FA Cup 1997/98
This is an account form my point of view of the matches that brought the football club of a small West Yorkshire village to national prominence in the 1997-1998 English Football season.
Normally Emley's involvement in the FA Cup is completed by the end of October. Only once before have we reached the Fourth Qualifying Round, in 1990-91, when, after 3 epic matches against Chorley, we went on to reach the First round proper and lose to Bolton Wanderers (then in the 3rd division) 3-0.
Emley is a club that is already over-achieving for its size by competing in the Unibond Northern Premier League, Premier Divison. By rights we should still be in the Huddersfield League. However the exploits of a team of largely local players in 1968-69 and 1969-70 took us to the last 16 of the Amateur Cup where we met, the then giants of Amateur Football, Dagenham and Barking. Both interestingly from East London, which gives this story a nice symmetry.
From there we went into the Yorkshire League, the Northern Counties East, and the Northern Premier, winning six championships and innumerable cups along the way. This included a trip to Wembley in the 1988 FA Vase final and the Quarter finals of the FA Trophy.
A headline making FA Cup run had always eluded us. However we started 1997-98 with probably the best team we have ever had in terms of pedigree, and a very astute manager in Ronnie Glavin. We had finished 4th in the Unibond the previous season, and had we had a better first half of the season we might have won it.
First Qualifying Round - Saturday 13th September 1997, Workington Town, Away.
The First Qualifying round gave us a potentially tricky tie away at Workington who are in the Unibond First Division. I have been there before, but I missed this one. Workington is at the end of the earth, then another twenty miles, so I dare say there weren't many Emley fans there. Michael Thompson got two and Nicky Wood the other to give us a comfortable win.
Result: 3-0 (Thompson 2, Wood) Att: 186
Second Qualifying Round - Saturday 27th September 1997, Durham City, Away.
The Second Qualifying Round was again away. Another long trip, to the usually difficult North-East, Durham City. Durham are in the Northern League, which was probably the best league competition outside the Football League at one time. We have had many tough battles against teams from this area, often ending in defeat. We had in fact played Durham before, in the 1997-98 FA Vase run. We met them away (as we were in every round that year) in the Quarter-Final. They gave us a very good game before we ran out 4-2 winners. In 1988 they played at a pleasant ground overlooked by Durham Cathedral. They have since moved and now play on an industrial estate outside the city. We found is easily, but the locals must have more trouble as there weren't many of them there. Then they were in the second division of the Northern League, but have since been promoted, hence we expected a tough match.
It turned out to be nothing of the sort. Durham wore a dingy yellow-green strip, and their football was just as uninspiring. Normally in the North-East the opposition is very committed, often to the point of brutality. Durham however seemed overawed by mighty Emley! How we didn't score in the first half, I'll never know. Durham had had perhaps one good attack, but we were fearing 'one of those days' after all our chances went begging.
In the second half though 'Jelly' (Michael Reynolds) finally produced the goods with two goals in succession. One of the was a mazy dribble coolly finished. After this we relaxed and added two more (from Lacey and Glynn Hurst) before Durham even got a sniff. Near the end they thought they had a goal which Marps (Chris Marples) clawed off the line. The referee didn't give it, though Marps later admitted it was at least a foot over the line. Robert Tonks rounded things off at the death to give us a comfortable 5-0 victory.
Results: 5-0 (Reynolds 2, Lacey, Hurst, Tonks) Att: 292
Third Qualifying Round - Saturday 11th October 1997, Belper Town, Home.
Next up were Belper Town, in the only home draw we were to have in the competition. Belper are old rivals of ours from the Northern Counties East days. They are from a pleasant Derbyshire town, somewhere I always enjoyed going back in the eighties, despite us never seeming to get a result there. They are now on their way up, having got into the Unibond First division recently. They came to Emley with a good record, with a particularly mean defence.
Any fears we had were temporarily allayed when Dean Calcutt scored a fine goal. Placing the ball just inside the post. He was new to us then, having previously played only a couple of games since coming from the Huddersfield League, but he seemed to have class. We relaxed, but Belper were fired up. They had some good chances up to half-time, but their lack of fire-power let them down.
In the second half, Belper continued to dominate, and we could no longer relax. Eventually they got their reward when their captain fired in from 25 yards. They continued to look good after this and we were thinking a draw would be a good result. Against the run of play though Deiniol Graham, our ex Man.U. star got the winner, and we breathed a sigh of relief. Thankfully we didn't play that poorly again in the competition.
Result: 2-1 (Calcutt, Graham) Att: 396
Fourth Qualifying Round - Saturday 25th October 1997, Nuneaton Borough, Away.
The Fourth Qualifying Round presented us with unknown territory - Nuneaton Borough, from the Southern League Premier Division. We haven't played many teams from this league - on a par with our own - but a look at their form showed they were well placed, and were scoring for fun , averaging about 4 a game. Their manager apparently said he was pleased to get a Northern Premier side as he didn't rate the league compared to the Southern League. This proved to be a good incentive to the team.
