"...so different from the scenes in 1872, at the cup final none of us can remember." JOHN
The FA Cup (real name: The Football Association Challenge Cup) is the oldest football competition in the world. Since the first
competition was held, in 1871, the FA Cup has produced moments of magic, drama, joy and despair, not to mention some unforgettably bad
music from Cup Final teams - who can forget Wimbledon winning in 1988, Wrexham beating Arsenal, Sutton beating Coventry,
Wycombe Wanderers 2001 cup run, Ricky Villa's goal, Ronnie Radford's thunderbolt, Coventry coming from behind to win in 1987, or
Owen's double strike to sink Arsenal in 2001. It's the best cup in the world, and this is its story.
On 20 July 1871, the Football Association Committee met in London,
"when it was resolved to institute a cup competition open to all clubs belonging to the Football
and thus, the Football Association Challenge Cup was born. The main points to note from the competition rules were²:
- Rule 2: "The Challenge Cup shall be open to all clubs belonging to The Football Association and shall be competed for annually by
members of each Club"
- Rule 5: "The duration of each match shall be one hour and a half."
- Rule 6: "The Committee shall divide the Clubs which shall enter for competition for the Challenge Cup into couples, which couples
play one match each and the winners of the matches so played shall, in like manner, be divided into couples and each couple shall play one
match, and so on, until there shall be but one couple left, the winners of which match shall be the holders for the current year."
- Rule 9: "The holder of the Cup shall be liable to play only the winner of the trial matches."
- Rule 10: "The ties shall be played off within a month of the publication of the ties in such papers as the Committee may think fit,
publication to be deemed sufficient notice of the drawing."
- Rule 13: "The holders of the Challenge Cup shall hand it over to the Secretary of The Football Association on or before 1st February
each year, unless the holders shall have won the Cup three years in succession, when the Cup shall become the absolute property of the Club
so winning it. In addition to the Cup, the Committee will present to the winners of the Final Tie, eleven medals or badges, of
Or, teams of eleven were to play 90 minute matches against each other, within a set time of the publication of the draw, at a mutually
acceptable ground, with the winners, or both teams in the event of a draw, going through to the draw for the next round. When only one team
remained, the previous year's winners would play them for the Cup, at a ground chosen by the existing cup holders.
Although still called the FA Challenge Cup, the exemption for the holders of the cup was dropped almost immediately, and only Wanderers
winners of the first two finals - were able to make use of it.
In contrast to the modern day competition, in its infancy the FA Cup seems a ramshackle affair. Curiosities abounded:
- In the event of a drawn game, the Association would often let both teams through to the next round. This was because rounds had to be
finished by a certain date, and sometimes it would not have been possible for the teams involved to meet again before that date.
- In the first FA Cup games ever played, on 11 November 1871, the Civil Service side could only find eight players, and Crystal Palace
and Hitchin dew 0-0, with both teams going through to the next round. Still, from small acorns...
- In the first semi-final, Queen's Park, of Scotland, drew with Wanderers at The Oval, but couldn't stay in London for a replay,
Wanderers to go through to the final. (The following year, Queen's Park were given byes all the way to the semi-final because of travel
difficulties, but the business
commitments of some players prevented them playing their tie against Oxford University, who were given a bye to the final.
- Sheffield met Shropshire Wanderers for the third successive season in 1875/76. As the only teams competing in their region, there
nothing the FA could do about this, according to their original ruling that provincial sides should play sides from the same region in the
- In 1882, Blackburn Rovers asked the F.A. to pay their fares to and from London for the Final. The FA refused, but Blackburn traveled
anyway, losing to the Old Etonians, who became the last Southern amateur club to win the Cup
Things began to tighten up a bit after the foundation of The Football League in 1888, and qualifying rounds were played for the first
time in the 1888/89 FA Cup, after Preston North End's 'invincibles' had thumped Hyde 26-0 in the previous year's competition. The
qualifying round system
remains to this day, largely unchanged, with teams split into regions, playing until one team from each region is left. That team then
goes forward to the main rounds of the competition.
