To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the FA Cup I have produced an A to Z of the competition. I have avoided just listing individual players or clubs, successful or not, or particular matches or finals, rather I’ve included ONE item per letter that is reflective of what the FA Cup has been about.
This is a companion piece to my ‘FA Cup 150’ book, short-listed for Sunday Times 2022 Football Book of the Year available to buy from my website or from Amazon. https://www.facupfactfile.co.uk/shop
I welcome additional entries to this lexicon so please do submit your items / topics for any letter of the alphabet and I will add them to this blog alongside the name of the person submitting it.
Let’s make this the most comprehensive A to Z of the FA Cup there can be!
A – After Extra Time
Without cup ties there would never have been extra time, and as the FA Cup was the first ever knockout competition, then it was also the first to have a match involve extra time. The first known record of a match ending ‘After Extra Time’ occurred in the 1874/75 season, in the third round of the fourth running of the competition, when Shropshire Wanderers and Woodford Wells couldn’t be separated and ended up as a one-one draw.
In the semi-finals of that same season Royal Engineers became the first club to win a game ‘After Extra Time’ in their 1-0 replay victory over Oxford University. Royal Engineers were then involved in the first Cup Final to require extra time, drawing one-one with Old Etonians before winning the replay by two goals to nil.
The first FA Cup Final to be settled in ‘After Extra Time’ was in 1877 when The Wanderers won two-one against Oxford University.
The most goals scored in extra time happened in the Second Round of the 2010/11 season when League One side Leyton Orient hosted National League North opponents Droylsden in a replay. After 90 minutes the clubs were still inseparable at two apiece, but Orient amazingly scored six goals without reply in the extra half hour.
A – Abide With Me (suggested by @DaveyHugs)
For the 1927 FA Cup Final the traditional Cup Final pre-match tune, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, was replaced by Abide With Me, a favourite hymn of George V and Queen Mary.
It is now the traditional hymn sung before every FA Cup Final, usually led by a solo artist, but sung with gusto and emotion by the tens of thousands of fans at Wembley Stadium in a rare show of unison ahead of their partisan support throughout the game.
B – Both teams progressed
When the FA Cup was conceived the mechanic for dealing with games that ended in a draw had not been set in stone. It was at the discretion of the FA Committee as to whether drawn games were replayed or whether both clubs were advanced to the next round. Subsequently the original clubs of Hitchin and Crystal Palace played out a goalless draw in the very first round and the FA made the decision that both clubs should progress to the Second Round.
The FA also applied this same approach to the tie between Donnington School and Queen’s Park who were unable to arrange a date to play their First Round game before the next round was due to be played. The FA decided to progress both clubs and make it a Second Round tie instead. It didn’t help and the tie still never happened, as Donnington School withdrew.
Crystal Palace were involved in another goalless draw against The Wanderers in the Third Round and both clubs were progressed to the Semi-Finals. When both Semi-Finals also ended in goalless draws the FA realised that there was no logic to progressing all four clubs and so both games went to replays.
The idea of progressing both clubs to the next round after a draw never made it beyond that inaugural FA Cup season
C – Cup Final venues
The FA Cup Final has been contested at 13 different grounds with six ‘permanent’ venues of Kennington Oval, The Crystal Palace, Stamford Bridge, original Wembley, The Millennium Stadium and the new Wembley among them.
In the second running of the competition the Cup Holders were allowed to pick the venue for the Final that season and The Wanderers selected a ground at Lillie Bridge, not too far away from where Stamford Bridge is located now.
The first Final to be contested outside of London was in 1886 when Blackburn Rovers and West Bromwich Albion replayed their original game at the Racecourse Ground in Derby.
The first Cup Final scheduled to be played outside of London occurred in 1893 after the Kennington Oval was deemed unsuitable to accommodate the large crowds that were amassing for the occasion. Fallowfield in Manchester was the venue for Wolves one-nil victory over Everton, but the ground proved inadequate and was never used again.
Goodison Park hosted the 1894 Final that saw Notts County become the first club from the second tier to lift the Trophy, but the FA’s desire to hold its crown jewel Final in London led to The Crystal Palace becoming its second permanent home.
During that time replays were invariably played in the north of the country with Burnden Park in Bolton, Goodison Park, Old Trafford and Bramall Lane in Sheffield all selected.