I arrived 5 minutes late at the ground, having got stuck in the interminable M6 traffic jams. When I got into Nuneaton, I realised I hadn't a clue where the ground was. I found it with luck rather than judgement and ran to the turnstile, kids in tow. I was amazed at the crowd when I got in - around 2000 were there. Nuneaton are a once big non-league club, on their way back again. They were in the Alliance Premier (now the Conference) at one time, but must have fallen on hard times.
Their ground was certainly impressive, and I had difficulty spotting the faithful band of Emley fans amongst it. When I did find my place we were in front of a large number of boisterous Nuneaton fans, who were not particularly happy and were chanting taunts about them still having an open Coal Mine, unlike us. The reason they were unhappy was that Deiniol Graham had already put us one up with a fine lob from a through ball.
This soon changed however as Nuneaton played some fine football, running us ragged with swift attacks. They got an equaliser, then another, and things looked bleak. By the time half time arrived we were pleased to be just one goal down - not the last time we were to feel that way.
The second half we were transformed. Whether Nuneaton thought they had it won, I don't know, but Ronnie's cup throwing at half time, and the switching of Jelly to the right wing, made us look a different team. Jelly put in a couple of crosses that were not converted, but were a sign of things to come. Then from another attack the ball fell to Jonah (Simon Jones), our left back, well outside the area. The players and crowd alike shouted for him to pass. But, with his right foot - normally strictly for standing on - Jonah unleashed, what looked like a non-too fierce shot. But it bent and swerved, and despite the 'keeper getting a hand on it, it found the net! We would have settled for that, and a replay, but straight away Jelly went up the wing, put a perfect cross onto Glynn Hurst's head and 3-2.
We were back from the dead. Nuneaton tried to come back, but we now had their measure. Despite one or two scares, we held on for a thrilling victory, and the first round draw.
There was one other memorable moment from this match, from which the legend of Rag-Arse Rovers was born. Up to the 4th Qualifying Round we had only had 3 substitutes. This is fine, as we only have 14 shirts, numered 1-15 (no 13). In this round however, 5 subs are allowed, so we were a shirt short. Not only that but we forgot the number 8 shirt, so we had to use the number 15 from the start. When our third sub was used, the outgoing player, had to give his shirt to the incoming one, just like in Sunday morning pub football.
On the way home I was elated at the prospect of a football league club in the first round. Who would it be - Preston? - great cup tradition, York City, Hull City? - local derby. No - Morecambe, away (again). No disrespect to Morecambe, because they are a fine club. But they were also riding high in the Conference and were a difficult proposition. The main reason however was that we wouldn't get much money, or attention from the media for the match.
Result: 3-2 (Graham, Jones, Hurst) Att: 1960
First Round - Saturday 15th November 1997, Morecambe, Away.
I wasn't optimistic about getting a result when the day arrived for the match at Morecambe. Our record against them is OK, they were in our league up until a couple of seasons ago and we had played them last season in the Trophy, winning a replay 3-1. They were however very quick up front, and even if we got a draw they had won all their away matches up until then. At Lancaster the previous week, Lacey had been missing and we surrendered a two goal lead. The Lancaster fans reckoned Morecambe would put 8 past us.
Things didn't start well. Morecambe scored early on, and again we were happy to go in only a goal down. In the second half they had further chances to score, but around the hour point, after Deiniol Graham had been brought on, we started to make an impression on them. Jelly again swapped wings and ran at them. This had them very worried. After some good runs, Jelly once again went into the area and was brought down. Banger (Ian Banks) equalised from a nervy penalty. For a while it was all Emley. Jelly again made a fine run and thumped the ball past the 'keeper. It looked a goal all the way, the bend taking the ball just inside the post, but no, it hit the post, went across the goal line, round the other post and out for a goal-kick.
P.D. (Paul David) also had a couple of good chances to get us the lead. Towards the end Morecambe came back at us. Marps had already made two fine saves from men clean through, when deep into injury time they broke through again. But again Marps was up to it. Yet again he came out the winner in a one-on-one situation. We were more than pleased to have got a draw and a replay.
This game also contained the incident that confirmed our role as Rag-Arse Rovers. We had now got enough shirts, but still had not had the number 16 put on the new one. Just before the game someone stuck the number on using double sided tape. However, when the sub ran on the number 1 fell off straight away, followed by the 6 a few strides later, leaving the sub without a number.
Result: 1-1 (Banks (pen)) Att: 1496
First Round Replay - Tuesday 25th November 1997, Morecambe, Home.
The replay back at Emley was watched by the biggest crowd so far, just under 2500. Morecambe's away record still gave cause for concern though, and I still wasn't convinced we could get the win.
