NOSTALGIA: 25 years on, memories of Pompey’s epic FA Cup semi-final clash with Liverpool

Darren Anderton celebrates his goal during the 1992 FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool
Darren Anderton celebrates his goal during the 1992 FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool
Pompey player Gareth Evans

Pompey Christmas quiz: Gareth Evans

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I remember the queue, I remember the roar, and above all, I remember the gut-wrenching pang of disappointment...

And it hardly seems possible that it all happened 25 years ago.

THE QUEUE:

Like all Pompey fans, I was ecstatic that Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest had been put to the sword in a blood-and-thunder sixth round battle at Fratton Park, teeing up a semi-final clash with Liverpool.

I don’t recall the precise arrangements for ticket allocation for the match to be played at Arsenal’s Highbury Stadium on April 5, 1992, but I know that everyone who had either a season ticket or a voucher was guaranteed a ticket.

They went on sale at Fratton Park on a Sunday before the match. I was due in at work that day, so reasoned I should arrive promptly for the 8am opening of the ticket office to get my hands on that precious piece of paper and be away.

Pompey fans  deliver their tickertape welcome at Highbury

Pompey fans deliver their tickertape welcome at Highbury

Strolling along Carisbrooke Road, I could see at the T-junction that there was already a queue in Frogmore Road. It looked like I’d be a little later away than I thought...

Turning into Frogmore Road, I saw that the queue snaked back all the way to the junction of Goldsmith Avenue. Panic gripped me...

Running to the junction with the main road, I realised that the queue stretched as far as I could see!

Eventually I reached its end somewhere not far short of the Talbot pub. Thousands queueing early-doors for tickets that they were already guaranteed! This was true Pompey Cup fever!

I did eventually make it to work, armed with apologies for my extreme lateness and also with that precious ticket!

THE ROAR:

The bulk of Pompey’s army of fans were packed into the famous Clock End at Highbury on the day of the match. Long before kick-off, the atmosphere was one of sheer bedlam.

This was the era of Pompey’s famous tickertape welcome, and everyone had come armed to the teeth with ripped-up paper - some carrying whole bin bags full of the stuff to the bemusement of police carrying out searches at the turnstiles.

We hardly saw the teams emerge - the total white-out at the Clock End taking a seeming age to clear. The roar that accompanied it had to be heard to be believed - a collective howl of expectation and anticipation from fans largely starved of success for many a long year.

But even that mighty explosion of noise was outdone by the deafening roar that erupted a few minutes into the second period of extra time.

Pompey had held their illustrious opponents at 0-0 and, with Graeme Souness and his star-studded side seemingly getting more and more nervous, we sensed our chance of a famous victory.

It seemed to have come when young Darren Anderton chased a long ball and hammered his shot under Bruce Grobbelaar. I’ve heard many a roar from Pompey fans over the years - but seldom one so loud.

Surely, we were on our way to Wembley now. Surely, nothing could go wrong... could it?

THE DISAPPOINTMENT:

To this day, I recall the sudden feeling of trepidation. Liverpool were pushing forward, desperate for an equaliser. Steve Nichol raced towards the area and Andy Awford hurtled out to meet him. Cue the pang of trepidation - surely this was going to be a foul? It was. John Barnes took an exquisite free kick from 25 yards out, Knightsie tipped onto the post and Ronnie Whelan raced in unopposed to hammer home the rebound.

History shows that Pompey again matched Liverpool in the replay at Villa Park, before going out on penalties after 120 minutes of stalemate.

I was disappointed then, but nothing like as disappointed as I was at the end of the Highbury match.

Retrospectively though, despair has turned to pride. We went to Highbury with nobody but ourselves expecting that we’d achieve anything, yet we came within a hair’s breadth of one of racking up what would have been one of the most famous victories in the club’s history. And, with fellow Second Division side Sunderland reaching the final, we’d have had every chance of lifting the famous trophy.

We had to wait another 16 years for that - a hugely-memorable day in its own right.

But nothing can dim the memory of the agony and ecstasy at Highbury on that Sunday in 1992. Was it REALLY 25 years ago?