LIVERPOOL PSG 1996-97

When Liverpool met Paris Saint Germain (PSG) in the semi final of the European Cup Winners Cup in 1996-97, they faced a mountain to climb in the second leg. Despite a 2-0 victory at Anfield, it wasn’t enough to overturn the deficit from a first leg debacle at the Parc de Princes.

Roy Evan’s side had a relatively straight forward route to last four, overcoming Mypa of Finland, Swiss side Sion and Norwegians Brann Bergen.  PSG were defending the trophy they had won a year earlier, but were off the pace in the French league and Liverpool were fancied to overcome them to reach the final in Rotterdam.

Liverpool PSG

However, just like at Wembley in the previous season’s FA Cup final defeat to Manchester United, the talented Reds side chose on of the biggest stages to sink to a gutless defeat. Two first half errors by David James meant the Reds trailed 2-0 at the break, when the ineffective striker Stan Collymore was substituted. A late third goal gave PSG a commanding advantage and inflict Liverpool’s heaviest European defeat since a 3-0 reverse at Dinamo Tblisi in 1979.

Evans blasted his side, telling journalists “We did not defend, we did not attack, we lacked passion and pride. We were poor, it was our worst performance of the season, we never looked like defending properly.” Writing in the Liverpool Echo the following night, Reds columnist Ric George praised the conduct of the travelling fans and concluded “Those supporters who paid their way, gave their all, deserve better. Much better.”  Phil McNulty was even more scathing, referring the performance as “a dogs breakfast from first to last” and that “To describe it a shocking, dreadful, slip-shod and shapeless would be to lavish too fine a praise on them.”

Bookmakers lengthened Liverpool’s odds to win the tournament to 50/1. By the time of the second leg, the Reds had lost 3-1 to Manchester United at Anfield, effectively ending their hopes of winning the league title. However with memories of comebacks over other sides St Etienne and Auxerre still intact, it was hoped the power of Anfield may just help Liverpool turn the tie around and mount an improbable comeback.

Liverpool PSG

Evans made the bold decision to drop captain John Barnes, who didn’t even get a place on the bench. Patrik Berger was brought in to a four pronged attack alongside Collymore, Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler, the only player to escape criticism in Paris. The usual five man backline was reduced to four, with Neil Ruddock being recalled to add some steel.

After surviving a second minute scare when Patrice Loko wasted a good chance, Liverpool took control and in the eleventh minute Fowler’s angled drive reduces the deficit. But for all their effort, the Reds were unable to break down a disciplined PSG side.  With eleven minutes to go Mark Wright’s towering header made it 2-0 on the night, whipping the crowd back up into a frenzy. Despite dominating possession and sending James into attack for a late corner, the Reds couldn’t find the all important goal that would take the tie into extra time.

Liverpool had regained some pride at Anfield but fans were left wondering ‘if only’. They had been beaten by an ordinary PSG side that had been humiliated in their domestic cup competition by a fourth division side. PSG coach Ricardo said “The last ten minutes of the game were the longest and most difficult of my life.”

An upbeat Roy Evans said “I couldn’t have asked any more from my team in terms of effort, passion and pride.” He warned the rest of Europe “Beware the British are coming”, referring to Liverpool and united’s progress to semi finals that season. Champions League qualification looked a certainty for the Reds. However they somehow conspired to win only one of their last three league games to finish fourth in the table and face the taunts of United fans for finishing ‘fourth in a two horse race’.

The following October Liverpool had the chance to show the French media what they could really do when they were drawn against Strasbourg in the UEFA Cup. In a mirror image of six months earlier, they suffered an embarrassing 3-0 defeat, before winning the return leg 2-0.

 

A TRIBUTE TO TOM WATSON

On 6th May 1915 Tom Watson, Liverpool FC’s manager of 19 years who had guided the club to two league championships and an FA Cup final, died after a short illness.

Watson had already won three championships with Sunderland when he was appointed in 1896. He made some important changes to the way the club was run, including the introduction of red shirts to replace the blue and white quarters.  From his home in nearby St Domingo Vale, he oversaw a more than satisfactory first season, with the Reds finishing fifth in the table, having been promoted the season before.

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After slipping back to ninth Watson made a bold transfer market move in 1898, paying Hibernian £350 for centre half Alex Raisbeck who had been on loan at Stoke. The centre half was a commanding figure on the field and almost helped the side to a first league title, only for the Reds to crash 5-0 on the last day of the season to Aston Villa, who became champions instead.

Two years later Liverpool did become champions for the first time, a John Walker goal confirming their supremity in the last game of the season away to West Bromwich Albion. On arrival back at Central Station a band welcomed them by playing The Conquering Hero but fans who turned out to greet the squad didn’t risk carrying Watson’s rotund figure on their shoulders in the same way they did with the players.

Just three years later the Reds were relegated but Watson took them straight back up to the top flight, then Liverpool became the first club to win the league immediately after promotion. Such a feat looked very unlikely in the autumn when they suffered five defeats in their first eight games. Watson though replaced veteran keeper Ned Doig with Sam Hardy, and his presence helped steady the defensive ship,  an eleven game unbeaten run taking them to the top of the table at Christmas.

The title was secured with a game to spare on Easter Monday. 1,000 fans travelled on a special train to Bolton knowing a win would be enough but although the Reds lost 3-2 they were given a helping hand by Watson’s old club Sunderland, who beat nearest challengers Preston 2-0. By now Watson was living even nearer to the ground in Anfield Road in a house that was demolished when the Kemlyn Road stand was extended in the early 1990s.

In 1910 Watson took Liverpool FC on their first tour outside the British Isles when they visited Denmark and Sweden. There were no journalists accompanying them and people at home had to rely on letters and telegraphs sent by Watson for news. In addition to describing the style and standard of play, he wrote how the players had gone on the ale with Manchester City’s touring squad and that he enjoyed seeing ladies at games wearing summer dresses.

In 1914, after guiding the Reds to their first FA Cup final where they lost 1-0 to Burnley, Watson took the players to Scandinavia again but this time he left it to midfielder Tom Fairfoul to write the letters home. These included tales of Watson getting pissed with them and singing, and the squad being met by a crowd of 5,000 wellwishers at Stockholm station.

War broke out a few days before the start of the next season and there was controversy about organised football competition continuing.  Watson was fierce about criticism though, emphasising that the players had army training, recruitment agents were at games and attendance was good for the morale of wounded soldiers. By the end of the season though it did look almost certain that there would be no resumption of the Football League until hostilities were over. He didn’t know it at the time, but Watson’s last act as Liverpool manager was to hand Everton the title, courtesy of the Reds beating second placed Oldham 2-0 at Boundary Park.

