United Fan Culture Archive: Remembering Wembley ‘77

Friday 06 January 2023 11:27

The 1970s seem to possess a beautiful, retro glow on many photos preserved from the era.

Our latest choice selection from the popular United Fan Culture Archive is no exception, depicting four euphoric Reds at Wembley before the ’77 FA Cup final against Liverpool, with a clear blue sky blazing behind them.
But, as ever, the real-life story behind the image contains a lot more of life’s rough and tumble. Literally so, in this case.

“I’m the one on the left,” explains Flixton-based Red Mike Carroll. “The one with the beard and the longer hair. Next to me is my brother, Dave, and then there’s two of our friends, John Pickford and Bri Hindley.

“But I think there were about 12 of 13 of us that went in that van to the match! They were big old things; you could stand up in them, the roof was that high. And we all slept in it overnight! A rug? I think we just rolled our jackets up and slept on the floor. We had to have a few drinks the evening before to make it comfortable...”
Mike Carroll (left) and his friends at Wembley before the 1977 FA Cup final.
The group had hired the vehicle from Moss Vale Car Hire in Urmston, and it was packed out with old schoolmates and decked with United regalia by the time they set off for London the day before the game.
“We did the van up because we knew there would be a lot of Scousers there!” laughs Carroll, who still attends games as a season-ticket holder. “We had a big banner as well, that had ‘Macari walks on water, Keegan takes the ferry’ on it. Our Dave was going to art school at the time so he did a lot of the posters and that. Remarkably, they stuck on all the way to Wembley and back...
“We wrote Buchan’s name on the van because he was the captain and also such a strong defender. He was a bit like Varane as a player, but if anyone wasn’t pulling their weight, he’d have a go at them like Keane. He was a cool, quiet guy, but in the games he did boss it all.”
Mike and his mates were regulars at away matches, and had travelled to watch the team during every round of the Cup run. They’d also been down to Wembley for a painful defeat to Southampton in the previous year’s final.
“We couldn’t believe it when we got beat,” he gasps. “I remember coming back to Manchester and going to the town hall the next day and Docherty promising everyone that he’d take us back the next year. I think we believed it!
“But Liverpool were the top team, and going for the treble. We’d been confident in ’76, but I don’t think anyone was confident in ’77. We were just full of hope more than anything.
“We went around Piccadilly Circus the night before for a few drinks, and then whoever was driving took us to the Wembley car park and we slept in the van there. So when we got up the next morning, we were already at Wembley. That picture is from the car park, first thing on the day of the match.”
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Liverpool 1 United 2

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What followed was arguably the club’s greatest day since the 1968 European Cup final.
“Even though Liverpool were the top team, somehow, every pub we went in was United. When the match started, Pearson got the goal and then they equalised not long after. Then it was Macari’s shot that hit Jimmy Greenhoff on the chest and went in. A complete fluke goal!
“We came straight back that night in the van, and I couldn’t sleep just thinking about the match. Wembley wasn’t much of a place, but the atmosphere was always great – I’d been in ’68 too.”
Mike still attends United games now, as a season-ticket holder.
For years, Mike’s photos were kept in an old scrapbook. But when the club asked for fans to send in any mementos for the 40th anniversary of the Cup final in 2017, the images were given a new lease of life.
“They put a few of my photos on display in the Museum. I got invited to the celebration night too, and a lot of the players were there, so I met Macari, Buchan, McIlroy and Pearson, which was great.
Years later, Carroll is still a regular at Old Trafford, and hopeful for more cup glory come the end of Erik ten Hag’s first season.
“I’m pleased they’re playing a lot better this season,” he enthuses. “They’re getting that old passion back. I like the idea of what the manager is doing: building the basics, bringing young players through, and hopefully we’ll get back up there. If we win a cup this year I’ll be dead happy.”
The United Fan Culture Archive is partnered with Real Change MCR – formerly Big Change MCR – a charity that helps homeless people to build lives off the streets. For information on Real Change MCR, click here.

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