Friday 28th April, 2023, marked the 100th anniversary of the first FA Cup Final to be played at Wembley Stadium, then known as the Empire Stadium (as it was for the next 50 years or so).
During the past 100 years there have been 88 FA Cup Finals played a Wembley. But why the discrepancy?
That dozen difference is caused by six years lost to World War II and six more years lost between the demolition of the original stadium and the opening of the current one during the early years of the 21st Century.
Forty-three clubs have graced the famous Wembley pitch to contest at least one FA Cup Final there with 31 of them being victorious on one or more occasions. Arsenal FC have lifted the Trophy most often at Wembley with Manchester United just one success behind. They have the chance to draw level this season.
In fact, between them, Arsenal FC and Manchester United have won nigh on 25% of all FA Cup Finals played at Wembley, a dominance made all the more remarkable considering it would be the eighth Final before the Gunners lifted the Trophy for the first time whilst the Red Devils didn’t achieve that feat until the 20th Wembley Final.
The first dominant club of the Wembley era was Bolton Wanderers. Bolton defeated second tier West Ham United 2-0 in the inaugural Wembley Cup Final in what became affectionately known as the White Horse Final thanks to the stellar efforts of Billy and his rider George Scorey in helping to control the excess crowd that turned up for that historic match.
David Jack scored the first ever Wembley FA Cup Final goal and he would go on to repeat the feat just three years later with the only goal in Bolton Wanderers’ second Wembley victory against Manchester City.
Before the decade was over, the Trotters would add a third FA Cup Final victory to their tally, beating Portsmouth FC 2-0 in 1929 with Harold Blackmore amongst the goals completing the feat of scoring in every round. Bolton would eventually win the FA Cup four times at Wembley, but they would not be the first club to achieve that feat.
That record belongs to the second club to climb the steps to lift the Trophy at Wembley, Newcastle United. Prior to Wembley, the Magpies’ FA Cup Final record had been wretched. Five Finals in seven seasons at Crystal Palace, and just one win in a replay at Goodison Park. But at Wembley itself it seemed they could do no wrong.
Their 1924 2-0 victory over Aston Villa included Walter Hampson in their squad, purportedly the oldest man to have participated in an FA Cup Final, although his age at the time of 41 years, 257 days is in dispute.
Newcastle United lifted the Trophy again in 1932 with a 2-1 victory over Arsenal FC who claimed the unwanted record of being the first club to score first in a Wembley Final and not go on to lift the Trophy.
A second Cup Final victory over the Gunners 20 years later, after beating Blackpool FC in the Final the previous season, meant that Newcastle United became the first club to lift the Cup four times at Wembley and the first to retain it at that venue, too. George Robledo scored the only goal of the game becoming the first Chilean to score in an FA Cup Final.
Three years later the Magpies became the first club to lift the Trophy five times at Wembley after defeating Manchester City 3-1 in what was at the time a record 10th FA Cup Final for Newcastle United. Nineteen years later they became the first club to appear in 11 FA Cup Finals, but their Wembley luck finally ran out when they were well beaten 3-0 by Liverpool FC.
And in 1999 the club lost successive FA Cup Finals at Wembley going down 2-0 against Manchester United having lost by the same score against Arsenal FC the previous season.
At least the Magpies went on to have many Wembley successes after their first victory, which is more than can be said for the third team to lift the Cup there. Sheffield United defeated Cardiff City 1-0 in the 1925 Final becoming only the fourth club to win the Cup for the fourth time.
But the Blades would appear in just one more Final, a 1-0 defeat to Arsenal FC in 1936, and thus become the club to hold the record for longest amount of time since last lifting the Trophy at Wembley.
Cardiff City made history in 1925 by becoming the first, and so far only, club from Wales to appear in an FA Cup Final. And two years later the Bluebirds went one better and took the Trophy out of England for the only time so far in the competition’s history. In beating Arsenal FC 1-0, Cardiff City also became the first club to both win and lose a Cup Final at Wembley.
For Arsenal FC this would just be a false start to their future dominance of the competition.