Old Trafford was used for the 1915 Final and for the 1970 Final replay to become the only ground in the north to host three Final matches. Only the Millennium Stadium at the start of the 21st Century has held more Finals outside of London.
D – Disqualified
It’s hard enough trying to win FA Cup matches on the pitch without having to concern yourself with whether or not you’ve fallen foul of the latest FA Rules and Regulations. On average one club per FA Cup campaign has been disqualified for a myriad of different reasons, but most commonly because of fielding an ineligible player.
The first club to be disqualified from the competition was Sheffield FC who refused to play extra time after drawing two apiece at Nottingham Forest in the Fourth Round in the 1879/80 season.
Over the next few seasons many clubs were disqualified for the crime of paying their players until the FA succumbed to the inevitability of the rise of professionalism.
In 1891/92 season Royton FC and Spennymoor FC were both disqualified after their respective victories, notable for the fact that this was the only season both clubs ever entered the FA Cup.
Clubs are still being disqualified to this day with Bottesford Town and Bugbrooke St Michaels both being ejected this season for breaking the rules.
E – Extra Preliminary Round
The Extra Preliminary Round is now the first stage of 14 rounds in each FA Cup season occurring nine months before the Cup Final in May. It now consists of around 380 clubs from Steps Four to Six in the Football Pyramid, but was first introduced in the 1903/04 season to accommodate the rapid rise of entries that occurred at the start of the 20th century.
Just 24 clubs were involved in that season with Cray Wanderers winning seven-two at Dartford and Maidstone Church Institute winning five-nil at Royal Engineers Service Battalion the most notable score-lines of the round.
As the FA adjusted the competition’s structure to accommodate the continued influx of new teams the Extra Preliminary Round was temporarily deemed surplus to requirements after just two seasons, but it returned as a permanent fixture for the 1908/09 season.
This continued to be the case up until the 1950/51 season after which the FA changed the rules of entry to the FA Cup resulting in a dramatic decrease in eligible clubs and so for the next 50 years the Extra Preliminary Round was deemed unnecessary.
This all changed again at the start of the 21st Century when the FA opened up the competition to many more non-league clubs and the Extra Preliminary Round now signifies not only the start of the FA Cup, but also for many teams the start of their season.
F – FA Challenge Cup
When the FA Cup was established in 1871 its actual name was The FA Challenge Cup and the premise of the competition was that the previous season’s winners would be challenged by the team that won through the knockout phase. Ostensibly this meant that the winners of the FA Cup would be exempt until the following season’s Final.
This application only occurred once in the competition’s history for the 1872/73 season whereby Oxford University defeated Crystal Palace, Clapham Rovers, Royal Engineers and Maidenhead (and received a bye in the ‘semi-final’ against Queen’s Park) for the right to ‘Challenge’ The Wanderers in the Final.
The ‘Challenge’ aspect was immediately dropped, but the official name of the competition ‘The FA Challenge Cup’ remains.
G – Giant-killing
For many what makes the FA Cup so special is all the occasions when a significant underdog has humiliated a big club and sent them packing from the competition against the odds.
The term ‘giant-killing’ is a relatively new one in football parlance, but the instances of Davids beating Goliaths in the FA Cup has happened throughout the competition’s history even though those games may not have been labelled as such.
The first concept of surprise results occurred in the 1878/79 season when northern provincial clubs first came to the fore with the likes of Nottingham Forest winning at Old Harrovians and Darwen taking Old Etonians to three games.
Even in the first season of the Football League there were results that now would be classed as giant-killing. League side Stoke (City) lost two-one at home to non-league Warwick County in that season’s First Qualifying Round, and Bolton Wanderers were thrashed four-nil by Linfield Athletic later in the same season.
Everyone has their favourite giant-killing exploit from throughout the competition’s history from Yeovil Town defeating the mighty Sunderland in 1949, Worcester City knocking out Liverpool ten years later, Hereford United and Ronnie Radford famously taking down Newcastle United, to Bradford City’s amazing four-two comeback win at Chelsea just seven years ago.
Nowadays, giant-killing feats are less regarded as top level clubs often field second string teams when facing lower level and non-league sides, but for the victors of those games the achievement is still regarded as special, just ask Kidderminster Harriers and their fans following their victory over Championship side Reading just this season and their oh-so close to doing the same against West Ham United.
