BY Harry Corton

16 May

5 Epic FA Cup Final Upsets

1. Wimbledon 1-0 Liverpool – 1987-88

By now the Crazy Gang are enshrined in English folklore – the team that proved anything is possible in the late 80s. Just two years before claiming their only ever taste of cup glory, they had been an obscure second tier side, a threat to nobody. Tennis was the first thing that came to mind at the utterance of Wimbledon.

That all changed on 14th May 1988. A Roy of the Rovers team, boasting a future Hollywood film star and host of Deal or No Deal Nigeria, were facing the champions of England, and all their might - think Barnes, Hansen and Beardsley, coached by King Kenny. These Redmen were genuine, walking, talking legends.

Liverpool had only lost once all season, won the title at a canter and were on track for an unprecedented second cup double. So, when Laurie Sanchez flicked on a corner at the near post and the Dons took an unlikely lead, the celebrations were muted with over 50 minutes still to play.

When a hugely contentious penalty was awarded, the underdogs were indignant. Luckily for them, captain fantastic Dave Beasant had been doing his homework. He rightly predicted that John Aldridge would go the same way he did in the semi-final –to the keepers left- and leapt like a salmon to keep the ball out. In doing so, Beasant inscribed his name into history, becoming the first goalkeeper ever to save a penalty in the final.


1-0 to the Crazy Gang + a worldie penalty save = SCENES!!

2. Southampton 1-0 Man United – 1975-76

Going into this scorching May Day Final, the two sides were poles apart. United were in the ascendancy having finished third in Division 1- a mere four points shy of champions Liverpool. The Saints, meanwhile, languished 25 places below, ending the campaign 6th in the old Division 2.

The bookies reflected this disparity and made Saints long-odds underdogs at 7-1, reflecting the fact this was their first ever final and had never won a major trophy.

United flew out of the blocks and spurned a good number of chances thanks largely to Saints’ hero goalkeeper, Ian Turner, doing ample to earn his two-bob wages. The gloveless wonder copped some stick for spilling some early saves but redeemed himself after he charged off his line to deny Red Devils winger, Gordon Hill.

With 10 minutes of the game to go, it was still deadlocked with extra time on the cards. No doubt inspired by the hideous thought of having to wait an extra 30 mins for a can of Carling and a couple of Bensons, Bobby Stokes acted decisively. Finding himself beyond the last United defender, he walloped a sweet left-footed half-volley just inside the post as Wembley erupted.

Strangely, the goal that won Stokes a brand-new Ford Granada – the prize for the scorer of the first goal donated by the local factory across Wembley Way – was his last for the club. That summer, he moved to bitter rivals Portsmouth. Funny old game, eh?

3. Wigan 1-0 Man City – 2012-13

Who could fail to be bowled over by the team that denied the Goliaths, Man City, any form of silverware whatsoever? City’s hopes of a second league title dashed, the little old Latics were now in the crossfire.

For the minnows, the final was a very different proposition. They’d already been relegated, finishing a whopping 42 points worse off than City. This was a chance to stick it to those spoiled-rotten rich kids.

The game that made Bobby Martinez’s career was an extremely tense affair and City might have led but for the agility of Joel Robles. Despite the disparity in resources, Wigan actually controlled the game pretty well but offered little attacking threat. A second yellow for Pab Zab with five minutes to play, however, opened the door to Wigan for a late crusade.

Aided by the extra man, they finally managed a shot on target – a header from a stoppage time corner, and certainly made it count. Ben Watson rising high over the toast of Sunderland, Jack Rodwell to nut home a famous winner.

It spelled the end for Bobby Mancini and his trademark scarf. He could only watch on as a different Bobby prowled the pitch in his trademark tan rewinds, trophy aloft.

4. Arsenal 0-1 Ipswich Town – 1977-78

This one came as such a shock, that the games’ only goal scorer genuinely fainted due to the utter surprise of netting a late winner.

Although just 13 places separated the two clubs in the league, this result was all the more improbable as of The Tractor Boys’ had just been whipped 6-1 by Aston Villa the previous weekend.

Town hit the woodwork three times before eventually getting that mind-numbing breakthrough. The goal was a little underwhelming given its magnitude. Gunners defender Willie Young channelled the future spirit of Mustafi and cleared straight to the Roger Osbourne who slid it home in front of his 11 siblings who’d hired a bus to drive down to Wembley to be there.

Only smelling salts were enough to bring the match-winner back to consciousness. He passed out during the goal celebration was forced to be substituted for the final 10 minutes.

It may have been 40 years ago when players were still holding down manual labour jobs to pay the bills but there is no excuse for this dismal defending.

Everton 1-0 Manchester United 1994-95

The Everton of 1995 were much like they are today. A smattering of decent players, a smart, if not wholly successful manager and little, if any, hopes of winning a trophy. Their season had begun without a win in 12 matches so when the Man United squeezed through to the final via a replay against Crystal Palace, a collective sigh of nerves engulfed the Toffees.

The Red Devils of the time were a lairy bunch, think Cantona, Ince, Nicky Butt and Roy Keane, and baying for blood having been pipped to the post in the race for the Premier League title by a single point.

Everton were the designated punching bags for Fergie and co. Unfortunately for the bully-boys, their prey weren’t sticking to the script. A swift counter-attack allowed them space to get a shot off. It cannoned off the bar and Paul Rideout, boasting the smartest FA Cup final lid ever seen, nodded the ball calmly into the net.

Queue the longest hour of their lives as they clung on to their advantage. It required a jaw-dropping save from everybody’s favourite social justice warrior, Neville Southall, but they got over the line.

Watford v Man City – The Next Big Cupset?

The fact this band of City brothers are probably the best side ever to play the game in this country can’t be underestimated. Their relentless brilliance limits the possibility of an upset but would be bloody heartening to see the Hornets pull it off.

This Watford side are a long way from being the pitiful whipping boys a la Wimbledon or Southampton of yesteryear. They played at Wembley three times already this season scoring six goals in the process. What enhances the general perception of the Hornets as oppressed underdogs is the manner of their semi-final win – coming from two goals down to beat Wolves 3-2.

To beat these champions would be something special, but stranger things have happened. If Crystal Palace and Leicester can manage it, anything is possible.

Harry Corton
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All Images - PA. Stats via WhoScored.