The Greatest FA Cup Final Shocks of all time
The Finalists for the 2014 FA Cup have been decided and as Hull City prepare to take on the mighty Arsenal, Steve Bruce’s side will be hopeful, if not exactly confident of an upset. Hull have never been to the final of England’s premier cup competition and in the run in to the end of the season, no less than 34 points separated the teams in the English domestic league.
In contrast, the Gunners have won the FA Cup on ten previous occasions but while Arsenal will start as obvious favourites, the Tigers can take heart from this list of teams who have previously upset the odds in England’s showpiece occasion.
1973 – Leeds United 0 Sunderland 1
It’s hard to put this game into context some 41 years after the event took place. Sunderland in division two toppled Leeds who were playing their football in the top tier but that tells a mere fraction of the whole story.
Don Revie’s Leeds United were arguably the most dominant team in English football at the time and as the cup holders, they were fully expected to record a comfortable win against the lowly North East side. Revie’s men hard a reputation for hard tackling that frequently broke the rules but in the 1973 final, Sunderland matched them with a similar approach.
Whether Leeds had underestimated their opponents is hard to say but the first division side had looked nervous from the start and on the half hour mark, Sunderland converted their advantage with a goal from Ian Porterfield.
United had more of the possession in the second period but the pivotal moment came with an incredible double save from Sunderland keeper Jim Montgomery. Leeds sensed it wasn’t their day and the final whistle brought a Sunderland win and that iconic image of manager Bob Stokoe running onto the pitch to embrace his players.
1980 – Arsenal 0 West Ham United 1
Since the advent of the Premier League, very few sides from the second tier of English football have been able to adequately challenge for the FA Cup. In fact, West Ham’s win over Arsenal was the very last time that a team from the second division lifted the trophy.
In truth, this was a high class Hammers side that didn’t really belong outside of the elite league and it contained England internationals such as Trevor Brooking, Phil Parkes and Stuart Pearson, alongside promising youngsters including Alan Devonshire and Paul Allen.
Arsenal still started as favourites and dominated proceedings in the opening stages. As the Gunners kept possession, everything seemed to be going to plan until the 13th minute when Devonshire found himself in space down the left wing.
The midfielder whipped in a ball which evaded the Arsenal defence and reached the Hammers’ big striker David Cross. Willie Young blocked for the Gunners but Stuart Pearson’s mishit shot somehow found the head of Trevor Brooking and the ball made its way into the net.
Both teams continued to attack but a resolute West Ham defence marshalled by their legendary skipper Billy Bonds held firm. In a slightly sour footnote, Young later received a yellow card in a memorable piece of cynicism as he deliberately fouled Paul Allen with the 17 year old clear on goal.
1978 – Arsenal 0 Ipswich Town 1
When Arsenal lost to West Ham in 1980 it was rightly seen as a shock but the Hammers possessed a strong side who really deserved to be in England’s top division. Two years earlier in 1978, Ipswich Town manager Bobby Robson was just starting to build a dynasty at Portman Road and a squad that would later go on to win the UEFA Cup in 1981 but when they reached the FA Cup final, it was a promising team that needed a lot of work.
So in a sense, this result was an even bigger shock that West Ham’s win even though both sides played in division one at the time. Ipswich certainly didn’t warm up well with a 6-1 defeat against Aston Villa the previous week while Arsenal had enjoyed a steady league campaign without ever threatening to take the title.
Robson’s side were skippered by the experienced Mick Mills while their hopes were pinned on star striker Paul Mariner – a man who would later go on to join Arsenal after scoring over 100 goals at Portman Road.
Despite the supposed imbalance between the teams, Ipswich dominated from the first whistle and before the winning goal came, Robson’s men had hit the woodwork on no less than three occasions. Finally, Roger Osborne gave his side the advantage they deserved with a goal on 77 minutes but the hero of the day was so overcome with emotion that he fainted and had to be substituted immediately.
1988 – Liverpool 0 Wimbledon 1
Wimbledon and Liverpool may have both been playing in England’s top division when they met at Wembley on 14th May 1988 but the humble Dons were very much the underdogs. As BBC commentator John Motson so effectively put it at the end of the game it was a case of the ‘Crazy Gang beating the Culture Club’.
Bobby Gould’s Wimbledon had won few fans with their style of football which relied on long balls into big strikers whenever the opportunity arose. There was also an air of intimidation built around the self-styled hard man of the game – Vinny Jones.