H – Hooded Parkas
The giant-killing feat by Hereford United over Newcastle United in the 1971/72 season is synonymous with the achievement, with it being aired season after season whenever the third round of the FA Cup comes around.
But aside from the two terrific goals scored by the Southern League side that day, the other over-riding image is of the celebrations by the fans, in particular the pitch invasions after each goal and at the end, by hundreds of kids and youths all kitted out in their fur-lined hooded parkas.
That game evokes the glory days of the FA Cup in many people’s eyes, the likes of which will never be repeated in modern day stadia, even at a lower level in the Pyramid, and symbolises to them when the competition was at its pinnacle and when a David beating a Goliath meant something. And the enduring image of hooded parka clad kids is part and parcel of that rose tinted memory.
I – Intermediate Round
The Intermediate Round was a short-lived part of the FA Cup for five seasons at the beginning of the 20th Century. It was introduced at a time of increased interest in the FA Cup, but also with increased membership of the Football League, and was seen as a way by the FA of exempting the better standard professional clubs without impacting on the set structure of the ‘Proper’ Rounds of the competition.
It became the first round of the competition that was drawn on a national basis and sat between the Fifth Qualifying Round (later the Sixth Qualifying Round) and the First Round ‘Proper’ and consisted of just ten ties.
No club has a best FA Cup run to the Intermediate Round in their overall Cup records, but West Ham United, Darwen, Gillingham and Brentford jointly hold the record for most Intermediate Round exits, each being knocked out at this stage of the competition three times.
Its last use in the FA Cup in the 1904/05 season coincided with the first time fourteen rounds would be contested to determine the winner. It was a one-off as the FA restructured the competition again, and fourteen rounds would not become a permanent element of the competition for another 10 years.
J – John, Johnny, Jonny & Jonathan
The most common forenames used amongst the thousands of players who have participated in FA Cup Finals across its 150 year existence. The have been 150 different players with one of these four names who have participated in a Cup Final, including a John Arne and a John Obi.
However, the most common forename of FA Cup winners is one of Bill, Billy, Will, William and Willie who have lifted the Trophy 90 times between them so far.
K – Khaki Cup Final
The 1915 FA Cup Final played at Old Trafford between Sheffield United and Chelsea is known as the Khaki Final because of the high number of injured and recuperating servicemen there in attendance. Almost 50,000 spectators witnessed a straightforward three-nil victory for the South Yorkshire side in what would be the last official football match to be played until after hostilities ceased four years later.
L – Losing semi-finalists
Who remembers losing semi-finalists outside of those fans of the clubs who came oh-so close to achieving their FA Cup dream? Can you even name last year’s two unlucky clubs without Googling it?
Everton have lost more FA Cup semi-finals than any other club, 13 in total, but that is tempered by the fact that the Toffees have also won 13 semi-finals.
Fans of Norwich City, Swifts and Oldham Athletic have witnessed their clubs participate in the most semi-finals without ever being able to celebrate victory, each losing out on three separate occasions.
Of those that have at least made it through to a Cup Final the clubs with the worst ratio of losses to wins are Nottingham Forest (75% of 12 semi-finals lost), Birmingham City (78% of nine semi-finals lost) and Fulham (83% of six semi-finals lost).
M – Magic of the Cup
The term ‘Magic of the Cup’ has become cliched in recent times and has different meanings to different sets of people and organisations.
The media overuse the term when promoting the competition to attract viewers, and abuse the term by then selecting a game involving two top-flight clubs that has absolutely nothing to do with the magic of the competition and everything to do with their misplaced belief that such a game will attract more viewers.
For football romantics of a certain age and above who grew up with the FA Cup Final being the only domestic match shown live on television, the term is closely associated with their often rose-tinted, dewy-eyed memory of those times, reinforced by the media reshowing classic FA Cup encounters from that period.
For many the term relates to the fact that many a lower level club has humbled a giant from the top division in the past, and the term is applied to any encounter that might produce such an outcome in modern times, even though in many eyes any such upset nowadays is tainted by a view that the top club fielded a weakened side.
But for two specific groups of people, the Magic of the FA Cup is very real indeed. Just ask Portsmouth, Wigan Athletic and Leicester City fans what they think the term means and they will all gladly regale you with their wonderful experience of the day their club lifted the Trophy itself.
