When I was approached by The Hex Blog to write about the top five FA Cup Finals I was unsure which games to pick. My top five will be different to yours, some finals had so much going on I could write an entire blog about them, others were pretty forgetful to the neutral observer, but what I think connects all of us is our love of the old Wembley FA Cup Finals.
That wonderful sense of occasion, the TV coverage from 11am, the teams leaving the hotel, the interviews on the team coach, the pre-match walkabout….and then the entrance from the tunnel onto the famous Wembley turf!
My five choices are described below, one from each decade from the 1950’s through to the last game played in 2000. I hope I’ve touched on a hint of nostalgia and they bring back some memories from a time that modern football seems so have long forgotten………The Magic of the Cup! Enjoy.
Blackpool 4 – Bolton Wanderers 3
The Stanley’s Cup Final
Blackpool were appearing in their third final in five years. Most of the attention was on their aging winger Stanley Matthews, who was now 38 and had played in their previous defeats in 1948 and 1951. Was this his last chance of a winners’ medal? Would he be their hero?
Bolton took the lead on 75 seconds, Nat Lofthouse shooting past George Farm in the Blackpool goal. The other Stanley, Mortensen, equalised on 35 minutes, but Bolton captain Willie Moir put the Wanderers back in front on 39 minutes. 2-1 at half time.
On 55 minutes the game looked to be Bolton’s as Eric Bell, who was playing with a torn hamstring (no subs in those days remember), nodded Bolton further ahead to make it 3-1. No team had ever come back and won from a two-goal deficit in an FA Cup Final but then again, no other team had Stanley Matthews!
Matthews began to take control, pressurising the Bolton defence and putting dangerous balls into the penalty area, one of these resulted in Mortensen scrambling the ball over the line following a mistake by keeper Stan Hanson. 3-2 on 68 minutes.
Bolton were looking tired and Matthews pounced for the kill. Bolton held on until the 89th minute. Blackpool had a free kick, Mortensen was on it and blasted home the equaliser. The first and only time a hat-trick had been scored in a Wembley FA Cup Final. Extra time looked inevitable.
But Matthews had other ideas, in added on time, he skipped past left back Ralph Banks whipped in a cross and there was Billy Perry, the South African born outside left to smash home the winner. Unbelievable!
This game became known as the ‘Matthews Final’ but one Stanley without the other would have left Blackpool still searching for their first FA Cup Final victory.
Everton 3 – Sheffield Wednesday 2
Wednesday unstuck by The Toffeemen
It had been over 30 years since either team had last won the FA Cup. Everton in 1933 and Wednesday two years later.
This final got an early goal, Jim McCalliog’s deflected shot on 4 minutes beat Gordon West in the Everton goal to give the Yorkshire side the lead. This was the first goal The Toffees had conceded in the entire competition that season. There were no further first half goals. 1-0 at half time.
Wednesday looked to have the match under control on 57 minutes, David Ford following up a saved shot to tap the ball home and make it 2-0. The cup was going to Yorkshire….but Mike Trebilcock had other ideas. Two minutes later he fired a shot past Ron Springett in the Wednesday goal to reduce the arrears. 2-1. Thirty minutes to go.
Trebilcock was at it again on 64 minutes, a defensive header landed to the Everton winger who cracked the ball home. 2-2 and it was just too much excitement for some Evertonians. The infamous Eddie Cavanagh took to the pitch in a run of joy evading a number of police officers who were in hot pursuit, only a great rugby tackle took him down in the end.
With 15 minutes left Everton grabbed the winner. A long ball from Colin Harvey was mistimed by Gerry Young and Derek Temple raced clear to crack the ball home past Springett’s despairing dive.
Everton became only the second side ever, after Blackpool in 1953, to come from two goals behind to win the cup without the need of extra time.
Trebilcock was recognised as the first black player to score in an FA Cup Final.
Leeds United 1 – Arsenal 0
1972 marked the Centenary Cup Final, 100 years since Wanderers beat Royal Engineers 1-0 at The Oval in London.
A century on and another 1-0 victory secured the cup, this time for Leeds United following their win over cup holders Arsenal. This was the Yorkshire clubs first, and so far, only success in the great competition.
To mark the great occasion, the FA invited the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh to present the trophy. A parade of flag bearers representing the 37 past winners was also organised pre match.
The match was only 48 seconds old when Arsenal’s Bob McNab chopped down Peter Lorimer, referee David Smith was quick to book the Gunners left back. The first of four bookings.
Leeds dominated much of the early play but Arsenal almost scored after Jack Charlton was forced to concede a corner on 31 minutes following pressure from Alan Ball.