The Oldham game took place on 24th April but just a week later he was battling pleurisy and pneumonia at his home, which was now on Priory Road. There was a brief improvement but by 6th May things weren’t looking good. Bee’s update in the Liverpool Echo of that afternoon said that he had spent a bad night. Later editions of the paper then brought the terrible news that he had died and realistically there had never been any hope for him as his constitution was so weak.

Watson was just 56 years old, leaving a wife and two sons. His funeral at Anfield Cemetery took place the following Monday and was attended by representatives of a number of English and Scottish clubs. Today his grave there remains unmarked although funding seems to have been agreed between Watson’s descendants, Liverpool and Sunderland, so that issue should hopefully be resolved soon.

LIVERPOOL BEAT FAVOURITES VILLA IN SEMI

Sunday is the fourth time that Liverpool and Aston Villa have met in the FA cup semi final, with the Reds winning two of the three previous meetings. Liverpool’s first victory came 101 years ago when they sprang a surprise by winning 2-0 against a Villa side who had won their fifth FA Cup the year before.

Liverpool had a fairly straightforward route to the last four beating Barnsley, Gillingham, West Ham and Queens Park Rangers, who were all lower division clubs. The semi final draw though paired them with Aston Villa, the current cup holders who were second in the league table. Eyebrows were then raised by the choice of venues for the games, with Liverpool and Villa having to play at Tottenham’s White Hart Lane and the other semi final, between Burnley and Sheffield United, taking place at Manchester United’s Old Trafford ground.

Tom watsonIt may have seemed more logical for Liverpool and Villa to play at Old Trafford and Burnley take on Sheffield United at Villa Park, but the FA was just as strange in their venue choice back then as they have been in more recent years. Referring to the decision the Liverpool Evening Express commented that ‘it is a far far way to Tottenham’ and that ‘The FA have some funny ways.’ Manager Tom Watson was scathing about the decision to play the game there, pointing not just to the extra distance that Liverpool’s fans had to travel but also to Villa’s popularity in London. This meant that the opposition would be backed by the majority of the crowd and there was even speculation that a ground record for White Hart Lane would be set.

Liverpool’s players would spend five days in London preparing for the game. This was in contrast to Villa who remained in Birmingham but along the lines of the other two semi finalists who both spent a week at Lytham St Annes. A party of thirteen players accompanied by Tom Watson and director Mr Bainbridge set off from Lime Street station on the morning of Monday 23rd March. One player missing was inside forward Billy Banks, who had scored three goals in three appearances since breaking into the side earlier in the month. He was ineligible for the FA Cup though, having played in the qualifying rounds for Ashington earlier in the season.

Their base was the Royal Forest Hotel in Chingford, situated next to a hunting lodge used by Queen Elizabeth I. They arrived to wet weather but it was dry the following day and remained that way for the rest of the week. There was very little ball  training at Chingford, their preparation instead consisting of sprints and exercises overseen by Watson and Bainbridge. They relaxed by playing golf and billiards and visited a music hall in Walthamstow on the Tuesday night. Hotel management were pleased with the Reds players, referring to them as the ‘most gentlemanly and sociable party of footballers’ they had met. Plenty of others had stayed at the hotel and it was something of a lucky omen with Everton, Manchester United and Tottenham all having used it as a base prior to winning cup finals.

Photo Stephen McKay

Villa were the clear favourites given they were second in the league compared to Liverpool’s fifteenth. The prevailing nationwide opinion was that the Reds were just going to Tottenham to collect the gate money, but Watson believed this made his players only more determined to succeed. Watson was cautious about his team’s chances of causing an upset but felt that no team was invincible and Liverpool’s status as underdogs could work in their favour.   After observing them at their getaway a reporter from the Daily Post who was present with the team concluded that ‘if comradeship and bonhomie should suffice’ then Liverpool would be playing in the final. If Villa were to beat the Reds he claimed it would not be ‘so easily as their friends imagine.’

Captain Harry Lowe knew that despite the odds being against them there was a chance for the Reds, as long as the players didn’t relax and they contested every move. The half backs, he told the Post reporter, would have to be at their very best to counter the Villa forwards and ease the pressure on the full backs. Forward Bill Lacey, scorer of two goals in the 5-1 win against West Ham in the last sixteen, emphasised the coolness of the players in the run in to the game. When asked his thoughts by Watson he jokingly replied ‘Beat the Villa, why,  we would beat rows of houses.’

On the Friday the rest of the directors arrived and confirmed the team selection. There were no surprises as everyone was fit, meaning the versatile Don MacKinlay and full back Sam Speakman, both taken down as cover, were the two to miss out.

Four special excursion trains took Liverpool fans down to the match for a special fare of 12 shillings. The first left just after midnight from Lime Street while two more departed Central Station at 6.15am and another went from Birkenhead.  For those not able to go to London, they did have he opportunity of watching the reserves in action against Huddersfield Town at Anfield, where it was promised that the semi final score would be posted pitchside every fifteen minutes.

After spending the week doing gym work and taking brine baths Villa’s players didn’t leave Birmingham until the Saturday morning. On arrival in London they’d have found the local papers reporting that they were as good as in the final already. One wrote ‘Aston Villa are going to win the cup, on their best form they are a wonderful side.’ Another declared that Liverpool had no class in their side, commenting that Villa were superior in every single position.  The only reason the Reds were still in the competition they said was because ‘Liverpool have had an easy cup journey so far’ and if they were to win it would be bad for football as it would show that  ‘form counts for naught and pure skill is of no account.’

Newspaper reports like these only made the Reds’ players even more determined, especially with such damning comments  as ‘Liverpool’s forwards are not good enough’ and ‘all clubs were hoping to be drawn against Liverpool.’ The ground was full an hour before kick off, 27,474 being present and they wiled away the time watching a band play, the performance only interrupted by an announcement that Cambridge had won the Boat Race. Watson’s fears over being heavily outnumbered in the crowd were unfounded as the London spectators gave the Reds a reception matching that which they gave to Villa, although there were  clearly more travelling fans from Birmingham than Liverpool there.

Early in the game though most of the play was in the Reds half, with Ken Campbell making a few good saves. When they did get forward Liverpool were given no assistance by the referee, who on one occasion stopped play to enquire if a Villa player was injured when he scratched his head. On another, a Villa player’s clearance cannoned off  a team mate and out of play but a goal kick was awarded, even though all players began lining up for a corner.

