A brief history of … the rise and fall of the FA Cup, England’s Super Bowl
With the Guardians unstoppable rise to global dominance (NOTE: actual dominance may not be global. Or dominant) we at Guardian US thought wed run a series of articles for newer Are Prada Nylon Bags Worth The Money football fans wishing to improve their knowledge of the games history and storylines, hopefully in a way that doesnt patronise you to within an inch of your life. A warning: If youre the kind of person that finds The Blizzard too populist this may not be the series for you.
The FA Cup final is the nearest thing English sport has to the Super Bowl, and Aston Villa and Arsenal will run out for this years edition on Saturday. A famous annual jamboree, the showpiece of the nations favourite pastime, the culmination of a long season, a quasi-religious affair, a pseudo public holiday for all the family to enjoy. Soccers big day out.
Or at least it used to be. Truth be told, the Cup final – its not English soccers only cup final, but its always been the Cup final – isnt quite what it was during its long heyday between the 1920s and 1980s. More of the reasons Authentic Prada Shoes For Sale for that in a bit, but suffice to say the clowns at the Football Association couldnt have done a worse job as keepers of Bicester Village Prada Online the flame had they approached the task wielding a bucket of water, another bucket containing sand, and a thick fibreglass blanket complying to health and safety regulations in a quick-release container.
The FA Cup – or to give it its full name, before those clowns started pimping it out for advertising, the Football Association Challenge Cup C is the oldest football competition in the world. It was launched in 1871, eight years after representatives of several London public schools, sporting Authentic Prada Factory Outlet Online clubs and civil service departments C ah, the glamour of sports administration C met to regulate the rules of Association Football and form the FA. The FA Cup would be their flagship event, a knockout cup competition which clubs from Authentic Prada Bags For Sale Philippines any level could enter. Sixteen teams entered the first tournament, including Queens Park of Glasgow, who in the five years since their formation in 1867, had yet to concede a goal.
Queens Park didnt concede in their cup run, either, but they didnt lift the trophy. Much fancied to win the first FA Cup, they were given a Authentic Prada Bags Online Singapore bye to the semi-finals, where they played Wanderers, the club of FA secretary Charles Alcock, at Londons Kennington Oval cricket ground. The match ended goalless, at which point Queens Park found they had nothing left in the bank, so were forced to turn tail for Scotland. Nobody suggested a replay could have been staged in, say, Glasgow. But it was Wanderers who made the first final C also at the Oval C and they beat Royal Engineers, another fine set of public-school lads, thanks to a Morton Betts tap-in. Queens Park conceded their first goal three years later, by the way, in a friendly at Hampden Park in Glasgow against the romantically monickered Vale of Leven. But we digress.
Amateurs ruled the roost in the early days. In the first 12 years of the competition, posh lads from the south dominated. But in 1883 C by which time over 100 teams were competing in the cup C Blackburn Olympic broke the mould. They had been backed by a local businessman who had paid for Olympics players to prepare for the final by holidaying in Blackpool. Olympic beat the holders Old Etonians, 2-1 after extra time, becoming the first working-class team from an industrial town to win the FA Cup. Professionalism wasnt technically legalised for another two years, but everyone knew the score, and the genie was out of the bottle. Old Etonians cup victory of 1882, then, remains the last time a fully amateur club waltzed off with the prize. A state of affairs which, lets face it, is not likely to change any time soon.
The first big FA Cup final shock C and footballs first-ever act of hilarious hubris C occurred in 1888. Preston North End C the northern industrial powerhouses were in full control by now C were the best team in the land. They won 42 consecutive matches during the 1887-88 season, only to fall at the final hurdle. Upon arriving to face West Bromwich Albion in the 1888 Cup final, having beaten Hyde by a record score of 26-0 along the way, they asked for a photograph of themselves with the trophy. Cue a (possibly apocryphal) response from referee and FA president Major Francis Marindin: Hadnt you better win it first? Sure enough, George Woodhalls late goal gave West Brom a 2-1 win. No photo for Preston, though they used their shame as fuel for the following season, winning the first-ever Football League title undefeated, and securing the league-and-Cup Double with a 3-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers in the final. The Invincibles, as that Preston team became known, didnt concede a goal in their entire Cup run.
