Alan Pardew will never forget Steven Gerrard conversation after FA Cup final
On that day 16 years ago, the Reds legend was the main man as he picked the game up by the scruff of the neck to hoist Liverpool back into the fold. In an absolute classic that pitted Rafa Benitez against Pardew, the cup would eventually be on its way to Merseyside - but not before 120 minutes of pure football theatre.
While Gerrard was the star of the show as West Ham crumbled to the floor, the midfielder still found time to make his way to Pardew and had a word with the Hammers boss as his teammates danced around the Millennium Stadium in celebration.
Pardew said: “He was very humble to me after the game. He knew we had come so close. He came up to me and he wasn’t full of beans, jumping around. Nothing like that. He just said ‘it was our day and sorry for you guys’.
"I have always respected him for that. It takes a special person to do that after they have beaten you in a Cup final. He made a point of coming to me on the pitch, he walked over and said that to me and those moments, even in defeat, remain.
“There were only two words I could say — ‘thank you’. Then I added ‘go and enjoy your celebrations’. It was painful because we lost but not because of our performance.
“We did a great job, we were thirty seconds or so away from it. It would have been a game-changer for West Ham and me personally. I am still proud of the team that played that day.”
And it was certainly a cup final for the ages as West Ham had raced into a two-goal lead within 30 minutes after Jamie Carragher scored an own goal and Dean Ashton hit the back of the net. Djibril Cisse clawed one back but after the break it became the Gerrard show. His first that day saw the former England international get on the scoresheet from Peter Crouch's knockdown.
Paul Konchesky put West Ham back in front, who were on course to win their first FA Cup since 1980, until Gerrard stepped up yet again. With seconds left on the clock, the ball was sent into the Hammers box only to be cleared as far as the Liverpool legend - who hit the ball is customary Gerrard fashion from 35 yards to fly past Shaka Hislop.
Who will win the FA Cup, Liverpool or Chelsea? Comment below
The Reds would go on to win the match on penalties after Anton Ferdinand missed his effort while John Arne Riise made no mistake. It was heartbreak for West Ham, who were seconds away from iconic status in east London.
For Liverpool, that was the last time they lifted the cup - until potentially today when they face Chelsea with a very different cast. With Jurgen Klopp gunning down a potential quadruple, it is up to Thomas Tuchel to halt his plan - having already lost in a final to his compatriot this season.
Liverpool beat Chelsea earlier this year in the Carabao Cup on penalties after an electric Carabao Cup final that somehow ended 0-0. That match was also drenched in drama - and Wembley could be set for another treat this Saturday.