In 1889, a new rule was added, that clubs should play ties at their own private ground, but if they didn't have one, that they were to
provide a ground for the match "to which gate money can be charged for cup ties", or they would have to play at their opponent's
Frequently in the modern era, clubs will opt to switch a tie to be played at their opponents ground. This can happen when a small club is
drawn against a much bigger club, and there are either policing concerns at the smaller club's ground, or it means a larger crowd, and
therefore more money from the game for the smaller club.
This year's FA Cup began on 28 June 2002, with the draw for the Extra Preliminary Round, Preliminary Round, and First Qualifying Round.
The first team out of the hat was Flixton, drawn at home to Goole for the Extra Preliminary Round. Sadly for Flixton's fans, this is
where their cup adventure ended,
Goole winning 5-4 on penalties after a replay, in front of a crowd of 195. Small acorns, remember...
League Clubs enter the competition from the first round onwards, with Third Division and Second Division Clubs in the draw for the
round, and Premiership and First Division clubs in the hat at the third round stage.
A few years ago, concerns were raised that the FA Cup had lost its appeal and some of its magic. Manchester United withdrew from the
competition in the 1999/2000 season in order to compete in the World Club Championship in Brazil, and there have been question marks
over commitment towards the FA Cup from teams also playing in the Champions League.
Whereas a good finish in The Premiership will qualify a team for the Champions League, the FA Cup only gets you into the draw for the
UEFA Cup - until the 1998/9 season, the winners qualified for the European Cup Winner's Cup, which was abolished at the end of that
season, because no-one seemed too interested in it any more.
Being in the UEFA Cup is all very well, but teams would rather be in the more lucrative Champions League. But whereas the League /
Milk / Coca-Cola / Worthington Cup (the name changes every few years along with the sponsorship) has become an also-ran competition in
a crowded fixture schedule, the FA Cup still matters to the top sides. A look at the list of recent winners shows that since 1996, the final
League position of the team winning the FA Cup has been 1st, 6th, 1st, 1st, 5th, 3rd, 1st.
Meanwhile, there's still opportunity for the underdogs to cause an upset. In recent years, teams from the First Division and the Second
Division have made it to the semi-finals, although the most recent side outside the top division to reach the final was Sunderland, in
A team entering at the Extra Preliminary Round of the competition will need to win 14 ties in order to lift the cup (but look, it's not
that magical, although having witnessed Calais of the French third division reach the final of the French Cup, supporters of
Harrogate Railway shouldn't give up hope). In contrast, Premiership Clubs only play six rounds, starting with the Third Round Proper, on
the magical first weekend of the new year. (For the 2000/2001 competition, the third round was played before Christmas, to universal
disgust and uproar, and was promptly restored to its proper place in the calendar the following year.)
- 24 August 2002: Extra Preliminary Round
- 31 August 2002: Preliminary Round
- 14 September 2002: First Round Qualifying
- 28 September 2002: Second Round Qualifying
- 12 October 2002: Third Round Qualifying
- 26 October 2002: Fourth Round Qualifying
- 16 November 2002: First Round Proper
- 7 December 2002: Second Round Proper
- 4 January 2003: Third Round Proper
- 25 January 2003: Fourth Round Proper
- 15 February 2003: Fifth Round Proper
- 8 March 2003: Sixth Round Proper
- 13 April 2003: Semi-Final
- 17 May 2003: Final
In each round up to the Sixth Round, the tie is decided over one match of 90 minutes, at the ground of the team drawn out of the hat
first. In the event of a tie, a replay is played. If the scores are level after 90 minutes in the replay, 30 minutes of extra time will be
played, on a golden goal basis (i.e. first goal wins). If the scores are still level, a penalty shoot-out will take place.
The two semi-finals will be played on neutral grounds, decided by the FA. The final will be played at the Millennium Stadium,
Cardiff. (And is likely to stay there until the FA pull their finger out and build a new national stadium in England.)
