Magic of the FA Cup

For a long time, the FA Cup has had a sense of prestige and an allure that generates huge TV audiences in the hope that a top club may tumble out. The unpredictability of the Cup leaves fans on tenterhooks, and nothing can be taken for granted.

The FA Cup has been littered with giant killings over the years, and there have been some big scalps claimed. Ahead of the third round when the Premier League clubs enter, we celebrate the 150th anniversary of England’s oldest domestic knockout competition by reminiscing on five of the Cup’s biggest upsets. We will also see if there may be any potential slayings this weekend.

Liverpool 0 – Wimbledon 1 (1988)

FA Cup finals are always special. The walk down Wembley Way, the deafening roar of the crowd inside the stadium, and of course climbing the steps to collect the Cup, are treasured by the players and fans alike. The 1988 Final should have been relatively straightforward for Liverpool, who were facing a Wimbledon side, who were perhaps less affectionately known as the ‘Crazy Gang’.

Wimbledon players congratulate goalkeeper David Beasant (yellow jersey) after he saves a John Aldridge penalty during the FA Cup final against Liverpool at Wembley Stadium.

Liverpool were at the peak of their power in the 1980s, and they dominated English football. Boasting the likes of Alan Hansen, John Aldridge, and John Barnes, the Reds were an indomitable force. But they underestimated Wimbledon. Dave Beasant became the first goalkeeper to save a penalty in a Cup Final, and Lawrie Sanchez wrote himself into competition folklore when he glanced home a Dennis Wide delivery in the 36th minute. Simply incredible stuff!

Wrexham 2 – Arsenal 1 (1992)

Who doesn’t love a Cup upset? In the third round of the competition 30 years ago, Arsenal travelled to the Racecourse Ground as the reigning champions of England. On the face of it, it seemed like there was only ever going to be one winner.

Although Alan Smith put the Gunners ahead, Wrexham turned the game on its head when Mickey Thomas restored parity for the hosts with 10 minutes left on the clock. And then a late winner from Steve Watkin sent the place into pandemonium. George Graham labelled it his “lowest moment in football”, and it was a black mark on a distinguished managerial career.

Chelsea 2 – Bradford 4 (2015)

When Jose Mourinho was in charge of Chelsea, Stamford Bridge was a fortress. Few would have given the Bantams, who were 49 places below the Blues in the football ladder. But a cat was thrown amongst the pigeons.

Chelsea looked to be cruising in their fourth round tie when they raced into a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Gary Cahill and Ramires.

However, Bradford didn’t read the script, and they mounted a stunning comeback. They were on level terms by the 75th minute, and further strikes from Andy Halliday and Mark Yeates capped an incredible day for the League One outfit.

Bradford City’s Irish midfielder Mark Yeates (C) drops to his knees as he celebrates scoring his team’s fourth goal during the FA Cup fourth round in 2015.

Hereford 2 – Newcastle 1 (1972)

Some of you may be a little young to remember this! Nevertheless, if you churn through some highlight reels on YouTube, you will come to understand the magnitude of this FA Cup giant-killing. At home to Newcastle, Hereford were in the doldrums, and the game is perhaps best remembered for Ronnie Radford’s piledriver from distance, even though few perhaps will know that Ricky George scored the winner that day.

Hereford United’s Ronnie Radford (c) is pursued by hundreds of young fans, and teammate Ricky George (r – scorer of the winning goal in extra time).

Wigan 1 – Manchester City 0 (2013)

Heading into the Final that year, Manchester City were odds-on favourites to lift the FA Cup when they took on Premier League strugglers Wigan.

City did most of the running, but they just couldn’t break down the plucky Latics. Cue substitute Ben Watson, who broke the deadlock, when he headed home the winner in the 81st minute to cause one of the biggest upsets in the FA Cup history.

While Wigan were triumphant that day, the delirium and ecstasy quickly evaporated. Just a few days after the Cup Final, Wigan were relegated from England’s top flight in the wake of a 4-1 defeat against Arsenal.

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan kisses the trophy following his team’s 1-0 victory during the FA Cup with Budweiser Final between Manchester City and Wigan Athletic at Wembley Stadium.

More upsets on the cards?

So, with the third round of the competition this weekend, can we expect any early casualties as far as the Premier League’s superpowers are concerned. Swindon host Manchester City in the first game of the weekend on Friday night, and perhaps there could be a potential upset. Swindon are fifth in League Two, and a strong cup run is always good for revenues. The FA Cup may not be high on the list of priorities for City, and the Betfair Exchange is currently offering odds of 39/1 (40.0) for Swindon to take out City in 90 minutes, while bet365* is serving up a tempting price of 20/1 for Swindon to send City tumbling out of the competition.

Meanwhile, Hull City will be eager to take out Everton in the Saturday evening kick-off in a bid to deflect from their woes in the Championship. Everton have also been struggling this term, and they have won just one of their past seven Premier League games. Paddy Power are offering odds of 14/1 for Hull to win 2-0 and advance to the fourth round.