If you believe in omens then here’s a good one as we look forward to Sunday’s FA Cup tie against Liverpool.
Forty years ago to the day – January 29 1983 – Albion were at home to a big club from the north-west in the fourth round. Not Liverpool but Manchester City who left the Goldstone beaten 4-0 as a run that took Albion all the way to the first – and so far only – appearance in the FA Cup final at Wembley gathered momentum.
It’s worth checking out the goals and highlights that were shown to a massive TV audience the following afternoon on BBC’s Match of the Day. Albion were rampant that day, and although the goal that started the rout by Jimmy Case took a big deflection on its way past City goalkeeper Joe Corrigan – who went on to play for Albion at the end of his career – it was no more than they deserved.
Albion took the confidence from that win into their fifth round tie at Anfield, where they won 2-1 in the biggest FA Cup upset for years. The rest is history.
Fast forward exactly 12 months to January 29 1984 and that City win would have felt like a lifetime ago to the Albion faithful.
The downside to our Wembley appearance was losing our coveted First Division status a couple of weeks earlier. Eight months after Wembley Jimmy Melia had been replaced by the more pragmatic Chris Cattlin as manager and Albion were tenth in the second tier. A fortnight earlier, the league game against Oldham (a 4-0 win) at the Goldstone drew a crowd of just over 10,000.
But memories of 82-83 were still fresh in the minds of Albion fans. The third round tie against Swansea attracted 11,330 fans – a bigger gate than for six of the league games at the Goldstone which preceded the 2-0 win.
Nowadays, Super Sunday and the bells and whistles coverage which accompanies live football is a massive part of the Premier League’s appeal at home and overseas. But when Liverpool arrived in Sussex on January 29 1984, history was made. It was the first game broadcast live on a Sunday in the UK, with the 2.35pm kick-off allowing for just five minutes of pre-match build-up on ITV. It was also the first time a second-tier club had been shown live on television in the UK.
This Sunday’s ITV production will involve 20 cameras including Batcam hovering high above the Amex pitch and more than 120 production personnel. Back in 1984, only eight cameras were used in total to cover the game with the commentator Brian Moore and summariser Ian St John on a scaffold platform at the back of the packed East Terrace. The 'studio' was another precariously perched building no bigger than a garden shed in the north-east corner.
Albion received a modest fee for the broadcast but not everyone was happy with the presence of TV cameras. In his notes in the special souvenir programme (50p, 32 pages) Cattlin felt live coverage was a backward step for football. “I don’t think it’s good for the game,” he wrote. “In fact, I think it will have an adverse effect. Highlights are just about right for football. Mystique is something that the fans will treasure.”
Whatever his misgivings, Cattlin had Albion fired up that day. “I was very confident all along we could produce a result. Our confidence wasn’t misplaced, we won on merit on the day.” Goals from Gerry Ryan and Terry Connor in the second half sealed Albion’s 2-0 win but they went out in the next round to beaten finalists Watford.
Flicking through the programme, there is an article on the visitors by the sports editor of Liverpool-based Radio City. Thirty-nine years later the author, Clive Tyldesley, will be back at the Amex on Sunday – commentating for ITV.