In between the two Finals for Cardiff City, Bolton Wanderers lifted the Cup for the second time winning 1-0 against Manchester City who became the first club to appear in an FA Cup Final and be relegated in the same season.
The 1928 FA Cup Final saw Blackburn Rovers equal the record for most times lifting the Cup with a sixth victory. But it was their opponents, Huddersfield Town, who set a series of unwanted records in the 3-1 defeat.
The Terriers became the first club to score in a Wembley Final but not lift the Trophy, the first ever club to be runners-up in both the League and Cup, and they would go on to become the club to appear in the most Wembley Finals without lifting the Trophy there, going on to lose to Arsenal FC and Preston North End within the next ten years.
That defeat to Arsenal FC in 1930 also meant that Huddersfield Town were the first club to lose two Wembley Finals, but for the Gunners it was to be the first victory of a record 11 wins on the hallowed turf.
The following season saw West Bromwich Albion defeat local rivals Birmingham City (known simply as Birmingham FC then) 2-1 to lift the Trophy for the third time, a feat made more notable for being the first time a club had won the Cup and been promoted in the same season.
History was made in the 1933 Cup Final, not so much for the fact that Everton FC beat Manchester City 3-0, but more so for the fact that it was the first instance in which players wore numbers on the shirts, although with a slight twist. Everton FC players wore numbers one through to eleven whilst Manchester City players had numbers 12 to twenty-two on their backs with the highest number worn by their keeper, Len Langford.
Disappointment for City that season would turn to joy the following year with a 2-1 victory over Portsmouth FC to become the first defeated Finalist at Wembley to return the following season to lift the Trophy.
The 1935 Final was notable for two reasons. By winning 4-2 against West Bromwich Albion, Sheffield Wednesday became the first club to lift the Trophy under two different names (they had previously won the Cup under the name The Wednesday), whilst Ellis Rimmer became the first player to score in every round and in every game the club played on their successful Cup run.
Arsenal FC lifted the Trophy the following season becoming the first club to appear in four Wembley FA Cup Finals in the process, whilst the 1937 Final was won by Sunderland FC in the first Final to be partially broadcast on TV.
Preston North End were the defeated Finalists in 1937 and their striker, Frank O’Donnell, became the first player to score in every round of the FA Cup but not go on to lift the Trophy. Frank would be missing from the squad when his team-mates returned to Wembley the following season in triumph.
That 1938 Final against Huddersfield Town was the first to be broadcast live on TV in its entirety and resulted in Preston setting a new competition record at the time of the longest gap between Cup Final wins of 49 years.
Portsmouth FC finally got their hands on the Trophy in what was their third attempt at Wembley to do so, with a 4-1 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers, and they wouldn’t relinquish their grip on it for the next six years as football was suspended for the duration of World War II.
The first Wembley Final after hostilities ceased set all sorts of records. Thanks to there being two legged ties for all rounds before the Semi-Finals, the winners, Derby County, set the record for the most goals scored by any club on their run to lift the Trophy at Wembley. The Rams netted 37 times to finally lift the Trophy at their fourth attempt, 48 years after they first appeared in a Cup Final.
The match against Charlton Athletic was all square after 90 minutes and Derby became the first club to score three goals in a Cup Final in extra time. Charlton’s Bert Turner became the first player to score for both sides in a Cup Final and the oldest player ever to score in a Cup Final (36 years and 312 days old).
Charlton Athletic also became the first club to reach an FA Cup Final after legally losing a game in a previous round having lost 2-1 at Fulham FC in the second leg of their Third Round tie after winning the first leg 3-1.
Oh, and the ball burst during the Cup Final for the first time. The same would happen the following season when Charlton returned to Wembley to lift the Cup with a 1-0 victory over Burnley FC. The winning goal was scored by Chris Duffy, the only non-English player involved in the match.
The 1948 Final saw Manchester United lift the Trophy at Wembley for the first time with a 4-2 win over Blackpool FC for whom Stan Mortenson scored as he had done in every round in their Cup run. Eddie Shimwell also scored a penalty for Blackpool FC, the first time a team scored a spot kick in the Final but didn’t win the Cup.