Villa’s undoing came when they began to believe in their own hype, over complicating matters and passing the ball around too much in exhibition style. Liverpool on the other hand were more direct and were rewarded on the half hour when  Jimmy Nicholl (below) headed home Jackie Sheldon’s cross. Villa had the better of the remaining fifteen minutes of the half but Campbell twice made good saves and Ephraim Longworth was outstanding at the back.jimmy nicholl

Nicholl was certain that he had made it 2-0 soon after the restart when his shot hit the bar and bounced back to Sam Hardy, the ex Reds keeper, in the Villa goalmouth. Liverpool’s players vehemently protested to the referee that the ball had landed over the line but he was having none of it . Undaunted by this disappointment Liverpool upped the pressure and Hardy was having a torrid time, on one occasion losing sight of the ball completely only for Bill Lacey to shoot wide. At the other end there was a scare when a shot caught Campbell full in the face but he managed to recover and continue playing.

Late in the game Arthur Metcalfe had a shot which hit the bar and rebounded to Nicholl who made no mistake in converting the rebound.   The cheers from all parts of the ground showed just how many Reds fans had made the journey. Villa knew they were beaten now and looked like they could concede again, only being saved from going 3-0 down when Lacey’s shot skimmed the post. Watson was so confident that he got up and left the directors box after the second goal, smiling at the pressmen as he walked past. At Anfield, play stopped in the reserves game as players congratulated each other and the crowd cheered at the news of Liverpool’s impending date at the Crystal Palace.

There was no arguing with the result, with a number of ex Villa players commenting on the Reds’ supposed inconsistency. Former captain  Howard Spencer said ‘Liverpool played a spendid game throughout’ and Charlie Johnston, a   player with the in the 1880s admitted ‘We cant cavil at the result, Liverpool were quite the better side.’

There was no time for celebrations in London for the players who finished getting changed in taxis that were lined up outside White Hart Lane to take them to Euston station for the express train.  Down at Piccadilly, where university students were enjoying merriment after the boat race,  ‘Northern Hordes’ invaded the gentlemanly celebrations with tricks and scams described by the Post as  ‘a disgrace to  a top hat brigade.’ When the Liverpool players arrived at Lime Street, they were met with ‘a scene of enthusiasm never before seen.’

Had Liverpool gone on to win the cup, the scenes of jubilation would surely have been surpassed further, but on 25th April they were beaten 1-0 by Burnley and would have to wait until 1965 for that first FA Cup win.

PAINTING LEICESTER RUNNY PINK

Back in the 1960s Leicester were something of a bogey side for Liverpool but as they closed in on the 1964 league title the Reds finally broke the spell. Goals from Roger Hunt and Alf Arrowsmith gave the Reds a 2-0 win, but only after the Filbert Street groundstaff had re-painted the lines and posts.

With nine games to go of the 1963-64 season Liverpool were locked in a three way battle with Everton and Tottenham Hotspur at the top of the 1st Division. The title was in Liverpool’s hands as they had two games in hand on leaders Everton, who were two points ahead, but pundits suggested the Blues had an easier run in. One  of their fans was so confident that he even wrote to the Liverpool Echo suggesting that their fixture against FA Cup finalists West Ham on 25th April should double as the following season’s Charity Shield.

The Easter period, when teams faced a gruelling schedule of three games in four days would prove crucial and Liverpool faced Spurs at both White Hart Lane and Anfield, with the Leicester game sandwiched in between. Everton had home games on successive days against Blackpool and West Bromwich Albion, followed by a trip to the West Midlands for the return game with Albion.

Liverpool’s squad set off for London on the Thursday before Good Friday, the day that ten men were found guilty at Aylesbury Crown Court of various charges in relation to the Great Train Robbery. The Reds’ party of thirteen was without captain Ron Yeats, who was serving a three match suspension  after getting sent of for fighting in an FA Cup tie at Arsenal the previous month. Chris Lawler deputised for him at centre half but otherwise the Reds were at full strength, with Gordon Milne captaining the side.

In front of 56,952 at White Hart Lane, Roger Hunt hit a hat trick as the Reds dominated from start to finish in a 3-1 win. Many of the home crowd had already left when Maurice Norman scored a late consolation, while the threat of Jimmy Greaves and recent £72,000 signing Alan Mullery was completely nullified by the Reds back line.

There was a further boost when news came through that Everton had dropped a point at home, getting booed off in a 1-1 draw with West Brom. There was no time for celebrations though as the squad then headed for Leicester, where they would be playing less than 24 hours later. Bob Paisley had with him an electrical massage box, which was to be used on Milne and Hunt who had both picked up knocks to their ankles, but Shankly was confident they would be fit for the game.

They were joined in the East Midlands by an army of fans who had also gone to London, many not having any accommodation. Once in Leicester, a few fans scaled the low walls of Filbert Street and painted the goalposts, corner flags and line markings red. This exuberance though hid a deep fear that once again the Reds would come unstuck against the Foxes. Since promotion in 1962 Leicester had won all three league games between the sides without conceding a goal, as well as the FA Cup semi final the previous season.

By the morning the rain had led to the repainted markings and posts turning from red to runny pink. Many more Reds fans travelled to Leicester from Liverpool, while Yeats also made the journey, taking a seat in the stands alongside Scottish national manager Ian McColl who would be watching Ian St John, Willie Stevenson and Leicester’s Frank McLintock.

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The game was end to end at the start and much more open than previous encounters between the two sides. Ronnie Moran had a free kick deflected wide and after Tommy Lawrence slipped whilst racing from his goalmouth, Bobby Roberts missed an open goal when he prodded the ball wide.

Then in the seventeenth minute the Reds contingent erupted when Peter Thompson crossed and Hunt’s shot was deflected past Gordon Banks by Richard Norman. Colin Appleton got back to the goal but the ball had already crossed the line when he hooked it clear. As the Reds fans celebrated, every outfield Liverpool player ran to Hunt, all of them dancing with joy.

The rest of the first half was a tough affair, Gerry Byrne having his name taken for fouling Mike Stringfellow and the same happening to Leicester’s David Gibson for a foul on Milne. Thompson almost doubled the lead but he saw a shot headed off the line, but Leicester also came close when McLintock’s thirty yard effort came back off the bar.