F.A. Cup final day
The FA Cup brings its fair share of magical moments and memories. What follows is a list of final venues, and memorable finals.
FA Cup Final venues
We could be heroes, just for one day: FA Cup final moments
"It is a cup final and the one who wins it goes through" JIMMY HILL
First final held at Kennington Oval
Wanderers become the first club to win the trophy three times in a row, entitling them to retain the trophy.
Preston North End become the first team to 'do the double', winning the FA Cup and League in the same season.
Aston Villa become the second team to do the double.
Extra time introduced for the final.
- 1923: "The White Horse Final".
The FA Cup Final moves to Wembley. Policing requirements are badly underestimated, as over 126,000 fans
(according to the official match attendance figures, though some estimates put the total closer to 200,000) cram into the New Empire
stadium, Wembley. Fans are spilling all over the pitch, and all looks lost until the arrival of PC George Storey, who, with his white
Billie, gradually eases the spectators back off the pitch. When the game finally gets underway, Bolton beat West Ham United
Cardiff City become the only team outside England to win the Cup.
"He [Stan Mortensen] had a cup final named after him : the Matthews Final." LAWRIE McMENEMY
Stanley Matthews, fully 38 years old at the time, made this day his own, helping Blackpool come back from 3-1 down against a
Bolton side. Matthews set up two of the second half goals, helping Mortensen to score a hat-trick, and Blackpool to become the first side to
win after being two goals down in a final.
- 1956: "The German Hero"
Manchester City's German Keeper, Bert Trautman, breaks his neck during the final. Substitutes weren't allowed under FA Cup
the 1967 season, and Trautman decides to play on. Apparently, he doesn't feel any pain until after the match. Trautman helps Manchester City
to a 3-1 win over Newcastle United.
Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) win the cup, and become the first team in the 20th Century to win the league and cup double.
First FA Cup final televised in colour.
Sunderland beat Leeds United to become the first club from the second division to win the cup for 42 years.
- 1980: How much did you mean that?
Trevor Brooking scores a diving header (actually more of a getting up header, as he was already on the ground when the cross
possibly accidentally, definitely unusually given that Brooking was hardly known for his heading ability, to give second division West Ham
victory over Arsenal. No-one really believes Brooking's claims that he meant to score.
- 1981 "- Villa, still Villa, still Villa...VILLA!"
After a poor performance in the first game, Tottenham's Ricky Villa - one half of the North London's great Argentine duo, with
Ardiles - was lucky to be picked for the replay. He doesn't seem to be worrying about his form, however, as he jinks past first one, then
another defender, squirming and weaving his way through the penalty area to score Spurs' winner in their 3-2 victory over Manchester City.
Generally regarded as the greatest FA Cup final goal scored.
- 1983: "...and Smith must score!"
When Brighton & Hove Albion take the lead through Gordon Smith after just 14 minutes, an upset is on the cards. Albion have
relegated after finishing bottom of the first division, while their opponents, Manchester United, finished third. United equalise, then take
the lead, with goals from Frank Stapleton and Ray Wilkins. Brighton equalise through Gary Stevens with three minutes left on the clock.
The match goes to extra time, and with seconds left, Brighton striker Gordon Smith is through on goal, with only Gary Bailey to beat.
Smith makes a bit of a hash of
his shot, Bailey saves well, and the match goes to a replay. United win the replay 4-0, and Norman Whiteside scores with a header to
become, at 17,
the youngest player to score in the FA Cup Final.
- 1985: Whiteside's final
After 78 minutes, Kevin Moran scythes down Peter Reid in the Manchester United half, sending him flying. It's a bad challenge, but looks worse. Referee Peter Willis shows Moran the
red card, and he
becomes the first player sent off in an FA Cup final. In extra time, with ten minutes to go, Norman Whiteside cuts in from the right wing,
and curls a gorgeous left-footed shot past Neville Southall in the Everton goal to give United their sixth Cup Final win.