The 1949 Final is notable for the involvement of Leicester City who had finished the season in 19th position in the Second Division thereby becoming the lowest ranked club ever to contest a Wembley FA Cup Final. Not surprisingly, the Foxes were defeated 3-1 by Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Arsenal FC lifted the Trophy for the third time with a 2-0 victory over Liverpool FC the following season matching the three Wembley wins of Bolton Wanderers, but becoming the first club to appear in five Wembley Finals.
The next two seasons belonged to Newcastle United, but the 1953 Cup Final belonged to one man, Stanley Matthews. Or did it? The 4-3 win for Blackpool FC over Bolton Wanderers is now known as the Stanley Matthews Final but it is more notable for it being the only occasion to date when a hat-trick has been scored in a Wembley Final. And it was another Stanley, Mortenson not Matthews, who wrote his name into the history books.
The 1953 Final set other records, too. Seven goals matched the highest tally ever achieved in a Cup Final becoming the most scored in a Wembley Cup Final. Bolton Wanderers became the first club to score three times in a Cup Final and not win the Cup. Their player, Willie Moir, scored the 200th FA Cup Final goal, and Nat Lofthouse scored in every round without lifting the Trophy.
That Lofthouse feat would be matched by Preston North End’s Charlie Wayman the following season in their 3-2 defeat at the hands of West Bromwich Albion who were equalling the record at the time of a ninth FA Cup Final appearance.
The 1955 Final saw Newcastle United set all their Wembley records mentioned earlier, but their opponents, Manchester City, would go on to lift the Trophy the following season becoming to first club to twice be beaten Finalists to go on to win the Cup the next year.
Aside from the well documented Bert Trautman neck break injury, the 1956 Final is notable for other lesser known reasons, too. Birmingham City are the only club to have lost both their FA Cup Finals under two different names and Manchester City’s Bobby Johnstone became the first player to score in successive Wembley Finals.
The following season, Aston Villa set a new competition record at the time of lifting the famous Trophy for the seventh time and became the first club to win the Cup at four different venues (Kennington Oval, Crystal Palace, Stamford Bridge and Wembley). Villa also became the only club to date to lift the FA Cup after conceding in every round.
Villa beat Manchester United in the 1957 Final, a club who against the odds, following the Munich Air Disaster, returned to Wembley the following season to face Bolton Wanderers. It was an amazing achievement to even get to Wembley, but two Nat Lofthouse goals meant that Manchester United became the first club to be defeated in successive Wembley Finals.
Nottingham Forest won the FA Cup in 1959 winning 2-1 against Luton Town despite being reduced to 10 men for almost an hour after goalscorer Roy Dwight had been stretchered off. Forest set an FA Cup record by appearing in this Final 61 years after their one and only previous appearance, setting the longest gap between competing in a club’s first two FA Cup Finals.
Wolverhampton Wanderers beat Blackburn Rovers 3-0 in the 1960 FA Cup Final to become the first club to qualify for Europe by doing so. Both clubs were appearing in their eighth FA Cup Final. Neither club has appeared in another Final since.
Tottenham Hotspur achieved the first ‘double’ of the 20th Century by beating Leicester City 2-0 in the 1961 FA Cup Final, and Spurs retained the Cup the following season beating Burnley FC 3-1, to become only the second club since The Wanderers to win in all four of their first four FA Cup Final appearances.
Manchester United also defeated Leicester City in the 1963 FA Cup Final whilst West Ham United lifted the Trophy for the first time with a 3-2 victory over Preston North End the following season, 41 years after last appearing in that inaugural Wembley Cup Final.
The following year, Liverpool FC ended a 51 year wait since their first FA Cup Final appearance to finally lift the Trophy with an extra time 2-1 victory over Leeds United, and the following year their Merseyside rivals Everton FC lifted the Cup, doing so after having been 2-0 down against Sheffield Wednesday, the first time a club had won the Cup in such a manner. Everton FC were also the last club to reach the FA Cup Final without conceding a goal until Manchester City equalled the feat this season.
