Like most small boys, Andy Goldstein always dreamed of lifting the FA Cup… but unlike most, he actually did.
I’ve never won the FA Cup. An opening sentence that may shock a few of you, but I haven’t… honestly. Though I do have a connection to it that not many can claim to have. See, I’ve actually lifted the original one. Well, when I say original, I mean the third one. Yep, there have been four.
Without going into too much detail, the first was won by Wanderers and eventually stolen from a shop window in 1895, and no, Bobby Gould had nothing to do with it. The second one (OK, it’s turning into a history lesson, but we all love a bit of footie triv, right?) was last won by Newcastle in 1910, and was ‘retired’ because the FA thought the design had been pirated. The third one (new design and the one we’re all familiar with) was then introduced the following year and raised by every cup final-winning captain right up until Gary Mabbutt lifted it for Spurs for one last time in 1991. The FA then decided that it was too old to be out and about (a bit like Bobby Gould) and had a replica made (cup, not Gouldy)… and that’s what’s raised to this day.
There, lesson over.
So, as I was saying, I lifted the third one. When I was growing up my dad used to work for a firm of photographers in London. They were responsible for taking the cup final pics for United whenever they’d come down to Wembley (hence why I support them), and I was always begging him to take me with him so I could meet my idols and the famous trophy. In 1983 I was old enough for my dad to finally smuggle me in to the hotel banquet at the Royal Lancaster after the game. All that was needed was for United to beat Brighton and I’d finally meet the team… and the trophy. Everything was going well right up until the 87th minute, when Gary Stevens equalised for Brighton. Gutted. I remember Ron Atkinson picking me up above his head afterwards at the reception (I have the picture to prove it!) and announcing to the room “It’s not the cup, but it will do!” Sadly I never went to the replay as it was on a school night.
Two years later and WE were back. This time Everton stood in our way. A very tight game saw Kevin Moran become the first sending off in an FA Cup final with 10 minutes to go. When Peter Willis pulled out the card it could have been me he was sending off. I was gutted. Surely I wasn’t going to miss out again? The game went to extra time when Norman Whiteside curled in one of the greatest goals in final history from just inside the area. As they celebrated, so did my dad and I… we ran into the garden as if I’d bent it in myself. Finally I was going to meet her!
We got to the hotel just before the team bus and waited for it to pull up. Fifteen minutes later it did, and out stepped Big Ron holding the cup like a proud father holding his new-born son.
As soon as all the players got into the foyer I made a beeline for Sparky. He was holding his cup final shirt, which I then asked for and he then gave to me… only for his mum to snatch it back and announce “You hold on to that, Mark.”
They filmed Match of the Day from the hotel and after transmission needed someone to take the cup from the TV set to the top table in the main banquet room. That someone was me. I remember lifting it up and carefully walking across the dance floor thinking EVERYONE is looking at me: the manager, the team and the captain.
And it’s THAT feeling, that exact feeling I had as a 10-year-old (I know, the hair makes me look younger) that makes me believe the FA Cup is still the best competition in the world.
I don’t buy into the “magic of the cup is dying” rubbish. Just ask any kid watching today. Just ask any Wigan fan on Saturday afternoon.