When Alf Ramsey gifted Pool the road to Wembley

Unlucky Alf
Unlucky Alf
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Memory match: Blackpool 2 Tottenham Hotspur 1 March 21, 1953

The 1953 FA Cup is quite rightly remembered as one of the most exciting Wembley finals of all time, Bill Perry sealing Blackpool’s fightback against Bolton Wanderers with a goal in the dying seconds as they won 4-3.

But it was not the only dramatic finale in that momentous Cup run.

It was abundantly evident too in the semi-final at Villa Park as Blackpool earned their Wembley place by beating Tottenham Hotspur 2-1, the clinching goal coming on the 89th minute when Jackie Mudie pounced on a huge error by Spurs full-back Alf Ramsey to seal it and book the Seasiders their third final appearance in the space of five years.

The Pathe newsreel cameras were there to capture the action.

There was no live tv back then (there were not that many sets back then, though BBC radio relayed live second half commentary, presumably since wiped) .

And so we have to rely on the Pathe footage for visual evidence, just brief fragments - and for once the cameras captured all three goals.

Brief and grainy as it is, it affords a fascinating snapshot of football in that era.

There are rattles in abundance in the enthusiastic crowd and the ball is heavy and the pitch testing underfoot, nothing like the pristine Premier League surfaces that are the norm these days.

It was a busy day of action on the same afternoon Blackpool joyously booked their passage to the FA Cup final.

In the other FA Cup semi, Bolton beat Everton 4-3, the Toffees left to rue the fact that they missed a penalty.

The Bolton management had a novel way of motivating their players before going out into the fray.

Prior to leaving for the semi-final venue at Maine Road, the Wanderers were shown a 15-minute film of the first Wembley FA Cup Final in 1923 when Bolton beat West Ham.

It was semi-final day too in the FA Amateur Cup too - the competition had a high profile in 1953, eventual winners Pegasus beating Southall in a replay at neutral Craven Cottage.

But there was little doubting the main attraction - it was the tie between Blackpool and Spurs.

It certainly captured the imagination, as well as breaking box-office records.

The attendance at Villa Park was 68,221 and the receipts were £20,084. That equates to around £520,000 these days.

It was the first time that so much money had been paid to see a match on an English League ground.

Only at Wembley and Hampden Park had the gate receipts been in excess of that.

Few would begrudge the admission fee, certainly not if they supported Blackpool.

Both teams were based at Leamington Spa and in order to avoid any hold-ups, the two team coaches were given a police escort to the stadium.

The Seasiders drew first blood, making the breakthrough on seven minutes.

Ernie Taylor won a corner on the right before Stanley Matthews sent over a pinpoint cross and was met perfectly by Bill Perry, who headed it past goalkeeper Ted Ditchburn

Blackpool withstood a Spurs fightback and as The Gazette’s man Don Creedy reported, the Seasiders were forced to go ‘all out’ to keep their advantage intact.

But Blackpool had chances to augment their lead as well as the stirring action continued apace, but the scoreline remained 1-0 by half-time.

However, five minutes into the second half, Spurs levelled the tie.

Eddie Baily caught out the Blackpool defence with his skill and the ball reached Len Duquemin, who was unmarked and fired past George Farm in the Blackpool goal.

Spurs went close minutes later and Blackpool looked like conceding another, but were relieved when the referee blew up for a foul on Farm.

At this stage Creedy wrote in his running report that it was touch and go who would go on to book that place in the final.

On the hour Spurs went perilously close through Sid McClellan (that’s another thing that has changed in football, you don’t any footballers called Sid anymore!)

Creedy wrote: “McClellan raced through Blackpool’s shattered ranks and from an angle hit the ball low past the diving Farm. Spurs supporters were already shouting ‘goal’ as the ball hit the base of the far post and rebounded out of play.”

After that let-off, it was still all to play for, the urgency increasing in the final 15 minutes.

Blackpool had to be thankful to Farm for keeping them in the Cup, with excellent saves in rapid-fire style from Baily and Sonny Walters.

Stan Mortensen was a big threat to Spurs at this late stage and he was denied when Ditchburn cut down the angle and saved his shot.

Blackpool went even closer as the tension mounted, Perry seeing his effort cleared off the line by Ramsey (later Sir Alf and the England World Cup winning manager).

Spurs retaliated and Duquemin struck the roof of the Blackpool net with his attempt.

A replay looked on the cards before Blackpool scored - in Creedy’s words - a sensational winner.

He wrote: “Ramsey beat Perry to the ball, attempted to pass back to the goalkeeper, but did not push it far enough and Mudie, racing on to it, shot it under Ditchburn’s body into the net as the goalkeeper dived at his feet.”

It was a complete howler by Ramsey, then an established England international and his mistake paved the way to Wembley.

No-one could accuse Creedy of watching this exciting semi-final through Tangerine-tinted spectacles and gave due credit to the vanquished Spurs.

He wrote: “It was Spurs who provided the football craft; Spurs who attacked for three-quarters of the game; Spurs who showed that necessary teamwork and understanding - but it was Blackpool who took the chances.”

Creedy added: “It was the defence that deserves the lion’s share of the praise.”