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In Review: From Bovril To Champagne

Filed: Friday, 10th September 2010
By: Staff Writer

Matthew Eastley
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"To the utter astonishment of everyone in the stadium Sunderland have won the FA Cup. Barely has Burns finished blowing the whistle than Bob Stokoe is onto the pitch and off, bringing to mind an epic Grand National run just a month earlier..."

FA Cup Finals just aren't as good as they used to be. Since the Premier League's inception in 1992, only Everton (1995) and Portsmouth (2008) have won the trophy outside of the established 'big four' due in no small part to the financial disparity now very much at the heart of the game.

It wasn't always the same however. Back in the 1970s, before the days of the Premier and 'Champions' Leagues, not only was the competition considered a feasible target by all top flight (Division One) clubs but it also offered a number of DIvision Two sides the chance of a glorious day out in London.

During the decade, Sunderland, Fulham and Southampton - all from the old Division Two - managed to reach the Final of the world's premier cup competition, whilst two of the three even had the audacity to win it.

Those who watched those glorious games on the BBC or ITV will never forget the sight of Bob Stokoe dancing across the hallowed turf in 1973 having seen his unfancied Sunderland side sucker-punch Don Revie's Leeds, nor Bobby Stokes' surge through the centre of the Manchester United defence that led to the 1976 Final's only goal.

Then there was Roger Osborne's celebration after scoring the only goal of the 1978 final that left him so exhausted he had to be substituted shortly afterwards, Alan Sunderland's last-gasp winner in an enthralling 1979 final - and the rather odd sight of Bobby Moore playing against West Ham. Memorable moments, indeed.

So it was with recollections like these that led 'Bovril' author Matthew Eastley - who admits that his inspiration for the book was the fact that he never managed to get to a final - on a journey to collate the stories of the fans who were at those games; a journey that concluded with details of over 400 personal accounts and the release of the book (which is subtitled 'Part 1 - the 1970s', so presumably more is to follow).

'Bovril' contains a number of fascinating stories - including a number of amusing tales explaining how diligent supporters managed to lay their hands on tickets for the games. But none are as sad (nor moving) as that of West Ham fan and KUMB.com contributor Peter Hamersley who recalls how the joy of West Ham reaching - and subsequently winning - the 1975 Cup Final was tempered by the tragic loss of his 16-year-old brother from cancer just days ahead of the game.

Peter's story is just one of a whole host of enthralling tales that will have those of you of a certain age wistfully recalling those halcyon days - and those not around at the time the chance to feel the full effect of 'FA Cup fever', which was at its peak during the period covered by Eastley's book.

Coming in at just over 300 pages this well-written effort - available in paperback - is a thoroughly engrossing read that will appeal to football fans of all ages and persuasions.

* As an added, bonus the author has promised to contribute a portion of any profits to the Bobby Moore Fund for Cancer Research.

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