The Cup Final

Joe Lanzon

The Lucas family lived in Cleethorpes, a suburb of Blackpool in the Fifties. Grandfather Peter and his grandson John were both fanatic supporters of Blackpool FC and, rain or shine, never missed a home game.

The grandfather, then in his sixties, used to recount to his grandson, then in his late teens, how often times he and his best pal Billy Watts, used to travel to matches together and attend to classic games in which football greats of yesteryear took part. The grandson was thrilled to hear about the famous British football legends whose names were known not only in England but all over the world.

As the Lucases were season ticket holders of the ‘Seasiders’ matches, they qualified for Wembley tickets when Blackpool reached the FA Cup Final in May 1953. Both were looking forward to travel together to London and give vociferous support to their team on the big day.

But a fortnight before the Cup Final the grandfather passed away. The boy cried as he had lost not only a dear grandfather but also a friend and a good story teller too. The marvelous football stories that his grandfather had recounted to him over the years passed through his mind.

As his own father had no interest in football, the grandson decided to trace his grandfather’s old friend and ask him whether he would like to see the Cup Final with him. He discovered that he had moved to nearby Fleetwood. If his grandfather could not go to Wembley, who better to take his place than his old pal, with whom he had attended so many great games in the past?

The grandson managed to track down his grandfather’s old friend and phoned him. He was despondent to hear the news that his great friend had died. But he agreed to take his place on the trip to Wembley with the grandson. John was delighted that he had made his grandfather’s friend so happy. When the big day came, John went to Fleetwood to meet his grandfather’s old friend so that together they would travel to London and see Blackpool play Bolton Wanderers in the Cup Final. But shock awaited him. His grandfather’s friend was blind and had been so all his life. His grandfather, he learned, had accompanied his blind friend to all those games of yesteryear and had given him a running commentary of the action taking place on the field.

After overcoming his initial surprise, the grandson felt great pride that he should now be taking his grandfather’s place and take his pal to Wembley where he would, like his grandfather did before him, give him a commentary of the entire proceedings of the game. And so it went. John commented on the electric atmosphere before the start of the game. It was a thrilling Cup Final. Blackpool had some famous names in their team that day – Stanley Matthews, then 38 years old, on the right wing; Stanley Mortensen at centre forward; Harry Johnston at centre half and George Farm in goal.

But a few minutes after half time Blackpool were 3 – 1 down and the outcome looked pretty grim. Young John Lucas and old Bill Watts sat huddled together with other disappointed ‘Pool’ supporters. “It’s impossible now Bill” John lamented with tears in his eyes. “Blackpool cannot come back from 3 goals down”, he continued. But old Bill had more spirit. “Have faith lad, have faith! More impossible things have happened in the past. Blackpool have some great ball players. They have courage and fighting spirit. Have faith!”

It is at this point that Blackpool captain Harry Johnston rallied his team mates; he was shouting, encouraging and directing them as if the fate of the world depended on them.

John was commenting in Billy’s ear. “It’s Matthews now with the ball, dribbling past one player, past another, past another. What a player! He centres to Mortensen who is waiting in the penalty area. A high ball; Morty gets it and shoots. A goal! A goal!” Both got up instantly with all other ‘Pool’ fans and cheered, sang and made enormous noise with their rattles. The score was now 3 – 2 and Bolton still in the lead. It was a titanic battle now. Only two minutes of normal time remains. John took up the commentary again – “Mortensen is taking a free kick some 20 yards from the Bolton goal. Can he do it? All the Bolton players form a tight wall.” But Morty sees a gap between the Bolton players. He walks five paces back. A hush descends on both set of fans as they waited to see what Morty could do. Morty gives it everything he has. It’s a thunderbolt of a shot. It got through the wall. A goal! A goal! The score is now 3 – 3. There was no need for John to tell Bill what was happening on the field. Blackpool have come from the dead. The normal 90 minutes have passed. A minute of injury time remains to be played. John grasps Billy’s hand and continues his commentary in gasps – “Matthews has the ball now; starts a dribbling run down the right flank; beating one player, two players, three players!! He is near the corner flag now; there’s Morty and Perry galloping towards the penalty area; Matthews centres the ball; Morty lets it roll past him but it reaches Perry on the left; he shoots straight at the Bolton post. A goal! A goal!”
There is pandemonium all over the ground. Blackpool have won the Cup by 4 goals to 3. The impossible became the possible! Unbelievable!

John and Bill hug each other. What a wonderful moment. There is singing and cheering, an incredible noise. Young John leans towards old Bill – “Harry Johnston is now going up the Royal Box; the Queen is presenting him with the FA Cup; all the other Blackpool players are behind Harry; they advance one by one; shake hands with the Queen; she gives them a medal which they hang over their necks; it’s Matthews now; the crowd is enthusiastic; the Queen is talking to him. What a sight!!” Bill listens attentively to John‘s words. He is so happy!
The great Wembley spectacle is over. As young John takes old Bill’s hand and escorts him out of the Stadium amid the mad celebrations of the Blackpool supporters, the old man stops, turns towards his friend’s grandson and says – “I’ve been blind all my life, but I’ll tell you this my lad, after this game I’ve seen it all now!!”