- 1987: John Sillett goes crazy
After a history of mediocrity, Coventry City reach their first major final, against Spurs. They go 2-1 down, but a glorious
header from Keith Houchen, and an own goal when a cross deflects off Gary Mabbutt's arse in extra time give the midlands club their
first silverware. Cue mad leaping up and down from newly deranged Coventry manager John "Snoz" Sillet in a bright shiny 80s
- 1988: The Crazy gang go crazy
A day that truly sucked. I'd been ill for a few days, and was in solitary confinement to watch my boys in red triumph again.
known in those days as "The Crazy Gang", had only been a league club for 11 years, Liverpool were the pre-eminent side of the last decade.
There was only one likely outcome. Wimbledon, though, had ideas of their own, and took the lead when Lawrie Sanchez headed in from a
Wise free-kick in the first half. In the second half, Liverpool were awarded a penalty, and the chance to draw level. John Aldridge
up, hit an average penalty to the left of Dave Beasant in the Wimbledon goal at just the right height to give the keeper a chance, and
Beasant stuck out a big hand at the end of a long arm, and
tipped the ball round the post. Aldridge was the first player to miss a penalty in the FA Cup final, Beasant the first goalkeeper to save
one. Wimbledon went on to win 1-0, and I got back into bed and cried. Aldridge went on to have a successful club and country career, while
Beasant dropped almst anything that came his way for the rest of his, sadly including a jar of pickle, which he dropped on his foot,
breaking a bone in his toe.
- 1997: Have I missed anything?
Chelsea's Italian midfielder, Roberto Di Matteo, scores the FA Cup final's quickest ever goal, against Middlesbrough,
lashing home a
30-yarder off the underside of the crossbar after just 42 seconds. Chelsea stroll to a 2-0 victory after Eddie Newton scores a late
- 2001: Owen!!!
Makes up for 1988, this one. Arsenal outplay Liverpool for the whole game. Stephane Henchoz, falling over as is his custom,
saves a Thierry Henry shot with his hand, but mysteriously no
penalty is given. Arsenal miss chance after chance, and Sami Hyppia saves off the line twice. Eventually Freddie Ljungberg gives Arsenal
a deserved lead late
in the second half. Then Michael Owen swivels in the penalty area to drive home a half-volley for the equalizer. With five minutes left on
the clock, Owen chases a long ball, leaves Arsenal skipper Tony Adams for dead, looks up, and calmly fires the ball with his weaker (ha!)
the advancing David Seaman. Liverpool win 2-1. Euphoria.
"The beauty of cup football is that Jack always has a chance of beating Goliath" TERRY
- Stoke v Warwick County (1889)
Stoke's inglorious FA Cup history (the club has the 9th worst percentage of wins from games played) began at the end of the 19th
century, when Warwick County, in the first of only two appearances in the competition, became the first non-league team to beat a league side, in this First Qualifying Round tie.
- Yeovil Town 2-1 Sunderland (1949)
Yeovil Town, in the Southern League, shocked Sunderland, of the first division, with goals from Eric Bryant and Alec Stock, in a fourth
round game that was nearly abandoned because of fog five minutes before full-time, and again, when the crowd mistakenly thought the final
whistle had been blown, and invaded the pitch. Yeovil went on to lose 8-0 to Manchester United in the next round.
- Hereford 2-1 Newcastle United (1972)
Hereford became the next non-league side to take a top flight scalp, in this third round replay at Edgar Street. After falling behind to a
Malcolm McDonald strike, the non-leaguers equalised when Ronnie Radford struck an unstoppable thirty yarder into the top corner. Radford's goal now forms part of every FA
Cup montage ever put together. In extra time, Ricky George scored the winner for The Bulls.
- Sunderland 1-0 Leeds (1973)
Ian Porterfield's finest hour (he had several not so fine hours as a manager) came as he scored the winning goal for second division
Sunderland in the 1973 final, against red-hot favourites Leeds.