Early in the second half the Reds had a let off when Billy Hodgson headed over from close range, but they then took the game to the opposition and another shot, this time from Hunt, was cleared off the line with Banks beaten. At the back Byrne and Moran gave nothing away, Lawler was like  a seasoned pro at centre half and the three of them played great balls to the forwards, creating attack after attack. Leicester were defending just like they had against the Reds in previous games but this time there was a major difference, they were not defending a lead but instead trying to prevent a heavier defeat.

With fifteen minutes left Ian Callaghan clashed heads and was severely dazed, leaving Liverpool effectively playing with ten men. But Leicester couldn’t take advantage of this and with five minutes left Hunt passed to Arrowsmith and he drilled the ball past Banks into the bottom corner to the delight of Reds fans on all four sides of the ground. Before the end it was almost 3-0 but Banks saved Arrowsmith’s shot at point blank range.

The win kept Liverpool in second due to Everton beating Blackpool 3-1. However the tide had clearly turned and in the Daily Post on the Monday Horace Yates wrote how the victory was achieved by unrivalled teamwork and that the two away performances had the ‘stamp of champions.’ The following day Spurs were beaten 3-0 at Anfield which, coupled with Everton’s 4-2 defeat at The Hawthorns, took them to the summit of the 1st Division. They were never off it and won the next three games against Manchester United, Burnley and Arsenal to clinch the title with three games to spare.

LIVERPOOL AND GORDON BANKS

As Liverpool prepare to play host to Stoke City it may be worth remembering how their England World Cup winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks and the Kop had a mutual appreciation of each other. One of his best displays in front of he famous terrace came in 1972-73 in what turned out to be his last professional game as he was forced to retire due to injuries sustained in a car crash the following day.

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Banks first played against the Reds in October 1962, keeping a clean sheet in a 3-0 win for Leicester City at Filbert Street. He did the same again when his side won 2-0 at Anfield the following March, but it was on 27th April 1963 that he really broke Liverpool hearts. In an FA Cup semi final at Hillsborough, Banks denied Liverpool time and time again in the second half, helping his side progress to Wembley thanks to Mike Stringfellow’s last minute goal.

After the ga
me a press photographer got a shot of a disconsolate Ian St John which appeared to showed Banks laughing at him in the background. This led to him getting quite a few boos when Leicester visited Anfield the following November when once again Banks kept a clean sheet as his side won 1-0. However he reacted the the crowd in light hearted fashion, pretending to eat an apple that had been thrown into the penalty area.

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Banks finally conceded a goal against Liverpool at Filbert Street in March 1964, when the Reds won 2-0 to end the hoodoo and take a massive step towards the league title. The following season there was revenge for the FA Cup semi final, when Roger Hunt’s goal was enough to eliminate Leicester in a quarter final replay at Anfield. Banks and Hunt were then teammates as England won the World Cup in 1966 and the following season Hunt was again on target against Banks at Anfield, scoring in a 3-2 win.

In April 1967 Banks was transferred to Stoke City after losing his place to teenager Peter Shilton, another keeper who would enjoy banter with the Kop in later years.  Bill Shankly had actually showed an interest in signing the stopper, but could not convince the Board to part with £50,000 for a 30 year old keeper. He then looked to the lower leagues instead and signed Ray Clemence for £18,000 from Scunthorpe two months later, a transfer that didn’t turn out too bad in the end.

Banks didn’t enjoy as much success against the Reds as he had with his previous club, appearing on the winning side only once in ten games, a 2-1 win at the Victoria Ground in the last game of the 1967-68 season. He enjoyed his visits to Anfield though despite the results, describing it towards the end of his career as ‘my favourite ground by a mile’ due the club having fans that ‘want to see their own team win but appreciate good football even when it comes from the opposing side.’

In 1971-72 Banks won only his second domestic honour as Stoke beat Chelsea to win the League Cup, adding to the medal he won for winning the same competition with Leicester in 1964. He also received individual acclaim when he was voted the Football Writers Player of the Year and retained his England place. However despite signing England’s World Cup hat trick hero Geoff Hurst for £80,000 from West Ham, Stoke struggled at the start of 1972-73 and were eliminated from the UEFA Cup by Kaiserslautern in the first round.

Going into the game at Anfield on 21st October 1972, Liverpool were top of the table and unbeaten in twelve games in all competitions, while Stoke were one of five sides at the bottom who were only separated by goal difference. Their line-up included John Mahoney and Terry Conroy, internationals for Wales and the Republic of Ireland respectively, but there was no place for veteran midfielder Willie Stevenson, an Anfield favourite for five years during the 1960s.

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Tommy Smith returned to the Reds side as captain after a few weeks out injured but John Toshack broke down in training on the Friday, meaning Phil Boersma retained his place. It had been Liverpool’s first midweek of the season with no game and their freshness showed early on, as they took the game to Stoke whilst attacking the Anfield Road end. Emlyn Hughes and Phil Boersma shot just wide and Banks made good saves from another Hughes effort, as well as a 25 yard low drive by Alec Lindsay.

The first half hour was all Liverpool, the players revelling in the influence of Smith who was driving them forward and full back Chris Lawler was a regular attacker, seeing a header and lob both saved by Banks. Despite the Reds dominance though, Stoke had a game plan to pack the penalty area, forcing the Reds into mainly long range efforts, which Banks was happy to deal with.

In the 33rd minute Stoke took the lead against the run of play from an innocuous looking free kick that was awarded on the half way line. John Marsh punted it into the area where Geoff Hurst had a shot that hit the bar, bounced down to Jimmy Greenhoff who headed it into an empty net with Ray Clemence stranded. Liverpool piled on the pressure for the rest of the half without success and there was one dangerous moment when Stoke counter attacked and Hurst’s half volley went just wide of a post.

As Banks ran to the Kop end for the start of the second half the crowd shouted ‘Clemence for England’ leading to him blowing a raspberry in return. Within a minute it should have been 1-1 when Boersma, who had been quiet in the first half, somehow fired over from within the six yard box after Heighway had crossed.

Liverpool continued to dominate possession but were running out of ideas as high balls into the box had no height to meet them and passes were often intercepted by the numbers of Stoke players tracking back. It seemed inevitable that if the Reds were to equalise, some good fortune was required and it came when an indirect free kick was awarded in the 66th minute when Banks took too many steps with the ball. Smith touched the ball to Hughes, who hammered it into the roof of the net to the relief of the Kop.

