Make your own free website on Tripod.com

Hansen's Wembley memories - 11/10/00

Back
Iíll never forget my field of dreams

Wembley gave me some of the best moments of my football career, but my first visit there was not the most auspicious.

In May 1975, as a young Partick Thistle player, I was part of the huge travelling Tartan Army that travelled to London in great excitement to watch Scotland play the old foe.

We couldn't believe what we were seeing as England absolutely annihilated us 5-1.

As I made my way north that evening, never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be back just three years later as a player helping Liverpool beat Bruges to win the European Cup.

I was just 22 and I had won the greatest prize in club football. I remember walking back through the empty stadium that night looking over at where I had sat three years earlier, clutching my six-pack, just another face in the crowd.

I thought of all the great players and teams who had won the European Cup and now I had joined them.

There was a sense of unreality about it all, but Wembley was to become a second footballing home for me - and the other Liverpool players - in the late Seventies and Eighties. Alongside Anfield it has to rank as my favourite ground, even though I had a few desperate lows there to go with some incredible highs.

I must have played there 14 times, including that European Cup final, three FA Cup finals, three League Cup finals and more Charity Shields than I can remember. I don't think many players can better that record in club football.

I loved the aura of the place. Even now when I return as a spectator or a TV pundit I still feel that tingle down my spine, that sense of excitement and expectation.

And I loved the pitch. It was built for passing a football and the Liverpool side I played in were renowned for their passing ability. We relished the surface and the wide open spaces.

One of the worst moments was being there as an injured player for the 1982 League Cup final against Tottenham. Of course, I was happy for the rest of the lads that we won, but I would rather have been anywhere else in the world than sitting on the bench in my suit.

I didn't feel part of it, or the banquet in the evening. Liverpool had a medal struck for me because I had played in every round up to the final, but it never meant the same to me as if I had actually played.

Alongside the 1978 European Cup final, I would put the 1986 FA Cup final against Everton when I became only the third player in history to captain a Double-winning team.

Strangely enough, that was my worst game at Wembley. I was 30 by then, vastly experienced, and yet I admit I was shot to pieces even before kick-off.

The pressure of the occasion got to me. We were going for the Double, it was the first all-Merseyside FA Cup final and we were the two best teams in the country at that time.

I remember Graeme Sharp saying to me in the game how hot it was and I was just relieved someone else was finding it as hard as me out there.

Gary Lineker never stops recalling how he got the better of me to put Everton ahead, but I always reply by saying it was no good being able to smile at 3.20pm if the other guy is laughing his head off at 4.45pm.

Winning that day certainly helped to cushion the blow of losing to Wimbledon in one of the biggest Cup final upsets two years later. We were sick at the time. Eight or nine of us simply didn't perform on the day, although you had to give credit to Wimbledon.

My abiding memory of that day is of Ronnie Moran coming into the dressing room and reminding us that we had still won the championship by a mile, and ordering us to go out and enjoy ourselves. We did have a party.

We went back the following year for the most emotional football match I've played in - the post-Hillsborough Cup final with Everton. We won 3-2 after extra-time on a blistering day, but the football was of secondary importance to the occasion.

I will treasure all my Wembley memories. Many of my career milestones were reached in the old stadium. I can still see dear old Bob Paisley, straight-backed and swinging his arm, military-style, as he led us out on so many occasions.

And I'll never forget how proud he was when our captain Graeme Souness sent him up the steps to collect the League Cup in his final season as manager in 1983.

I loved the build-up to the Cup finals and the day itself. Winning the European Cup and League championship were always more important, but as a one-off the FA Cup final was special.

I'll be sad when the bulldozers move in, but in reality the facilities are no longer up to scratch. The nation needs a stadium fit for the 21st century.