George Armstrong took the corner and his floated ball dropped to Ball on the edge of the area. His shot was heading straight for the bottom corner but there was the dependable Paul Reaney who, stationed as always on David Harvey’s right hand post, blocked the shot on the line.
In the final minute of the first half Leeds almost scored the goal the game badly needed. An alert Allan Clarke stooped to head from the corner of the goal area a ball that skimmed the face of Arsenal’s crossbar and away from danger. Half time 0-0.
The only goal of the game went to Leeds on 54 minutes, Charlton fed the ball to Paul Madeley who went striding elegantly forward, he fed Lorimer who sent it on to Mick Jones down the right wing. Jones dropped his shoulder and took on McNab on the outside. The ball ran loose from the defenders attempted tackle, Jones reacted quickly and sent an inviting cross towards the penalty spot where Clarke was loitering and he launched himself forward, planting a wonderful diving header past Geoff Barnett and into the bottom corner of the goal.
With seconds remaining, Jones was again clear down the right wing, he made his way for goal where Barnett dived at his feet, Jones tumbled over him and landed awkwardly. He was in incredible pain. He’d dislocated his elbow.
The referee promptly blew his whistle and the match was over, Leeds United were cup winners. As the Leeds team made their way up the famous Wembley steps to collect the cup and their medals, Jones was still on the ground in agony.
Undeterred, Jones was desperate to meet the Queen and collect his medal, but unbeknown to him at the time, his medal had been collected by Leeds’ sub Mick Bates. None the less Jones still wanted to meet Her Majesty. Bates gave him his medal and, aided by Norman Hunter, Jones gingerly made his way up the steps, stopping for a moment to get a kiss from his wife, before continuing his painful journey. A one in a lifetime moment he didn’t want to miss out on.
Coventry had never got a to cup final before, Coventry had never got past the quarter-finals before, Coventry were the underdogs!
Tottenham had won the cup on seven previous occasions. Tottenham would make it eight, surely!
Tottenham struck first and it was an early goal. With two minutes on the clock and following great work on the right by Chris Waddle, his cross was nodded home by Clive Allen, his 49th (FOURTY NINTH) goal of the season. A remarkable stat and Spurs were on their way!
Coventry though has other ideas, they equalised on 9 minutes. Greg Down’s cross was flicked on by Keith Houchen but Ray Clemence in the Spurs goal seemed to have it covered, however the alert Dave Bennett nipped in to take the ball around him and find the empty net. 1-1 and game on.
On 41 minutes Tottenham regained the lead, a bit of a scrappy goal that was scrambled home by captain Gary Mabbutt. Half-time 2-1 to Spurs.
Not to be out done Coventry equalised again on 63 minutes, and what a goal it was. Houchen was involved in the build-up as the ball was played out wide to Bennett, Bennett whipped in a cross and Houchen was there to launch himself and connect with a brilliant diving header to despatch the ball past Clemence. 2-2.
No further goals were forthcoming in the 90 minutes so the match went into extra-time.
On 96 minutes, Coventry finally went ahead. Mabbutt tried to cut out a Lloyd McGrath cross but the ball flew up off his knee and looped over Clemence to give Coventry the lead. Could the underdogs do it?
They certainly could, as Coventry hung on and secured their first major trophy in their 104 year history.
Chelsea 1 – Aston Villa 0
The end of an era?……..or the start of an error?
After 77 years of magical memories, albeit some sad ones, the original (and best) Wembley Stadium hosted it last ever FA Cup Final.
England’s World Cup hero, Sir Geoff Hurst, led a group of school children out onto the hallowed turf, each child representing a previous winner of the famous old trophy.
Sadly, the last cup final to be played under the famous Twin Towers was not very memorable. The first half was poor with few chances and it ended 0-0.
An error by Villa keeper David James was to prove costly. Gianfranco Zola’s free-kick from deep on the left was fumbled by James as he went up to meet it, it bounced off Villa defender Gareth Southgate and there was Blue’s midfielder Roberto Di Matteo to fire it home on 72 minutes – in what was the 72nd FA Cup Final to be played at Wembley.
Di Matteo was fond of the old stadium, as he had scored the fastest ever goal in an FA Cup Final to be played there when he netted against Middlesbrough after 42 seconds in 1997.
The game didn’t provide much more excitement but at least Wembley could proudly claim that it never staged a goalless FA Cup Final in its 77 year history.
And there it was, the end of an era. Wembley Stadium closed five months later and was subsequently demolished. The final went to Cardiff, just like the cup had done in 1927, before returning to London in 2007……but this would be a new posh Wembley and quite frankly, not a patch on the old.
Written by Steve from The Road to Wembley, FA Cup Finals (1923-2000)