By now we knew who we would be playing - Lincoln City or Gainsbrough Trinity (away - again), so the incentive was there - a match against league opposition, or against a team from our own league, who we were capable of beating to get to the third round, and the really big guns.
The night was grim, foggy and drizzly and most of the match was a tense affair. By now the local TV programmes, Calender and Look North had started to take an interest. There were items on both their tea-time shows. No coverage from the national media yet though.
Morecambe again got off to the better start, taking the lead early on with a fine move down the left, culminating in an unstoppable header. Emley gradually got going though and equalised before half-time when Banger hit a low hard shot towards goal, and Glynn Hurst steered it inside the post.
The second half was fairly even, though Morecambe probably had the better chances. It was still very tight though and we entered extra-time with the prospect of penalties being required. This was something I was dreading, as the tension is virtually unbearable.
The teams started to tire, and in the 111th minute the deadlock was finally broken. Hursty broke clear and finished well inside the far post. Would this be enough to see us through? The last 9 minutes dragged by. Four minutes from time, Morecambe's Japanese full back cut across field, as he had done before. That time he didn't shoot, but this time he took a chance and lashed the equaliser in just under the bar from 25 yards. Our hearts sank - penalties looked likely. In the last minute though we were seemingly saved from them, but unfortunately it was Morecambe who seemed to have snatched the tie. From another break their man seemed to have lost it when he fell over. But he laid the ball off whilst on the floor, got up, took the return and slotted it past Marps.
We were distraught - robbed again in the last minutes of extra time. A large number of people started leaving as we hung our heads in despair. One last attack however and Willy (Mark Wilson) won a corner. This came over and fell to the sub, Gazza (Garry Marshall), who had only been on a few minutes, on the penalty spot, unmarked. He picked his spot and put it just inside the right hand post. From despair to ecstasy, but it wasn't all over.
The ref blew up and the dreaded penalty shoot out became a reality. Marps has not hitherto had a good reputation for penalty stopping. I'd never seen him save one before. However he pulled off a terrific save to stop their first one. Banger stepped up and slotted coolly home. Then Marps pulled off one of the best penalty saves we are likely to see, diving to his right and getting a hand to a fierce shot. At first, I thought he hadn't done enough and the ball had gone in, hit the stansion and come out, then I realised we didn't have any stansions! It had hit the post. Deiniol then fired home an excellent spot kick to put us two up.
They got their third, and Nicko (Steve Nicholson) got our third. The pressure was all on them. They had to get the next one. Marps went the other way this time and guessed right, saving low to his left. Pandemonium ensued, and even the more mature of us invaded the pitch to celebrate. Marps hung on to the match ball to commemorate his hat-trick of penalty saves and was interviewed at home and in the TV studios, in what was to become a familiar role as the hero. He confirmed his previous poor record at penalties but said that he had watched the players towards the end to see which way they perferred to pass the ball! Knowing Marps enthusiasm for talking tosh, this seemed unlikely to most of us.
Result: 3-3 (Hurst 2, Marshall) Penalties: 3-1 (Banks, Nicholson,
Graham) Att: 2439
Second Round - Saturday 6th December 1997, Lincoln City, Away.
In the mean time Lincoln City, top of the Third Division had made heavy weather of beating Gainsbrough, 3-2 in a replay. So a trip to Sincil Bank beckoned.
The national press again took little interest in the tie, preferring to concentrate on the southern non-league sides. Basingstoke did particularly well out of this getting both their original tie and the replay on Match of the Day and live on Sky. It seemed the only way to get noticed was to reach the third round.
Lincoln have an unspectacular history, they even spent a season in the Conference a few years ago after finishing bottom of the football league. Recently though they have had a revival under the unique management of John Beck. Beck took Cambridge to the verge of the first division in the Eighties and has a management style all his own, thankfully. This is based on gamesmanship, intimidation and the percentage game.
There have been many stories in the past about how he tries to get the psychological edge over his opponents. These range from the very loud music aimed at his opponents dressing room to, aledgedly, getting the apprentices to urinate in the opposition's half-time cup of tea. The week before Macclesfield had visited Sincil Bank and had accused Beck of getting the ball-boys to roll the ball in the mud before returning it to them, but cleaning it for Lincoln. They also accused him of turning the heating in the away dressing rooms up very high, and having significantly lower pressure in the practice balls given to the away team, than in the match ball.
I got a first hand look at some of these tactics as my son, Chris, was the mascot for this game and I accompanied him to the Emley changing room. The loud music was certainly in evidence, but our lads seemed to enjoy it, the room was also very warm, we took our own practice balls and tea!
