2 CHELSEA 0 MIDDLESBROUGH
May 17, 1997 FA Cup Final
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.”