On a bright spring day, the meet was in the Earl of Derby, Kilburn High Road, with my Dad, his mates and copious amounts of the black stuff. A pub that was renowned for its Guinness, the Irish, and a small group of Rangers fans. Too much drink early doors, and it was off to Highbury, where the bookies made us four-to-one against…what do they know ? As we drew nearer to the ground, I noted that Rangers were well and truly up for this…underdogs maybe, but never accounted for what lay ahead.
The North Bank was the only place to be that day, with something like 20,000 R’s fans standing packed inside and the atmosphere was second to none. A young Terry Venables at the helm, Simon Stainrod on fire, Tony Currie, Clive Allen, Bob Hazell….who had a great game. We were second tier, but we had no fear ! It wasn’t a particularly great footballing game, but we were genuinely the better side….Venables had it sorted. It was just a matter of time, and then it….’happened’.
I say it ‘happened’ in every sense of the word.
When that ball hit the back of the net, the place just erupted, not sure how much Clive Allen knew about it, but it will live with me forever. I have experienced many great occasions with this wonderful club of ours, and don’t want to take anything away, but for whatever reason….the players, the occasion, the time, the place, the atmosphere, the fans, the club….we lifted the roof, it was a coming together of people….simply wonderful !
At the final whistle, the players came towards the Stand and celebrated with us, emotional scenes, but like us, they were almost overwhelmed. I remember leaving the ground, looking back at the stadium with their marble halls….against all the odds….so proud. It was then back to Kilburn for more of the same, the rest is a blur….happy days !
I went with family and friends from East Acton in their car. I’d never been so nervous in a game at that time, since then there have been hundreds more obviously. I stood on the North Bank with the goal to my left. I was a little worse for wear so in my inebriated state I sat on a crash barrier so I could see the game properly. When the ball hit the net it appeared to travel in slow motion and time seemed to stand still before absolute pandemonium broke out. I ended up on the terrace floor under stamping feet. It sobered me up I tell thee.
After the game we had to walk to the car on the Holloway Road, past the railway lines that separate the old ground with the Emirates. Bad move as the road must’ve had over 50 coaches parked in it. Seeing as most of us drove or went by tube it was evident that we were in the wrong street. One of our party wanted to have it with them even though he was only 15, but he was an amateur boxer who turned pro a few years later. We got through it eventually unscathed. Back to the Goldsmiths pub on East Acton Lane for one almighty party and then watched MOTD on a tiny TV and the pub went mental on seeing the goal again.
Ken Montgomery’s report appeared in the Sunday Mirror the following day:
‘Clive Allen, the kid who writes his own headlines, booked a place at the Wembley Cup Final Ball for Rangers, those soccer cinderallas from the Second Division. Allen’s 72nd minute goal settled this Highbury hiccup that sent Rangers to their first-ever FA Cup Final, and earned his team-mates a ¬£5,000 bonus between them.
And Rangers boss Terry Venables was so worked up afterwards he even refused a glass of champagne….preferring a nice cuppa: ‚ÄúI just needed to cool down,‚Äù he said. He went on: ‚ÄúWe were the better side. We clamped down well on Cyrille Regis and big Bob Hazell did a cracking job. Tony Currie and Glen Roeder were also outstanding. They started everything for us and, in the end I felt we were well worth our win.‚Äù
Albion, the First Division aristocrats, couldn’t moan about losing their 19th semi-final. ‚ÄúThat’s the worst we’ve played all season,‚Äù manager Ronnie Allen said. ‚ÄúAndy King has a suspected broken nose and his injury upset the rhythm of the side a bit. A draw would probably have been fairer.‚Äù But Rangers looked the better side all through in a match littered with free kicks, bad passes and hardly a scoring chance at either end.
Allen’s Dad, Les, who went to Wembley with Spurs in 1961, was almost as excited as his 20-year-old son when sharp-shooter Clive fired home the winner. There was a tear in Les’s eye at full-time when he told me: ‚ÄúI’m as excited for Clive as I was when we got to Wembley. It’s too tremendous for words‚Äù. But if Clive got the handshakes for the winner, the man who deserved the biggest pat on the back was their giant central defender Bob Hazell. He won his battle of the heavyweights hands down against Cyrille Regis, allowing the most electrifying striker in the country just one crack at goal – in the 69th minute, when young Peter Hucker dealt confidently with a Regis shot.
Albion were desperately disappointing. They lost King at half-time, but even Gary Owen who replaced him, made little difference. Albion had no one with the authority of Currie in midfield. And they could never find a way past Hazell and the elegant Glenn Roeder, an inspirational skipper for Rangers. But make no mistake, this was no classic. As early as the fourth minute, Terry Fenwick was booked for fouling Regis. And just on half-time, Romeo Zondervan had his name taken for crash tackling Gary Waddock.
It took Albion 35 minutes to force the game’s first corner. And Rangers made only one worthwhile chance in the opening half. Allen latched onto a left-wing cross from Simon Stainrod, but he flashed his shot wide. It looked certain for a semi-final stalemate as defenders proved too powerful for both sets of forwards. Then Steve Mackenzie cracked a 30-yard pile driver just wide in the 62nd minute, and that seemed to shake Rangers up.
In the 71st minute, the Londoners forced their first corner, and soon after we got the goal that smashed the stalemate. As the ball came into the box from the right, Allen, the ¬£1 million misfit, once more repaid Rangers’ faith in him. The kid they sold to Arsenal then brought back from Crystal Palace has scored an awful lot of goals in his relatively short career. But never one so vital as the goal that takes Rangers to their first ever FA Cup Final. Yet if you had been forced to bet before the game on who would get the goal that settled it, Allen would have been one of the favourites.
Wembley has become a tradition for the Allen family. Apart from Dad Les, Cousin Paul went there with West Ham a couple of years back. No doubt when Rangers walk up the Wembley tunnel to face Spurs in this all Cockney Cup Final, the Allen clan will fill half the main stand.’
The attendance was 45,015 and the R’s lined up as follows:
Hucker, Fenwick, Gillard, Waddock, Hazell, Roeder, Currie, Flanagan, Allen, Stainrod, Micklewhite
My thoughts before the game took me back to the 1967 League Cup Final and how would we stop Cyrille Regis to help us get to Wembley again ? No worries there, Bob Hazell’s legendary performance took good care of that. I stood on the North Bank that day and the goal celebrations were probably one of the wildest and maybe even the longest that I have ever encountered.