The other group of people who still experience the Magic of the FA Cup are all those involved with clubs in the early qualifying and preliminary rounds of the competition whether they be players, coaches, managers, board members, fans or volunteers. There is a special love for the FA Cup amongst these clubs with the ‘magic’ being the simple fact that they are involved in the same competition as their football heroes both past and present. And the dream, that with luck on their side, it could be their turn to actually face them.
N – Neutral grounds
From its inception neutral grounds have always played an important part in the FA Cup. Both semi-finals and the Final itself were to be played on neutral territory. For the first few seasons this meant all those games were to be played at Kennington Oval. From the 1874/75 season this rule was extended to the Third Round as well, ostensibly the Quarter Finals, but with the expansion in entrants this rapidly meant all games from the last 16 round onward would be played there.
This rule eventually became unmanageable, both because of the number of games to be played and because of the location of clubs around the country reaching those stages of the competition, so it was pared back to the Quarter Finals when that became the Fifth Round, and reverted back to just the semi-finals and Final from 1880/81 season.
The first semi-final not played at Kennington Oval occurred in the very next season when Blackburn Rovers and The Wednesday played at a goalless draw in Huddersfield, then replayed in Manchester.
Of course, use of neutral grounds has not been restricted just to games in those rounds as they have also been used when clubs could still not be separated even after games at both respective home grounds. The first such instance occurred in the Second Round of the 1873/74 season when Clapham Rovers eventually beat Cambridge University at the third attempt.
I’ve not identified the ground used for that third game, but interestingly Clapham Rovers played their Third Round home tie against Sheffield in Peterborough, this after Sheffield had played their Second Round home tie against Pilgrims at a neutral ground, too.
Neutral grounds have also been used when a lower level club has been drawn against a giant from the top two divisions, either for safety reasons or to maximise attendance. In 1908/09 both Croydon Common versus Woolwich Arsenal and Norwich City versus Reading were played at a neutral venue, the latter taking place at Stamford Bridge. Were these games the first examples of neutral grounds being selected due to one or other of those reasons?
O – One-sided Games
The record margin of victory in an official English football match occurred in the FA Cup in the 1887/88 season when Preston North End defeated Hyde by twenty-six goals to nil. That game saw three different players score five or more goals and, along with other mis-matches, led to the introduction of qualifying rounds to prevent future embarrassing one-sided score-lines. It didn’t work.
Just three years later Staveley won nineteen-nil against Sheffield Walkley in the First Qualifying Round, whilst three years after that Preston North End netted eighteen times without reply against Reading.
That eighteen goal margin of victory has been achieved four more times since, and Rothwell Town produced the only seventeen goal demolition in the competition’s history in the 1927/28. The significance of that win over Stamford is that it is the largest margin of victory ever in an FA Cup replay. The clubs had drawn two apiece in the original game.
And one-sided games continue in the FA Cup into the 21st century with Stocksbridge Park Steels winning seventeen-nil against Oldham Town in 2002/03 Preliminary Round, including an FA Cup record equalling ten goal haul by Paul Jackson.
The most one-sided FA Cup Finals came 116 years apart with six-nil victories for Bury against Derby County in 1903 and for Manchester City against Watford in 2019.
P – Penalty Shoot-outs
The first ever FA Cup match to be decided by penalty kicks actually occurred in the 1971/72 season, the competition’s centenary year, but which took place at the start of the following season. Two years earlier the FA had introduced the ill-conceived idea of a third/fourth place play-off to be played the night before the FA Cup Final. However, it quickly became apparent that these games held very little interest for fans, or even for those involved.
The 1971/72 game between Birmingham City and Stoke City was held over until August and ended in a goalless draw. Birmingham City then won the tie four-three on penalties.
In the competition proper, penalties kicks were introduced 20 years later for the 1991/92 season after the concept of multiple replays was discontinued, in the ‘Proper’ Rounds at least. Rotherham United beat Scunthorpe United seven-six in the first penalty shoot-out in that season’s First Round after two drawn games. A day later Exeter City defeated Colchester United on penalties. The two clubs had played out 210 minutes of football without producing a goal, and so Colchester United were eliminated from the competition despite not conceding.
Later that same season Liverpool became the first club to reach an FA Cup Final by winning a penalty shoot-out, defeating Portsmouth three-one in their replay.
