Saturday, 22 December 2007


n. ŭp'sět' a game or contest in which the favourite is defeated.

The favourite ahead of my cup clash in January has to be Wolverhampton Wanderers, who (as I write this) sit sixty seven league places above Cambridge United. But the FA Cup, now and again, has a surprise up its sleeve. Some of my fondest memories of the FA Cup are of the upsets. I don't mean the sort of upset that makes you burst into tears as your team concedes in the last minute of the Semi Final. I mean the shocks, the surprises, the victories against all the odds.

Here are ten upsets that stick in my mind, for a variety of reasons. In date order:

Colchester United 3, Leeds United 2
1971, 5th Round
Arguably one of the most famous cup upsets of all time. Leeds were riding high at the top of Division One, the Essex club were battling for promotion from Division Four. Colchester fielded a number of players coming to the end of their careers and were known as "Grandads Army". The Colchester manager had promised his players and wife a two week holiday if they won, and he also promised to scale the walls of Colchester castle. It did the trick.

Hereford United 2, Newcastle United 1
1972, 3rd Round (replay)
This game is dug out of the archives at this stage of the competition every season. It remains a classic. It was a shock and a half - eighty three league places separated the sides. The first time a top flight team was knocked out by non-league opposition in front of TV cameras. Ronnie Radford's goal (which subsequently won "Goal of the Season") has to be one of the most well known cup goals of all time. The mud, that thumping drive, and that pitch invasion by loads of kids in Parkas. And it wasn't even the winning goal.

Sunderland 1, Leeds United 0
1973, FA Cup Final

Leeds United again. Ian Porterfield's goal. Jim Montgomery's save. Bob Stokoe's hat. The first team outside of the top flight to win the FA Cup in over forty years. Need I say more?

Burnley 0, Wimbledon 1
1975, 3rd Round

Burnley, seventh in the top division, hosted the Wombles from the Southern League. Fifty five years had passed since a non-league club had won on a First Division ground. Burnley unbeaten at home in eight league games. The Lancashire club's boss (Jimmy Adamson) joked that his team would have no problems against a Tennis club. Only one outcome? 1-0 to Wimbledon, actually. The bearded stopper Dickie Guy shot to fame and went on to even greater things in the next round when he saved a late, late penalty from Peter Lorimer (Leeds United. Again.)

Harlow Town 1, Leicester City 0
1980, 3rd Round (replay).
In the 1979/1980 season Harlow Town of the Isthmian League reached the First Round Proper for the first time in their history. After seeing off Leytonstone & Illford (one team) and Southend United, Harlow found themselves at Filbert Street in the Third Round. An 89th minute goal from Neil Prosser earned the non-league outfit a replay. MacKenzie scored a famous goal in the rematch to spark scenes of wild celebration. The bookmakers reacted immediately by cutting Harlow's odds of winning the cup to 5,000-1.

Birmingham City 1, Altrincham 2
1986, 3rd Round
I watched a lot of Altrincham in my youth, as I went to school in the area. I have many happy (and vivid) memories of Altrincham's giant-killing efforts in the 80s but this has to be the pick of the bunch. In those days, the Conference was known as the Alliance Premier and "Alty" were challenging for promotion. Birmingham were facing relegation from the First Division. Perhaps a shock was on the cards? Altrincham obliged. This is the last time that a non-league team won away at a top flight club in the FA Cup.

Sutton United 2, Coventry City 1
1989, 3rd Round
The last occasion that a top flight team were dumped out by non-league opposition. Coventry City fielded virtually the same team that had so memorably lifted the famous trophy two seasons previously. On a typically heavy pitch, the part timers matched their opponents for stamina and grabbed a famous victory with goals from Rains and Hanlan. All 2,000 Coventry fans stayed in the small ground after the game to give Sutton a standing ovation.

West Bromwich Albion 2, Woking 4
1991, 3rd Round
Woking weren't even in the equivalent of the Conference when they won in the Third Round at The Hawthorns. They were one league lower down, sitting fourth in the Isthmian League. The Baggies led 1-0 at half time and an easy home win seemed inevitable. But then the spotlight was turned on for a certain Tim Buzaglo. Remember him? A second half hat-trick thrust him into FA Cup folklore and surpassed his previous sporting achievement - playing cricket for Gibraltar.

Wrexham 2, Arsenal 1
1992, 3rd Round
I remember this game as if it were only yesterday. Yet another muddy pitch, this time at The Racecourse. A scorching free kick equaliser from the diminutive Micky Thomas with ten minutes to go. And then a winner four minutes later from Steve Watkin. Cue the ecstatic crowd celebrations, mostly on the pitch. And George Graham lost for words afterwards.

Shrewsbury Town 2, Everton 1
2003, 3rd Round
An upset down at Gay Meadow. The Shrews were bottom of Division Three. Everton were seventh in the Premiership. Eighty five league places separated the teams. The Toffees came unstuck when a last minute header from Nigel Jemson sealed victory for the home team. Gay Meadow went wild. But not for long, as Shrewsbury lost their league status that season.

All but two of those matches were Third Round ties. I wonder if the Third Round games in early January next year will give us an upset to remember?

1 comment:

dceditor said...

The Wolves aren't playing that well of late, really struggling to score, and Cambridge has the talent to put 1 or 2 into the net so there is the upset potential.