My Everton #88: Meeting Muhammad Ali

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I was 17 in 1966. My brothers and I headed down to Wembley for the FA Cup final, even though we were without tickets. 

They were like gold dust in Liverpool. 

We eventually managed to buy some outside the ground and we cut it fine, getting the last one about 25 minutes before kick-off. 

I was close to tears as we went 2-0 down to Sheffield Wednesday, but I remember a man behind me saying: “Don’t worry, son. We’ll win.” And, of course, we did.

We famously turned it around and won 3-2. Needless to say, we were on cloud nine as we left the stadium and made our way into the city centre.

We were heading towards Piccadilly when a passer-by told us Muhammad Ali was in the Piccadilly Hotel.

We thought they were joking but, just in case, we decided to investigate.

We went in and there he was. He was a man mountain. He must have been in London to prepare for his fight with Henry Cooper.

We went up and asked for his autograph on the Cup final programmes that we'd bought.

However, my brother, Raymond, made an honest mistake as he walked up and asked: “Can I have your autograph, Cassius?”

He said to Ray: “I’m Muhammad Ali,” and he gave him one those stares that he used to give. Then, with his tongue in his cheek, he formed a fist. We all thought he was going to hit Ray! But he just smiled and gave him his autograph on the programme.

Unfortunately, I lost my signed programme. A lot of Evertonians went off dancing after the win and after joining them, I think I lost it there. 

Raymond’s programme survived, though. He has since passed away but he handed it down to his son.

It was all a surreal end to a fantastic Cup run. I remember coming out of the stadium doing the Conga after beating Manchester United 1-0 in the semi-final, singing 'We're all going to Wembley!'.

By Joseph Henders, Evertonian

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