Multiple replays continued in the qualifying rounds for another six years until replays in those games were to be settled on penalty kicks after two drawn games. Whitley Bay, Burnham and Dorking were the first beneficiaries of this way of resolving FA Cup games.
The first FA Cup Final to be settled on penalties didn’t occur until 2005 when Arsenal and Manchester United played out a stalemate at the Millennium Stadium. Arsenal won the shout-out five-four to become the first club to win the FA Cup without scoring a goal in the Final.
Q – Qualifying Rounds
Qualifying rounds were introduced in the FA Cup for the 1888/89 season as a way of seeding the perceived better clubs and avoiding the types of mis-matches that had resulted in a plethora of double-digit thrashings. Basically weed out the weaker teams before the stronger teams take part.
That 1888/89 season coincided with the inaugural Football League season, but the FA did not necessarily regard League sides as being of a better standard of other clubs, and so a few of them had to play in the Qualifying Rounds until even after the current structure was put in place in 1925.
As a consequence some Football League clubs never made it beyond the Qualifying Rounds, and by losing in the First Qualifying Round Stoke (City) became the first League club to lose to non-league opponents, Warwick County, during that inaugural League season.
Initially there were just four qualifying rounds, but with the FA maintaining the ‘Proper’ Rounds to five, as the number of entrants expanded so did the number of qualifying rounds. By the 1904/05 season there were nine in total made up of two preliminary rounds, six qualifying rounds and an intermediate round.
An extra ‘Proper’ Round was then added which initially reduced the number of qualifying rounds down to five, but as entry numbers continued to rise, this gradually crept up to eight in total and was not adjusted again until the 1925/26 season.
The number of qualifying rounds then reduced to six, and as FA rules on entry changed causing reduction in total entries after 1951, this was reduced to five and then to four, before rising back to five then six qualifying rounds by the 2000/01 season, the level it has maintained to this day.
R – Replays
The first FA Cup replay occurred in the very first FA Cup campaign in the Second Round following a one-one draw between Barnes and Hampstead Heathens. The Heathens won that first ever replay one-nil.
There were no replays as such in the following season, a feat not replicated until the Covid impacted season of 2020/21 when replays were scrapped.
The first time a second replay occurred was the aforementioned Clapham Rovers versus Cambridge University tie in the Second Round the following season, eventually won by Clapham Rovers.
The first FA Cup Final replay occurred in the next season, 1874/75, with Royal Engineers defeating Old Etonians two-nil after the sides had initially played out a one-one draw.
The first triple replay occurred in the Third Round of the 1886/87 season between local rivals Aston Villa and Wolverhampton Wanderers. A two-two draw was followed by a one-one draw which was followed by the two clubs sharing six goals before Villa eventually won two-nil in the fourth game.
The first time four replays were required to settle a tie happened in the Third Qualifying Round of the 1899/1900 season between Gillingham and Arsenal, both playing under former names, New Brompton and Woolwich Arsenal respectively. One-one, nil-nil, two-two and then one-one again were the results before New Brompton eventually won one-nil at the fifth time of asking.
Coincidentally, Arsenal were also involved the last time five games were required to settle an FA Cup tie, in the 1978/79 season against Sheffield Wednesday, two divisions below them at the time. Arsenal won through that Third Round marathon, which had seen three games played at Leicester City’s Filbert Street across just eight days, and the Gunners would go on to lift the Trophy that season.
And coincidentally still further, the last FA Cup Final to require a replay was also between Arsenal and Sheffield Wednesday. The two clubs had already met in the 1993 League Cup Final and so were setting a record of the first time the same two clubs contested the two domestic Cup Finals in the same season. The replay went all the way to the last touch of the ball when Andy Linighan headed the winner in the 120th minute.
And Arsenal were also involved in the last ever FA Cup semi-final to require a replay, this time losing two-one to Manchester United at Villa Park in 1999, in what many describe as the best semi-final of them all. Can’t understand why replays at this stage of the competition were scrapped. Due to laughably supposedly easing fixture congestion replays were scrapped at the Quarter Finals stage and then the Fifth Round stage. How long before they disappear altogether?
The days of replays well may be numbered, but back in the day when games were replayed to their natural conclusion, only one FA Cup game in history required five replays to finally settle it. That was the Fourth Qualifying Round tie between Alvechurch and Oxford City in the 1971/72 season. Alvechurch finally won one-nil after eleven hours of football to reach the ‘Proper’ Rounds for the first time.
