Long Forgotten Memories

For fans of most clubs participating in the 2015/16 FA Cup it is possible to remember their team’s best ever run in the competition because it will have happened since the Year 2000 or at least in their own living memory. Some clubs do have to go back to before the last World War to find their own best ever Cup run, and it is highly likely that no-one but the oldest members of the club can recall it, but for a handful of teams even that is not possible. Because for all the teams detailed below, their best ever FA Cup campaigns actually happened in the days of Queen Victoria, more than 115 years ago.

141 Years – Uxbridge – Best Ever Cup Run – Second Round – Last time 1873/74

This was the first season that Uxbridge, formed in 1871, participated in the FA Cup and it was in only the third season of the competition’s fledgling history, in a contest that saw only 28 teams take part. Uxbridge beat a team from Battersea, with the exotic moniker of Gitanos, 3-0 in the First Round before succumbing 2-1 to Royal Engineers in The Reds one and only appearance in the Second Round. It’s probably unfair to compare the Second Round of the FA Cup in the 19th Century with the Second Round of today, but since the formation of the Football League and the introduction of Qualifying Rounds, Uxbridge has only ever made it as far as the Fourth Qualifying Round on two occasions, the last 80 years ago in 1935.

135 Years – Sheffield – Best Ever Cup Run – Fourth Round – Last time 1879/80

The ‘World’s Oldest Football Club’ entered the FA Cup for the 100th time last season, but since the Football League was formed in 1888, the club has only ever come close to reaching the ‘Proper’ rounds of the Cup on five occasions, their last visit to the Fourth Qualifying Round as recently as the 2010/11 season. However, for 15 years prior to that they had entered the competition and by default had reached at least the First Round every time, but made it as far as the Fourth Round on two occasions, the first time in 1877/78 this actually equated to reaching the Quarter Finals of the competition.

134 Years – Saffron Walden Town – Best Ever Cup Run – First Round – Last time 1880/81

Saffron Walden (the Town suffix didn’t appear until after the First World War) made three appearances in the FA Cup prior to the formation of the Football League, each time unfortunately being unable to record a victory, but nonetheless being on record as reaching the First Round of the competition. The club scratched instead of facing the mighty Wanderers club in 1876/77, lost 5-0 to Upton Park in 1878/79 season, and lost 7-0 to eventual Cup winners Old Carthusians in 1880/81. In fact the club didn’t actually win an FA Cup match until 1946/47 season when they won 4-2 against Ware, and the furthest The Bloods have ever progressed in the competition, outside of those early days, is the Second Qualifying Round.

133 Years – Maidenhead United – Best Ever Cup Run – Fourth Round – Last time 1881/82

133 Years – Marlow – Best Ever Cup Run – Semi Finals – Last time 1881/82

Maidenhead United and Marlow are intrinsically linked in the history of the FA Cup. They are the only two teams still competing in the competition that participated in the inaugural contest in 1871/72, and they hold the joint record of most appearances with the 2015/16 season being their 134th campaign. In fact each of the two sides has only failed to compete in one campaign. And 1881/82 proved to be the last season both would record their personal best Cup runs. It was the third time Maidenhead had made it to the Fourth Round, the first occasion in 1872/73 also being the equivalent of the Quarter Finals. Maidenhead has a slightly better overall average performance in the FA Cup than their close neighbours, but it is Marlow who has progressed the further, with this 1881/82 Semi Final appearance where they lost 5-0 to the eventual winners Old Etonians. Of course, all this occurred in the days before Qualifying Rounds, and since they were introduced The Magpies have made it to the First Round ‘Proper’ on seven separate occasions, most recently in 2011/12 season, whilst Marlow has made it as far as the Third Round twice, both times in the mid-nineties.

131 Years – Northwich Victoria – Best Ever Cup Run – Fifth Round – Last time 1883/84

Formed in 1874, The Vics reached the Fifth Round (and Quarter Finals) of the FA Cup just over 10 years later, although the 9-1 defeat to eventual winners Blackburn Olympic sours the achievement somewhat. This was the club’s only significant run in the competition in those pre-Football League years, but since then the closest they have come to replicating that performance was a spectacular Fourth Round appearance in 1976/77, their 11th match and eighth tie in that year’s competition, finally succumbing to Second Division Oldham Athletic after seeing off League sides Rochdale, Peterborough United and Watford.

