20 years ago to this very day, I was stood on the Holte End at Villa Park watching West Ham lose 0-4 to Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup Semi-Final.

Two decades on, Tony Gale's unjust sending off still hurts. It changed the game for sure. Gale was at his career peak at that time.

It came to define the career of referee Keith Hackett, who told the Daily Mail this year:

My decision dramatically affected the game and ruined a lot of people's day out. It was a tight one, tighter still today.

The thing that nobody knew was that, the Thursday prior to the match, referees were told at a meeting the law had not been applied properly. We were told a simple foul was all that was necessary for a sending-off.

Gale was sent off for a foul that would not have got a yellow card a week before.

It's all people ever talk to Gale about. That goes for me, too.

image: BBC

Despite the result, the game remains a highlight of my West Ham supporting life.

An atmosphere never experienced before or since. Non-stop singing and the longest rendition of 'Billy Bonds' Claret and Blue army' in history. Every time Forest scored, we just sang louder. Solidarity, defiance, nonsensical celebration. Whatever it was it felt great. 

This video captures a part of it. Motson and Charlton are wittering on about a 19 year old Roy Keane, but the real story, the only story anyone was talking about afterwards, as evidenced by the BBC director's choice of camera shots, was the West Ham fans at 4-0 down. Years on, non-West Ham fans still remind me of it.  

I've never felt so elated coming out of a game. Or hoarse.

The 2006 Cup Final showed that although football has changed, some of that spirit remains.  It makes me wonder what would happen if West Ham ever actually win anything.