My take on the 2015 FA Cup Final. Missed the Giroud goal while waiting for Wenger final whistle reaction on long lens. Never too experienced to make errors of judgement.
“You’re cutting it a bit fine to get to Lord’s aren’t you ?” were the words that woke me from my brief sleep on the office sofa by my boss on the morning after the 1975 European Cup Final.No niceties about how this eighteen-year-old kid on his first ever time abroad had fared amongst the flying missiles in the rioting that had occurred fourteen hours earlier in Paris.
Leeds United were on the receiving end of some shocking refereeing decisions in their 2-0 defeat to Bayern Munich resulting in violent scenes in which a TV cameraman lost an eye.
I’d returned in the middle of the night on a Comet from Beauvais with the Leeds United travel club. My dad drove me from Luton Airport to the Holborn office where I processed my films, made prints and then delivered them on foot around Fleet Street, before crashing out around 8am.
My work hadn’t been top drawer but I’d got amongst the disturbances with the basic camera kit I had and despite being ordered by the French officials and police to move to safety, stayed behind the goal guarded by Bayern goalkeeper Sepp Maier.
A blatant penalty committed by Beckenbauer was waved away, quickly followed by a Lorimer shot that bulged the net of Maier, only to be belatedly chalked off for a harsh offside decision. The Parc des Princes scoreboard had already recorded the goal for Leeds.
The Leeds fans kicked off, hurling bottles and broken seats towards the pitch.
One reason I felt compelled to stay put was because a freelance English photographer named Gerry Cranham was sitting directly behind the net and that left me short of excuses if I tried to explain that nobody was allowed to stay in that part of the ground.
As I moved closer to the net I returned for the remainder of my belongings to find a seat that had sliced into the turf on that very spot.
Anyway next morning, I picked up the tripod and the long lens used for cricket and headed up to the windy and deserted Q Stand at the home of cricket for Middlesex v Essex, where about a hundred or so hardy soles had paid to watch this 3 day match.
Nothing was happening in the cricket to clear my mind of the events of the previous night. After an hour or so the unmistakeable cries of the Evening Standard salesman wafted upstairs announcing that the City Prices edition had arrived at the ground. Running back upstairs carrying the News and Standard I ran to show the only other photographer at the match my five images splashed over the news and sports pages.
He gave me an encouraging ‘well done son’ and at lunch I eagerly telephoned the office to tell my boss. I’d felt proud of my coverage at such a big match and had actually written my name on the back of the prints underneath the company rubber stamp. The Standard had actually put my name on the credit and my boss was furious that the company name wasn’t on the byline.
It certainly was a strange form of encouragement for a young photographer learning his trade but that was life I guess, back in the seventies.
As a kid I can remember all the coverage Manchester United got for winning the European Cup in 1968, while I was still at junior school. Strange to think that a mere seven years later I would be working as a photographer covering only the second time an English team had reached the final of Europe’s top club competition.
That agency still own my images but in a strange twist of fate, I now own the archive of Gerry Cranham. Here are some of his shots and on of mine by courtesy of the copyright holder. Also included is a frame of me taken by L’Equipe newspaper.
It must be the ageing process that allows us to recall matches from the seventies with more clarity than recent encounters.
Arsenal have faced Manchester United in nine FA Cup ties since the 1979 final but that day remains clearer in my memory than any since.
I was trying to get a feel of what it was like back in May 1979, with a woman Prime Minister just voted in (citation needed) after what everyone was calling the winter of discontent.
Discontent ? I’d just bought a brand new Renault 5TS, was playing football every Sunday morning, never out of the pubs and doing all the other things that a healthy young Essex boy would do. Discontent depends on what your expectations are, probably.
Anyway we’re off to Wembley for my first final as an FA accredited photographer, although my pass is not for the goal line but up in the stands, high above one of the exits from the lower level benches, opposite the Royal Box.
Space was at a premium up there for me and another photographer and with minutes of an uneventful match remaining Arsenal were cruising at 2-0 up with both first half goals a hundred yards away from our working position.
