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Trophy memories

March 20, 2014
Jason Rhodes, who sent the Brook End delirious with his equaliser that dat.

Jason Rhodes

I was having a browse on Twitter the other day as you do, and saw that Cambridge Utd and Gosport Borough have made it to this year’s FA Trophy final this coming Sunday.

The Trophy final used to be May, but I guess with an even more congested fixture list nowadays that the Trophy is the easy option to move. Can’t exactly bring the Play-off final’s forward, can you?!

Like many Albion fans I’ve got fond memories of the Trophy. I was 11 months old when we made the final at Wembley in 1987 so despite not going, I do make the official video in what was my first official silver-screen appearance.

I know reaching Wembley was the pinnacle for my Dad, his personal highlight of watching the Albion. I’ve spoken to other supporters who feel the same, classing it as more special than the Man Utd cup games.

I started going Albion in 1993/94. With us usually well out of the race for the League’s sole promotion place by the time the New Year rolled around, the Cup’s and Trophy bought a welcome distraction from mundane mid-table encounters and also that feeling of hope and excitement that we could re-create the magic of ’87.

In the 1995/96 FA Trophy 3rd round we were drawn at home to Northern League leaders Bamber Bridge. What a game. 3-0 down, the Brewers hit back to salvage a draw and a replay back up in Lancashire. You can read more about that game here – https://jaygolds.wordpress.com/2012/11/25/on-this-day/

After winning the replay (Albion went 3-0 up before Bridge pulled 2 late goals back but the full time whistle prevented a repeat of the original fixture!), we were drawn at home to Conference side Telford United in the First Round proper (last 64).

Enduring an inconsistent league season and a league below our visitors, we were very much the underdogs. But you can never write the Albion off when it comes to cup football, right back to 1955 when we defeated Halifax Town at a rain-sodden Wellington Street to book a place at Charlton in the FA Cup 3rd Round, through to Jacques Maghoma smashing one in from 30+ yards at Leicester in the League Cup to put us 4-1 up; the Brewers just love pulling off a good cup shock.

The people of Burton were up for it too. Wembley was still less than 10 years previous and despite admission increases for the game there was a strong 950 in attendance.

I was 9, and all I remember from the first half is that we attacked the Gordon Bray terrace and that it was a typical cold, dull January day.

I couldn’t tell you what half Telford scored in, but they took the lead.

Things were petering out a bit, but then out of nowhere a classic cup encounter well and truly erupted. Telford got a man sent off. Forgive my memory, but I couldn’t tell you what for.

Neither could I tell you in what minute’s Telford’s 2 other red cards occurred in, the Conference side finishing the game with 8 players.

But in amongst these sending-offs were scenes that will remain forever etched in my memory, no matter how many pints of fizzy lager and Burton Bridge I consume.

It was very late in the game and the Brook End was urging the Brewers on to get that equaliser.

I remember the ball dropping in front of Jason Rhodes at the edge of the area. It bounced, and Rhodesy absolutely smashed it, right foot, half-volley, as hard as he could, right in to the roof of the net… The place went absolutely berserk. I was 9 years old and believe me, I had never celebrated like that before. The feeling of elation was just incredible, the place buzzing; I had never seen Eton Park go that mental over a goal.

We all caught our breath. People started chanting, it didn’t happen a lot at Eton Park back then so you knew something was happening when the home end had a sing-song!

Just a few minutes remained, but the Albion weren’t settling for a draw.

Another attack, the ball is with Martin Devaney at the near post, just yards out, and he pokes it low into the back of the net! Devaney turns and charges towards the Popside in celebration, chased by his team-mates and dozens of Albion fans from the Brook End… I can still vividly remember Devaney stood on the advertising hoardings on the Popside, arms aloft. I went absolutely mental again, and actually managed to drag my little legs over the advertising hoardings (they were a lot lower at Eton Park!) but didn’t go in chase of Devaney, oh no, I settled with running up to the back of the net and giving the ball that was nestled there a firm kick.

Back over the advertising hoardings I clambered. I looked to the back of the Brook End where my Dad was stood and noticed the Albion fans were stood a lot closer to the front of the terrace than they had been about 10 minutes earlier.

We were just getting over Devaney’s match winner when Karl Payne stormed through the attacking right of the penalty area. From what I remember it was a tight angle, but that didn’t bother Payney as he smashed another one in, made it 3-1 to the Brewers, sealed the win, and got everyone going absolutely berserk again!

3 absolutely amazing elation-filled goal celebrations in literally 5 minutes, as Aaron Webster says on twitter and Sparrow has tattooed on his arse, it quite literally was “Unbelievable scenes…”

I couldn’t tell you if there was a pitch invasion at full time, probably.

I can remember walking out the ground onto Eton Park rec and hearing the Albion players in the changing rooms singing “Wember-ley Wember-ley Wember-ley!” to the tune of “Albion albion albion…”

As we walked home we kept going over the goals and the celebrations, I couldn’t shut up. My Dad said that as he celebrated our first goal, some random old bloke grabbed him, they danced around going mental, and then this bloke just seemed to disappear into thin air! Ah, we’ve all celebrated a goal with a complete stranger once or twice.

Despite all the successes since, the promotions and big Cup wins, that Trophy tie against Telford has to be in my top 5 games of all time. Just typing about it here has bought all the memories flooding back and has left me with goosebumps.

I had passed cloud 9 and my love of football and the Brewers had been taken to a whole new level.

Okay so it wasn’t exactly Wembley, but it’s still one hell of a Trophy memory.

Link to the 1995/96 Trophy fixtures & results – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1995%E2%80%9396_FA_Trophy

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From → The Albion.

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