The last multiple replay to happen was also a Fourth Qualifying Round tie in 1996/97 when Morecambe finally defeated Lancaster City four-two in their third meeting.
S – Special guests
King George V was the first reigning monarch to present the FA Cup to the winning team’s captain in 1914, the last Final played at the Crystal Palace ground, and also the last FA Cup Final to be contested by two clubs neither of which had appeared in a Final before, Burnley and Liverpool.
King George VI first presented the Trophy in 1937 to Raich Carter as Sunderland won the FA Cup for the first time. Raich Carter is the only player to win the FA Cup both before and after World War II, doing so with Derby County in 1946.
The future Queen Elizabeth attended that 1946 FA Cup Final, but her father presented the Trophy. Princess Elizabeth did present the Trophy in 1949 to Billy Wright, but first did so as Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 to Harry Johnston of Blackpool.
The Queen last presented the FA Cup to the winning captain in 1976, to Peter Rodrigues of Southampton of the Second Division. Since then various other royals have typically presented the Trophy, with Lennart Johansson (FIFA President) and Bobby Robson two notable exceptions, whilst Prince William in his capacity as President of the FA has presented the Trophy in recent Finals.
Sir Winston Churchill is the only incumbent Prime Minister to have presented the FA Cup doing so in 1952 to Joe Harvey of Newcastle United.
T – Toss of a coin
Only one tie in FA Cup history has been settled on the toss of a coin and it happened way back in 1873/74 when Sheffield and Shropshire Wanderers were drawn together in the First Round.
The two clubs played out two goalless draws and instead of playing a third game they decided that a coin toss should settle it. Sheffield won to progress to the Second Round.
The two clubs were drawn together to face each other in both the next two seasons, but neither game went ahead as Sheffield scratched ahead of their match in 1874/75 and Shropshire Wanderers scratched the following season. It’s the only instance of two sides being drawn together more than once and no side ever actually winning the game by scoring more goals than their opponents.
U – Unexpected Cup Winners
One of the main appeals of the FA Cup is that anybody can beat anybody else on their day. And nowhere is this more evident than in the FA Cup Final itself. The competition is littered with the discarded runners-up medals of players of hot favourite clubs.
Blackburn Olympic were the first club to upset the natural order of things by defeating the gentlemen amateurs of Old Etonians in the 1883 Cup Final to become the first northern provincial club to lift the Trophy. However, they were only unexpected winners in the eyes of the Old Etonians and their ilk as the tide change from southern amateur to northern professional dominance was already in full flow. However, Blackburn Olympic would disappear from the scene almost as quickly as they appeared.
In 1888 West Bromwich Albion defeated the mighty Preston North End who had scored 49 goals en route to the Final and had allegedly requested a team photo with the Trophy ahead of the game so as to be photographed with it in pristine shirts. West Brom are the only club to date to appear in three successive FA Cup Finals and only win the third one.
Notts County lifted the FA Cup in 1894 becoming the first club from the second tier to do so, winning comprehensively four-one against Bolton Wanderers, the biggest Cup Final margin of victory by a lower level club. Apart from one semi-final in 1922 the club has been nowhere near replicating this feat and hold the record for longest time since lifting the Trophy of those clubs still participating in the FA Cup.
In 1901 Tottenham Hotspur famously became the first and only non-league club to lift the FA Cup. Whilst on paper this appears as if it was unexpected, the truth of the matter is that Southern League teams were considered on a par with Football League clubs who were mainly northern and midlands based teams. The real surprise was the world record at the time crowd that witnessed the first game, the first time more than 100,000 spectators had attending a football match anywhere in the world.
Wolverhampton Wanderers became the second club from the second tier to win the FA Cup in 1908, the lowest ranked club from that division ever to do so, defeating the most dominant club of the period Newcastle United by three goals to one.
Barnsley also lifted the Trophy as a second tier side four years later beating West Bromwich Albion one-nil at the end of extra time in the replay. Barnsley set an FA Cup record of scoring fewer goals en route to winning the Cup (11) than games actually played (12).
In 1931 West Bromwich Albion became the first club to lift the FA Cup and be promoted from the second tier in the same season, made all the sweeter by defeating local rivals Birmingham (City) two-one in the Final.