There was a notable run of finals after the turn of the century. In 1900, Bury thrashed non-league Southampton 4-0. A year later, Southern League club Tottenham Hotspur became the first C and still the only C non-league outfit to win the trophy, beating Sheffield United after a replay. Southampton then had another near miss in 1902. They put out holders Spurs in the first round, and made it to the final against Sheffield United, who were ready to go one better this time. Referee Tom Kirkham C who had once refereed a game of three halves, turning up late for a match between Sunderland and Derby County with 45 minutes already played, then insisting on a restart C awarded Saints a blatantly offside goal. That ensured a replay. Uniteds goalkeeper, the 280lbs William Fatty Foulke, was so incensed at Kirkhams ineptitude that he leapt out of the post-match bath to chase the hapless referee, Foulkes fruit bowl drying gently in the breeze. No matter: Sheffield United won the replay 2-1. Saints remain the last non-league side to make the final.
And speaking of neat packages, which we sort of were with Sheffield Uniteds goalkeeper back there … that little run of finals finishes in 1903, when Bury popped up again to trounce Derby County 6-0. Thats still the biggest win in an FA Cup final. Lets hope Tim Sherwoods Aston Villa have done plenty of training-ground drills since conceding five before half-time at Southampton last week, huh.
The final moved to the new Wembley Stadium in 1923. Cue bedlam, and the famous White Horse Final between Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United. Nearly 200,000 spectators turned up, and an official number of 126,047 got in, though that figure is reckoned to be highly conservative. The match kicked off 45 minutes late, fans teeming from the stands onto the field, and being driven back to All Prada Nylon Bags the touchlines by a lone copper on a white horse. Bolton won 2-0. Their second was scored by Joe Smith, just about: his volley came down off the crossbar, bounced on the line and rebounded back into play, though the goal stood. A controversial moment. Lets hope nothing like that would ever happen at Wembley again, eh kids? By the way, the white horse was actually dark grey: it was an overcast day, and for the nag to be picked out in photos, the film had to be overexposed.
The Cup left England for the first and, to date, only time in 1927, when Cardiff City beat Arsenal 1-0. Gunners keeper Dan Lewis, in a new shiny shirt, let a simple shot squirm from his grasp, and Hugh Ferguson poked home. Cue paranoid Arsenal tradition of always washing the keepers kit before matches, to take away any slippery sheen. Arsenal finally won their first cup three years later, beating Huddersfield Town 2-0 as the Graf Zeppelin airship hovered like a brooding menace over Wembley.
The first FA Cup final to be televised live by the BBC was the 1938 affair between Preston North End and Huddersfield Town. What a time they picked to do that: the match was a thundering non-event. If theres a goal now, opined commentator Lieutenant-Commander Thomas Woodrooffe (only in Britain) with the score 0-0 and the match entering the final minute of extra time replica prada canvas bags, Ill eat my hat. Sure enough, Prestons George Mutch was felled in the area by Huddersfield captain Alf Young, Mutch tucked the penalty away, and Woodrooffe was forced to tuck into a bowler-hat-shaped cake live on TV a few days later. Mmm, the marzipan-tinged taste of millinery. Woodrooffe is also remembered for getting spectacularly lashed on booze while broadcasting on a naval fleet review in 1937. The BBC used to be really good, you know, before the management classes, data crunchers and box tickers took over.
The most famous FA Cup final of all time is the 1953 Matthews Final. It was named after Blackpools Stanley Matthews, who was Englands most talented winger during the 1930s and 1940s, but at 38 was running out of time to win a medal of any stripe. Blackpool had lost the 1948 final C Matt Busbys first trophy as Manchester United manager C and then again in 1951 to a Jackie Milburn inspired Newcastle Ap Lei Chau Prada Factory Outlet United. The jig looked up yet again when Blackpools opponents Bolton Wanderers went 3-1 up after 55 minutes, but Stan Mortensen scored his and Blackpools second on 68, completed his hat-trick on 89 minutes, and then Matthews set up Bill Perry to score a dramatic injury-time winner. Everyone in the country outside of Bolton went wild; Matthews had his medal at last! In the brouhaha, Mortensens hat-trick C the only one in an FA Cup final at Wembley C was kind of forgotten. As was the fact that Perry had become the first black player to score in an FA Cup final. (Mike Trebilcock, inspiring Evertons 3-2 win over Sheffield Wednesday in 1966, usually gets the credit for this, but Perry got there first.)
The finals of the 1950s were marred by an astonishing run of injuries. In 1952, Arsenals Walley Barnes suffered a split cartilage, his team losing to Newcastle. Boltons Eric Bell pulled up lame in the aforementioned Matthews Final. Jimmy Meadows broke his leg in 1955 as his Manchester City lost to Newcastle. City were back a year later, when their keeper Bert Trautmann famously broke his neck (!) but held out against Birmingham. Manchester United goalkeeper Ray Wood was clattered by Aston Villas Peter McParland in 1957, and ended the match hobbling around on the wing. Luton Towns Roy Dwight C a cousin of Elton John C broke his leg as his team lost to Nottingham Forest in 1959.