Liverpool poured forward in search of the winner, Kevin Keegan hitting a shot across the face of goal, Boersma having a dipping volley drop just over the bar and Smith’s free kick bouncing off the wall. Finally, in the last minute Hughes took a quick free kick and Ian Callaghan’s shot took a deflection off Eric Skeels and deceived Banks to give the Reds a much deserved victory.

The next day Banks was involved in a car accident when his Ford Granada collided with a van as he drove back from a physiotherapy session at the Victoria Ground. It was clear from the outset that it was serious as he was taken to North Staffordshire Hospital where he received 200 stitches. Writing in the Daily Post the day after the accident, Bob Whiting said that if the game at Anfield had turned out to be his last, then there could not have been a more nostalgic setting for it.

At the end of the season Banks announced his retirement from professional football at the age of 35, although he did go on to play for Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the North American Soccer League at the end of the decade. Ironically, Banks’s accident opened the England door for Clemence, who would go on to do battle for the keeper’s jersey for the next ten years with Shilton. Banks old Liverpool foe Roger Hunt would eventually become a team mate of sorts as the two of them sat on the pools panel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOT QUITE A PERFORMANCE FOR A KING

Cup finals excepting, the only time Liverpool have played in front of  a reigning monarch was in 1920 when their game against Manchester City at Hyde Road was watched by King George V. The Reds were unable to put on a royal show though as they went down 2-1 after being in the lead at half time.

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The King was in Liverpool the day before the game to attend the Grand National at Aintree. His train arrived at Fazakerley shortly after noon, and crowds braved the rain to line the mile long route to the racecourse, to where he was transported in a landau accompanied by his host the Earl of Derby. As the King took his seat at the front of the grandstand,  the crowd gave three cheers and the National Anthem was played.

After watching Troytown win the race, the King went to Knowsley Hall for tea with the Earl of Derby then joined the Royal Train at Huyton, which then left for Didsbury. He spent the night on the train which was surrounded by policemen and soldiers. The next morning he was joined for breakfast by the Town Clerk and Lord Mayor of Manchester, before being taken into the city. Once there he visited Grangethorpe Hospital in Fallowfield, where wounded soldiers from the Great War were being treated. He then gave some Royal Red Cross Medals to hospital nursing staff, before being taken to Hyde Road for the game.

The King was taken on to the pitch where he shook hands with all the players from both sides. He then took a seat in the directors box to watch the match along with 40,000 other fans. Liverpool had the better of the first half with the forward line linking extremely well. Inside right Harry Chambers gave them the lead from the penalty spot after twenty minutes  and he could have had two more before the break but Jim Goodchild made a couple of fine saves.Harry_Chambers

City improved after the break and Horace Barnes equalised on the hour. The Reds fought back and were the better side but with fifteen minutes remaining Barnes scored again to give City the lead. Again the Reds fought back but they couldn’t find an equaliser and City had avenged their 1-0 defeat at Anfield a week earlier.

This had been the second time the Reds had been watched by King George V and on the previous occasions the Reds had also lost. That was at Crystal Palace in the FA Cup final in 1914, when they went down 1-0 to Burnley. In 1921, King George V watched a game at Anfield, but it didn’t involve the Reds. After visiting Liverpool for the Grand National on 18th March, he stayed on to watch the following day’s FA Cup semi final between Cardiff and Wolves, which ended  in a 0-0 draw, Wolves winning the replay 3-1 at Old Trafford.

 

LEAGUE PRESIDENT FALLS AT MAIN STAND OPENING

Liverpool’s opening game of the 2014-15 season may well be the last time Southampton play in front of the Main Stand in its existing form. It was the Saints who were he opposition for the official opening in 1973, when Len Shipman, President of the Football League , narrowly avoided serious injury when he tumbled down the stairs.

The new stand, which was effectively an extension and re-roofing of the old barrel roofed structure, had taken two years to construct. It seated just over 8,000 fans with room for 5,000 standing in the paddock in front. Writing in the match programme for the Southampton game on 10th March 1973 which marked its official opening, Chairman Eric Roberts wrote: Today’s ceremony is the culmination of the rebuilding of Anfield which started just 10 years ago. In this period we have spent over one million pounds in our effort to make this stadium among the best, not only in Great Britain, but also in Europe.

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Roberts went on to say that first and foremost though was the team and that: Uppermost in our minds all the time is the need to see that Mr Shankly and his staff have all the help that the directors can give them, and thus ensure that the club remains in the forefront of League football. There was no doubt that this was the case as at the start of the season the Reds had matched their transfer record to sign midfielder Peter Cormack from Nottingham Forest for £110,000. Then in January 1973 Lou Macari looked set to sign for £200,000 only for the player to choose Manchester United instead as he felt he had a better chance of getting a game there.

Cormack delivered on Shankly’s promise that he would provide extra goals in midfield and with ten games to go the Reds were top of the league on goal average from Arsenal, who had played a game more. It was a thrilling four way title race with Leeds and Ipswich both four points  behind with two and one games in hand respectively, but the Reds had the easiest run in of the challengers and Leeds still had to come to Anfield.

The guest list for the Southampton game was an impressive one, headed by the Duke of Kent, who was also President of the Football Association. He became the first member of the Royal Family to attend a match at Anfield since 1921, when King George V attended an FA Cup semi final between Cardiff and Wolverhampton. Also in attendance was FIFA President Sir Stanley Rous and Football League President Len Shipman (below), as well as League Secretary Alan Hardaker.

len shipman

 

Hardaker was not too popular with Anfield officials who feared a fixture pile-up due to the club’s continued involvement in the UEFA Cup. In midweek the Reds had beat Dynamo Dresden 2-0 at Anfield in the first leg of the quarter final but he confirmed that although the 2nd leg of the semi final was scheduled for 25th April, just two days after Liverpool were due to face Leeds in that crucial league game, that the game could not be re-arranged if the Reds got through. He did make the concession though of allowing the Reds to switch their game at Coventry, due to take place on Tuesday 24th April, thus avoiding the prospect of games on three successive nights. However, that was only because the Sky Blues agreed to playing the game on another date.

Earlier in the season the Football League had suggested the Reds play a League Cup tie in London on a Monday night then fly out to Berlin for a UEFA Cup tie on the Wednesday. Given such incompetent planning, it was probably not surprising that when Liverpool signed Bristol City forward Peter Spiring a few days before the Southampton game, assistant secretary Bill Barlow drove to Lytham St Annes with the transfer forms to make sure they were processed in time.

