This is the 22nd 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 the Chief Football Writer at the Yorkshire Evening Post covering all things Leeds United.
SERIES ONE, No. 22
Connection to the world of Football: Chief football writer for the Yorkshire Evening Post, formerly Chesterfield FC writer for the Derbyshire Times and before that covering Worksop Town for the Worksop Guardian, having started off at Look Local News writing about Stocksbridge Park Steels.
First memory of the FA Cup: Graham says, “I can remember an FA Cup final on the tele when I was very young, in the late 80s. My Grandad and dad were watching it in the living room but couldn’t tell you which final it was.
Beyond that I remember watching the Sheffield derby in the 1993 semi-final and Waddle’s free-kick.
My first professional memory of the FA Cup was the excitement at Dinnington Town when they drew near neighbours Maltby Main in the extra preliminary round in 2007. The appearance of the FA Cup meant so much to those involved.”
I think for most of us our earliest FA Cup memories are a little hazy, and remembering our definitive first experience of the competition can be difficult to pin down, especially now that re-runs of past FA Cup games can cloud our memory banks.
The goal scored by Chris Waddle for Sheffield Wednesday against their city rivals in that Semi-Final was every bit as good as the free-kick scored by Paul Gascoigne for Spurs against Arsenal two years earlier, but it is less well-remembered.
That Dinnington Town versus Maltby Main FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round tie that Graham attended was the first ever FA Cup match for Dinno, and they won 2-1 against the higher level, more experienced opposition. The game was played on a Friday night and amazingly was covered ‘live’ by Sky TV.
Dinnington Town would make it all the way to the 3rd Qualifying Round in their debut FA Cup campaign, winning four matches, before losing heavily 7-1 against Bradford (Park Avenue). Quite a debut run, but it would turn out to be the furthest the club has ever gone in the competition.
Favourite memory of the FA Cup: Graham says, “When Northern Premier League side Worksop Town went to Conference North Stalybridge and beat them 5-3. That season Leon Mettam scored 50 times for the Tigers, adding to 30 from Tom Denton and 21 from Jack Muldoon. All three scored on the day but Mettam’s was an incredible goal. A fancy flick beat a defender and he lashed the ball into the top corner from an acute angle.”
It’s brilliant to learn that Graham’s favourite FA Cup memory involves teams playing outside of the Football League, and to have such vivid recollections of the details of that match in 2013, too, shows that this was an important game for Graham as well.
This was a great piece of giant-killing for Worksop Town, but the 2013-14 season didn’t finish well for them with the club taking a two division relegation at the end of the season, despite reaching the play-offs, due to financial problems caused by their owner stopping investment.
Last FA Cup match attended: Graham says, “2020, third round proper, Arsenal 1-0 Leeds United. The Whites proved they and Marcelo Bielsa’s football deserved to grace the biggest and best stadiums in the country. They battered the Gunners in the first half and deserved to win the game. Mikel Arteta likened a game against Leeds to a trip to the dentist. The atmosphere from the travelling Leeds fans was as loud, relentless and feverish as anything I’ve experienced in 30 years or so of attending football matches.”
Leeds United have faced Arsenal more than they have faced any other club in the FA Cup, but the Centenary Cup Final and one other occasion aside, it is the Gunners who have usually come out on top in their 10 encounters to date. This season’s FA Cup 3rd Round tie gave a glimpse of what could be for both Leeds United and for their potential future opponents in the Premier League.
Thoughts on the future of the FA Cup: Graham says, “I’ve always loved that part-time footballers who don’t take a wage from the game can play in the same competition as multimillionaires from the top flight, and that’s one of many reasons why it remains so special. It’s difficult to imagine the upper echelons of English football restoring it to its original prominence, as depressing as that is. We can only hope it isn’t devalued further with the removal of replays, particularly for the sake of non-league and lower league clubs for whom it can be a vital source of revenue.”
It’s interesting to note that all of the recent changes to the FA Cup – removal of replays, change in kick-off times etc. – have all come about to accommodate the needs of other competitions and not for the benefit of the FA Cup itself. It’s important that, if the FA Cup is to have a future beyond its 150th anniversary celebrations in 2021-22, it must resist further changes at the behest of other competitions.
As Graham says, the FA Cup cannot afford to be devalued still further as it is the one competition whereby clubs from the lower echelons can not only have a chance of generating significant revenue, but also have the opportunity for their ‘day in the sun’.
Many, many thanks to Graham for sharing his FA Cup memories and thoughts on the competition’s future. Now that he is covering Leeds United’s games for the Yorkshire Evening Post, I have been following him more closely on Twitter. Any Leeds United fans should do the same.
No. 23 in this exclusive FA Cup Memories series, the recollections of a 5 Live commentator and Senior Football Reporter, can be read by clicking on this link: https://facupfactfile.wordpress.com/2020/05/23/fa-cup-memories-series-123-ian-dennis/
No. 21 in this FA Cup Memories series, the recollections from a Sportswriter and author of sports books, can be read by clicking on this link: https://facupfactfile.wordpress.com/2020/05/21/fa-cup-memories-series-121-nige-tassell/
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.