Sincil Bank is a nice stadium, having had new stands all the way round in recent years. It now holds over 11,000, though there were only 3,700 at the game. The people of Lincoln do not seem to hold the current team in high esteem despite their position at the top of their league. Perhaps they have difficulty finding the ground as the local council seem to be reluctant to signpost its presence. Most non-league grounds I visit are better sign-posted.
The real reason however probably has more to do with the style of football on offer. Beck follows the percentage principle - the more times the ball gets into the opposition's penalty area, the more goal-scoring opportunities there will be. He does not follow the route one principle however i.e. boot the ball into the box from anywhere on the pitch. Instead he tried to get the balls to the corners of the oppositions half. To aid this he keeps the grass up to six inches long in the corners of the pitch to slow the ball down. Defenders therefore cannot assume the ball will run out, and are often forced to give away a corner or throw-in. Beck doesn't mind this. He doesn't even mind if the opposition get the throw-in, as all his players are big and intimidate the opposition strongly at their throw ins, making the ball very difficult to clear.
Normally teams would rather give a throw-in away than a corner. Again Beck doesn't mind, as every throw-in in the opposition's half is thrown long - into the penalty area. He has at least two long throw experts for this task. Throw-ins are therefore as good as corners, and the pressure is unremitting as the only way to keep the ball out of your area is to pass it out rather than clearing to the touchline. It aint pretty, but it is effective, especially against physically weaker teams. Presumably this can be said of most of the rest of the third division. Anyway, handsome is as handsome does I suppose.
The average Beck-type player is big and strong and a good header of the ball, and is not averse to niggly fouls off the ball. Ironically one player in their team who does not fit this mould, is Colin Alcide, who the previous manager signed from Emley. Their fans afterwards regarded him as an oasis of talent in Becks footballing desert.
When the Emley players reached the dressing room I was alarmed to see Cagney (Neil Lacey) our strong, tall centre-half, and Banger, our central midfield maestro, on crutches. They had both got injured in the last-minute defeat at Solihull on Wednesday, and would be out for some time. Against a team like Lincoln their absence was a severe blow. Solihull had done us no favours at all, they had called the match off on the previous Saturday due to a water-logged pitch. I went, not knowing it was off, and the pitch was fine. The real reason may have more to do with the tough cup match they had had the previous Wednesday against Darlington (which they lost on penalties), and the fact that we had this game coming up. A re-arrangement for the Wednesday suited them just fine.
The game started predictably with Lincoln coming at us full-throttle. Nicky Wood played in the middle of midfield alongside Willy, and P.D. played at the back. They soon had us in trouble and went a goal up after about twelve minutes, predictably a header from a corner. The ref gave us a glimpse of the trouble he was to cause us by allowing them to gain several yards at each throw-in - a real plus for a team using the Beck tactics. He also failed to pick up most of the niggly fouls they committed off the ball. Amazingly we ended up with more bookings than them.
The pattern for this cup run was being followed yet again as we slowly got back into it, with our patient passing game. Another plus of this Emley side which was getting more and more apparent was their refusal to let their heads drop and their ability to stand up to physical tactics. As the half wore on things looked brighter, and we were going to settle for a 1-0 deficit at half-time when Glynn Hurst conjured a goal from nowhere, placing a low shot in off the post from 15 yards. We were more than happy with 1-1.
In the second half, Emley looked the better side. Lincoln always looked threatening, but Emley's speed on the break was definitely worrying them. Finally after 84 minutes class told. From a Lincoln corner Emley broke away. A cross from the right was headed on by Hursty and fell to Deiniol. He looked up and placed a shot to the goalkeeper's left from 8 yards out, wide on our left. The 'keeper got his foot to it, and it deflected onto the post. For a moment I didn't think it had gone in, but then the net moved on the other side, Deiniol ran away to our bench and the 700 or so travelling Emley fans went into raptures.
I said to my wife, who rarely goes, but was there to watch Chris as the mascot, that the next five minutes would be the longest of my life, we were so close to a giant killing act for the first time. It was the longest five minutes of my life because it lasted 15. There had been several injuries in the second half, with the stretcher on 3 times and one of the linesmen being replaced, which took quite a while. So we were expecting a fair bit of injury time, five minutes maybe.
We did everything right. Defending solidly, hanging onto the ball when we got it. Hitting them on the break, and holding the ball in the corners. We even had a couple of chances to increase our lead while they looked more and more desperate. Deano (Dean Calcutt) asked the ref how long there was to go after 5 minutes of injury time, and he indicated there were two more with his hand. The two minutes came and went, the tension was unbearable. Marps pulled off a brilliant save and punched the air - that must be enough, but still it went on. I was getting resigned to our fate - he was waiting for them to score! Sure enough after 53 minutes of the second half they did. A desperate scramble in our area led the ball not being properly cleared. A misplaced Lincoln cross fell to Alcide, Nicky Wood and Thommo left Alcide to each other and he put in a fatal cross which an unmarked Fleming headed home. We were distraught and the Lincoln fans couldn't believe their luck. My wife said we all looked like we could cry, and she was right, I was very close.