Wolverhampton Wanderers were the pre-Final hottest of hot favourites when taking on Portsmouth in the 1939 Cup Final but Pompey shocked them with a comprehensive four-one victory to lift the Trophy which they wouldn’t relinquish for seven years.
Sunderland’s FA Cup Final victory over Leeds United in 1973 is considered by many to be the greatest Cup Final shock of all time and is remembered less for Ian Porterfield’s winning goal than it is for Jim Montgomery’s amazing double save and Bob Stokoe’s victory run and dance.
Three years later the second tier underdog won again as Southampton beat Manchester United one-nil on a gloriously hot day. It became the longest gap (76 years) any club has had to wait between their first FA Cup Final appearance and finally lifting the Trophy.
Ipswich Town unexpectedly defeated Arsenal in 1978 thanks to a Roger Osborne goal, a defeat that caused Liam Brady to throw his medal away in disgust. I wonder who has it.
Two years later Brady would be disappointed again as West Ham United became the latest, and last to date, club from the second tier to win the FA Cup and inadvertently their match winner would become the answer to the trick question: Sunderland did it in 1979 and Villa did it in 1981, but who did it in 1980?
In many people’s eyes Wimbledon’s victory over Liverpool in 1988 is an FA Cup Final shock. It may have been a surprise, unexpected even, but not a shock. True, Liverpool were the best team in the land, but Wimbledon had finished seventh in the League that season.
Wigan Athletic became the first club to win the FA Cup and be relegated in the same season and although the Latics were in the same division as Manchester City in 2013, many regard this as the most surprising FA Cup Final victory of all time.
V – Voided games
FA Cup games get voided for all sorts of reasons, but usually because a losing side has complained about a breach of the rules by the winning club. Sometimes these complaints can lead to the club being complained about being disqualified but on many more occasions it leads to the game being re-played, often at a different ground to the original game.
The first instance of a voided game occurred in just the second running of the competition when South Norwood won one-nil at home to Windsor Home Park in the Second Round. The FA deemed that the game had ended before the 90 minutes had been played and ordered a re-play which Windsor Home Park won.
In 1881/82 Wednesbury Strollers complained after their five-two defeat at Notts County which was upheld by the FA much to the disgust of Harry Cursham who had netted twice in the match. He exacted his revenge in the re-played game by notching a double hat-trick in an eleven-one victory.
The following season Dreadnought complained after a two-one home defeat to South Reading. It made no difference as South Reading won the re-played game by the same score-line.
In the 1889/90 season Third Round Notts County had a complaint upheld after a five-nil away defeat to The Wednesday who then complained themselves after County won the re-played game by three goals to two which the FA also upheld. The Wednesday won the third game without any further complaints.
The following season Blackburn Rovers became the first club to lift the FA Cup after being forced to re-play an earlier tie against Middlesbrough Ironopolis after their opponents complained about the original defeat.
The Wednesday were at it again in the 1892/93 First Round after they and Derby County had both complained after their respective defeats, with The Wednesday yet again winning through in the third game.
From the start of the 20th century most complaints were due to a belief that a winning side has played an ineligible player and if those complaints are upheld the offending club is usually disqualified from the competition and so fewer and fewer matches were declared void to be re-played.
One of the most recent games to be voided involved Arsenal and Sheffield United in a Fifth Round tie in 1998/99 season. Arsenal won the game two-one, but the winning goal from Marc Overmars had come directly from a throw-in that had been conceded deliberately due to a player needing treatment. Accepted convention is that the ball is thrown to the team that conceded the throw-in and the game continues. Unfortunately Nwankwo Kanu was not aware of this convention and played the ball to Overmars who scored. After fury expressed by all at Sheffield United Arsene Wenger requested the game be null and voided and re-played. The FA agreed, but it made no difference. Arsenal won the re-played game two-one as well with Overmars on the score-sheet again.
The most recent ‘Proper’ Round game to be voided came a year later in the First Round in a replay between Oxford City and Wycombe Wanderers. The replay had just ended and a penalty shoot-out was about to start when a smoke alarm in the stadium went off preventing the penalties from taking place. The match was declared void and Wycombe Wanderers won the third match one-nil.
