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JEFF THE REF REMINISCES ABOUT THE FA CUP QUARTER-FINALS

In my day the quarter-final winners looked forward to a semi-final tie at a neutral venue. Sadly nowadays it's a trip to Wembley, the main benefit being that more supporters can attend. Hopefully we'll be heading for North London twice this season.

In my nine years on the Premier League I was fortunate to be involved in eight games at this stage of the competition. In 1996 I was fourth official to Dermot Gallagher at Elland Road as Leeds and Liverpool drew 0-0 then for the replay at Anfield as Liverpool progressed with a comfortable 3-0 victory.

1997 and I reffed Portsmouth v Chelsea, the Londoners winning 4-1 at Fratton Park, and as I left the ground the draw for the semi's paired Boro with Chesterfield.

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1998 I was Fourth Man at St James's Park where Newcastle beat Barnsley 3-1 and In 2001 at Highbury I had first-hand experience of teams starting to disrespect this fantastic competition. Arsenal progressed 3-0 with a weakened team against Championship Blackburn Rovers who were going for promotion and also rested several regulars.

2002 as Fourth Man at Newcastle for a 1-1 draw with Arsenal, likewise the following year at Bramall Lane as Sheffield United edged out Leeds 1-0. Usually the Cup Final referee gets a quarter-final tie and Steve Bennett was tipped for that season's final. A mistaken identity confusion involving Danny Mills scuppered his chances.

2004 and fortunately I didn't suffer a similar calamity as Arsenal won 5-1 at Portsmouth in a game where I witnessed an almost perfect performance from The Gunners before going on to referee that year's final.

At half-time I joked to Thierry Henry that their football was causing me problems as I was watching the game rather than refereeing it. A couple of minutes later he ran to contest a decision and commented: "I'm just checking that you're concentrating."

Both Henry and Pires were subbed and they left the field to a standing ovation from both sets of fans before the locals ambitiously starting chanting: "We're going to win 6-5."




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