I'd thought football couldn't affect me like this, now I was a mature Dad. In 1987 we had a nightmare year for disappointment. Emley were knocked out of the FA Vase in the semi-final, one step from Wembley, after being a goal up with eight minutes to go of the two legged tie. We then were knocked out of the league cup in the semi, lost the Sheffield cup in the final due to some very dubious reffing, and fell out of the league title race due to the backlog of games. My other team, Leeds had failed in the FA Cup Semi-final and lost in the play-off final, which meant another year in the second division. After that I'd promised myself I'd be more relaxed about football and its fickle fortune.
This was worse though, we had seemingly missed our chance, as bigger clubs rarely give you a second bite. Before the game 2-2 would have delighted us. Afterwards, it felt like we'd lost.
The next day, the draw for the cup was on. We had finally got noticed by the national media, as the non-league club which had come nearest to causing an upset. Near wasn't good enough though. The draw gave us West Ham United v. Lincoln or Emley, Deiniol was on ITV, and said it gave us a good incentive. But I felt even worse. We had seemingly missed out on a dream trip to a Premiership side. It was the following Wednesday before I came out of my gloom.
Result: 2-2 (Hurst, Graham) Att: 3729
Second Round Replay - Wednesday 17th December 1997, Lincoln City, Home.
The replay was 11 days later at Huddersfield Town's McAlpine Stadium. A crowd of 7000 plus was expected, so Emley's capacity of 2500 was not enough. As it turned out the weather spoiled any chance of a bumper gate and there were just under 5000 there.
I travelled over the Pennines on the day, snow was forecast and I had a difficult journey. The pitch has undersoil heating though, so the match went ahead, despite a light covering of snow. This covering favoured them rather than us. Lacey was back, which meant P.D. was free to move further forward. He nearly scored from one of his trademark free-kicks. Banger wasn't there to take it however and it wasn't quite accurate enough - the header went over. The ref had us shaking our heads in despair when he had a word with Nicko for pinching yards at a throw-in! Overall though I think we had the best of the refereeing decisions this time round.
Lincoln continued their usual pressurising tactics and hit the post in the first half which ended 0-0. The second half continued in the same vein. Quite even with chances to both sides. Lincoln however finally broke through, from a long throw of course. The ball fell back to Whitney on the edge of the area and he fired home well. Soon after we looked dead and buried when after a game of head tennis, following along throw (surprise, surprise), our ex-player, Colin Alcide, headed home. Marps thought someone had handled it and protested vigorously enough to get booked.
In the crowd, our heads went down - it wasn't to be and we would have to wait for another year. On the pitch however the players showed just what great character they have. The fought back, and after coming close once or twice we got one back. Jonah laid the ball back to Jelly on the touch line. He put in a pinpoint cross and Deiniol headed home via the goalies hand. I nearly killed myself falling over the seat in front as I jumped up to celebrate. Our heads came up again. We had a chance. More pressure ensued, but time was running out. Would the ref add 8 minutes on for us?
He didn't need to. Nicko is not normally a goal machine, but he was the inspirational captain on the night. With 4 minutes to go he stormed forward unchallenged. He put a cross in, but it hit the retreating defender, possibly on the hand. This diverted the ball, sent the 'keeper the wrong way, and in it went. Nicko ran almost the full length of the pitch in celebration. I could have joined him.
The ref only added a couple of minutes and extra-time started. Both teams were now very cautious. Deiniol went off with an injury, and Paul Viner came on. It would have been Garry Marshall but he had broken his wrist in training. P.V. was to wish it was the other way round. In the second 15 minutes, Glynn Hurst who was carrying an injury and had been pretty quiet, burst clear into the area. He was brought down and the ref redeemed himself for those 8 minutes when he gave a penalty. Nicko doubled his career goal tally for Emley by slotting it home. I couldn't watch.
Most Emley fans were now singing in celebration. Lincoln were silent, having been dreaming of Upton Park 30 minutes earlier. There were 9 minutes to go. I kept out of the premature celebrations - we've been here before I thought. Sure enough, four minutes from time, Marps punched a long ball poorly, impeded by Thommo, and Hone equalised for Lincoln. We were being denied again. One more move from Lincoln nearly brought the winner. Their man was clear through in the area, but Thommo, who was superb in both games against them got back to make an excellent, clean saving tackle.
Incredibly, the ref blew 15 seconds early for time, and we were at penalties again. The clubs future would rest on the penalty lottery for a second time.
