Tomorrow Crystal Palace will take on Manchester United in the 2016 FA Cup final, with the majority of the Eagles’ line-up having not played in one of English football’s biggest occasions.
However 26 years earlier, 13 men wrote their name in Eagles’ folklore by becoming the first players in the club’s history to represent Palace in the final. Hear some of their share their memories of the game against United.
Steve Coppell: “It was a great game, especially for the neutrals and a great day for Palace fans. To have knocked on the door and had a look in the big room was fabulous.”
Nigel Martyn: “People of my age group had a special routine on cup final day itself - watching the morning build-up on TV, then going down the park for a kick-around, back to watch the game before going back out to replicate the players who had made the headlines in the final. Crystal Palace were going to be part of this special day.”
Mark Bright: “The FA Cup final for me was the biggest thing and I couldn’t believe I was playing in it. Everyone I’d ever met or bumped into was wishing me luck, and we even had telegrams when we got to Wembley but the manager said to soak all that up, then come back into the changing room and get ready.”
“You have a massive advantage if you’ve played in a cup final before. It was all new to us – all the pictures and interviews on the pitch before, so your routine is out because you’re so excited.”
Ian Wright: “You see players missing cup finals through injury and I thought I was going to be one of those players. I made it with a couple of days to go which was amazing. I wasn’t meant to come out with the team as I was a sub but I said ‘I’m not going to miss this!’.”
NM: “I can remember the feeling walking down the tunnel with the great stadium just a sea of red and blue balloons; it was the first real time that kind of colour had exploded onto the cup final scene in that way. As a club we were on a crest of wave, you just felt so invincible and seeing that kind of support around Wembley gave us such a lift.”
MB: “Our chances were lessened than in the semi-final because Steve Coppell had said he wasn’t going to start Wrighty because he’d had two broken legs and wanted to give him a chance to recover, but I wanted him to start as well because he gave me and the whole team a better opportunity.”
IW: “We were losing 2-1 and I was desperate to come on. When I did I couldn’t catch my breath because I was nowhere near the fitness I needed. However I got past Mike Phelan and I knew Gary Pallister was going too fast so I cut it back really quick and saw a lot of the goal and I finished it close to Jim Leighton’s legs. When I ran away you could see it meant everything – I couldn’t contain the emotion.”
MB: “I was devastated I never scored in the final. If we had won on the day it would have balanced itself out but because I didn’t play well I was disappointed, but when Ian came on and scored I was so happy for him.”
IW: “For the second I knew John Salako was going to cut back and he gave me a perfect ball. I couldn’t believe we were 3-2 up in extra-time and it would have been the greatest game I’d ever been involved with if we had won it.”
SC: “Looking back at that game on video since we were the stronger team, but they battered us towards the end and when you dissect the final goal you wonder why certain people didn’t do things.”
MB: “When Wrighty scored again it was confusing because I thought ‘we’re going to win this’. We didn’t but we had a party after the game and we were on a high as we felt we had nothing to fear, but that was our chance.”
SC: “In the first game we thought we might win, but in the replay we almost expected to. Before the replay myself and the staff left the players for a few minutes to establish what the next 90 minutes might mean for them for the rest of their lives. That was a mistake because they were so charged that when they got out there they didn’t play.”
for full details of the match being shown live at Selhurst Park Stadium.