FA Cup 3rd round day can be magical. We dream of going all the way to Wembley – 64, 75. We like to evoke the spirit of 1980 and possibly our greatest Cup triumph but 3rd round day is also about David V Goliath.
At the Boleyn there was no greater example of that than in the 1998 third round tie against Emley.
Emley is a Yorkshire Village in the Pennines with a population of only 1,800 yet this small village team arrived after seven games at The Boleyn for the biggest in their history, and brought with them over 3,000 fans from the 18,000 there that day.
As i walked in to take my seat in the Chicken Run, the heavens opened with a torrential downpour that scattered many on the Run upstairs for cover. Not that this put the Hammers off their stride because Harry Redknapp had treated the tournament with respect and put out our strongest available team with the likes of Rio, Lampard Berkovic Hartson and Kitson all starting in what many hoped could be a Cricket score. Emley had other ideas.
Lampard opened the scoring after just 4 minutes and that was sure to demoralise the minnows but the non leaguers held firm and managed to keep the score to just one until half time and after the break the unthinkable happened. Emley equalised, hitting the bar before gaining a corner where one of the defenders rose to head past Craig Forrest and the Emley fans went wild.
For nearly 30 minutes the mining village, with butchers and bakers and candlestick makers as players, and probably a postman thrown in, holding their own against of the top 10 teams in the country. Just 6 minutes from the end today’s ClaretandHugh match blogger John Hartson broke their hearts with a goal in front of their support in the centenary lower stand and their dream was over.
What happened after thoughsurprised many from Emley. At the end of the game the players walked over to their support as most teams do, but as they finished and they turned to walk off they realised the Hammers support that day, well many of us had stayed to give them a standing ovation.
The Emley team then preceded to do a lap of honour as the Hammers fans cheered and applauded, and along the chicken run many of us fans shook the hands of those part timers., giant killers they weren’t but heroes they were. While Emley went back to the Northern Premier League West Ham went onto the quarter Finals where after another memorable night at the Boleyn, the hammers lost out to eventual winners Arsenal