Nicko started, easily beating the keeper. Then it was their turn, and Marps was at it again. He dived to his left to make n excellent stop from Barnet. We were short of two penalty takers - Deiniol had gone off and Banger was injured, so who would have the nerve to take them. Deano, who had wanted take the one in extra-time, before being over-ruled, and who would have taken one against Morecambe if needed, was actually keen to take the next one, such is his confidence in himself. He hit a perfect penalty, high to the keepers right. Their next also went in, and Glynn Hurst calmly put in our third. They got their third - 3-2.
Then Paul Viner stepped forward. P.V. had missed a great chance in extra-time when clean through, and it took great guts from a player who is normally a reserve to step up. Sadly his world fell apart when the 'keeper saved it. My heart went out to him. Their next one went in to make it 3-3 and we were back to all square. P.D. was the final 'volunteer', after hitting it home, he walked away in relief indicating how his heart was beating - I could almost hear it. Their last man, Phil Stant, ex-Huddersfield Town, stepped up. My brother, John reckoned he would miss - there's always one over the bar he said. Stant and Marps shook hands and said they would have a beer on this one. Stant walked away and turned immediately - not a sign of confidence - and hit it to the left hand corner. Marps though was to reach immortality at Emley, he dived and pulled off the save of a lifetime to put us through and send us delirious.
I couldn't help glancing at the ref to make sure he was happy - he was walking off making a note in his book - I could finally believe it and I nearly hit the stadium roof with joy. There were many tears of joy amongst the Emley faithful, and even those who come for just these occasions couldn't help being caught in the euphoria. I just yelled and danced and put my arms in the air, savouring a moment that will stay with me forever.
Back at the club, the local TV cameras were there, doing interviews with us nobodies, and tapping the atmosphere. The players came back (all except Marps who had to go home to Chesterfield) and we celebrated the greatest night in the clubs history until the small hours. We were off to Upton Park to meet mighty West Ham.
Result: 3-3 (Graham, Nicholson 2 (1 pen)) Penalties: 4-3 (Nicholson, Calcutt, Hurst, David) Att: 4891
Third Round - Saturday 3rd January 1998, West Ham United, Away.
The run-up to the 3rd Round tie was just unbelievable. I would never have dreamed that Emley would be on national radio, (Five Live and Radio 1 amazingly). The national TV News, breakfast television and Sky satellite. The press had a feeding frenzy. Emley were THE big sports news story of the week. All the major national papers came north to find Emley, this village of 1800 people in the Pennines. Most of them couldn't believe their eyes. How could this tiny club be playing West Ham? Eighth in the Premiership, cup winners three times and once European Cup Winners Cup Winners, where one player gets 10,000 Pounds a week, with an average home gate of 24,000. Only in the FA Cup could this happen, unique in all the world.
We got all the stories - 'Pit Paupers' (Emley is an ex-mining village), 'two shops, two pubs and Blondies Unisex Hair Salon', they were all looking for an angle, but generally just the 'Little Emley' tag and the stream of Tinker, Taylor and Candlestick maker versus John Hartson was enough. We had a press conference with national TV, radio, Sky, and Press coverage. The club officials, normally just bothered with organising a coach to Frickley Athletic were overwhelmed. I didn't think I'd see the day when pictures of my home village would be all over the national media.
When the Friday came round - the day of departure, people were getting used to it. It almost seemed natural to have satellite TV vans parked in the village. The Sun were travelling with us along with Damien whotsit from Look North. We had a big send-off and got to The Tower Hotel, overlooking Tower Bridge in good time. The players and officials had a multitude of interviews to conduct, whilst we just took it all in. Its a strange experience having Sky news filming you queue for and eat breakfast. To see yourself in The Express and read 10 things you did know about Emley, but apparently most people didn't.
The weather on the Saturday was awful, windy and raining. Some games were off, but ours was OK. They seemed to think it would favour us. We all had great fun looking out for ourselves on News at Ten, on Sky News and on Football Focus. The players were keen to hear themselves being interviewed on Radio Five, even though they knew what they'd said. Geoffrey Jessop managed to get on Football Focus. Willy borrowed my brothers tee-shirt to write a slogan on, for the press to photograph after the game. (By 'eck. Who's Emley?' - they know now).
A fire on the Barking Road blocked the way - great for the journalists, since we have two firemen in the team. When we got there we were led a merry dance trying to find the Ron Greenwood Suite for a drink before the game - it was full. We were led to a box room, which turned out to be the players lounge (the one at Emley is better!), where we couldn't get a drink anyway. Apparently this was were Rio Ferdinand was drinking before he subsequently got caught also driving. Now they've stopped serving alcohol.
We gave it up as a bad job and went into the stadium. The Boleyn Ground is a fine stadium, holding 26000. We were in the lower tier of the Centenary stand, and its low roof made for a great atmosphere. Something like 3000 Emley fans made the journey, though there was room for 3700 in this stand. The players came out to warm up, and we learned Willy, a crowd favourite and our mate, was the unlucky man to be made sub. Ronnie had gone for P.D. alongside Banger in midfield. Willy was very down, and it looked like his day would be spoiled, but it turned out it was not him who was to feel like that after all.
