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white suit Remembering a drunken party, a disastrous clothing choice and Liverpool's 1996 FA Cup final defeat

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Robbie Fowler and Jamie Redknapp in those suits before the 1996 FA Cup final

Robbie Fowler and Jamie Redknapp in those suits before the 1996 FA Cup final

Robbie Fowler and Jamie Redknapp in those suits before the 1996 FA Cup final

The debate over who was to blame rages to this day.

Some point an accusing finger at Liverpool goalkeeper David James, others suggest midfielder Jamie Redknapp was the instigator-in-chief of an FA Cup final calamity that occurred before a ball had been kicked in the 1996 final.

As the Liverpool players emerged from the tunnel for the traditional pre-match stroll around the Wembley pitch for what was then the biggest game of the English football season, their appearance instantly caught the eye.

Bedecked in cream suits and with most of the players wearing shades, Roy Evans' side looked like extras in a 1980s Miami cop show, Liverpool's star men lived up to their tag line of 'Spice Boys' in the grand manner as they arrived for their date with destiny.

In the opposition corner, Manchester United's Premier League champions drew inspiration from this ridiculous image that instantly fired the burners of their manager Alex Ferguson on a day when his side were aiming to complete a domestic double.

Ridiculous

"It was ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous," recalls Ferguson. "Blue shirt, red-and-white tie and white suit. And a blue flower. We couldn't lose after they wore that. No way.

"Who designed that? They say it was Armani. I bet his sales went down.

"Liverpool Football Club's a great club with history, they've won the European Cup more times than Manchester United. Between Manchester United and Liverpool, they've won more trophies than any other club in Britain. That didn't represent Liverpool."

It should be noted that Liverpool players started that week at a lavish party on the Monday night, as they attended the end-of-season awards for 90 Minutes magazine in London alongside celebrities that included a young Ant and Dec and a host of A-list pop luminaries of the day.

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Was John Barnes to blame?

Was John Barnes to blame?

Was John Barnes to blame?

This was a night out made for Spice Boys - and Liverpool's players had to be a part of it.

Having attended the same party myself, I recall that the free bar loaded with bottles of Grolsch beer (I've never sipped a drop of it since that night as the threat of it is still stomach churning!!) had got the better of some of the Liverpool players.

A few days back in Liverpool then preceded their return trip to the capital before they donned their cream suits and set off to Wembley for a game they dare not lose against the old enemy.

Liverpool No 1 James has been singled out as the instigator of the cream suit calamity, but he told the Sunday World that he should not be convicted of the fashion faux pas that instantly became part of FA Cup folklore.

"I have been blamed for the cream suits, but I am always happy to put that straight," James told us.

"We were having the discussion and someone said: 'Jamo, you know Giorgio Armani.' I got them a phone number and that was as far as my involvement went.

"Armani brought in the colour swatches and the club captain (John Barnes) was in charge of FA Cup attire, so I have carried the can for that issue and it just isn't how it worked out.

"Despite what has been said in the years since, I thought the suits looked good and I maintain to this day that had we won, we would have been known as the best-dressed FA Cup winners ever."

Sadly for James, he was remembered for more than just his pre-match dress sense as his mistake - as he flapped at a corner in the 85th minute of what was a dire match - led to Eric Cantona's winning goal. The Frenchman fired a shot through a field of legs in a crowned penalty box to crown his glorious personal season with a defining moment.

Ferguson and United were on their way to domination of English football, with Liverpool's not-so-spicy boys were left to ponder what might have been as they put their contentious suits back on for a sombre trip back to the team hotel.

"The Spice Boys tag was stuck on us and it wasn't fair," recalls former Ireland midfielder Jason McAteer, who played for Liverpool in that Cup final.

"We had the image of going out partying all the time, but it wasn't like that. We were desperate to win that FA Cup final and losing against United hurt more than anything.

"People only remember our suits that day and say it played a part in our defeat, but it had nothing to do with it. We didn't play well and that annoys me more than the suit."

No team has dared to follow in Liverpool's footsteps in the 25 years since those infamous white suits were unveiled at Wembley. It's easy to understand why.

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