The 1967 Final was the first all London Cup Final as Tottenham Hotspur won 2-1 against Chelsea FC. Spurs’ victory meant the club matched The Wanderers by winning their first five FA Cup Finals. The 1967 Final is also notable for the first time substitutes were listed on team-sheets although neither Cliff Jones nor Joe Kirkup entered the field of play.
That honour of being the first substitute to appear in an FA Cup Final went to Dennis Clarke of West Bromwich Albion who won 1-0 against Everton FC in the 1968 Final, the only goal being scored by Jeff Astle who scored a goal in every round of the Cup.
Manchester City lifted the Cup in 1969 with a 1-0 defeat of Leicester City. That defeat meant the Foxes became the first club to lose their first four FA Cup Final games, and they also became the second club to lose a Final a be relegated in the same season (Manchester City were the first).
The 1970 FA Cup Final is notable for several reasons. It is the last Final to date to be contested by two clubs that would guarantee a new name be etched on the FA Cup Trophy plinth. It was also the first Wembley Final to require a replay as Chelsea FC and Leeds United played out a 2-2 draw. The replay was won by Chelsea FC at Old Trafford, the first ground outside of London to host three FA Cup Finals.
Peter Osgood scored a goal in every round of the competition to help Chelsea FC lift the Cup for the first time, becoming the first club to go behind three times and still go on to win the Trophy.
Arsenal FC became the second club to win the ‘double’ in the 20th Century in 1971 thanks to a 2-1 extra time victory over Liverpool FC with Eddie Kelly purportedly becoming the first substitute to score in an FA Cup Final.
The Centenary FA Cup Final was won by a solitary Allan Clarke goal as Leeds United lifted the Trophy for their only time to date defeating Arsenal FC 1-0 to condemn their opponents to being the first Cup holders at Wembley to lose the following season’s Final. Leeds United became the second club to suffer that fate the following season as Sunderland FC became the first club from the second tier to win the Cup in 42 years.
The next two Finals were both one-sided affairs with Liverpool FC winning 3-0 against Newcastle United in 1974 and West Ham United beating Fulham FC 2-0 in the second all-London Cup Final.
Then in 1976 Second Division Southampton FC caused an upset with a 1-0 win over Manchester United to set a record that still stands today of the biggest gap between first appearing in a Cup Final and actually lifting the Trophy of 76 years. The Saints victory also meant it was the shortest gap between two second tier clubs lifting the Trophy of just three years.
Manchester United returned to Wembley the following season to defeat Liverpool FC 2-1 resulting in Jimmy and Brian Greenhoff becoming the first brothers to lift the Cup since the Robledo brothers for Newcastle United 25 years earlier.
The 1978 Final saw Arsenal FC become the first club to be runners-up five times at Wembley and a fourth new name on the Trophy in nine years with Ipswich Town being the 1-0 victors. Arsenal FC returned victorious the following season, 3-2 against Manchester United, but left empty handed again the next season losing 1-0 to West Ham United, the last time a second tier club lifted the Trophy.
West Ham United had now contested four Wembley Finals and in each and every one of them there was a club from the second tier involved.
Tottenham Hotspur won the 100th FA Cup Final against Manchester City in 1981, the first time Wembley had hosted a Cup Final replay. It also meant that Spurs became the first club to win every one of their first six FA Cup Finals. And they would make it seven out of seven by defeating Queens Park Rangers in a second successive FA Cup Final replay the following season.
A replay was also needed in 1983 as Manchester United finally overcame Brighton and Hove Albion, the Seagulls becoming the third club to lose a Cup Final and be relegated in the same season. Eight goals in total were scored over the two games, the most for any FA Cup Final tie, and the 4-0 replay victory is the biggest such win in the competition’s history.
Everton FC comfortably beat Watford FC 2-0 in the 1985 Cup Final notable only for it being the first time clubs wore sponsors’ names on their shirts in a Final.
A more memorable ‘first’ happened the following season as Everton FC returned to Wembley to face Manchester United for whom Kevin Moran became the first player to be sent off in a Cup Final. Not that it stopped the Red Devils who went on to lift the Trophy courtesy of a Norman Whiteside strike.
