Neil Ruddock: We lost the FA Cup Final in 96′ – not because of Cantona – because of the suits

They were all David James' fault.


When I was at Liverpool, there was only Champions League for the league winners. In the ’90s, we used to come second, third, four, fifth, sixth, but that meant the UEFA Cup or nothing – it feels like fourth is the new first sometimes now. That meant we missed out on the chance to win more.  We could have done a lot better.

If you came second back then, you’d failed.  It was a lot harsher.

We were unlucky with Man United then, they had kids come through from ‘92.  They had five or six coming through, they didn’t have to spend a lot of money, and everyone else was playing catch-up. Plus, they had the best manager in the world at the time. Then Arsenal and Wenger came along, obviously, and started winning. I was at Liverpool  20 years too early.

I got “rested” for the Cup Final against that United team in ’96. I’d played the quarter-final, semi-final, and the last six games in the league  We’d beaten Leeds in the quarter-final, Villa at Old Trafford in the semi-final, and then played the last League game when we put Man City down. That’s the game where Niall Quinn was running up the line trying to tell them the scores from the other games.

The week after was the Cup Final and Roy Evans, God bless him, told me I was – well, I’d like to say I was rested, but I was dropped.  Maybe he didn’t want me to get injured like Gazza did and all that.

He’d said he was going to name the team Thursday morning and didn’t, so everyone just thought it was the same team.

And then he said to me after training, ‘I don’t know how to say this…’  and I immediately went ‘oh, f*ck off’ and walked off.

It was my birthday as well. I’ve forgiven him now – I was even assistant manager to him at Swindon. And I did get a new five-year contract at Liverpool after he dropped me, so he made it up to me that way.

But when I think back, I said at the time I hated him and wanted to tear his head off.  He had to make the decision and he thought it was the right decision.  He’s admitted to me it was the wrong decision now, but experience is wasted on old footballers.

Not playing in the game didn’t spare me from the cream suits either. I still had to wear one. Ours were Giorgio Armani.  We won the suits, We were Giorgio Armani, Man United were Cecil Gee or something. I look back and think ‘how f*cking ridiculous’. It was David James’ idea.  He was an Armani model, he used to be in their ads, so he told us we were wearing them, and we thought ‘yeah, f*cking come on, who cares?’

But they got ripped up that night. We went out and got drunk and they got ripped to pieces.

Losing that game was the suits’ fault I think. It wasn’t Eric Cantona in the last minute, it was the suits.

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