The Southampton match fell on the day of a train strike, which meant the crowd of 41,674 was the second lowest of the season at Anfield in the league. This disrupted Southampton who had to make the long journey by coach instead and they were followed by just a handful of fans.There was no such travel problems for the Duke though, whose private plane was met at Speke Airport by several hundred onlookers. The Lord and Lady Mayoress were waiting for him on the tarmac and a chauffeur driven car took them to Anfield where a VIP lunch was laid on. Then, as the party made its way from the boardroom down to the foyer, Len Shipman took a tumble and fell down the stairs, banging his head. Club officials quickly helped him to his feet and checked he was OK before he was sent on to join the rest of the guests. 

There seemed to be little concern shown for Shipman by others in the party, as the Duke of Kent, watched by club president T. V. Williams, got on with the business of unveiling a plaque made of Grecian white marble to commemorate the opening of the stand.

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In the game itself Liverpool took a two goal lead when they scored twice within the space of a minute late in the first half through Larry Lloyd and Kevin Keegan. However before the referee blew for the interval there was just enough time for Mick Channon to take advantage of some hesitancy in the Reds’ defence to nip in and head the ball past Ray Clemence after a long punt downfield by the keeper. On the hour Paul Gilchrist equalised after some slack marking but Keegan got the Reds out of jail with three minutes remaining, when he headed in a Phil Boersma cross.

The game may have been nerve racking for the Reds’s fans but the Duke of Kent enjoyed the occasion, commenting afterwards that it was an exciting game and that the crowd had been well behaved and supported their team well. Sir Stanley Rous said the Reds were lucky to have such wonderful supporters although there were no words of encouragement from any of the Football League hierarchy, who perhaps suspected that Shipman was helped on his way when he fell down the stairs.

By the end of the season the new Main Stand witnessed Liverpool being presented with their first title for seven years and there have been no occasions when royalty have attended games since, unless King Kenny gets counted in that bracket.

REDS SOLDIERING ON

Liverpool FC’s friendly against Olympiacos will be the fourth time the club have played at Soldier Field. The other occasions were in 1946 when they comfortably beat a team of students and 1964 when they played two fixtures against other touring professional sides and some of the best Shanklyisms were born.

photo Bryan Davies
photo Bryan Davies

Liverpool’s tour of North America in 1946 came about due to Chairman William McConnell’s friendship with Belfast born Joe Barriskill, General Secretary of the United States Soccer Federation. He was keen to develop the game further there as many returning soldiers had developed a liking for watching ‘soccer’ as it was known there whilst stationed in Europe during the Second World War.

With Liverpool having been a port through which many servicemen passed through and the Burtonwood base being nearby, the Reds were a natural choice and the arrangements were made with minimum fuss. McConnell and manager George Kay knew that several weeks away in a ration free country would be excellent for building morale ahead of the first Football League season since 1939. This began with a six day crossing aboard the Queen Mary from Southampton to New York.

Liverpool’s opponents on the tour were mainly made up of composite sides from local leagues and they won all six games prior to arriving in Chicago, including a thumping 12-0 win over a Philadelphia Select XI. The first four games had been on the East Coast but the players then flew to St Louis, the first time many of them had been on a plane. After beating St Louis All Stars 5-1 they flew to Chicago for a match against Chicago Maroons. They were a team of students from the University of Chicago and one of five sides that made up the North American Soccer League.

The Maroons normal venue for home games was Stagg Field, but the game was held at Soldier Field, the horseshoe shaped 74,280 seater home of Chicago Rockets who played in the All America Football Conference, a forerunner of the NFL. The attendance was not recorded, but it is likely there were far more seats empty then occupied for an extraordinary game that saw Liverpool lead 6-3 at half time. There were then no goals for the first half of the second period before three more were added to give the Reds a 9-3 win in which Jack Balmer hit four goals and Willie Fagan also got a hat trick.

From Chicago the Reds flew to Toronto where they hit double figures for the second time on the tour, beating an Ulster Select XI 11-1. They then returned to their New York base for the final two games of the tour, in which they beat Kearny Celtic Scots 3-1 in New Jersey and an American League side 10-1 at Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team. The team bonding trip had been a huge success and the Reds won the league in 1946-47, but plans to cross the Atlantic again were cancelled due to the severe winter, that led to the season being extended to the middle of June.

Liverpool were back in North America in 1948 but this time there was no match in Chicago. Five years later in 1953 they were back in the city though for a game against Chicago All Stars at Hanson Field, a High School venue. A crowd of 7,000 saw Billy Liddell score three times in a 4-2 win.

Relegation followed the 1953 tour and it was to be eleven years before they were back across the Atlantic. By now the jet age had arrived and Liverpool were travelling to North America as Football League Champions and coming from a city whose singers had taken the American pop charts by storm. Charismatic manager Bill Shankly was not too bothered about this tour and didn’t even board the BOAC jet that left Manchester for New York on 6th May although he did wave the players off. Instead Bob Paisley and Reuben Bennett were in charge of team affairs for the first leg of the tour while Shankly scouted players in Scotland, where a Summer Cup competition was taking place.

Also missing were Gordon Milne, Roger Hunt and Peter Thompson, who had been called up by England for a tournament in Brazil. to celebrate 50 years of their FA. This gave an opportunity for youngsters Chris Lawler, Tommy Smith and Gordon Wallace while Alan A’Court, a veteran of the 1953 tour was also included in the party, even though he hadn’t played  a single first team game in 1963-64.

The Governor Clinton Hotel in Midtown Manhattan,  just a few blocks from the Empire State Building, was the team’s base for the first week of the tour which the Reds opened with a comfortable 8-1 win over Boston Metros. A 7-1 win over New York All Stars followed, with the players being whisked from the stadium to CBS studios where they sat in the audience as Gerry and the Pacemakers performed I Like It and Don’t Let the Sun Catch Me Crying on the Ed Sullivan Show.

The Reds flew to St Louis where there was almost humiliation against the Catholic Youth Council All Stars a late Willie Stevenson equaliser salvaging a draw. The players’ minds had perhaps been distracted by an incident involving Chairman Tom Williams, who had been suffering from constipation all tour. When fruit salads didn’t work, Bob Paisley gave him a tablet leading to a major accident, his room being described by Paisley as ‘wall to wall, it was everywhere.’ His one pair of trousers ruined, the only option was to borrow a pair from Ron Yeats, which naturally wasn’t kept a secret amongst the players.

