“It was a massive game for me, and living about half an hour from Cardiff at the time made it that more special for me,” reflected goalkeeper Lee Jones as he looked back on the 2004 LDV Vans Trophy Final.
Under the guidance of Steve McMahon, Blackpool returned to the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff as they looked to lift their second Football League Trophy.
Their opponents on that day were Third Division outfit Southend United, and The Seasiders went into the final as favourites to lift the trophy at the end of 90 minutes.
Blackpool duly delivered, with a 2-0 score-line enough to see off any challenge from Southend, much to the delight of the thousands of supporters who made the journey down to south Wales.
Lee Jones remains extremely proud of the team’s achievement in the final, and reiterates that it is still a huge honour for the club.
“Even now it’s a massive achievement for the club, it’s still a major trophy to win during the season, so the fact that I kept a clean sheet in a cup final and we were able to lift the trophy at the end is something I’ll treasure for sure.
“It’s good to be in a final whatever the competition is; I know that trophy was only between our division and the division below but it’s always nice to make it all the way to a cup final.”
While Wembley had not been built at the time, the atmosphere was electric around the Millennium Stadium, and born and bred Welshman Jones was delighted to be able to play in a cup final for Blackpool in his home country.
“I think there was around 30,000 fans and the atmosphere around the ground was incredible, and personally for me it was even better as with it being in Cardiff and relatively close to home I had to get around 20 tickets for friends and family, and I really enjoyed the whole experience.”
Keeping a clean sheet in any game is hard enough in the modern game, but to be able to do it in a cup final is an extra accolade.
While it was a fantastic day for the club and all the players, Jones admits the game itself was not one that stands out for him.
“To be fair I didn’t really have a lot to do! I think there was one shot and a couple of crosses so really it was a lot of kicking for me, but as an occasion it was fantastic!”
Jones did extremely well to keep a clean sheet in the cup final, but it is even harder to score in such a high pressure game.
One man who achieved that feat for Blackpool in the 2004 final was John Murphy, who needed all of two minutes to break the deadlock in Cardiff.
“It was our second final, and from the point of view for the goal I think it was offside!” said Murphy.
“I’ve only recently seen the video again and I think at the time I had an idea it was offside; the ball came to me, I put it away and I looked at the linesman expecting to see the flag but it didn’t come, so you take these little bits of luck, especially in finals and I think the game was pretty comfortable in the end really.”
Murphy, who coaches the youth team at Bloomfield Road, also stresses the importance of winning the cup final for the club and how vital it is as part of Blackpool’s history.
“It was a good achievement for the club at that stage and it still is to this day.
“We treated it like the FA Cup for the lower leagues really, and it was a great day out for the supporters in a fantastic stadium, and like any cup final you prepare properly so it made it even better that we were able to win it.”
Not only did Murphy score in the 2004 final, but the striker was also on target when The Seasiders won the same piece of silverware two years earlier for the first time in their history, that time against Cambridge United.
“It’s a bonus to score in a cup final, but really in the end it’s all about the team.
“You win together, you lose together but from a personal point of view it was great to score another goal in the final, especially as I scored in the 2002 final as well, and it was another successful day out for us at that point!”