On This Day In History - FA Cup Semi Final 1976 Part 1
Friday, 3rd Apr 2020 08:00
On Monday 8th March 1976 at lunchtime everyone in Southampton was sat around a transistor radio waiting to find out were they would be on April 3rd, for those lucky to get a ticket it would be Stamford Bridge.
I remember that Monday almost as much as I remember any of the games in the cup run that year, I had missed only one, the replay at Aston Villa and I certainly wasn't going to miss my first chance to see Saints in an FA Cup semi final.
The problem was though that the draw was right in the middle of a school day, but most of the pupils and teachers at Redbridge were keen to find out who we would get.
The feeling was that we wanted Crystal Palace, they were a 3rd division side and if we drew them we surely would get to Wembley and a day out for a cup final would be better than none at all.
Both Manchester United and Derby were flying high in the First Division and at the start of March United were the favourites for the title, so if we didn't get Palace then Derby would be the second choice, we thought we had a chance against them.
In the class I was in there was one lad who had a small radio and he had a little head set so he was going to be our source, how he didn't get caught i don't know, but I suspect the teacher was turning a blind eye, you could feel the tension, he relayed the first part of the draw, Deby will play....... when he said Manchester United a huge cheer went up and when this news was relayed, even the teacher laughed and said "great now we can finally get some work done"
We weren't the only ones cheering the team were round their radio at the Dell and they felt the same way, lets get the easiest tie on paper and then worry about who we play in the Final, I dare say Crystal Palace and their fans cheered just as hard when they heard the draw.
No chance of that though the entire school was talking about only one thing and that was Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge on April 3rd at 3pm.
The first good news was that Lawrie McMenemy had got in quick and secured the Shed End for Saints, this was the home end and although the terracing at Chelsea was mainly uncovered and way back from the pitch with what had been a greyhound track in between, at least the Shed had some covering and was one of the few places that could generate noise in what was an open bowl where the noise just flew up into the wind.
Malcolm Alison and his lucky fedora was making all the headlines whilst Lawrie McMenemy and his men just stayed quite and focused
Saints offical allocation was 23,500 tickets, both clubs got half and the FA and the home club ie Chelsea got the remaining 5,000 or so tickets, in fairness there might have been a thousand or so more Saints fans in the crowd of 52,810 but it looked virtually a 50/50 split.
In the build up to the game the city went mad, at Redbridge School art classes were used to paint bed sheets and create banners and literally everyone was going.
Back then we only had 6,000 season ticket holders and all of these were in the upper West & East Stand, you could not get a terrace season ticket, instead the club usually issued a voucher at a lowly attended game,so that you would get priority for a bigger game if that arrived later in the season.
The game they selected was Oldham back in January and with only 14,294 in attendance, taking away the season ticket holders mean that there must be about 8,000 voucher holders who were guaranteed a ticket for the semi on top the season ticket holders, I had one of those vouchers.
So there was no need to queue for a ticket, I and the mates I went to the game with all had a ticket too and we just bought our tickets for the Shed at our leisure, it was then a scramble for those who were after the 9,000 tickets that would go on general sale, I think they may have sold the next tranche to those with Bradford ticket stubs from the previous round and then it was the usual overnight queues for those who had neither.
On the day I went up on the National Coach from Bedford Place coach station, they had laid on a fleet of coaches and the City was buzzing as we made our way into town that morning to catch the coach, we passed the train station that was a sea of red & white and everyone seemed to be getting on a coach, a train or a car.
The army was on the move to London !
Photo: Action Images
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