130 Years – Chatham Town – Best Ever Cup Run – Fifth Round – Last time 1884/85

130 Years – Hoddesdon Town – Best Ever Cup Run – First Round – Last time 1884/85

Under the name Hoddesdon, this was the only 19th Century appearance in the FA Cup for the club, an 8-0 defeat at the hands of the Old Foresters club. Since returning to the competition in 1931/32, the furthest the club has gone is the Third Qualifying Round they achieved in that return season, and most recently in 1969/70. Chatham (United), on the other hand, had a few forays in the competition in the 1880s, adding two Third Round appearances to this Fifth Round effort. The number of clubs entering the competition had grown significantly since the competition’s foundation, and as a consequence this was the first season when the Fifth Round didn’t equate to the Quarter Finals. Since the introduction of the Qualifying Rounds, Chatham has made it through to the First Round ‘Proper’ a few times, with their best performance a Second Round appearance in 1926/27 where they lost 5-0 to Norwich City.

Eight other clubs have to look as far back as these Victorian days to identify their best ever Cup runs. Clitheroe, then named Clitheroe Central had four First Round appearances most latterly in 1885/86 season, 129 years ago. They did register their first FA Cup win three years later, 3-2 against Blackburn Park Road, but the Third Qualifying Round is the furthest they have progressed since then. Ashton United made the Second Round for the last time also in 1885/86, but then the club was known as Hurst, and on both occasions they reached that far in the competition, the club withdrew, both times after their initial victory had been voided. The club came close to matching their best run twice in the Fifties soon after adopting its current name, losing out to Halifax Town in 1952/53 and Southport in 1955/56.

Bournemouth (Amateurs), Gainsborough Trinity and Lincoln City all recorded their best FA Cup runs for the last time in 1886/87 season, 128 years ago. The Dorset based club, not to be confused with AFC Bournemouth, had three successive First Round appearances when known as Bournemouth Rovers, not actually winning its first competitive FA Cup match until 1913/14, a 5-0 Preliminary Round win over RGA Weymouth. Gainsborough Trinity actually made it to the Third Round in 1886/87 where they lost 1-0 to Lincoln City after a replay who, thanks to a bye in the next round, made it to the Fifth Round for their one and only time. Both former League teams have made many more appearances in the ‘Proper’ rounds of the Cup, but both have fallen at best one round short of their personal best.

The 1887/88 season saw Crewe Alexandra make it all the way to the Semi Finals, coming through six rounds before losing 4-0 to Preston North End. Since that Semi-Final 127 seasons ago, the nearest the club has ever got to repeating the feat is two Fifth Round appearance in 1990/91 and 2001/02. Winsford United also had their best ever Cup run in the 1887/88 season when, under the guise of their former name Over Wanderers, the club made the Second Round in its first appearance in the competition. The Football League was formed the following season and Qualifying Rounds were introduced into the FA Cup simultaneously, and as a consequence Winsford has only made three subsequent appearances in the First Round of the competition, a 4-1 defeat to Peterborough United in 1975/76, a 5-2 loss at Wrexham in 1991/92 and a 2-1 defeat at Chester City in 1991/98, all that separated the club from equalling their best ever performance.

Notts County also set their personal best Cup performance in the 19th Century, actually 121 years ago, but they are unique amongst this select group of clubs in the fact that their best performance was as being crowned FA Cup winners in 1893/94, the first occasion a second tier club won the competition. Since that win, the closest the club has ever come to repeating the feat was a solitary Semi-Final appearance in 1921/22 losing 3-1 to Huddersfield Town. Ironically, the club’s Ladies team has a big opportunity to lift the Women’s FA Cup at Wembley this Saturday to further rub salt into this wound.

So, in total 16 clubs competing in the 2015/16 FA Cup all registered their best ever Cup runs in the competition during the Victorian era. Another eight other clubs; Bury, Bristol City, Glossop North End, Bradford City, Barnsley, Swindon Town, Burnley and Stamford also all recorded their best ever Cup performances more than 100 years ago, before the First World War, joining this Victorian group in providing their fans with excruciatingly long waits to see their beloved club at least equal their best FA Cup record.

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