Semi-final day was another day of FA Cup excitement. Four teams left, two to go to Wembley.
Previously semi-finals were played at neutral grounds –
Villa Park, Highbury and Hillsborough were frequent hosts. However, in my view,
one of the lowest points of FA Cup history was the 1991 semi-final between
Arsenal and Tottenham – as, for the first time, a semi-final was played at
We were told that this would be a one-off. But then in 1993
and 1994, both semi-finals took place at Wembley. And now it is the norm -
since 2008, both semi-finals have taken place at the great stadium. I am
informed this is to help pay for Wembley’s rebuilding work, but I think this
lessens the importance of the final itself.
For television, in the 1970s and 1980s, both games were
played at the same time – and the TV channels would show highlights of one
each. As ever, fans would be crowded round the radio to listen to progress.
My first memory of an FA Cup Semi Final is the controversial
match of 1977 between champions Liverpool and their old rivals Everton at Maine
Road which was on Match of the Day that evening. A great game reached 2-2 and,
in the final minutes, a cross from Ronny Goodlass was deflected into the goal
by Bryan Hamilton’s hip – but disallowed by referee Clive Thomas for reasons
unknown to this day. We can only assume he thought Hamilton had handballed it
or that he was offside (although there was no flag) but Everton fans have been
aggrieved to this day – and Liverpool won the replay 3-0.
In 1990, for the first time, both games were shown live and
on a Sunday, and they were two crackers with Crystal Palace beating Liverpool
4-3 and, after an hour break for the EastEnders omnibus (only two episodes a
week in those days!) we saw Manchester United and Oldham drawing 3-3.
The semi-finals of 1978, our featured year were:
Saturday 8 April 1978 – Match of the Day
Ipswich 3-1 West Bromwich Albion (at Highbury)
Sunday 9 April 1978 – The Big Match
Arsenal 3-0 Orient (at Stamford Bridge)