Liverpool defender believes outcome would have been different if he wasn’t dropped for FA Cup final

Neil ‘Razor’ Ruddock was omitted from the Liverpool squad for the 1996 FA Cup final

Former Liverpool hardman Neil Ruddock has revealed Roy Evans “broke his heart” by benching him for the FA Cup final.

In 1996, English football’s two biggest sides went head-to-head at the old Wembley, with Liverpool aiming to stop Manchester United from winning a historic double. The Red Devils were flying high after overhauling a 12-point deficit to pip Newcastle United to the Premier League title.

Just two trophies in the 90s from a Reds point of view heightened expectation and then manager Evans made a bold call before kick-off. Despite playing the previous two rounds and final five league games, no-nonsense defender Ruddock found himself sidelined in favour of Phil Babb, Mark Wright and John Scales.

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The decision left Ruddock – at the peak of his powers – reeling and a bust-up ensued. Speaking to talkSPORT, the 55-year-old revealed he cried once Evans told him his Wembley dream was over.

“I played the quarter-final, semi-final, and the last eight games coming into the FA Cup final,” Ruddock recounted. “I just walked away, I think I swore and then walked away. I didn’t wait.

“He said, ‘I don’t know how to say this’, and I just went, ‘no’, and walked away. I did cry. I was in tears because that was what you wanted to be a footballer for. The FA Cup final, at the old Wembley.

“So that broke my heart, but he gave me a new contract about three months later, so he wasn’t such a bad man! But it was devastating. I love Roy Evans now, I was his assistant manager at Swindon after that so we do get on, but for a couple of hours he wasn’t my favourite person in the world.”

As it turned out, Liverpool were edged out 1-0 by an Eric Cantona goal five minutes from time. Defeat left the Reds trophyless but Ruddock is adamant that, had he featured, the mercurial Frenchman would not have scored the winner.

“If we’d have won that FA Cup final, if I’d have played, we would have won,” he added. “If I’d have played because Cantona would have been in my pocket like he always was.

“I’d have been turning his collar down, all he would have wanted to do would be to fight me, he wouldn’t have wanted to play football, he wouldn’t have scored the winner.

“Phil Babb who took my place spooned one out for a corner right at the end. I’d have brought it down on my chest, kneed it and played Steve McManaman through, we’d have won 1-0.”