Sheffield United: The legendary Tony Currie reflects on his FA Cup final experience with QPR

“He did nothing but read. He was up until three o’clock every bleeding morning. It’s just as well I didn’t actually need much sleep.” Tony Currie is describing what it was like to share a room with Bob Hazell, his friend, former team mate and fellow veteran of Queens Park Rangers’ 1982 FA Cup final squad.

Monday, 4th April 2022, 4:05 pm

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Forty years have passed since that memorable tussle against Tottenham Hotspur, which was decided following a replay at Wembley Stadium. But the two men remain in touch and so tomorrow, when the Londoners visit Bramall Lane for a crucial Championship game against Sheffield United, Currie has invited his old pal to be guest of honour. With the two clubs both vying for promotion, swapping book recommendations will be the last thing on their minds.

Although his name is synonymous with United after being voted as their greatest ever player, the meeting with Rangers will be a poignant occasion for Currie; stirring memories of that double-header against Keith Burkinshaw’s side. Indeed, he has taken to watching footage of the two games on YouTube during his daily sessions on a treadmill. Now aged 72, Currie’s body might be in need of a little fine-tuning. But recalling how Spurs edged their way to victory in the return - Glenn Hoddle scoring the only goal of the game from the penalty spot in the sixth minute - it becomes apparent his mind is as sharp as ever.

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“I actually gave it away. So that wasn’t something I remember too fondly, obviously. The same as getting beat. But I tell you what, in the first one Glenn had done a two footed scissor kick on Gary Waddock - in this day and age he’d have been off. Gary wasn’t one to stay down, he was a real tough lad, and you knew he was hurt when it took us about five minutes to get restarted. That was so unlike Glenn, who was the greatest ever midfielder with both feet I can ever remember. He still went in like an Exocet missile, mind. The thing was, in those days, you never complained. They probably deserved to win the first one. In the second though, we just kept going at them and at them in the second half. Did everything but score. Clive White, a top ref by the way, but he gave us nothing in that one.”

Currie was in the autumn of a remarkable career, which included 376 appearances for United and 17 England caps, when he moved to Loftus Road. Now a dyed-in-the-wool Blade - “Everyone knows what I think of the place, that’s why I’m still here” - Currie nevertheless retains a mighty big soft spot for their latest opponents.

“Coming from Cricklewood, Rangers was my local side really. It was a quarter-of-an-hour journey down Scrubs Lane, past the prison. They always treat me great down there and I love going back.”

Currie’s last trip there was less than a month ago when, together with Hazell and other members of a team led by a young Terry Venables, he was invited to celebrate the day a Second Division outfit reached what was then the showpiece event on the domestic calendar.

Tony Currie, the Sheffield United legend, has a stand named after him at Bramall Lane: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

“The minute you get to the final,” Currie recalls, “You’re on cloud nine. I was actually really worried because I’d got injured in between that and the semi-final win over West Brom, when everyone forgets Clive Allen scored with a block tackle. Still, as you’d expect for a goalscorer, he claimed it.

“But I proved my fitness and what an experience it was, even though things didn’t turn out as we’d have liked.”

“Venners, he was ahead of his time, no doubt about it,” Currie continues. “The best tactician, the best man-manager and the press loved him too. He was a bit of a wide-boy but, crickey, he was brilliant and gave everyone what they wanted.

“We had a brilliant team spirit too. The same as at United. I spent loads of time with the ‘keeper Peter Hucker. All we did was play cribbage; in the hotels, on the coach. We never argued then but we do now, about who was the best.

Tony Currie of England and Zico of Brazil in action during an international Friendly at Wembley: Tony Duffy /Allsport

“Andy King, he was another room mate of mine. If he wasn’t on drugs, he should have been. He was totally hyper. The same as Trevor Hockey, when I was at United. Lovely guys, the pair of them. But they could never sit still for a moment.”

Currie, who wrote his name into United history after arriving from Watford in 1968, also captured the imagination of the country with his effervescent performances and exuberant skill. In an era, it must be remembered, when hatchet men were revered every bit as much as those who possessed sublime technique.

“Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris at Chelsea, Liverpool’s Tommy Smith - there was always someone out to stop you,” Currie says. “The hardest I ever came up against though was Peter Storey at Arsenal. He’d kick, he’d scratch, he’d bite, spit. Basically do whatever he thought was going to knock you out of your stride. But that’s the way it was then. I just got on with my job. Nobody moaned. You just looked to do what you did and take them out of the game.”

Eighth in the table following last weekend’s defeat by Stoke City, Paul Heckingbottom’s men enter the first of their remaining seven fixtures two points above Rangers in the table. Currie, who also represented Leeds and Toronto Nationals after leaving United in 1976, is convinced they can secure a place in the play-offs and then qualify for the Premier League.

Tony Currie unveils a plaque on the South Stand, named in his honour, at Bramall Lane

“For me, we’ve got a group that’s capable of winning every single game. We get it out wide so well, Hecky’s brought that pride back too. So it’s all about attention to detail and making sure that final ball is right. If it is, I definitely reckon the lads can do it.”