- Sutton United 2-1 Coventry City (1989)
More non-league glory, this time for Sutton Utd, against a Coventry side who had won the competition just two years before this fateful
third round tie. Having scored just before half-time, Sutton are pegged back in the second half as Coventry equalise. Amazingly, Sutton take
the lead again on 59 minutes, through Matty Hanlon. A Steve Sedgley shot hits the post and the bar for Coventry, Robyn Jones saves off the
line for Sutton, before eventually the final whistle blows, follwed by the obligatory pitch invasion.
- Wrexham 2-1 Arsenal (1992)
The previous season, Arsenal won the league, while Wrexham finished bottom of the third division. The FA Cup third round draw set up this clash of top against bottom, first against 92nd, at the
Racecourse Ground. Alan Smith gave Arsenal the lead in the first half, and
a banana skin looked like being side-stepped. Up stepped 37 year-old Mickey Thomas, though, to drill a free kick past David Seaman for the
equaliser with ten minutes to play, and then, incredibly, Steve Watkin scored Wrexham's second with only a few minutes to go. Wrexham clung on to their lead. Cue elation everywhere except for
pockets of North London.
- Leicester City 1-2 Wycombe Wanderers (2001)
Roy Essandoh joined second division Wycombe after reading a teletext plea by Wycombe boss Lawrie Sanchez (of 1988 Cup Final fame) for new
strikers. After a few trials, Essandoh was given a contract for the season, and was selected as a substitute for this sixth round tie against
Premiership side Leicester City at Filbert Street. Coming on in the second half, he put himself about for a while, before popping up from nowhere in stoppage time to head the ball into the net to set up a
semi-final (Wycombe's first) tie with Liverpool.
- Shrewsbury Town 2-1 Everton (2003)
It's always nice to see the Toffeemen lose, particularly to a fairly mediocre third-division outfit, albeit with bags of top flight experience, managed by one of their own old boys, Kevin Ratcliffe. In his 15 year career, Nigel Jemson has been on the books of 15 professional clubs, and scored the winner for Nottingham Forest in the 1990 League Cup Final. His career coming to a close, what better way to sign off than to score a brace against Premiership opposition. The first, a curling free-kick, just before half-time, the second a near-post header with under two minutes left to play. Last time I watched Jemson in Shrewsbury colours, his most memorable act was to fall on his backside trying to control a simple pass. Who said the FA Cup had lost its magic?
...and one that got away
- Chesterfield 3-3 Middlesbrough (1997)
But for a dodgy decision from referee David Ellary, Second Division Chesterfield might just have made it all the way to the 1997 FA Cup final.
Leading Premiership side Middlesbrough 2-1 in their semi-final at Old Trafford, Chesterfield looked like doubling their lead when a
shot hit the underside of the Middlesbrough crossbar, bounced down and into the goal, before bouncing out again. Deciding that the ball hadn't crossed the line, Referee Ellary waved the teams to play on. Boro equalised near the end of normal time, then, in extra time, Jamie Hewitt scored in the dying seconds, cancelling out Gianluca
Festa's strike to leave the final score tied at 3-3. Boro went on to win the replay 3-0. Ellary later admitted that he had made a mistake, but by then it was too late for the Spireites.
- Most FA Cups: 10 - Manchester United; 9 - Arsenal, 8 - Tottenham Hotspur
- Most Appearances in the Final: 16 - Arsenal, 15 -Manchester United; 13 - Newcastle United
- Most games won: 204 - Everton; 201 - Aston Villa; 199 - Liverpool
- Win percentage: 54.4 - Everton; 53.1 - Liverpool; 52.9 Manchester United
1,2 "The Ultimate F.A. Cup Statistics Book" published by the AFS in 1994. © Tony Brown 1996.
John Motson, Terry Butcher, Jimmy Hill, Lawrie McMenemy quotes taken from The Football Quotes Page: