Football / FA Cup Final: The exorbitant road to Wembley: Andrew Graham-Dixon flexes his Access card among the touts to gain access to the Cup final

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The Independent Online
TREV was trying to help me. Really, he was. 'I can do you a pair for a grand, mate, good seats, Man U, can't say fairer. Just one? pounds 600, then. Look, I'm not running a charity here, tell you what, I'll do you a single for pounds 550. No? Bye, mate.'

Geoff, on the other hand, could not believe what I was saying to him, he just could not effing believe it. 'You want a ticket for less than pounds 200. To the Cup final? Are you mad or just stupid? Are you winding me up? Best I can do is pounds 400, pal, are you interested or not? I haven't got all day. Piss off, then.' The telephone manner of the average ticket tout leaves something to be desired.

Friday the 13th, the eve of the Cup final and I, like an awful lot of other ticketless fans, was beginning to get desperate. United, my team, were going to Wembley, they were going to win the Double for the first time in the club's history - and I wouldn't be there. The friend of a friend of a friend of a cousin who might have a spare ticket - surprise surprise - didn't. So now it was down to the small ads in the papers. The free market in its most pure, naked and ruthless form. Welcome to the world of Geoff and Trev.

In fact, a bloke called John sorted me out. In a fit of credit card-inspired extravagance, I allowed him to persuade me that his offer of a single ticket in the Manchester United section for 'just pounds 350' was something of a bargain. It was a good seat, close to the Royal Box, said John: I'd be able to see Stevie Bruce lift the trophy, no worries. Hypnotised by the prospect, I gave him my card number. Half an hour later I had it in my hands: my very own Cup final ticket. Block 103, Row 26, Seat 99. Having done the deal, I remembered what Geoff had said, before he told me to piss off. Was I mad or just stupid? Probably both.

Nil-nil at half-time and I suddenly realised that this was costing me about pounds 4 a minute. Block 103, Row 26, Seat 99 turned out - of course - to be nowhere near the Royal Box, but down at almost pitch level. I was next to a mild-mannered man from Salford, who had bought his ticket for pounds 250.

But, a quarter of an hour into the second half, United scored and the looming Access bill was suddenly forgotten. The man from Salford hugged me. Then they scored again, and again, and we jumped around like dervishes. A minute to go: Ince broke clear and laid it back for McClair. 4-0. A bargain, at just pounds 87.50 a goal, I was thinking, as the whistle blew. The 1994 Cup final, any United fan will tell you, was a triumph for skill, flair and positive football. But maybe the real winners were Geoff and Trev and John.