by Karl Hofer.
It has had it’s issues of late, but the FA Cup is still the world’s oldest football knockout competition, and its role in the history of the beautiful game is unprecedented.
The FA Cup Final has been an indelible part of English national consciousness for over a century. Since the dawn of the television era the entire nation (and many other countries around the world) have been transfixed by the great spectacle from North London.
The whole of FA Cup Final Saturday would build up to 3 pm. Both ITV and the BBC would begin their coverage earlier and earlier each year to milk the viewers, sometimes as early as 8am!
The final itself generated so much excitement; we can all recall the TV crew on the bus to the stadium from the hotel, the players walking round the pitch in their specially tailored suits for the day, the crowd singing ‘abide with me’ – and teams would always release a single during the build up.
Not anymore though. With the incredible amount of live football on TV nowadays such romance and sentiment is unlikely to ever return, which is a shame. Be careful what you wish for as they say…
Regardless, the FA Cup has also produced some amazing memories and some fantastic games over the years, too many to reminisce about here. But before we look at the odds to win the 2014 competition lets remember three finals whose anniversaries are this year;
25 Years Ago: Everton 2-3 Liverpool
What a final, a Merseyside derby no less. The final was played only five weeks after the Hillsborough disaster and before kick-off there was an impeccably observed minute’s silence while the teams wore black armbands as a sign of respect. Gerry Marsden, lead singer of Gerry & the Pacemakers, led the crowd in an emotional rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone before the sides served up a match fitting for the occasion.
Liverpool went ahead after four minutes through John Aldridge, and held onto that lead until the final minute, when Everton substitute Stuart McCall equalised, and a pitch invasion by Everton fans ensued.
McCall’s goal was the last kick of the 90 minutes and the match went into extra time. On 95 minutes, Liverpool substitute Ian Rush scored with a half-volley on the turn to give Liverpool a 2–1 lead. Everton again equalised five minutes later when McCall again scored, chesting and volleying past Bruce Grobbelaar into the corner of the net. However, Rush – who had scored twice in Liverpool’s 3–1 win in the first Merseyside derby Final three years earlier – scored his second goal in the 104th minute with a header from a John Barnes cross and Liverpool would triumph once more.
30 Years Ago: Watford 0-2 Everton
The final of 1984 is remembered for Everton’s controversial second goal. After Graeme Sharp had put the Toffees ahead with a clinical finish late in the first half, Andy Gray seemed to head the ball out of the grasp of Watford keeper Steve Sherwood when he put Everton two up, but referee John Hunting allowed it to stand.
This victory ended a 14 year wait for silverware at Goodison Park and was the first trophy of the very successful Howard Kendall era. This was Watford’s only cup final appearance and Gray ensured that Elton John’s team left with the blues.
35 Years Ago: Arsenal 3-2 Manchester United
Terry Neill’s Arsenal held on to edge past Manchester United in what is widely regarded as one of the greatest-ever finishes to an FA Cup final. For over 85 minutes the game had been largely unremarkable, Arsenal having taken control with a 2–0 half time lead through goals from Brian Talbot and Frank Stapleton. In the 86th minute, however, Gordon McQueen scored following a set-piece, and two minutes later Sammy McIlroy dribbled past two Arsenal players to score a dramatic equaliser.
United’s celebrations proved short-lived however, as with the game poised for extra time Alan Sunderland scored a last-minute winner, making the final result Arsenal 3–2 Manchester United. This match is often referred to as the “Five-minute Final”.
THE ODDS – (Updated Jan 6th)
Man City 4/1, Chelsea 9/2, Arsenal 9/2, Liverpool 11/2, Everton 8/1, Southampton 12/1, Swansea 25/1, Sunderland 40/1, Stoke 40/1, Hull 40/1, Fulham 50/1, Palace 50/1, Forest 66/1, Norwich 66/1, Brighton 80/1, Bolton 80/1, Wigan 100/1, Ipswich 100/1
Odds courtesy of PaddyPower.