There could be no room for complacency in Chicago, where the Reds arrived on 15th May. Their opponents would be Mexican outfit CF Monterrey, who had just finished third in their league and been beaten cup finalists. They were sure to provide a far better quality of opposition than the select sides, who Ian St John rated in his columns for the Daily Post as only of Lancashire Combination standard. In addition to the players missing through international duty, the Reds were now without Yeats, who was struggling to shake off a knew injury picked up in New York.

Soldier Field was exactly as it was in 1946 and 12,384 spectators were present for the game on 17th May, which was played in temperatures of over 80 degrees. The majority of the crowd were backing the Mexicans and added to the heat by setting off fireworks, but the Reds players weren’t overawed and St John gave them an 18th minute lead. Tommy Lawrence was a  virtual spectator in  goal as Liverpool took total control of the game, St John adding two more in the second half to complete a hat trick.

With four games played, the players now returned to the Governor Clinton Hotel in New York for a week’s rest. Some took in a baseball game but weren’t impressed and while the arrival of Shankly was welcomed, his antics had players confused. Refusing to set his watch to American time he was  in the hotel reception as some players returned after a night out, but whereas they wanted to go to bed as far as he was concerned it was breakfast time. One by one the players drifted off leaving him alone, aghast that none of the staff knew who Tom Finney was.

The Reds were back in action on 24th May, losing 2-0 to an Uwe Seeler inspired Hamburg at the Downing Stadium. This was their first defeat on American soil, bringing to an end a record that had stretched back 34 games.  This was the end of their time in New York and the party then flew to Detroit for a fixture against another German side, Meidericher (now MSV Duisburg). Shankly was livid when he saw posters for the game advertising the fact that it involved a club from the same city as The Beatles. But as match promoter Len Morgan told the Liverpool Echo, ‘we are the poor relations and have to take the crumbs from the table.’

Liverpool beat their German opponents 4-1 in front of  a crowd of 7,000 which although low was still 2,000 more than saw England beat USA 10-0 in New York, Roger Hunt scoring four of the goals.  The next morning Shankly had more problems caused by his refusal to adapt to American time. Up and ready for breakfast at 6am before the hotel restaurant was open, he insisted that two national newspaper journalists went for a walk with him. After finding somewhere he fancied eating at he was told quite abruptly that he couldn’t have a full English breakfast and cup of tea, it was hot dogs or burgers only. On arrival back at the hotel, the rest of the party had eaten and set off to the airport for their flight to Chicago, where they would face Meidericher again.

In Chicago the players again stayed at the Sherman Hotel, their base for the game in the same city just under two weeks earlier. The match venue was Soldier Field again, and Shankly this time had more enthusiasm than he had anywhere else in America. He insisted the players hold an impromptu five a side game in exactly the same spot that Gene Tunney had defended his world heavyweight title against Jack Dempsey in 1927. The game itself was a much more tight affair than in Detroit and ended in a 0-0 draw. Chris Lawler put in a solid performance at centre half in place of Ron Yeats, making Shankly have serious thoughts about whether he needed to get the chequebook out for a new defender.

From Chicago the Reds flew to the West Coast for what remains their only visit to California. They struck up their all time highest score in any game beating a select side 14-0, St John and Alf Arrowsmith both scoring four. Liverpool’s goalkeeper in that game was Trevor Roberts, who came in for the injured Tommy Lawrence. He touched the ball just once in the first half.

The last two games of the tour were across the border in Vancouver, where they encountered Meidericher for a third time. A bad tempered game played on 6th June, the twentieth anniversary of the Normandy Landings, ended 1-1. Both sides were reduced to ten men in the first half when St John punched Manfred Mueller to the ground after a bad challenge and after the break both benches regularly argued over the amount of air required in the ball.

Shankly flew home after the Meidericher game, but the players stayed behind for the last match against an Al Star XI. Arrowsmith scored both goals in a 2-0 win in a game that was played in the Empire Stadium, venue for the 1954 Commonwealth Games. This brought to an end a mammoth five week tour that had seen ten games played. The party then flew to Toronto and on to Manchester via Glasgow. They were met by Shankly who wasn’t bothered about the games, saying ‘they’re coming home thats all’. Director Sid Reakes was more enthusiastic, describing it as a wonderful experience.

After being fined £20 at customs and having a watch confiscated St John was advised by Paisley that his jockstraps would have been a far better place to hide any contraband. A holiday was probably the last thing any of the players wanted after so much travelling, but St John was off on his jollies straight away, to a caravan in Morecambe.

Shankly may not have had much enthusiasm for the tour and he made sure such jaunts never happened again. The reduced rest period was blamed for Liverpool’s poor start to the season, although they did recover to finish seventh. It did mean though that with the league title hopes ended early on, all efforts were put into the cups and the Reds finally laid to rest the FA Cup hoodoo, winning the trophy for the first time the following May. Had it not been for a corrupt official, they may well have added the European Cup to that as well.

Soldir Field in 2014 is much different than for previous visits. It now seats in the region of 61,000 and is the oldest stadium in the NFL, home to Chicago Bears. Chicago Maroons, who the Reds played in 1946, continue to represent the University of Chicago in inter-collegiate soccer leagues.

 

WATSON’S WONDERFUL COPENHAGEN

Liverpool’s match against Brondby on 16th July 2014 sees the squad fly in and out spending very little time in the city. It couldn’t be more different than the club’s visit there in 1910, when they spent the best part of a week in the city, getting drunk with fellow tourists and the opposition on the club’s first foreign tour.

In their eighteen years history to date, Liverpool had never played a game outside the British Isles, although the squad had been rewarded with a holiday in Paris after winning the league in 1906. There had been no title in 1910, but the club decided to break new ground and go abroad, having lagged somewhat behind others in this respect. Neighbours Everton for example hadn’t just been to Europe, they had gone inter-continental having toured South America a year earlier.

Predicting that the tour would be a ‘most enjoyable one’ the Evening Express observed that the Reds players would have to be at their best. They had recently beaten an FA representative side and the paper said they had made great strides in recent years.

The party of nineteen which set off from Central Station at noon on 11th May consisted of fifteen players, manager Tom Watson, trainer Bill McConnell and two directors. No journalists accompanied the team, but Watson promised to telegraph the results and also send letters containing reports of games. They were leaving at a time when the nation was in mourning, King Edward VII having died of bronchitis five days earlier.

tour cartoon express 14th may 1910
Cartoon from the Evening Express

On arrival at Hull the party were met by Mr Langley, manager of Hull City, who saw them off from the quay as they departed on board the Finland Steamship Company’s steamship Polaris. They enjoyed a Finnish dinner but for many that was the last they ate on the crossing, because as soon as they left the Humber the North Sea was being battered by near gale force winds. The crossing was a horrendous one and it took nearly 36 hours to reach the coast of Jutland, some ten more than was scheduled.

