FA Cup semi-final at Villa Park

PrestonvSwansea40014 March ~ This was an all-Second Division tie on a boggy pitch in the days when both FA Cup semi-finals were played at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon. Preston had fought this far with a series of single-goal wins against Nottingham Forest and Bolton (both First Division), and Carlisle and Oxford (both Fourth Division). Swansea, lying just above the Second Division relegation zone, had caused a sensation in the previous round by winning 2-1 at champions-in-waiting Liverpool, having also beaten Sheffield United and Stoke from the top flight.

The programme's anonymously penned opening notes pompously hail the clash between "Proud Preston and Gallant Swansea", with further grand words evoking sportsmanship, bravery, respect and sensible haircuts. "That the desire of everyone present is for the better team to win goes without doubt, so we trust that both teams will rise to the occasion to give their particular adherents – win or lose – something to cherish awhile and recall in more reminisciential moments." Now you can go and debate whether or not “reminisciential” is a real word (my spell-check has it firmly underlined in red).

Less inclined to be reminisciential was the Birmingham Post's Cyril Chapman, looking at falling league gates and seeing the need for clubs with "their old feudal system of management" to now look boldly to the future. Players too should understand that "the limit in wages has been reached". Smaller clubs would likely go under as teams would amalgamate, share stadiums and consolidate with smaller squads, "with the major football concentrated on the main centres of population like London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool. Competition between the premier clubs will not be enough, either, and some kind of European competition, with our teams travelling frequently to the Continent, will come in." Take out the forecast of limited wages, club mergers and Birmingham as a major football centre, and he offers up an at least half way pertinent vision of the 1990s and beyond.

Poetic Pen Pictures The anonymous prose-hound is further unleashed in the player profiles. Swansea's experienced Eddie Thomas is "almost a stranger in this paradise of Welsh youth". Preston's Alex Dawson is "a devastating spearhead", Alan Spavin an "unobtrusive brainbox of resourceful attack", and defender Tony Singleton is, oddly, "robust, but unscrupulously fair" – a little like being immorally virtuous or timorously brave, but I think we get what the quietly bombastic writer means.

Result Preston 2 (Dawson pen, Singleton) Swansea 1 (McLaughlin)
Crowd 68,000
Preston Kelly, Ross, Donnelly, Lawton, Singleton, Davidson, Wilson, Ashworth, Dawson, Spavin, Holden
Swansea Dwyer, Evans, Hughes, Johnson, Purcell, Williams, Jones, Draper, Thomas, Todd, McLaughlin

Ian Plenderleith

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