The Cup final jinx continued into the early 1960s. Future Wigan chairman Dave Whelan broke a leg as Blackburn lost to Wolves in 1960; Leicesters Len Chalmers went down early in 1961, allowing Tottenham to complete the first league-and-cup double of the 20th century with relative ease. Substitutes were eventually allowed in the English game in 1965; Dennis Clarke of West Bromwich Albion was the first to be used in an FA Cup final, coming on in his teams 1-0 win over Everton in 1968.
The FA Cup final reached its zenith as a cultural force in the 1970s and 1980s. Two reasons: up until 1983, it was, other than the England-Scotland internationals, various European club matches, and the World Cup finals, pretty much the only show on live television in Britain. Both the BBC and ITV would set aside hours of programming time on Cup final day, which was some commitment given that Britain only had three channels in the 70s. (Go ahead, knock yourself out laughing, but our dithering inability to get our act together in any walk of life is part of our unique charm. Erm.) Admittedly the programmes would be full of abject nonsense such as live interviews from the team hotel, live interviews from the team bus as it sat in traffic jams en route to Wembley, obstacle-course races and charity five-a-side matches contested by minor celebrities, and music-hall comic turns based on highly questionable racial stereotypes. But it was better than nothing. OK, it wasnt better than nothing. But it was on, and that was enough. The whole family gathered round, and made a day of it, whether they liked football and low-quality light entertainment or not. There, you see, the nearest thing English sport has to the Super Bowl.
The second reason: a series of magnificent shocks. Second Division Sunderland beat the mighty Leeds United in 1973. Second Division Southampton beat the mighty Manchester United in 1976. Second Division West Ham beat the mighty Arsenal in 1980. No lower-tier side has won the Cup since, though the 1980s didnt disappoint either. Unfancied Coventry City won their first-ever trophy in one of the great finals, 3-2 over Spurs in 1987, Keith Houchens diving header a goal for the ages, while Wimbledon, in the non-league a decade earlier, beat arguably the most entertaining Liverpool side ever in 1988. Ricky Villas rococo run to win the replayed 1981 final for Spurs over Manchester City is commonly cited as the greatest-ever Cup final goal, though Steve Mackenzies Zidane-esque effort in the same match pushes it hard. Kevin Moran became the first person to be sent off in a Cup final in 1985, but Manchester United still won the day against league champions Everton.
But it couldnt last. A number of factors have led to the relative demise of the Cup final. The usurping of the Cup in the pecking order by the league, for a start. The FA Cup final was the pinnacle for most Agatha Ruiz Dela Prada Shop Online players, up until some difficult-to-pinpoint point in the 1960s or 1970s. An example to illustrate: when Liverpool won their first FA Cup in 1965, Bill Shankly announced that only now had the club become truly big. Theyd already won six league titles at this point, and were in the semi-final of that years European Cup! But such was the pull of the FA Cup back then.
More televised games have inevitably diluted the Cups impact, too. The bloated importance of the Champions League final has queered the FA Cup finals patch for some time. Theres the increasing domination of the big clubs. And finally the FAs insistence on buggering around with the scheduling, moving the match back and forth from the last day of the season C thankfully were back there this year C and shifting the traditional 3pm kick-off time to 5.30pm, which is no good at all. Oh, and all the sponsorship. The FA Cup sponsored by Littlewoods Pools? The FA Cup with Budweiser? No thanks! No thanks!
And yet, while its never likely to become the centrepiece of the season again, the magics never quite died out. The received wisdom is that the Cup final these days isnt much to write home about, and yet its still proved itself capable of delivering the goods. The Gerrard final between Liverpool and West Ham in 2006 was right up there with any of the classics from the 1950s or 1970s. The greatest start to a final came in 2009, when Louis Saha found the net for Everton in 25 seconds, though much good it did them as Chelsea ran out 2-1 winners. Meanwhile victories for Portsmouth in 2008 and Wigan Athletic in 2013 offered a little succour to those sick of the big teams winning all the time. The fact that the domestically dominant Manchester United havent won the competition since 2004, or made a final since 2007, shows how competitive the FA Cup still is.
And another famous chapter will be written this year: Arsenal will either become the team with the most wins, 12, one ahead of Manchester United, or Aston Villa will win their first FA Cup final since 1957 C 1957! C and move ahead of Liverpool and Chelsea in the all-time table, joint with Spurs on eight wins. So the nation will be tuning in, just as we always did. Its still English soccers biggest day out. The adverts during the Super Bowl are a lot better, though.