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Mark Bright's FA Cup Final, 1990

Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy - British Council
 This article was generously provided to ClubFootball by the British Council, which operates in China as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy.


Mark Bright tells us what it felt like to play in the FA Cup final for his old club Crystal Palace at Wembley in May 1990 against Manchester United
How many times have you dreamt of scoring the winning goal in the FA Cup final only to have it ruined by the alarm clock telling you that it's time to go to school?
I have hundreds of times. Not just in my bed but during Maths, Biology, French and Science. I couldn't stop thinking about the FA Cup Final as a youngster.
So, on a hot Friday night in a North London hotel it dawned on me that I could finally realise a dream. I was due to play in my first ever FA Cup final the next day.
In the weeks prior to the final the whole squad had been paranoid about getting injured and missing the big day.
Even walking across the road I would cautiously check both ways to make sure that nothing was coming, then cross quickly. It sounds laughable now but that's how important it was to me.
At breakfast we had nothing too heavy, cereal, toast, scrambled eggs or fresh fruit. We talked and flicked through the newspapers, which carried numerous columns declaring that Man United were about to tear us apart.
It was a sunny day, just as Cup final day should be. Back in 1990 I was fortunate enough to have a mobile phone and my family rang me to wish me luck.
Getting dressed in our made-to-measure suits felt great. The players chose the style and fabric; Prince of Wales check, double breasted with a paisley tie and red rose in our left lapel.
We boarded the coach for the short trip to the 'home of football' Wembley Stadium. Everyone was nervous but smiles replaced fear on our faces.
We arrived to thousands of fans waiting for a glimpse of their team. Whistles, horns and cheers greeted us, it felt fantastic as the old wooden doors to the stadium closed behind us.
On the famous Wembley turf we checked out our surroundings, staring up at the stands and executive boxes. It looked vast.
An almighty roar went up from the crowd; I turned to see the Man United players appear from the tunnel. They looked relaxed and waved to the fans as they strolled onto the pitch.
If we hadn't beaten Liverpool in the semi-final, football would have had it's glamour final, Man United v Liverpool. Unfortunately, someone gate crashed the party, little old Crystal Palace!
The final made history. John Salako became the first player of Nigerian heritage to play in it. Our squad contained Richard Shaw, Rudi Hedman, Alex Dyer, Andy Gray, Ian Wright and myself, Man United's Paul Ince and Danny Wallace; the final had never seen so many black players.
Before we went out for the kick off the team kissed our lucky gnome, given to us as a good luck charm before the third round tie. Surely it wasn't going to fail us now we were in the final.
Walking out of the tunnel and onto the pitch I experienced something that will stay with me forever, a deafening noise to greet both teams made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
Both teams lined up facing one another waiting for the dignitaries. No pleasantries were exchanged, Man United stood between us getting a place in FA Cup final history and I wanted that winners medal.
The match was a classic full of drama, twists, turns and tears. 3-2 up with only seven minutes to play the Welshman Mark Hughes scored and broke Palace hearts. It finished 3-3, now we had to do it all again.



By Mark Brignt, May 2001

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