s not. It’s not. IT IS IT’S IN!!!! It’s an impossible goal. Reina has lost it completely. Frankly he’s not the only one. If I couldn’t find words to describe exactly how I felt after the second goal you’ll excuse me for not even trying to get anywhere near the emotion for the third.

NRC goes close on the left before an obviously tiring Deano is replaced by Zamora. Deano has run his socks off. Football Genius comes on for Fletch to that midfield protecting role. Meanwhile Gabbidon seems to be having a love affair with the ball. Every cross, pass and shot comes his way. Marlon messes around with the ball before losing possession. Yossi puts the ball into Row Z in an apparent message to Marlon.

10 minutes left. Cisse crosses to Morientes who heads over and wide. Livergain a corner despite no West Ham player getting within yards of the ball. Morientes makes a pig’s ear of the header. Yossi and Matty break. Matty crosses and Reina loses it again though the ball stays in play and we eventually win a corner. We stop play to allow the substitution. Incredibly the ref awards Liverpool a throw rather than allowing us to take the corner. Young Edward replaces Matty.

Teddy is penalised for handball. Gerrard puts the ball wide.

2 minutes left. Cisse goes down with cramp. Scaloni puts the ball out. Sportingly Liverpool give the ball back. Unsportingly a Liverpool player puts pressure on Scaloni who clears rather than allowing the ball to run out for a goal kick. You know the rest. Gutted.

Injury time. Sheringham wins a free kick. Konch beats the wall but Reina holds onto it. The final whistle. Initially there is a sense of devastation in the crowd. Then there is the realisation that we are still there and we start singing again. Alan Pardew’s Claret and Blue Army. I note that our players are on their feet whilst Liverpool’s are lying down. I remember 66.

Extra Time First Half. Gerrard dives after minimal contact from Dailly. The ball ends up with Hyppia who drops his shoulder and hits a shot just wide. Not much else happens. The portly figure of Ges Steinbergs, the club doctor walks onto the pitch to gee up the fans.

Extra time second half. Kronkamp pulls a shot across the goal. Cisse sticks a bandage on his thigh and insists on rolling his shorts up so we can all see the strapping. Scaloni and Harewood combine well to win a corner except that the lino sees a touch nobody else does and gives the goal kick.

Zamora wins a corner on the left. Yossi takes. Reina punches NRC volleys in. Free-kick though God knows why. Players go down. Konch eventually gets the ball out. Harewood’s knock looks serious. He’s been scissored by Sissoko in front of Wiley who has given nothing. Liverpool don’t give the ball back from the throw. Sissoko falls over and gains a free kick.

Marlon can’t walk. We chant his name. It’s bravery plus adrenaline that see him stagger back on. Bobby Z goes on a run that sees him cynically hacked down by Hyppia who has the nerve to protest.

Morientes fails to get on the end of a cross from the left and rolls about a bit in a vain search for a penalty.

Hamann chops down Bobby and the ref finally remembers he has cards. Yossi’s free-kick is met by NRC and the ball comes back off the post to Marlon. A fit Marlon and it’s a goal. Unfortunately a Marlon that’s been crudely taken out by Sissoko is all we have and the ball goes wide.

Penalties. You all know what happens. Nothing really to add except that If refs really are going to speak to keepers about moving off their line the least they can do is back up their words with actions. Just look how far out Reina is each time if you can bear to watch it again.

Ferdinand misses. There is a brief explosion of noise from the other end then “Bubbles”. It’s a song of defiance, a song of pride in our team. It’s a pride that Chelsea, Man United and yes even Liverpool supporters for all their arrogance, their trophies and their airbrushed histories will never be able to match. Whatever they do they will never be able to say “We Are West Ham”. As if to ram the point home the presentation of the cup is greeted by more “Bubbles”.

