Biggest FA Cup Final Upsets!

Despite being 6/1 to beat Arsenal in this Saturday’s FA Cup Final, Aston Villa can take solace in the fact that there’s been a number of final upsets over the years.

Here’s just a few from recent times that remain more memorable than the routine Big Five victory we’ve become accustomed to of late.

Liverpool 0:1 Wimbledon (1988)

The Liverpool line-up featured a host of club legends who’d just won the League title – John Barnes, Peter Beardsley, John Aldridge, Bruce Grobbelaar, Alan Hansen. The Wimbledon team featured a future Hollywood star who’d been a hod carrier a couple of years earlier – Vinnie Jones.

It was a mismatch made in Cup Heaven and nobody gave the Crazy Gang a chance.

In hindsight, it was an impressive, combative Wimbledon team which also included the likes of John Fashanu, Dennis Wise and Lawrie Sanchez. This was the last FA Cup Final broadcast simultaneously on both ITV and BBC with coverage in those halcyon days seeming to span from the early hours of Saturday morning to a two hour victory meander around Wembley by the victorious team, resplendent in oversized novelty hats, sunglasses and smiles.

No 1980s cup final was complete without the obligatory club cup final song. Wimbledon’s is long forgotten but this was the year Liverpool FC (“as hard as hell”) released the hip hop classic (ahem) “Anfield Rap” on an unsuspecting public. Co-written by midfielder Craig Johnston (later to outdo this musical masterpiece by inventing the Predator boot) and the late rapper Derek B, it contained lyrical gems such as “I come from Jamaica, my name is John Barn-es. When I do my thing the crowd go bananas” and Australian Johnston’s line “I’m very big down under, but my wife disagrees”. I’m sure, however, that even Mrs. Johnston would agree that the game itself remains memorable for a number of reasons.

Incredibly, it was the first Cup Final to feature a penalty save with Dave Beasant stopping Aldridge’s spot-kick on the hour. Sanchez’s 37th minute looping header was enough to foil Liverpool’s Double and ensure Beasant became the first goalkeeper to captain an FA Cup-winning side. Unfortunately for the Dons, their victory came during the ongoing ban on English teams competing in Europe, which meant they did not participate in the following season’s European Cup Winners Cup. It was the first and only piece of silverware the club would win before rebranding and relocating to Milton Keynes in 2003.

Tottenham Hotspur 2:3 Coventry City (1987)

At the age of ten this was the finest Cup Final I’d had the pleasure of watching. At the age of 41 this was the “finest Cup Final I’d had the pleasure of commentating on” said John Motson afterwards.
A classic for neutrals, it featured a Spurs team contesting their third final in seven years having won the trophy in 1981 and 1982 and an unfancied Coventry City competing in their first every FA Cup Final.

However, the Sky Blues put in an incredible effort, twice coming from behind to lift the Cup. Even 28 years later, I can still remember each of the winning Coventry players, whereas my recollections of the Spurs side have faded over time.

Coventry’s stamina, character and, indeed, skill were enough to overcome a shocked Tottenham side in extra time in a five goal thriller. Clive Allen notched his 49th goal of the season after just two minutes and the signs were ominous for John Sillett’s underdogs. However, their lead lasted just seven minutes with Dave Bennett, a beaten finalist for Man City against Spurs in 1981, rounding Ray Clemence to level.

Gary Mabbutt put David Pleat’s men in front again before half-time but an iconic diving header from Keith Houchen equalised for Coventry and brought the game to extra time. Tottenham visibly tired after 90 minutes and Mabbutt became only the third player to score for both sides in a Cup Final when he deflected the ball past his own keeper for Coventry’s winner. It took Coventry 104 years to do it but it was worth the wait.

Everton 1:0 Manchester United (1995)

Joe Royle’s Everton had just survived relegation two weeks earlier while United had lost their league title to Blackburn Rovers the previous week. Both sides went into this final with a point to prove.

Everton were rank outsiders, despite United being without the suspended Eric Cantona, cup-tied Andy Cole and injured Andrei Kanchelskis – the three of whom contributing 41 goals that season.

However, United were not short of firepower with the likes of Mark Hughes, Brian McClair and Lee Sharpe in the starting line-up. Paul Rideout nodded Everton in front on the half hour and the Toffeemen went into the break in front. Sir Alex Ferguson threw on 21-year old Ryan Giggs and 20-year old Paul Scholes to try and break down a resolute Everton defence but to no avail.

Welsh keeper Neville Southall, a former binman, took everything thrown at him and put in a man of the match performance to keep United at bay. Everton boss Joe Royle had motivated his players beforehand by telling them to enjoy the match as it was the last final many of them might play in. And he was right.

Matchwinner Paul Rideout’s career petered out afterwards, bringing him to China, the States and an FA Cup swansong in 2000 for Tranmere Rovers where he bagged a hat-trick to knock Southampton out in the fifth round. United, meanwhile, were left to rue a series of missed chances and finished the season empty-handed for the first time in six years. However, the Red Devils returned to Wembley 12 months later, beating Everton’s Merseyside rivals Liverpool by a similar score-line to reclaim the Cup.

Wigan Athletic 1:0 Manchester City (2013)

Wigan were 7/1 underdogs and faced a Manchester City side who had already surrendered their Premier League crown to their rivals across the city.

The match was to be both manager’s last at their respective clubs, with Roberto Mancini agitated at reports that City had approached Manuel Pellegrini as his successor and Roberto Martinez destined for pastures new following Wigan’s relegation.

It was the latter who won the tactical battle at Wembley, claiming the Latics first major trophy in 81 years and earning himself a move to Everton in the process.

City were never at the races, and Wigan’s resilience at the back and composure in possession looked like it would force the clash into extra time. However, substitute Ben Watson had other ideas. As the board signalled three minutes of stoppage time, Watson headed home a Shaun Maloney corner to give the underdogs a warranted victory.