As we get nearer to today trying to find something interesting that’s not plastered over the internet gets harder and harder. Every year, the evening before the FA Cup Final, the London Society of Associated Referees holds a dinner in honour of the officials and today’s scans are the programme for that event in 1998.
Also, below that is a little piece I wrote last night about winning The Double.
Doing The Double.
I have vague memories of winning the double in 1971. I was very young and have absolutely no memory of the Championship but I certainly remember jumping around then lying on the floor imitating Lord Charlie of George one glorious Saturday afternoon. Funnily enough the gloriously technicoloured yellow of the moment was to be a later pleasure as we were still in an age where our TV lacked the colour to make Hibs not look suspiciously like The Arsenal. Sorry Hearts fans but…
Anyway, The Double. It was reverently talked about. Only the forth time ever. Only the forth club ever. It was a while before I found out how much it annoyed our friends up the road but I knew it was a serious thing. And I grew up dreaming of it happening again. As I got older and played a reasonable game obviously those dreams started to involve me being the LCoG but in the real world the double was such an elusive thing that year after year clubs failed to do it. There were times when teams came close; indeed Liverpool had a habit of winning doubles including European Cups but they were just doubles, they won a double. It wasn’t The Double. It’s the capitals. For English football it is an amazing thing to do. It is the complete mastery of all that matters in English football. For whatever reasons the FA Cup may have been devalued to some extent but win it and the League and you’ve done something proper.
Then Liverpool did it.
But that’s only five.
We did win a double. The FA and League (don’t ask me what it was called that week) Cup double was amazing. It was a double that I thoroughly enjoyed, even more-so as having a May birthday my LCoG dream scenario obviously happened on my birthday. Now whilst technically we won the double that doesn’t need capitalised the day before my birthday, as I walked out of the station on the way home I looked at the time and it was exactly as it passed midnight. At that moment, although I’d sadly grown up (some may debate that) and had long since stopped dreaming of LCoGing it with a screamer the sheer rarity of The Double made me think that this was my one chance to get close to celebrating it. Only five teams had ever done The Double.
Then that French bloke turned up. I knew more about him than most when he took over (or rather when we knew he’d take over). I’d read an interview with Glenn Hoddle a month or two before and in it he’d mentioned this great coach called Arsene Wenger. Yes the name did stick because it sounded like Arsenal, but it stuck so I’d officially heard of him. In pre-wiki days having heard the name and knowing he had been at Monaco made me the font of all wisdom. Which can be limited.
Anyway…1998. I moved. On FA Cup semi-final day I moved to Newcastle. I hope your irony klaxon went off then. It was a near excellent day of planning apart from our Final opponents. Van loaded the day before. Went up to Villa Park with my Dad for the game. Mate drove van to Villa Park getting there during game. We won semi, met mate, he went home with my Dad and I drove the van to Newcastle. Luckily expert planning meant I didn’t have to miss any games that season, although I learnt a lot about travelling from Newcastle to London!
Everton at Highbury. It was a lovely day, it was a lovely atmosphere. We hadn’t won the league but we had three games left and not a lot of points needed. The t-shirt sellers already had champions t-shirts and people were wearing them but I thought that was too much too soon. Didn’t annoy me but I just thought it was wrong. My Dad even asked me if I wanted a shirt (bless) but I said no straight away. We weren’t chatty people about life and stuff but he just looked at me, I looked at him, and he nodded. Then the game. 1-0. We hadn’t won it yet. 2-0. We hadn’t won it yet. We celebrated the third and my Dad said something about the shirt and I said no. We hadn’t won it. Yet. Then Steve Bould strolled around midfield, pinged if forward for the runner and Tony Adams stuck it in the onion bag. After I’d indulged in the sort of Neanderthal ‘ooh ooh’ ing fist pumping celebration rarely seen outside a dystopian film my Dad rather politely asked if I wanted him to get me the shirt on the way out. Yeah, fair enough.
That day the stand really rocked. It bounced up and down. It was absolutely amazing being up there. We were fairly high up in the middle and you could feel it going up and down. For one moment I did briefly look up and think I could jump to grab a girder if it collapsed and hang on until someone got me down (yeah right) but then I thought sod it we’ve won the league. It had been seven years since we’d won the league and you know how cranky fans can get.
On to Wembley. I drove down the evening before. OK, I made my car rather red and white with a scarf out of each front window and a shirt in the hatch, but I didn’t think every single other car for one hundred miles would be full of NUFC fans! I got mooned at. More than once. You don’t need to know how many times but it was more than once. Then I stopped at some services. I was sensible about the car as I tugged the scarfs in before I stopped and yanked the shirt before I left the car but I was wearing a shirt and as I went from the car park to the services (I obviously use the term very loosely) there were dozens of stripy people around the entrance. Loud people drinking beer. Well my short time in Newcastle had, if nothing else, taught me the only way was bold and brash so I filled my lungs and gave it ‘The Arsenal’ clap clap clap which received a deserved raucous round of applause and much back slapping. Phew.
On to Wembley. It was a glorious Saturday afternoon. It was also one of those strange footballing days where every time you turn around someone you know is there. I must have seen just about everyone I’ve ever know at football ever that day. Perfect. I was with my Dad again and he was strangely confident. We did all the Wembley stuff and watched all the stuff in the ground and it was buzzy because I danced in the aisle to the Arsenal record when it was played. I don’t dance. There was a righteous confidence that the team played out. We’d actually done it. The Double. My double whoever actually scored the goals!
As we were going out of the ground my Dad turned to me. “Do you remember rolling around on the floor like Charlie George?”