The FA Cup is the most famous domestic cup competition in the world. It is held annually and the entrants include all teams from the first 10 levels of English football. Over 750 teams enter the competition and the final is played at Wembley Stadium. The competition starts at the beginning of the season for the smallest clubs in the qualifying rounds and the Premiership clubs do not enter if until the 3rd round proper is played at the start of January. The competition has been running since the 1871-72 season which was 16 years before the Football League was created.
Its huge history has resulted in the majority of English footballers dreaming of playing in FA cup final. Other country’s domestic cups simply do not have the same appeal as England’s premier cup competition. In recent years there has been a growing concern that due to the amount of money being put into the Premier League the clubs are not taking the FA cup as seriously as they used to. One of the magical attractions of the competition is that the draw can produce some fascinating fixtures. A side from the National League can win their way through to the 3rd round proper and find themselves drawn against the highest paid footballers in the country.
This has occurred on a number of occasions and there have been times when the big teams have become part of a “giant killing act”. The results of these games are remembered for years and makes household names out of part-time professional footballers who normally would not have the opportunity to make the headlines. One of the most famous 3rd round games was when Hereford United from the Southern league played First Division Newcastle United at Edgar Street in 1972. It was a replay after the none-league side had drawn 2-2 at Newcastle. Despite going 1-0 down Hereford then levelled and eventually won 2-1.
The quality of the equalizer from Ronnie Radford was spectacular and when substitute Ricky George scored the winner in extra time it sparked off wild celebrations from both players and supporters. There may have been 5 levels of football separating the two teams, but on this day the atmosphere of the FA cup had proved to be a great leveler. Another major shock had occurred the year before in 1971 when the top side in England, Leeds United visited Layer Road, the home of Fourth Division Colchester United, for a 4th round cup tie. Managed by Don Revie the Yorkshire side were dominating every competition throughout the land and were strong favorites win comfortably on their day trip to Essex.
Inspired by two goals from striker Ray Crawford Colchester found themselves surprisingly 3-0 in the lead. Despite a strong come-back from Leeds Colchester hung on to record an amazing 3-2 victory. The final that take place at Wembley in May, have become iconic events in the British sporting calendar that rank alongside Grand National Day and Derby Day. Even the finals have produced major surprises over the years.
Leeds recovered from the Colchester defeat by winning the FA Cup in 1972, and in the 1973 final they were faced by Sunderland from the division below them. The Sunderland side did not have one international player at the time, and for long periods of the game the only way they stopped Leeds from scoring was due to the brilliance of Jim Montgomery in the Sunderland goal.
However the manager Bob Stokoe had come to the final with a game plan and his ideas bore fruit in the 32nd minute when Ian Porterfield scored from a corner. The rest of the game saw the North-East team clinging on to their narrow lead and when the final whistle was eventually blown it produced wild celebrations as the Black Cats had become the first team since 1931, from outside of the First Division, to win the cup. These games are by no means the only giant killing acts that have occurred. Each year sides from the lower league are given the chance to humble their more illustrious opponents, and many take their opportunity.