May 17, 1997 FA Cup Fi­nal

FourFourTwo - - ACTION REPLAY -

Boro fan, James Prosho

“Forty-two sec­onds. All it took was 42 sec­onds for the op­ti­mism, pos­i­tiv­ity and won­der of an FA Cup fi­nal to be sapped from my nine-year-old body. Roberto Di Mat­teo’s spec­u­la­tive 25-yard ef­fort sailed straight through the hap­less Ben Roberts’ flap­ping, crisp-packet hands, to en­sure that Mid­dles­brough’s 1996-97 soap opera sea­son would fin­ish with the dampest of squibs.

Glo­ri­ous May sun shone on the cap­i­tal as Teesside de­scended on the Big Smoke. I was the only kid al­lowed to travel down with my dad’s group of friends, and joined them on a pub crawl around Sur­biton the night be­fore like a lost mas­cot.

In one of the pubs we met Wim­ble­don mid­fielder Ste­wart Cas­tle­dine. He en­joyed a few jars with us and even signed one of my dad’s friend’s busi­ness cards.

We’d been rel­e­gated from the Pre­mier League and lost a League Cup fi­nal re­play to Le­ices­ter in a sea­son which be­gan with sign­ing Fabrizio Ra­vanelli, who’d scored in the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal for Ju­ven­tus a few weeks ear­lier.

Rav had to be faxed train­ing sched­ules from Italy as our man­ager Bryan Robson was, frankly, not up to drilling his play­ers. Then there was the in­fa­mous three-point de­duc­tion for fail­ing to ful­fil a fix­ture at Black­burn af­ter an in­jury cri­sis.

None of that mat­tered now. I’d spot­ted two mag­pies that morn­ing so knew it was go­ing to be a joy­ous day. As I climbed up the steps at the old Wem­b­ley – dressed head to toe in red and white and smil­ing from ear to ear – I grabbed my dad’s hand and thought, ‘At least we’ll have this’.

Forty-two sec­onds later, Di Mat­teo had done his thing and I was bawl­ing into my dad’s em­brace. I think Ed­die New­ton got a sec­ond goal for Chelsea but I re­mem­ber lit­tle else. I was in­con­solable. Then I slept for the whole drive home.”

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