The skies darkened and the rain lashed down at the start of the game, leaving the surface very wet. Neutrals thought this would help, us, but it didn't. We had difficulty keeping our feet in the early stages. Des Lynam and Trevor Brooking reckoned we'd lose 6-0, Jimmy Hill, 4-0 and Dennis Wise 7-0. I said I'd settle for a 2-1 defeat or at least I wanted us to get a goal - something to cheer.
The Emley fans, with a fair number of Huddersfield Town (who's game was off) and probably some Barnsley fans to help, made all the noise - out-singing the Premiership club by a large margin. The pundits predictions looked good though when Kitson hit the bar after two minutes, Lacey pulled a muscle and hobbled off after three, and whilst he was off Lampard exploited the space to put them 1-0 up after 4 minutes. Poor Lacey, a man who's very rarely injured had been struck down at the worst time possible.
The cheer for the goal was half-hearted - 'that's one, now for the rest' they thought. Hartson though was to provide us with some laughs rather than goals (at least for now!). He missed a multitude of chances and our confidence grew. We knew they had to have a very off day, we needed to play out of our skins, and we needed lots of luck to get a result. Gradually we started to hit back. Banger put a free-kick just wide. Our best chance, from a corner was missed-cued by Willy, who replaced Lacey, to get his chance after all. We reckoned we'd be very, very happy indeed with 1-0 at half time. Sure enough we got it. During the break the talk, incredibly, was of getting an equaliser, which would make our day.
We came out all guns blazing, and West Ham didn't know what had hit them. The quality of our play was unbelievable from a side 5 leagues below them. For the first ten minutes we bombarded their goal. Banger hit the bar with a wind affected shot, it looked like it was going well over, but nearly went in. Three corners on the trot showed them to be very vulnerable to the accuracy of Banger's boot from set-pieces. A minute later, a pass back from the half-way line, from a panicky West Ham, went out for another Emley corner. Banks put it over and P.D. rose to get his own immortality his header beating the despairing dive of Laziridis on the line.
This sent us to new heights of celebration. We had fought back to draw level with the best home team in the country - eleven wins out of twelve at home. I had been granted another wish, the only ones left, were to get a result, which was in the realm of miracles. Amazingly we looked capable of it. Matching West Ham at football. The only black mark was an x-rated foul by Willy on Unsworth which might have got him sent-off on another day.
As we crept towards the last ten minutes, I began to think the impossible - we could get a draw! But we were looking more tired, and they were looking more threatening. P.D. cleared from the line from Abou. Every clearance we made was cheered by the Emley fans. The defence was magnificent. Then we broke away - four on two. Hursty carried it forward, hesitated, tried to pass left through Jelly, to the unmarked Deiniol, rather than right to Deano on the wing. It hit Jelly's Heel (!!) and the chance was gone. A minute later Calcutt and Nicko lost the ball on another break, Laziridis crossed, catching us off balance and Hartson redeemed himself by heading home. The impossible dream was gone. The cheer that came from the West Ham fans, was no longer half-hearted, if was a cheer of sheer relief.
Though we battled on, it wasn't to be and I had to settle for 2-1 after all. At the end the Emley players swapped shirts, and West Ham exited quickly. Emley came to us and received a reception which nearly raised the roof. Then when it died down they turned and found the majority of Hammers fans had stayed to cheer them too. Although it is easy to be magnanimous in victory, I felt that the Hammers fans really appreciated what a fine performance it had been. Emley went on a lap of honour, and were enthusiastically applauded by all present. When they got back to our end Willy and Jonah belly flopped into the mud, and they accepted the final plaudits, before going to face the TV cameras and journalists one last time.
Result: 1-2 (David) Att: 18629
From the Build-up
Peter Jackson being interviewd by Sky before breakfast, telling them he got to bed at 3 in the morning after lots of beer. The interviewer asking him if that was good preparation for a big match, but being disappointed at losing the scandal story when Peter informed them he was not a player.
Being filmed for Sky News eating breakfast!
Richard Poulain's twin, only the West Ham scarf allowed us to tell them apart (his twin is a Hammers fan).
From the game
Willy's shot following the headed on corner - his moment of glory passed him by as it spun off his boot into row Z.
Hartsons misses - in particular when he controlled the ball beautifully on his chest in the 6 yard box, brought it down, shaped to finish, it, and fell over , skewing it well wide - hilarious. His frustration was clear to see.
Rio Ferdinand getting more and more annoyed as West Ham faltered in the first half - he was lucky not to get booked a second time for an elbow later on.
The feeling of disbelief as we took them on and matched them at football. Pure pleasure at our performance, I have never enjoyed a match so much just for the sake of it rather than us winning. The only fear we had was that we would be thrashed 6-0. After the first 4 minutes that looked very likely, but by the time we equalised, that fear had gone completely.