The following year Everton FC made it three Finals on the trot in what would be the first all-Merseyside Final against Liverpool FC. The Red side of the county were triumphant 3-1 to become the fifth club to win the ‘double’. It was also the first time that the League winners had defeated the League runners-up in the Cup Final.
The next two Finals are well remembered for the upsets that were caused and for the last new names on the Trophy for 25 years. First, Coventry City defeated Tottenham Hotspur 3-2 in 1987, the first time in eight Finals that Spurs had failed to win. Then Wimbledon FC beat Liverpool FC 1-0 in 1988, notable for Dave Beasant being the first keeper to save a penalty at Wembley and the first keeper to captain a Wembley winning side.
Liverpool FC returned to Wembley the following season for the second all-Merseyside Final, a game played in the shadow of the tragedy of Hillsborough. The Reds won again, but not before Stuart McCall of Everton FC had become the first substitute to score twice in a Cup Final. His unique feat would last all of two minutes when Ian Rush scored his second and the match-winner.
The 1990 Final between Manchester United and Crystal Palace required a replay after a pulsating 3-3 draw. The second game was a dour 1-0 win for the Red Devils, a win that meant they could claim to be the best FA Cup club of all time. However, that title lasted only one season as in 1991 Tottenham Hotspur became the first club to lift the Trophy eight times after their 2-1 victory over Nottingham Forest.
Liverpool FC comfortably won the 1992 Cup Final against Second Division Sunderland FC and Ian Rush scored his record fifth FA Cup Final goal in the victory.
The 1993 FA Cup Final was the last to require a replay. For the first ever time the same two clubs that had contested that season’s League Cup Final also found themselves going toe to toe in the FA Cup Final. Arsenal FC and Sheffield Wednesday played out a 1-1 draw and looked to be doing the same in the replay before Andy Linighan popped up at the death to win the Trophy for the Gunners.
Ian Wright had scored in the first game and in the replay, with the second of those two goals meaning he is the last player to score double figures in a winning Cup run. The other minor notable stat about this Final is that it is the first one where players wore their names on the back of their shirts.
In 1994 Manchester United regained their title as the best FA Cup club of all time with a dominant 4-0 victory over Chelsea FC, winning the ‘double’ in the process, and with Eric Cantona becoming the first player to score two penalties in a Cup Final.
Manchester United would be involved in the next two Cup Finals, too, losing 1-0 to Everton FC in 1995 and winning by the same scoreline against Liverpool FC the following year. That victory against the red half of Merseyside saw Manchester United become the first club to win the ‘double’ twice.
The 1997 Final saw Roberto di Matteo score the fastest FA Cup Final goal to that date in Chelsea FC’s 2-0 victory over Middlesbrough FC, a win that meant Ruud Gullit would become the first non-British manager to lift the FA Cup. Middlesbrough FC became the fourth club to lose the Cup Final and be relegated in the same season
Arsenal FC matched the double ‘double’ by beating Newcastle United 2-0 in the 1998 Cup Final, whilst Manchester United not only achieved a third ‘double’ the following season against the same opponents, but also won the first ever ‘treble’ by adding the Champions League Trophy. For their part Newcastle United became the first club to twice lose consecutive FA Cup Finals.
The last FA Cup Final at the original Wembley Stadium is arguably the most forgettable as Chelsea FC defeated Aston Villa 1-0 with Roberto di Matteo on the scoresheet again. However, it would go on to form the first half of a quirky stat as Chelsea FC also won the first Final to be played at the new Wembley Stadium in 2007, with a 1-0 victory over Manchester United.
The 2008 Final saw Portsmouth FC defeat Cardiff City by a solitary Nwankwu Kanu goal. The victory set a record for Pompey as they became the club with the longest gap between successive FA Cup Final wins of 69 years. The club also lifted the Trophy by scoring just seven goals in their campaign, the lowest tally of any club to win the Cup having started from the Third Round.
Cardiff City set their own records, too. They became the only Welsh club to appear in three FA Cup Finals and their gap of 81 years between Cup Finals is also a competition record. The Bluebirds are also the last club from outside the top-flight to appear in a Cup Final.