So it’s fair to say that the majority of neutrals were on the side of Kenny Dalglish and his Liverpool side but once again, this was a game that would go against the odds.
Liverpool had already won the league title and were aiming to become the first team to win the double on two separate occasions. Their team was packed with star names including Dalglish, John Barnes, Peter Beardsley and John Aldridge. This was a side full of internationals while Wimbledon were left to field journeymen players such as Lawrie Sanchez, Andy Thorn, Clive Goodyear and Eric Young.
In the opening exchanges, Liverpool had most of the possession without dominating completely as Wimbledon more than matched their lofty opponents. Then, on 37 minutes, the favourites were stunned as a Dennis Wise free kick was glanced in by Sanchez to give the Dons the lead.
Liverpool were visibly shocked and needed the help of the officials when Goodyear won the ball cleanly from John Aldridge, only for referee Brian Hill to award a penalty.
Aldridge was usually deadly accurate from the spot but Dons’ keeper Dave Beasant made history by becoming the first player to save a penalty at the Wembley FA Cup final. Liverpool were stunned once again and never recovered their composure.
1976 – Manchester United 0 Southampton 1
The 1970’s were something of a transitional period for a Manchester United team who, at the time, weren’t quite the all-conquering force that they have been throughout the Premiership era. George Best had left the club and the side that won the European Cup continued to break up until the unthinkable happened and United were relegated to division two in 1974.
However, under the charismatic leadership of Tommy Docherty the squad bounced back and at the end of the 1975/76 campaign, they recorded a third place finish in division one and a Cup Final date with Southampton duly beckoned.
The Saints had enjoyed a solid season in division two but after finishing in sixth position, Manchester United were clear favourites when the teams assembled at Wembley on May 1st 1976. Once again, the different strengths of the two sides were underlined by the players on show: United fielded a team of internationals that included Steve Coppell, Lou Macari, Gordon Hill and the skipper Martin Buchan while Southampton had a number of decent players such as Peter Osgood and Mike Channon alongside less familiar names including Peter Rodrigues and Mel Blyth.
Unlike some of the previous shocks listed on this page, the favourites began the game strongly but United wasted several chances. Meanwhile, when they did hit the target, Southampton’s Ian Turner was in superb form between the posts.
In seemed as if Southampton would snatch a replay but on 83 minutes a counter attack saw Bobby Stokes latch on to a long through ball and his scuffed shot was enough to beat Alex Stepney in the opposing goal. The Saints had shocked the Superstars and once again, Wembley played host to an unlikely triumph.
2013 – Manchester City 0 Wigan 1
It’s been many years since a team from outside of the top flight has gone on to lift the FA Cup but Wigan’s victory over Manchester City was no less impressive than the feats of Sunderland in 1973, Southampton in 1976 or West Ham in 1980.
Roberto Martinez’s Wigan side were on the brink of relegation as they headed to Wembley and that drop into the Championship would be confirmed shortly afterwards. City meanwhile were set to miss out on a second consecutive Premier league title but as the stronger side, Roberto Mancini’s men were odds on favourites for the win with their opponents classed as 9/1 outsiders.
Like many of the matches on this list, the 2013 Final wasn’t exactly a classic game of football but it did provide the required ‘fairy tale finish’ and was arguably the most dramatic of all. City were frustrated early on and could create very little while Joel Robles in the Wigan goal was an effective barrier. The game seemed to be heading for extra time when Martinez’s men were given hope from the sending off of Pablo Zabaleta.
Argentinian international Zabaleta was given a second yellow card in the 84th minute and in so doing, he became the third player to be sent off in a Wembley FA Cup final. Neutral fans sensed that the favourites might tire during the extra half hour but Wigan didn’t need it as Ben Watson’s injury time header gave Mancini’s men no time to recover.
Wigan lifted their first major trophy but the game was to end in interesting footnotes for both managers. The day of the final saw newspaper reports claiming that City’s Mancini was to be replaced by Manuel Pellegrini at the end of the season.
Those stories proved to be true while Martinez was chosen to replace David Moyes at Everton after the latter headed to Old Trafford to take over from Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.
So Steve Bruce’s side face a daunting task when the head to Wembley in May but Hull can take heart from these performances and know that anything is possible. Arsenal have lost to lower ranked opposition in the past and there’s every chance that the Tigers can upset the odds on football betting sites like many have done before them.