On this day: Our FA Cup Final replay against Manchester United

We reflect on our replay in 1983.

By Luke Nicoli • 26 May 2024

By The Argus
The Albion fans cheered on their team despite the 4-0 defeat.

Following Albion’s epic 2-2 extra-time draw with Manchester United, The FA Cup Final replay came five days later, on Thursday 26 May, with over 91,000 in attendance at Wembley for the 7.30pm kick-off.

With Chris Ramsey injured following Norman Whiteside’s hatchet challenge on the Saturday, the left-footed Steve Gatting moved to right-back, with the previously suspended Steve Foster accompanying Gary Stevens at centre-back. United, notably, has no such issues and were unchanged.

“With the injuries and Steve Foster coming back into contention, Jimmy [Melia, Albion manager] decided to play me alongside Fozzie, and move Steve Gatting from the centre of defence to right-back,” recalled Stevens. “That was a surprise because Steve had a fantastic left foot, while I had played at right-back quite a lot, so I thought I would play there and Gatts would play at centre-half. It was all change, but for the first 20 minutes, we played as well as we did in the first game.”

Indeed, Albion enjoyed plenty of the early play, but it was United who took the lead in the 25th minute when Alan Davies laid the ball back to Bryan Robson, and the England star drilled his shot through Graham Pearce’s legs and beyond keeper Graham Moseley.

By The Argus
Albion boss Jimmy Melia waves to the crowd after the 2-2 draw in the first match.

Five minutes later, Albion went 2-0 down when a Davies cross from the left was headed home by an unmarked Whiteside.

Jimmy Case tried his luck with a 25-yard rocket, which United keeper Gary Bailey just managed to tip over, but the tie was all but over on 44 minutes when Robson fired home at the far post after the ball had been headed across goal by Frank Stapleton.

“When the replay came along, I wasn’t quite as relaxed as I had been for the first game,” said Gordon Smith, who had gone so close to winning the Cup at the first time of asking with his ‘Smith Must Score’ moment. “I knew I had let people down and was desperate to make amends. I just wanted to get on that park and score another goal or even two.

“In the dressing room at half time [at 3-0 down] there was a stony silence. I thought someone had to break the silence, so I piped up. ‘What’s the record defeat in a Cup Final?’ That broke the ice and everyone started laughing. It also made them realise that our pride was at stake and we had better get out there and make sure we weren’t on the wrong end of a drubbing.”

By The Argus
Gordon Smith scored for Albion in the first game.

While Albion kept the scoreline more respectable after the break, United made it four on 62 minutes when Arnold Muhren netted from the penalty spot after Stevens had held Robson.

Albion’s players sank to their knees at the final whistle, to a chorus of ‘We’re Proud of You’ from the 30,000-strong Seagulls supporters. Even more fans turned out the following evening at Hove Town Hall for a civic reception, to honour a team that had written their names into the history books of the club, and who are still fondly remembered 41 years on.

“We tried to treat the replay the same as the Final, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t get nervous,” recalled Foster, following his return to the side. “Everyone gets nerves. If you didn’t it would mean you didn’t care, and you would not be able to go out on the pitch and perform.

“United put those four past us, but I think every player involved in that run had something to be extremely proud of – even if we’d fallen at the final hurdle. It was a huge achievement.”

By The Argus
Gary Stevens would leave Albion in 1983 for Tottenham.

“Let’s be honest, they were a better side than us,” Stevens added. “They had better players than us. It all went a bit flat for us in the end, but they were always going to be the favourites over two games. The better side won on the night, no question.”

There was some consolation for Stevens, who was named BBC Man of the Match, which helped secure a big money move to Tottenham Hotspur just weeks later.

“To be honest, I don’t know how the voting went,” he smiled. “Maybe they [the BBC] got more votes on the Saturday than they did midweek, or maybe I had lots of relations phoning in after the replay!

“I remember the trophy being presented to me in the interview room afterwards by United manager Ron Atkinson and he made some remark about it being a ridiculous decision and that Bryan Robson should have won it. That was Big Ron at his best, but I took it in good heart. It’s a lovely memento to have and I’ve loaned it to the club for their museum at the Amex Stadium.

“It was a disappointing end to what had been a fabulous cup run and the fact that we are still talking about it all these years later is testament to how big an achievement it was for the club.”