This is the 17th in the first series of exclusive FA Cup Memories from all across the football spectrum.
Every day, having started on May 1st 2020, a new set of exclusive FA Cup memories are being published via this FACupFactfile blog, and today is the turn of an ITV Sport and BT Sport Score presenter.
SERIES ONE, No. 17
Connection to the world of Football: ITV SPORT PRESENTER AND BT SPORT SCORE PRESENTER
First memory of the FA Cup: Mark says, “1974 FA CUP FINAL. My parents went racing and asked if I wanted to go with them, but I was desperate to watch Liverpool v Newcastle. Bruce Forsyth hilariously entertained the fans before kick-off, Kevin Keegan scored twice and the whole day, the whole build up and sense of anticipation has stayed with me ever since.”
You can find that excellent pre-match performance by Bruce Forsyth on the internet, including him scoring a goal and interacting with the crowd. “Anyone here from Newcastle? Anyone here from Liverpool? Anyone here from Luton?” It’s well worth watching if for nothing else to see the hairstyles and the fashions of the time.
Although Newcastle United were appearing in a record 11th Cup Final and had a richer history than their opponents in the FA Cup, it was Liverpool that ended up winning the 1974 Cup Final with ease. Steve Heighway and Kevin Keegan scored the goals, but the whole team were on the top of their game that day. A complete performance that would have enthralled anybody watching it, never mind someone like Mark, experiencing the Cup Final for the first time.
Favourite memory of the FA Cup: Mark says, “Third round day at any non-league v league encounter. Two stand out, not because of the result, as on both occasions the league side triumphed, but because of what it meant to the non-league teams, their officials and fans. Chasetown played Cardiff City in 2008 and the Welsh side reached the final that year and particularly, Blyth Spartans – heroes of 1978 and a run I remember so well – playing Birmingham in 2015. Blyth were two goals up and their captain, a barman in his mother’s pub, scored one of them before Birmingham fought back to win. Third round day at such grounds is so special.”
Chasetown were an 8th tier club when facing Cardiff City in the FA Cup, the lowest level any club has been that has played in the 3rd Round since the National League was formed in 1979 as the Alliance Premier. They had already won through seven rounds to make it that far, more rounds than Cardiff City would play to make it through to the Final.
Blyth Spartans captain, Robbie Dale, shoots through the Birmingham City defence
When Blyth Spartans made their historic run to the 5th Round in 1977-78 season they were members of the Northern League and so arguably were comparatively as low as Chasetown were for their great run. When Blyth Spartans faced Birmingham City in 2015 they were a 7th tier club, and so had played through six rounds to get that far. Mind you, the 1978 side played through nine rounds in total!
Last FA Cup match attended: Mark says, “Cup Final 2017. Per Mertesacker, who had barely played all season, used all his experience to keep Chelsea and Costa at bay.”
That victory for Arsenal was the second time the Gunners had got one over their London rivals Chelsea in an FA Cup Final, securing a record breaking 13th FA Cup for the North London side.
Amazingly, the FA Cup had been in existence for 58 years before Arsenal lifted the Trophy for the first time. The victory over Chelsea was the third time they had lifted the Cup in just four seasons to put the club one win ahead of Manchester United, who had their 12th triumph just the season before.
Thoughts on the future of the FA Cup: Mark says, “I’m not one for gimmicks or artificiality. That every game the season after next will be on terrestrial TV will be great for the exposure of the Cup. It still matters hugely to a lot of clubs and a lot of people – if it didn’t, then why do the big clubs still win it so often? It is still so worth cherishing.”
It’s great to know that the FA Cup will only be on free-to-air TV from the 2021-22 season. Not only does it mean that it will be watched by a much wider audience, but the FA Cup will be 150 years old that year, so it will be a very special competition to follow.
It is interesting to note that since 1988, aside from Everton in 1995, Portsmouth in 2008 and Wigan Athletic in 2013, the FA Cup has been won by one of the so-called ‘top six’ clubs. Just nine different clubs in 32 years. Compare that to the 20 or so different clubs who lifted the Trophy in the previous 32 seasons!
So it does seem to suggest that the ‘big’ clubs do still take the FA Cup seriously, although another factor is likely to be that they are the ones with enough depth to their squads, so much so that they can field mainly second-string sides in the earlier rounds and still have a stronger eleven than their opponents.
I’d like to thank Mark for sharing his personal recollections of the FA Cup and look forward to hopefully seeing him fronting the coverage of the competition in a couple of year’s time.
No. 18 in this exclusive FA Cup memories series, the recollections of the person who produces all the Isthmian League social media content, can be read by clicking on this link: https://facupfactfile.wordpress.com/2020/05/18/fa-cup-memories-series-118-ian-townsend/
No. 16 in this FA Cup Memories series, the recollections from an Aldershot Town supporting BBC Surrey Sport Commentator, can be read by clicking on this link: https://facupfactfile.wordpress.com/2020/05/16/fa-cup-memories-series-116-rob-worrall/
You can read this exclusive FA Cup Memories series from where it all started with BBC 5 Live Commentator John Murray by clicking on this link: https://facupfactfile.wordpress.com/2020/05/01/fa-cup-memories-series-11-john-murray/
Follow @FACupFactfile on Twitter for news of when future memories are published.