Chelsea FC won both of the next two FA Cup Finals. Their 2-1 victory over Everton FC in 2009 is notable for Louis Saha scoring the fastest ever FA Cup Final goal after just 25 seconds. Chelsea FC won the ‘double’ in 2010 with a 1-0 win over Portsmouth FC who became the fifth club to lose a Cup Final and be relegated in the same season.
The 2011 Final saw Manchester City win 1-0 against Stoke City with the losing side setting a competition record of the longest gap between formation and appearing in their first FA Cup Final of 143 years.
Chelsea FC became only the second club to win four FA Cup Finals in six seasons with a 2-1 victory over Liverpool FC in the 2012 Final. Didier Drogba scored in all four of those Finals to set a record of most Cup Finals scored in.
Wigan Athletic set a new FA Cup record in the 2013 Final when their late extra time 1-0 victory over Manchester City was followed by relegation from the top-flight a few days later The following season Arsenal FC became the best FA Cup club of all time as their 3-2 comeback extra-time victory over Hull City earned the Gunners their 11th FA Cup title in total.
The Gunners then lifted the Trophy for a record 12th time the following season with a 4-0 demolition of Aston Villa. Manchester United would match their 12 wins the following season with a 2-1 defeat of Crystal Palace who became only the second club to appear in more than one Cup Final and lose to the same opponents both times.
Arsenal FC made it 13 FA Cup wins in 2017 with a 2-1 victory over Chelsea FC who returned to Wembley the following season to win 1-0 against Manchester United. It was the first time three consecutive Finals had involved clubs who were meeting in a Final for the second time.
The 2019 FA Cup Final created records galore. Manchester City equalled the record margin of Cup Final victory with their 6-0 thrashing of Watford FC. By winning the FA Cup the club became the first to win the domestic ‘treble’. Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling became the first pair of players to both score two goals in the same FA Cup Final.
For their part Watford FC became the first and only club so far to appear in more than one FA Cup Final and fail to score a goal in the Final.
The 2020 Final was significantly affect by the Covid-19 pandemic resulting in the Final not being played until 1st August (the same month that the following season’s competition would begin) and being played with an official attendance of zero.
Arsenal FC beat Chelsea FC for a record third time in three FA Cup Finals and established both the overall record of most wins (14) and the most wins at Wembley (11). The Gunners also joined Spurs as the only teams to win seven FA Cup Finals in seven successive Final appearances.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang became the first player with a hyphenated first name to score in a Cup Final when he netted what was the 400th FA Cup Final goal of all time.
Chelsea FC returned to Wembley for the 2021 FA Cup Final against Leicester City in front of a limited crowd of around 20,000 spectators. Leicester City won the match 1-0 to become the 44th different club to win the FA Cup and set a record for the longest time since formation before lifting the Trophy of 137 years. The Foxes also became the first club to lift the Trophy for the first time at their fifth attempt.
The 2022 Cup Final to celebrate the competition’s 150th anniversary turned out to be a bit of a disappointment for those watching as Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC played out a goal-less draw. It was only the second such instance of a blank Cup Final and the first to be played at Wembley Stadium.
Liverpool FC won the Cup on penalties, the first club to achieve that feat for a second time, whilst Chelsea FC set an unwanted record of becoming the first club to lose three Cup Finals in three consecutive seasons.
The 89th FA Cup Final to be played at Wembley will be the first to involve both main Manchester clubs as City take on United. Manchester City have reached the Final without conceding a goal and will be hoping to emulate Bury FC in 1903 who were the last club to lift the Trophy without letting in a goal. It would be an amazing coincidence if they achieved it as it was Bury FC’s record Cup Final win that the Citizens matched in the 2019 Final.
Manchester United are already setting a record by appearing in a Wembley Cup Final for the 18th time and victory would equal Arenal FC’s record of 11 wins at the famous Stadium.
Whatever happens this season, Wembley Stadium is destined to create more FA Cup Final memories and more FA Cup records for years to come.