Thursday, 14 May 2015

United vs Arsenal 1979 Cup Final: A personal memory.

12th of May 1979.

I woke up early that May morning jumped out of bed and opened the curtains to let the bright sunlight fill my bedroom. Today was going to be a great day but I had a lot to do that morning, clothes to organise, a visit to the hairdresser with my brothers, collect the rental cars and pick up the flowers.

You might be wondering why I was going through all this trouble for a United cup final against Arsenal at Wembley well the answer is all that preparation was in fact for my mum's wedding to my stepfather. Yes, that's correct my dear mum had booked her wedding on the same day that Dave Sexton would be leading out my beloved Red Devils at Wembley.

To make matters worse all my step father's family were Arsenal fans and my side were reds through and through.

In my mums defence, she had gone ahead and selected the date before United had played and beaten Liverpool in the semi-finals not believing that United would prevail, Oh woman of little faith.

The biggest worry that morning was as the wedding kicked off, sorry ceremony began at 2pm would we make it to the wedding reception before the match started and would there be TV's with which to watch the match.

The ceremony went smoothly and as the confetti was being thrown my brothers and myself were already in the cars tuning in the radio as the match had started five minutes previously. The score was 0-0 so far so good.

We arrived at the reception and quickly sought out a TV while mum was busy meeting and greeting her guests. We found one behind the bar and our hearts sank as Arsenal had taken the lead in the 12th minute through Talbot.

As everybody took their places for the meal and awaited the speeches there was another goal from Arsenal this time scored by future red Frank Stapleton. At half-time United trailed 0-2.

The best man's speech thankfully didn't drag on too long and once the formalities had been observed we headed straight to the bar area where four TV's had been set up for the last 10 minutes of the match, and what a last 10 minutes it was.

It must have been a funny old sight as all of us were sat in our best wedding outfits glued to the television as first Gordon McQueen, playing up front as he was totally knackered, pulled a goal back then the equaliser that lifted the roof of the reception hall. Sammy McIlroy had pulled United level with a superb solo goal.

2-2 and Arsenal would surely be deflated going into extra-time as United were in the ascendency this was going to be our day again.

The next few minutes didn't really sink in until a considerable time later as I was still bouncing from the equaliser and looking forward to the 30 minutes of extra time.

I didn't really take much notice as the ball was crossed in from the left high into United's area and over the reach of keeper Gary Bailey and fell for the approaching Alan Sunderland, who beat Arthur Albiston to poke it home.

The cheers from the Arsenal side of my new family snapped me out of my stunned silence and disbelief of what we had just witnessed. The game was lost at the death after a typically valiant fightback by United.

It was back to the wedding celebrations which continued late into the night. My mum Jayne and stepfather Peter spent many a happy year together but after this experience they were very careful about the dates of future family celebrations.

Memories you can't beat them.

Miles Dunton.