Liverpool entered the FA Cup Final at Wembley knowing that it was their last chance to win a trophy that season. The previous season’s champions and UEFA Cup winners had chased Leeds United hard all season, almost overcoming the Yorkshire sides record breaking start to the season before finishing as runners up in the League.
The omens did not look good for Liverpool with their opponents, Newcastle United, never having lost a Wembley Cup Final, triumphing on their four previous visits. A side in stripes had also never lost a final since the war, and that run had been continued against all the odds the previous season with Sunderland’s shock win over Leeds.
Coverage of the game was as usual shared between BBC & ITV, with both channels beginning their broadcasts around the 11am mark. BBC had Don Revie alongside David Coleman in the commentary box, as well as Jimmy Hill who had returned to the BBC after his spell at LWT. It is the BBC coverage that I have, recorded from a Cup Kings show on LFC TV, the clubs own satellite channel.
The game saw two stars of Liverpool’s future in the Newcastle line up, with Terry McDermott at the heart of the Magpies midfield, and a 19 year old Alan Kennedy at left back.
Liverpool took control of the game from the very outset with almost constant pressure on the Newcastle goal, but without any opportunities created. Newcastle were finding it difficult to get Malcolm Macdonald involved in the game, as Liverpool watched him closely after he had bragged about how the Cup Final was his stage to show the world how good he was. The Newcastle number 9 would barely get a kick the entire game.
However Newcastle did start to find their feet, with McDermott in particular impressing in the midfield. The game started to flow from end to end in a series of quick breaks, leading Coleman to exclaim that “both teams getting a little bit flurried.” Despite the frenetic pace there were no shots in the opening half hour.
When the first effort did come, it was more of a cross cum shot, and it was no surprise that it came from the Reds. Kevin Keegan found himself in a little bit of space on the left hand side of the area and he drove the ball across goal. The shot was well held by Iam McFaul in the Newcastle goal, Coleman commenting that “his handling was perfection.”
Newcastle then had their first effort; the shot coming from an unlikely source, as future Nottingham Forest manager, Frank Clark linked up well with the attack from his right back slot, but hit a weak effort straight at Ray Clemence in the Liverpool goal.
The half ended with Liverpool by far the better side, a fact confirmed by Leeds United boss Don Revie who summed up the half as the players left the field; “I feel that Liverpool have absolutely dominated this game apart from 10 minutes.”
The teams were greeted for the second half by a rousing, yet deep voiced, rendition of the Liverpool anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” It seemed to inspire the Reds who started very much on the front foot, with Keegan flashing a shot across the face of goal. “Good ball he says and good ball it was” lip-read Coleman.
Liverpool continued to drive forward, the attackers coming from all over the field. Alec Lindsay, the left back, started to come to the fore, hitting a volley from the left hand corner of the penalty area straight at McFaul.
Moments later, Lindsay was involved again, breaking forward. With Keegan free in the middle of the field, Coleman implored Lindsay to pass the ball, but he delayed too long before delivering the ball. By now Keegan was closely marked, and he attempted to leave the ball to try to confuse the Newcastle defender. The ball ricocheted off the legs of Keegan’s marker, back into the path of Lindsay who, without breaking stride lashed the ball past McFaul at his near post: “That was different class” said Coleman, before advising the viewers “and offside is given”. Controversially the goal was disallowed with the linesman deeming Lindsay to have been offside when he received the ball, even though it had come off the opposing player.
One feature of the coverage of the game was the lack of replays, something we have perhaps become over reliant on in this day and age. With the incident not being shown again, it was barely spoken about, although Coleman did inform the watching millions of the nuances of being played onside. He did find time to console Lindsay, saying “What a pity it didn’t stand, because that would have been a Cup Final goal to remember.”
Minutes later, his comments would enter Cup Final folklore, as Liverpool finally took the lead. “Shanks’ army, this Liverpool side really swarming forward now” he said, almost in anticipation of the impending events. A cross came in from the right hand side, and as Brian Hall missed with his attempted diving header, the ball was controlled by the chest of Keegan before he fired home a right foot volley, leading Coleman to utter the most cryptic line of Cup Final commentary ever: “Goals pay the rent and Keegan does his share” before coming back to earth “Keegan found himself with the sort of time and space a striker of his calibre will never waste.”
From that moment on, the Cup was effectively won as Liverpool took control of the game completely. Emlyn Hughes went close with a strike from the edge of the box, and Newcastle began to lose their composure. Frank Clark unnecessarily gave a free kick away on the left hand side, having a kick at Steve Heighway. His disgust at the decision was picked up beautifully by the pitch side microphones: “Oh fuck off … He’s that far away (holding his hands up to indicate) from the fucking ball” before screaming “well that’s obstruction!” Coleman summing up the exchange “the frustrations showing, the protests pointless.”
With “You’ll Never Walk Alone” ringing around the stadium again, Liverpool’s relentless attacking continued. A half protest for a penalty, one that would be given every time now, was dismissed as “accidental… a fair decision.” Liverpool were playing with a swagger, moving the ball from one end of the pitch to the other at will, a sweeping move ending with Heighway hitting a shot just wide from 20 yards out.
With 17 minutes left, Newcastle managed to force their first corner of the game, but it was plucked out of the air by Clemence. Moments later, Newcastle’s chances were over as Liverpool doubled their lead with a goal of pure simplicity. A long ball down the field was flicked on by Toshack for Heighway, the number 9 taking the ball on to the edge of the box before hitting an angled shot across the keeper and in at the far post.
Newcastle knew the game was up, and Malcolm Macdonald who had a poor game endured further misery by spurning the first half chance that came his way. Finding himself in a little bit of space on the left hand side of the box, he attempted to strike goal wards first time, horribly scuffing the shot well wide of the post. “Supermac missed his kick completely” said Coleman.
Liverpool’s Tommy Smith had been in the side which had beaten Leeds 9 years earlier and was about to come to the fore in the build up to the Red’s third goal. Liverpool’s hard man, who Coleman said “doesn’t look like he was born, he looks like he was quarried” would quickly show finesse, drive and quality in quick succession. The ball was moved across the field by Liverpool in a succession of sweeping passes. From right to left and back again, they probed for a gap in Newcastle’s defence. Keegan switched the ball from the left flank, finding Smith who delicately flicked the ball with the outside of his foot to Brian Hall. He received the ball back, driving forward and played a one two with Heighway. He was now in behind the Magpies defence and fired the ball low and hard across the six yard box, where Keegan had drifted into space and stretched to tap the ball into the empty net.
“Keegan’s second and Newcastle were undressed, they were stripped totally naked” observed Coleman before launching into a wonderful rhyming couplet “Keegan two, Heighway One, Liverpool Three, Newcastle None.”
Moments later the final whistle blew, not only on the Cup Final, but incredibly on Bill Shankly’s career. The Liverpool fans loved him, singing his name for long periods of the second half, and clamouring for him to acknowledge them at the final whistle. Never before had a manager been so loved by his supporters, but his resignation over the summer was a massive shock. His final words were to Gerald Sindstadt after the game: “This team won the league last season, they’ve won the cup this season and they’ll win the league next season emulating the side of 64, 65 & 66. I didn’t say that we would beat Newcastle, I never said that at all. I said we were the best team in England and that it’s possible for us to beat anyone in England and possibly in the world…Liverpool’s cohesion, fitness, spirit was fantastic. We’ve got everything here; they should win something every season.” He was almost right, as under Bob Paisley Liverpool were about to begin their dominance, not only of English, but European football as well.