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Ivan Little

From Blanchflower to Whiteside - the story of Northern Irishmen and the FA Cup final

Ivan Little


 

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Local heroes: Pat Rice and Sammy Nelson hold the FA Cup as Arsenal with Pat Jennings in goal beat Man United 3-2 in the 1979 final

Local heroes: Pat Rice and Sammy Nelson hold the FA Cup as Arsenal with Pat Jennings in goal beat Man United 3-2 in the 1979 final

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Norman Whiteside celebrates with Kevin Moran after his goal gave the Red Devils a 1-0 win over Everton in the 1985 showpiece

Norman Whiteside celebrates with Kevin Moran after his goal gave the Red Devils a 1-0 win over Everton in the 1985 showpiece

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Double top: Spurs captain Danny Blanchflower with the cup in 1961

Double top: Spurs captain Danny Blanchflower with the cup in 1961

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Peter McParland lies in the penalty area after an early collision with United goalkeeper Ray Wood. It was a battle the Newry man would win thanks to his two goals.

Peter McParland lies in the penalty area after an early collision with United goalkeeper Ray Wood. It was a battle the Newry man would win thanks to his two goals.

Getty Images

Local heroes: Pat Rice and Sammy Nelson hold the FA Cup as Arsenal with Pat Jennings in goal beat Man United 3-2 in the 1979 final

It didn't matter a jot that there wasn't a solitary soul on the terraces or in the grandstands of Wembley Stadium as I walked up the tunnel to the famous field of my dreams.

For in my head I could hear the full-throated roars of 100,000 fans greeting my entrance into the legendary London venue.

All around me, in my imagination, were the ghosts of the greats from FA Cup Finals of yesteryear that I'd watched religiously in my boyhood on the TV. Like Danny Blanchflower, Stanley Matthews, Harry Gregg and Jackie Milburn.