Phil Babb was 90 minutes away from winning the FA Cup as a player and the former Liverpool defender is now preparing to take his first step in the competition as a manager with Hayes & Yeading.
Babb was part of the Reds team that were beaten by Manchester United in the final at Wembley in 1996 as Eric Cantona netted five minutes from time to deny the Anfield club football’s oldest trophy.
The 42-year-old is in the dugout rather than defence these days, having taken charge at Hayes & Yeading in the summer, and Sunday’s visit of Tonbridge Angels in the second qualifying round will be his first foray into the FA Cup as boss.
“It’ll be great to manage in the FA Cup,” Babb told the Gazette. “Everyone knows what the FA Cup is about – it’s what everyone dreams about. All the lads can do is win and go as far as they can.
“You want to get into a position where you could do something like Havant & Waterlooville did [reaching the fourth round before losing to Liverpool in 2008] and get one of the big boys.
“In an ideal world you’d have liked a team from lower down the tier [to start with] so you can field some of the fringe players, but it’s not to be. It’s a home draw so that gives us a little bit of an edge.”
The 1996 final between Liverpool and United was far from a classic and did not live up to the pre-match billing.
Liverpool’s white Armani suits made as many headlines as the match, with Babb part of a group of Reds players that became known as the ‘Spice Boys’.
And the ex-Reds defender says the team’s attire would have received less attention had the game lived up to the hype.
“That game is remembered for the white suits and Cantona scoring in the last five minutes,” Babb added. “It wasn’t the best game to watch or play in. It was built up as one for the purists, but both teams cancelled each other out. It happens. It happens every week in the Premier League.
“The suits were a talking point. Tabloids and hacks are all about sensationalism. The game itself was flat, so what else was there to talk about? If we’d have won the game then the suits wouldn’t have been given as much space in print.”
Babb’s side went down to a 1-0 defeat at Eastleigh on Saturday, leaving them ninth in Conference South.