Liverpool 2-2 Brighton, FA Cup fourth round, 1991
My favourite match ~ David Williams recalls Brighton's trip to the champions that confirmed which team he wanted to support
Like many young fans I supported two teams – Everton, the best in the country when I was first interested in football, and Brighton, 12 miles from my home. In 1991 the FA Cup fourth round gave me the chance to see both in the same weekend, when Brighton drew Liverpool away and Everton got non-League Woking at home.
Walking into Anfield was an overwhelming experience for someone used to the Goldstone Ground, which was ramshackle even then. The Kop felt dauntingly close due to the noise they were creating, even before kick-off. As we got to our seats you could sense the anticipation in the Brighton crowd. We had beaten Newcastle 4-2 in the week and were a team in form, with the formidable strike force of Mike Small and John Byrne whose goals took the club to the play-off final at Wembley later that year.
Rumour has it that Small had trouble sleeping the night before the game. He'd wandered down to the bar where Brighton's manager Barry Lloyd was enjoying a "nightcap" with several board members. "I can't sleep boss," Small said, so Lloyd promptly ordered him a double whisky, which he downed before returning to bed. The drink had the desired effect the following day.
The tie started brightly, with Brighton matching the League champions. The previously derided John Crumplin had the game of his life at right-back, keeping John Barnes quiet in an even first half. Brighton fans sang the sarcastic song "Johnny Crumplin football genius" during his early days at the club due to his poor performances; from this match onwards they sang it as a compliment for a cult hero.
The second half continued in the same vein until Barnes, who had to drop deeper into midfield to see more of the ball, played a perfectly weighted through ball to Ian Rush who put the home team ahead. This only spurred Brighton on, with Bruce Grobbelaar saving well from Crumplin. Shortly after Barry Venison played the ball through to an offside Rush who made it 2-0. Game over, we all thought, but still the Brighton fans sung on determined to enjoy the day.
As the game wore on, Brighton continued to push forward and were rewarded when defender Paul McCarthy was tripped in the box – Small scored from the penalty. A late ball into the box by Crumplin was headed back across the goal by Small for Byrne to equalise and send the away fans into raptures.
The final whistle came and the exhilaration from what we'd seen and been part of stayed with us long after the game had finished. I met Crumplin the following year and he said the noise from the Brighton fans at 2-0 down helped spur the team on to eventually draw level. Brighton lost the replay 3-2 and Liverpool went on to play Everton in the fifth round, which was followed by the resignation of Kenny Dalglish as manager.
The following day we crossed Stanley Park to watch a sluggish Everton struggle past Woking. The match was so insipid and flat, and the Everton fans so negative towards their team that it felt like the morning after the party the night before. That weekend confirmed to me that that I could only really support one team from that moment on, the one from 12 miles down the road, not really knowing all the heartache and joy that it would bring.
You must be logged in to comment. Please register if you don't have an account yet.