The most recent match to be voided in the FA Cup was the Preliminary Round game in 2007/08 where Barnt Green Spartak beat Willenhall Town three-two. The losing side complained about an ineligible player from the winning team, and the FA decided the game should be re-played rather than disqualify them. It paid off for Willenhall who won the re-played game three-one.
W – Walkovers
Walkovers have been a feature of the FA Cup from since the first ever round scheduled for the 11th November 1871 when both that season’s eventual finalists, Royal Engineers and The Wanderers, progressed due to their respective opponents of Reigate Priory and Harrow Chequers scratching.
And the significance of The Wanderers walkover is that the winning goal in the Cup Final was scored by Morton P Betts who played under the pseudonym A H Chequer, a nod to the fact that he had been a member of Harrow Chequers, and if they had played their First Round game he would not have been eligible to play for The Wanderers in the Cup Final. And the whole history of the FA Cup as we know it would have been affected.
Clubs typically receive walkovers because their opponents scratched from the competition or because they had been disqualified by the FA before the game was played. The first walkovers due to disqualification both happened in the Second Round of the 1885/86 season when Oswestry and Clapton were both kicked out before their respective replays against Crewe Alexandra and South Reading respectively. South Reading also benefitted when their Third Round opponents, Clapham Rovers, were also disqualified before their game was played.
As time progressed the number of clubs per season scratching gradually diminished until maybe only one or two per season might result in a walkover. The main exception to this came in the 1914/15 season when the FA Cup continued despite WWI already occurring. Many clubs were unable to field sides for FA Cup games, or any games, because their players had enlisted en masse to fight in the War. More than 80 clubs progressed to the next round during that season as a consequence of a walkover.
Chichester City in the First Round in 2019/20 and Chorley in the Fourth Qualifying Round in 2020/21 both officially received walkovers against Bury and Macclesfield respectively, although by the time the draws were made for those rounds the clubs would have been recorded as receiving a bye. However, because Bury and Macclesfield had officially entered the FA Cup in those two seasons, then they also had officially been exempted until those two rounds. And so they are recorded as walkovers and not byes.
X – Xpunged
As with any A to Z list artistic licence is required for the letter X. For any FA Cup game that is voided the result is expunged from the records. What this means is that any goals scored in those matches are wiped from the records and don’t count toward overall season or competition records.
And it hasn’t just been single games that have been expunged. In 1939 the Extra Preliminary Round ties were played. Unfortunately these games took place on the day after Hitler instructed his troops to invade Poland, and the day before Great Britain and France declared war on Germany. As a consequence all football was stopped and all the results from the 39 games played that day were wiped from the official records.
For one club in particular this was a significant blow. Durham based club Holiday’s Sports had entered the FA Cup for the first time for the 1939/40 season and won their debut game two-nil against Brandon Social. Unfortunately, Holiday’s Sports never entered the FA Cup again, and officially they never did. Unofficially, they are the only club with a 100% record in the competition.
Y – Yellow ball
Yellow balls were often used for matches that were played in snowy conditions. However, it is very unlikely that the FA Cup Final should ever be played in such conditions, but a yellow ball was actually used in 1973 when Sunderland surprised Leeds United (an orange ball had previously been used in the 1968 Final and would be used for both the 2014 and 2015 Finals).
Sunderland’s performance that day has resulted in that yellow ball has becoming famous as video clips of Jim Montgomery’s brilliant double save are aired every FA Cup Final day, and every time the media want to highlight FA Cup shocks, and every time Sunderland or Leeds United feature in the competition. You get the picture.
Z – Zero replays
The 2020/21 FA Cup season was unique for several reasons, but most notably it was the first season where there would definitely be no replays scheduled. The 1872/73 season had been the only one on record not to have had any replays, but that was more by accident rather than by design due to on-field events rather than the deliberate off-field decision caused by the Covid-19 situation.
However, that zero replay situation may well become the norm as the FA is pressurised to find space in the football calendar to accommodate the ever expanding European competition. First FA Cup Final replays ended after the 1993 season. Then FA Cup semi-final replays ended after the 1999 season. Then FA Cup Quarter Final replays ended after the 2017 season. Then Fifth Round replays ended after the 2018 season.
Then replays from the Third Round onward were scrapped, supposedly temporarily, during the 2021/22 season, but the trend is very clear. As with multiple replays, they will probably be phased out in the ‘Proper’ Rounds first and then eventually in the Qualifying Rounds.