This is my entry for the Songs of Praise competition for the fans "Abide with Me" choir. They wanted stories that reflect the personal memories and passion of the cup. In 200 words they were after something that would be judged on the following criteria:
Uplifting/ illuminating/ exciting/ original/ demonstrates a different perspective/ unusual, quirky and imaginative/ demonstrates genuine fandom for their team
- not much to ask then! At least they weren’t to be judging my singing ability!
Christmas 2013 over. Up for work in the dark, home in the dark, a long haul to summer, the Blades stagnating just above the relegation zone in League 1. What better than to book a family holiday in Spain for Easter week? Quick look at the fixture list: only Oldham away. Sorted.
After clearing Colchester and Cambridge in rounds 1 and 2, the Villa were going to knock us out the following Saturday: concentrate on the League. Instead, we won – in style.
The Blades dropped to second bottom; still, we bettered Fulham – then Forest. We out-classed Charlton to get to Wembley – when we were in Spain!
Nigel Clough said: “You go to the seaside for a day out, you go to Wembley to win.” Sheffield United and 32,500 (minus two) went to Wembley. We went to the seaside.
Me and my son, incongruous in our red and white in the Spanish sun, elsewhere in spirit, sat with ice creams (vanilla and strawberry – what else?), and took a selfie. We were comforted by finding a bar, owned by an expat Blade, screening the match. Beautiful signed shirts on the walls. So long as they aren’t humiliated, I said. They were not. For forty-five minutes Hull were out-played.
More San Miguel, more lemonade. Dare we even dream after 89 years of hurt? Then Steve Bruce changed his team around and they took the game to us.
We still regard Stephen Quinn as one of us. When he came on it felt like an omen – Fate’s wheel turning. Quinny is barely five feet six in his studs, but rose for that header like a giant, to break our hearts. We walked back to the beach; that feeling of bitter disappointment and pride that only football and the magic of the Cup can bring.