After finally reaching Copenhagen on the afternoon of Friday 13th May, the players were allowed to get used to being on dry land again and had two days at leisure. They then set off for Gothenburg in Sweden, where they beat a Stockholm XI 2-0 and Örgryte 3-0. The Reds were due to travel back to Denmark on 19th May, but they ended up staying an extra day in Gothenburg but the scheduled game against a Danish Select XI on the 20th was postponed as a mark of respect to King Edward VII. He had died five days before the Liverpool party set off and there was considerable mourning in Denmark at his death as his wife Alexandra was Danish.

The last day in Sweden was spent on the lash with the Manchester City squad, who arrived there that day for the last leg of a tour that had also taken in Belgium, Germany and Denmark. It was a bleary eyes squad that set off to Copenhagen the following day, where they arrived to find temperatures pushing ninety degrees and were taken on a boat tour of the harbour.

On Sunday 22nd May the Reds took on a Danish FA XI in searing heat. Nobody knows whether it was the heat, hangover or sight of women in the crowd wearing summer dresses that led to the hosts shocking the tourists by winning 3-0, making amends for their 5-2 defeat against City. Watson admitted that they may have taken the opposition too lightly, with him writing in his letter to the Evening Express that ‘their knowledge of the game was an eye opener to all.’

After the game the Johannes Gandil, who represented Denmark at both athletics and football in the Olympics and hosted a dinner for the Liverpool party in 1910Reds party attended a dinner hosted by veteran Danish veteran player Johannes Gandil (left), who had represented his country at the Olympics in both football and athletics. Watson described in a letter how ‘our healths were drunk with the usual “rar, rar, rar”’. The final game of the tour was on Tuesday 24th May when they faced the Danish FA XI again. This time, in far cooler conditions given it was played of an evening, Liverpool won 1-0 in with the scorer’s identity remaining unknown. No more letters were written by Watson, with the following day’s Daily Post and Mercury simply printing in the results section: ‘Liverpool 1 Denmark 0’.

Despite the last match being on the Tuesday, the players were given a few more days in Denmark before beginning their journey home on Friday 27th May, finally arriving back at Liverpool Central station at 7pm on the Sunday evening. The Evening Express reported that the players were in excellent condition and had ‘evidently thoroughly enjoyed themselves’. Scandinavia had obviously made a mark on the party, as they would be back there the next time they were abroad four years later.

SIX TRIPS TO SELHURST IN A SEASON

Having a Saturday game on the wrong side of the M25 moved to 8pm on a Monday night isn’t exactly being too considerate for away fans. However, before cursing television too much spare a thought for the travelling Reds in 1994-95 who had to make the trip to Selhurst Park an unprecedented six times, five of them for night games.

The Reds opened their league campaign at Selhurst Park with a fixture against newly promoted Crystal Palace. Roy Evans,  who was about to begin his first full season in charge, had so far failed to add to a squad that had finished 8th the previous campaign. However he had been working on getting the team playing the ‘Liverpool Way’ in training and the Reds were 2-0 up in fifteen minutes thanks to a Jan Molby penalty and Steve McManaman strike. Robbie Fowler added a third on the stroke of half time and although Chris Armstrong pulled one back early in the second half, a brace from Ian Rush and another from McManaman completed a 6-1 rout.

Palace were renting their ground out to fellow Premier League side Wimbledon at the time and the Reds were due to play there on 21st January, but the game was called off due to a waterlogged pitch just a couple of hours before kick off. Many travelling fans were on coaches on the M25 when the news of this was announced, with some coaches stopping off in Epsom for a few hours before coming back home.

As if the thought of making that journey around the M25 again wasn’t bad enough, fans already knew that a further trip was guaranteed as the Reds had been paired with Palace in the semi finals of the League Cup. It was then that things got really silly. A last gasp goal from Robbie Fowler at Anfield on 15th February gave Liverpool a slender 1st leg lead, but a week later the 2nd leg was called off. This time though the coaches were there and parked up with many fans already in the ground. A sudden downpour at 6pm took everybody by surprise and the referee called the game off just half an hour before kick off with many fans already in the ground.

Liverpool were back at Selhurst Park the following midweek, but it wasn’t for the re-arranged semi final. Instead it was for an FA Cup 5th round replay with Wimbledon, who had surprisingly held the Reds to a 1-1 draw at Anfield on 19th February. There was no mistake in the replay though as Liverpool put in one of their best ever performances against the Dons, cruising to a 2-0 win thanks to first half goals from John Barnes and Ian Rush. The crowd was a paltry of 12,553 with most of them being Reds fans, many of whom were London based and took advantage of cash admission to help fill the  9,000+ capacity Arthur Wait stand.

On 8th March the Reds were back at Selhurst Park for the third midweek in a row as they played the 2nd leg of the semi final. A 27th minute goal from Robbie Fowler was enough to take the sting out of Palace as the Reds stayed in cruise control to reach their first cup final for three years, which at that time, was considered a hell of a long wait. The crowd for this one was a capacity 18,224 (the Holmesdale Road stand was a building site at the time), with the celebrating Reds restricted to just half of the Arthur Wait stand.

The last trip to Selhurst of the season came on 2nd May for the re-arranged Wimbledon league game. It had a very end of season feel to it, with the Reds already having qualified for Europe due to winning the League Cup. Steve Harkness made a rare start in defence and there was little incident in a 0-0 draw, the main talking point being a hamstring injury to Neil Ruddock, meaning the Reds were now down to just one fit centre back.

Palace went down at the end of the season meaning that apart from 1997-98, when they had a solitary season back in the top flight, it was just one trip per season to Selhurst until Wimbledon were relegated in 2000. Since then, Wimbledon were franchised out to Milton Keynes and the phoenix club play at Kingstonian, while Palace have been in the Premiership just one other season before this one, in 2004-05. We always seemed to get sent there in cups though, in 2000-01, 2002-03 and 2005-06.

Nowadays with no top clubs groundsharing, pitch improvements and League Cup replays being done away with, its hard to imagine a scenario where we’d play 4 four games a season somewhere, then see two of those have to be rearranged.