“That was a waste of time, I’ll beat the traffic back up the M6 “ moans my northern colleague and I spread out for the first time that afternoon and remained in position, hoping that I’ll get at least one memorable picture from this day.
Minutes after his departure, Gordon McQueen pulled a goal back for United and I wondered if he’d heard the roar and would return to cover the closing stages of the match.
The space was taken up however, by a very large and drunken United fan who appeared from God knows where to make the final few moments very interesting.
As Sammy McIlroy scored the United equaliser, fourth goal of the match at the wrong end for me, my new friend started singing and dancing perilously close to the edge of the platform.
A steward appeared to save him from the drop but was given dogs abuse by this exultant Manc.
As staff were trying to negotiate his safe removal from this ledge, Graham Rix crossed the ball, United goalkeeper Gary Bailey misjudged the flight and Alan Sunderland bundled in the winner at the far post, 3-2 to Arsenal at the death.
There are quite a few frames of the celebration of that goal but not many of the goal itself.
As Sunderland scored, the United fan swung a big right hander at the steward and I was trapped under an undignified wrestling bout as Alan Sunderland ran screaming up the touchline below me.
That has become a famous FA Cup Final image but give me the goal picture any time.
Recently, I found an old photo I’d taken at a Tottenham-Birmingham match back in February 1974 and it got me thinking how it was the first picture that I’d ever had published, admittedly only in a long gone magazine called Inside Football, but the buzz of seeing my own work published in print still remains.
Having only passed two of the seven O level exams taken the previous summer and too proud to go back to school to retake them, my job prospects were limited until a visit to a recruitment office turned up the grandly titled ‘Trainee Sports Photographer’ at a Holborn based agency.
Despite previously having no knowledge or interest in photography , they spotted somebody who had a vast knowledge of sport and the desire to spend long hours, with their hands in either hazardous chemicals or an icy wash bath for the princely sum of £12 per week plus Luncheon Vouchers.
I started on the Monday after the clocks went back, forty years ago this month and quickly started badgering the photographers with banal questions about basic camera functions in the hope that I could get out of that darkroom and into their glamorous world.
That Christmas I was given a Zenith B, Russian made camera and 50mm lens, that probably cost about £40 but I was convinced it would be my passport to glory and after a few unpromising attempts I nailed this shot of Martin Chivers beating Gary Sprake to score for Tottenham at White Hart Lane.
There would be many a backward step along the way and I was reminded on a daily basis that my place was in the darkroom and running errands and that the Chivers shot was beginners luck.
At the start of the next season, I was allowed to go to 2nd Division matches unaccompanied but I wasn’t quite prepared for the first day visit of recently relegated Manchester United to Orient and the hooliganism that occurred. Strange now to realise that the season would finish for me at the Parc des Princes in Paris for the 1975 European Cup Final between Leeds United and Bayern Munich but this time the fans violence would be captured, although I was somewhat out of my depth at eighteen years old, as this image of me shows (the long haired kid wearing flared trousers).
Despite getting five pictures published from the match in Paris, the darkroom was still to be my main place of work with every opportunity for taking pictures grabbed at evenings and Saturdays (Sunday was still a day of rest back then).
Eventually in 1976 I would make the leap to full time photographer, on the road in my Mark II Ford Cortina and I’d regularly be taking pictures of another Essex lad doing rather well for himself, my old teammate Glenn Hoddle who had broken into the Tottenham first team. We are in the group photo below (him with ball), taken by my father to use up the final frame of a 12 exposure film from a 1969 summer holiday. This was probably the only colour photo taken of me in the first sixteen years of my life, so I can hardly claim to come from a photographic background.
That 1969-70 season ended up with our team above, Spinney Dynamos, winning the Harlow Recreational League and Cup double and we were presented with the cup by a Tottenham legend, who would recommend Hoddle to his manager Bill Nicholson. That player was Martin Chivers. So it goes.