Date: 8th April 2015 at 5:20pm
Written by:

After two disappointing defeats against fellow top four challengers the Reds now have all their eggs in the FA Cup basket.

While Champions League football is important both to the fans and the finance department, for me it is always more special to see the team lift a trophy.

Lots of fans devalue the FA Cup but many of my clearest football memories, for better and for worse, are of our cup runs down the years.

In fact my earliest football memory is of the 1996 FA Cup final.

Fortunately I don’t clearly remember the ill-judged white suits worn before the game or the strange green and white rugby-style shirts that we turned out in. I don’t even remember Eric Cantona’s late winner.

My only memory from the day is of running into my parent’s room at 7am on the morning of the game and telling them to wake up because the final’s on. This was eight hours before kick off so they weren’t overly impressed.

Even though I can’t remember much of the actual match it’s safe to say I was excited for the cup and that feeling carried on into the next season for our fourth round trip to Stamford Bridge.

Seven years before Abramovich Chelsea were not a team to be feared, in fact we’d already beaten them 5-1 earlier in the season thanks in part to a hilarious Andy Myers own goal. (I’ll wait here while you watch it on YouTube)

The Reds started confidently and at half time we were 2-0 up courtesy of goals from Robbie Fowler and Stan Collymore.

It was then that my dad and I made a fateful mistake.

We had been watching in the pub and at half time we moved and sat in a different part of the bar, a superstition was born and to this day I can’t switch seats during a Liverpool game.

At half time Chelsea brought on some player I’d never heard of before, I just remember thinking his name sounded like a type of cheese.

That player was new signing Gianfranco Zola.

He scored a free kick, Gianluca Vialli and Mark Hughes tore our fragile defence to shreds and we lost 4-2.

I fought hard to hold back the tears until the cameras showed a Liverpool fan in the crowd about three times my age crying his eyes out so I started weeping as well.

The next few years were much less traumatic for me as we lost out to Coventry, Man United and Blackburn before we suddenly became cup specialists in 2001.

Looking back we had an incredibly simple run to the final, drawing fellow Merseysiders Tranmere in the quarters and lowly Wycombe in the semis before meeting Arsenal in the final.

My brother is an Arsenal fan and he became increasingly irate because despite the Gunners’ dominance they just couldn’t find the back of the net thanks to a mixture of poor finishing, solid defending and outrageous cheating from Stephane Henchoz.

Eventually Freddie Ljungberg found a way through and it looked like our treble dreams had been shattered until Michael Owen popped up.

Before he sold his soul and joined Man United, Owen was a brilliant finisher and he equalised with an instinctive snapshot five minutes from time.

We didn’t even need extra time as a pinpoint Paddy Berger pass put Owen through in injury time and he finished superbly.

As Owen celebrated, he dreamt of one day commentating on such a momentous occasion and bringing joy to the hearts of those watching at home.

Our next cup game that sticks in my mind was a pulsating win against Newcastle in 2004.

This isn’t a game that many would recall instantly but the reason it sticks in my head is because the much maligned Bruno Cheyrou scored both our goals.

Cheyrou would ultimately prove to be one third of Gerard Houllier’s unholy trinity alongside Salif Diao and El-Hadji Diouf, all three signed from French teams in 2002, all three not fit to wear the shirt.

But for one glorious Saturday evening as Cheyrou leapt like a salmon to win us the tie anything seemed possible to a 13 year old watching at home.

The less said about the woeful display at Turf Moor the next season the better but at least the Reds learnt their lesson and next season we knocked out both Chelsea and Man United on our way to Cardiff.

The final against West Ham was an amazing game, Paul Koncheskey scored, Dean Ashton managed to play football for 70 minutes without getting injured and Steven Gerrard proved he may, in fact, be superhuman.

The skipper was closer to the halfway line than their goal when he shot, I can’t have been the only one initially berating him before screaming in pure ecstasy as it flew in.

For the rest of Rafa’s reign we struggled in the cups and it wasn’t until Kenny’s first full season back at the helm that we progressed to the latter stages of the FA Cup.

The final that year against Chelsea wasn’t particularly memorable although Andy Carroll did come within millimetres of making it the ‘Divine Ponytail Final’.

The game that sticks in my mind is the semi final against Everton as five of us (three blues and two reds) drove down for the derby.

Due to a late finish at work and a train from Manchester to Liverpool I hadn’t slept at all the night before the match as we set off at 4 in the morning.

I naïvely thought I’d be able to sleep in the car until everybody started belting out the Proclaimers’ smash hit ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 miles)’ leaving me to question what on earth haver means.

We were poor throughout the second half of the 2011/12 season and this game was no different but luckily Everton seemed to have a mental block playing us under David Moyes.

Nikica Jelavic gave them the lead, but Suarez equalised to set the scene for Carroll to justify his price tag with the winning goal.

One of the blues I was with took it particularly hard and his mood wasn’t improved when we bought food back at the hotel.

He thought he was buying a fancy pepperoni pizza for £10, instead he got an undercooked Chicago town. Roughly a 400% mark up from what the hotel spent at ASDA.

Back to the present day and Brendan finds himself under pressure.

Our high expectations in the league haven’t been met and there are bound to be some fans getting on the boss’s back.

Bringing his first piece of silverware back to Anfield would be sure to silence the doubters.

And if he can provide me with another great cup memory, all the better.