Willy's effort during our pressure period after half-time, when his shot from close to the by-line would have sneaked under the bar had not Craig Forrest been alert.
P.D. dribbling the ball out of his own six-yard box leaving Paul Kitson in his wake.
The four man, one touch move in the second half which led to the chant 'Its just like watching Brazil'.
Banger smiling in disbelief as he looked at the scoreboard saying 1-1 with 15 minutes to go.
For the wrong reasons - Willy's stamp on Unsworth. The ref did not want to spoil our day by sending anyone off, otherwise Willy would probably have gone. The ref was generally very good, he protected Willy from the whole West Ham team after the incident before booking him.
The chant of 'You're worse than Lincoln City' after another West Ham move was broken up by our excellent defence.
'Stand up for the Emley Boys' near the end when it was clear we had done everything we could, but it wasn't our day.
Jonah squaring up to Hartson in the first half, having what is known as a 'frank exchange of views'.
The running of Glynn Hurst. The cultured skills of Banger and Deiniol. The character and adaptability of P.D. Nicko following Berkovic's every move. Thommo's class in defence. The Commited 'keeping of Marps. Jonah giving his all. The speed and skill of Jelly and Deano. The sad departure of Cagney, who never had chance to show what he could do. Willy's in the Bremner role. The promise of Tonksy and Woody, neither of whom looked out of place in the short time they were on.
The growing tension of the West Ham fans as the match neared its end - we definitely had them worried.
Their appreciation of Emley's performance. They know good football when they see it.
The atmosphere in the Emley end. Never likely to be repeated. Even those who normally sit quietly watching the game joined in the chants.
From the aftermath
Harry Redknapp's comments about how good we were. He's as honest as the day is long, so I know he meant it and was not being patronising. He was the first in the dressing room afterwards to congratulate the team.
Gazza going into their dressing room to swap a shirt. They told him to take his pick. He got Paolo Alves' shirt, sniffed it and said 'Nah, I'm not having that man, it stinks'. The dressing room was in bits. He ended up with Dowie's shirt and Willy got Alves'.
Peter Jackson being mistaken for Ronnie Glavin by autograph hunters. He signed anyway.
Jonah, having dived in the green sand, with a friction rash on his chest.
Being team of the day on Match of the Day, despite the rather truncated highlights they showed.
P.D.'s interview. He really hates being on camera, but was finding it hard to avoid, having scored a goal.
The rave reviews in the press, the only negative parts being the reference to Deano as a 'violent criminal' (The Times and Telegraph) following his assault conviction (a fight outside a nightclub) and the slating of Willy in the Times, suggesting he 'hides', something he is rarely accused of. This from papers which regard themselves as superior to the tabloids.
Sky's programme laughing at the Emley players fried breakfast in the days of carefully prepared diets for the pros. They commented that 'It didn't seem to affect them though'.
Getting back to Emley and the great reception at the top of the village. The slightly depressing feeling of coming back to earth after reaching for the stars, knowing it was now all over.
After our trip to Wembley in 1988, we thought it could never be any better. Though going to Wembley to watch Emley was fantastic, this achievement eclipsed it, and it now hard to know how we could better this. One of the beauties of football though is that there is always next year, and who knows? One year we may beat a premiership club!
All the matches from the fourth qualifying round onwards were thrilling, each one have its lows and ultimately its highs. In the end we came very near to getting one of the most amazing results of the nineties. Though I think we were a long way from winning, a draw was a real possibility. What would have happened in the replay, we'll never know, though West Ham would have been ready for us a second time, and its hard to see Hartson being so profligate again. Given that we thought that we'd struggle against Morecambe and Lincoln in the second match, which didn't happen, you never know
The low point was at the end of the first Lincoln game when it seemed our chance had gone. The high point is difficult to choose because there were so many. The end of the second Lincoln game and P.D.'s goal at Upton Park are probably the ones, though Deiniol's goal at Lincoln, Gazza's goal against Morcambe, the win in the penalty shoot out, and the equaliser at Nuneaton run them close.
Goals For: 23
Goals Against: 14
Appearances: Marples - 9, Nicholson - 9, Thompson - 9, Reynolds - 9, Graham - 8(1), Jones - 8, Lacey - 8, David - 8, Wilson - 7(1), Hurst - 7, Banks - 6, Calcutt - 5(3), Tonks - 3(6), Wood - 3(4), Hutson - (2), Marshall - (2), Viner - (1)
Scorers: Hurst - 5, Graham - 4, Thompson - 2, Nicholson - 2, Reynolds - 2, Wood - 1, Lacey - 1, Tonks - 1, Jones - 1, Calcutt - 1, Banks - 1, Marshall - 1, David - 1
Total Attendance: 34018