BY LEE MOLTON – @LeeMolton
‘From Ricky Villa to Dave Beasant’ is the third and final book looking at FA Cup finals with this particular edition focusing on the 1980’s. The book gives a fascinating insight into the FA Cup final of each year, beginning in 1980 and proceeding chronologically up to 1989 describing the build-up to the game and gives fan views (of both sides) from those who went to watch the game.
Author Matt Eastley’s writing style is certainly very engaging; the book is written to encapsulate those rollercoaster of emotions that fans go through during such a momentous football occasion as the Cup final. It certainly retained my attention and I wanted to keep reading the next chapter to experience the next Cup Final.
The length of each chapter is perfect with an average of 30 pages for each, there is never a feeling of a chapter dragging on or even being too short. It is just like 10 short stories from each year. There is also no bias towards any of the teams, it is often very easy to side with a particular team and then show your love or hatred towards them. Eastley clearly gives a balanced view of every final and does particular justice to the fairy tale Cup final appearances of teams like Brighton, Watford and Wimbledon reaching their first Finals.
The book has been very well researched with Eastley detailing in each chapter how the two teams reached the final and the score of each game, summarising their season.
The final chapter is purely dedicated to the Hillsborough tragedy in 1989 and does not recount the Cup final of this season; Eastley chooses to focus on the real unimportance of the day after the tragic events at Hillsborough. This is a very poignant end to the book and perfectly reflects that football is important, but is not more important than life and death.
I love the nostalgic feel of the book and it is excellently written and gives you a feeling that you are there at each Cup Final. It also highlights how important the FA Cup final was in the 1980’s for both teams and the television companies. These, of course, were the days when the final was the showpiece event of the season with television coverage starting at 9 o’clock in the morning. Nowadays, it seems to play second fiddle to the Premier League and Champions League with these bringing more financial rewards for teams. It also makes you want to go back and read the other two books in the series looking at the 1960s and 70s FA Cup finals. It is definitely worth your time to pick up a copy – especially those of you who were around at the time.