Jason McAteer regrets that he and his Liverpool team-mates lost the 1996 FA Cup final to Manchester United.
Despite a fast start the game was a largely low-key affair, decided by one goal from Eric Cantona five minutes from time.
Rather than the action on the pitch, the most memorable things about that day were the cream Armani suits worn by the Liverpool players as they arrived at Wembley.
McAteer told The Kopite Podcast he feels the ‘Spice Boys’ moniker he and his fellow Reds were slapped with by the press, and the long-running jokes about the suits, would have died down much sooner had they just been victorious on the pitch that day.
While the 50-year-old admitted he wasn’t able to make much of an impact going forward that day, he said it was because he and Ryan Giggs were both engaged in a battle to mark each other out of the game.
“I knew I was marking Giggsy, McAteer said. “He was a massive threat, probably one of the best players in the Premier League.
“What happened with me and him epitomised the game. I marked him and he marked me, and nothing happened. Macca and Roy, nothing happened. Stan, Robbie, Coley, marked out of the game.
“Coley had one really good chance – Redknapp had our chance in the first half, and put it over. And that was it.
“It wasn’t a bad game, just very tactical and we nullified each other.”
Like so many football-loving households around that time, FA Cup final day was always a massive occasion in the McAteer household when Jason was growing up.
The former Red said you “can’t buy” the feeling of representing your club in a game of such magnitude.
Which is why he wishes the match itself would have gone differently.
“Everyone goes ‘you didn’t play well in the cup final’, but I say to them ‘well what did Giggsy do?’ We cancelled each other out.
“I look back and think, did the occasion get to me? Maybe. Did I enjoy it? Of course I did! You can’t ever take that away from me – I played for Liverpool in a cup final.
“But if I could go back in time and change something in my Liverpool career, it would be to win the cup final that day.
“There were lots of tears afterwards, and tremendous stick about the suits. It’s become iconic because of that – we’re talking about it now 20-odd years later.”
McAteer chose to sign for his boyhood club over Premier League champions Blackburn Rovers in 1995, having began his career in the game with non-league Marine.
He pulled on the famous Red shirt 139 times before eventually moving to Ewood Park in 1999, but not before he and fellow Liverpool stars Steve McManaman, David James, Jamie Redknapp and Robbie Fowler had been labelled ‘the Spice Boys’.
While there were several tabloid stories that appeared about them over the years, it’s that cup final and the light-coloured suits which remain the stand-out.
But, as McAteer reveals, the suits they had originally ordered from Armani for the occasion weren’t supposed to be such an eye-catching colour.
“I’d never wear it again, he said, laughing. “It was such a bad, ill-fitting suit.
“There wasn’t time to do the alterations. We picked a lovely Italian brown colour actually, we knew what we wanted, and I just don’t think they had the cloth to do it.”
The 50-year-old went on to say he no longer has his suit, after choosing to give it away following years of it being sat in his wardrobe untouched.
“I took it to Soccer AM,” he said. “When they asked me to bring it down, I got it from the wardrobe.
“Literally, from the day I put it in on the cup final, it hadn’t been moved – the flower was still in the lapel.
“I took it down and I gave it to Helen Chamberlain, and when I was finished with the show she asked what I was doing with the suit, and I went ‘it’s brought back such bad memories for me, you can have it’.
“I saw her at Cheltenham two years ago, and she said: ‘Still got your suit, you know.’ It’s a piece of footballing history, isn’t it?”
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