Having cried like a baby before the match I am surprised that I am tear-free post match. I try to gee up my companions. Some are inconsolable though it would be unfair of me to mention names. I can honestly say that I have never been so proud of either my club or my fellow supporters in my life. The lovely girlfriend, who, bless her, has been wearing claret and blue all day, texts me hugs. I receive dozens of texts all commiserating. Even my Mum leaves a message saying how much she was rooting for us – and she’s convinced I’m going to grow out of my infatuation with football any year now.

We adjourn to the Jurys bar where I find an unoccupied cubicle for a while. I bump into Sicknote outside a gay bar but decide that my youthful good looks might prove too tempting for the usual clientele and head off to Hereford. By now my temperature is through the roof and I’m shivering. I’ve managed to get through the day on a mixture of adrenaline and sheer willpower and frankly the day has taken its toll. I board a train full of Liverpool supporters – mainly Welsh accents. I chat to one who makes a comment about robbing Scousers thieving the cup. I’m too exhausted to pass comment. I arrive at Hereford and am greeted by TLG who takes one look at me and suggests a trip to the local A&E. We settle for a trip to Sainsburys and the purchase of some Imodium and paracetomol.

We arrive back at TLG’s sister’s place where TLG’s nephew greets me with a “we were really unlucky weren’t we?” Another Hammer is created.

So, as an incredible season closes, I must leave you with a few thank yous: To Romford, Sicknote, Rio, Gent, Bonehead (and, hiccup, Angela) for friendship and companionship especially on away trips. To UtJ for printing this rubbish every week and never moaning how long it takes me to send it to him, also for the badge – eventually. To Goes To Eleven for getting me the gig writing articles in the semi-final and final programmes thus making me, technically (if not otherwise!) a professional writer. To the Internet Hammers for picking a 45 year-old whose legs have gone. To Peter Stewart for the press lounge pass (and for turning a blind eye to the lovely Margot!) Milly and Pat in the press lounge for the coffee and lemonade. To the lovely Margot for lifts home after matches (‘cos walking is not an option!). To Maltese Hammer for being a good mate – we will get out there one day – are there any Maltese sides in the UEFA Cup?! Finally to the lovely girlfriend who, despite having no interest in football, fits her whole life around the West Ham United fixture list and does so without grumbling (though she probably has every right to do so). In particular this weekend she’s driven a sick bloke over 300 miles – including a 6am start in Hay on Wye. Now if only you’d stop listening to Heart FM in the car pet!…..

Player marks

This was a day when every player gave everything. It would be churlish for me to analyse performances after a day as special as that so I’m giving 10/10 all round. I’m THAT proud of them.



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Player Ratings

Shaka Hislop
No further comments.


Lionel Scaloni
No further comments.


Paul Konchesky
No further comments.


Anton Ferdinand
No further comments.


Danny Gabbidon
No further comments.


Carl Fletcher
No further comments.


Nigel Reo-Coker
No further comments.


Yossi Benayoun
No further comments.


Matthew Etherington
No further comments.


Dean Ashton
No further comments.


Marlon Harewood
No further comments.


Substitutes


Bobby Zamora
(Replaced Ashton, 71) No further comments.


Christian Dailly
(Replaced Fletcher, 77) No further comments.


Teddy Sheringham
(Replaced Etherington, 85) No further comments.


Jimmy Walker
Did not play.


James Collins
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: A.Wiley.

Attendance: 71,470.

Man of the Match: Yossi Benayoun.

West Ham United

Shaka Hislop, Lionel Scaloni, Paul Konchesky, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon, Carl Fletcher, Nigel Reo-Coker, Yossi Benayoun, Matthew Etherington, Dean Ashton, Marlon Harewood.

Goals: Jamie Carragher (og) 21 Dean Ashton 28 Paul Konchesky 64              .

Booked: Dean Ashton 61          .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Liverpool

Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise, Sissoko, Gerrard, Kewell, Alonso, Cisse, Crouch.

Substitutes: Morientes (Kewell 47), Kromkamp (Alonso 68), Hamann (Crouch 70).

Subs not used: Dudek, Traore.

Goals: Cisse (32), Gerrard (54, 90).

Booked: Carragher, Hamann.

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: Yossi Benayoun


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