Although Watford are vying to be the best of the rest in this season’s Premier League, it would nonetheless be regarded as a major shock if they can prevail against quadruple contenders Manchester City in the 138th FA Cup Final. It would be even more surprising as it’s not too long ago that City were on the wrong end of a massive Cup Final shock.
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Six years ago, Roberto Mancini’s Citizens were odds-on to lift the famous old trophy for the sixth time in their history. Struggling Wigan Athletic had other ideas though as they became the first club to win the FA Cup and be relegated in the same season.
Watford have reached their second FA Cup Final after a classic semi-final win against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
With their rich pedigree, Wolves were clear favourites when they faced Portsmouth in the final pre-war Final in 1939. Like Wigan, Pompey were struggling at the bottom of the top division while the high-flying men from Molineux had scored 19 goals in the five games on the road to Wembley.
The form book was thrown out of the proverbial window as Portsmouth won 4-1 to record the biggest Cup Final winning margin in 36 years. JT Bolton observed in his Sunday Times match report: “Once again, the germ of truth, bred in tradition, which lays it down that the favourites never win the Football Association Challenge Cup, has exerted itself.”
It was also exerted 49 years later when Liverpool – Manchester City’s current rivals for the Premier League title – suffered one of the great FA Cup Final upsets at the hands of Wimbledon.
The fabled Crazy Gang had no respect for the Reds’ perceived superiority and won the day with a Lawrie Sanchez goal and Dave Beasant becoming the first goalkeeper to save a Cup Final penalty.
Tottenham Hotspur had led this season’s title chase behind City and Liverpool. Should they be meeting Sheffield United in this season’s Cup Final, it would be regarded as a foregone conclusion. 118 years ago, the boots were on the other feet.
In the 1901 Final, Spurs took the Blades to a replay. They completed the job at Bolton Wanderers’ Burnden Park to become the only non-league club ever to win the FA Cup. United were an established Football League outfit and had been crowned league champions three years earlier.
The magic of the Cup though was there for all to see and embrace in probably the biggest Cup Final shock in living memory.
In 1973, Sunderland’s win was arguably the most romantic of the lot. Opponents Leeds United had been in the top three of the First Division for six years in a row. Every player in their team was an international and they became the following season’s champions.
In danger of dropping in to the Third Division for the first time, Bob Stokoe’s Sunderland became the first Second Division winners of the FA Cup for 42 years with notable courtesy of Ian Porterfield’s goal and Jim Montgomery’s wonder save from Peter Lorimer.
Danny Blanchflower, Spurs’ Cup-winning captain in 1961 and 1962, reflected in his Sunday Express report: “Raise your glasses to the greatest tonic English football has had for years. The toast is Sunderland – the finest team of heroes to carry off the FA Cup in my experience of Wembley.
“It was the most gripping, emotional final I have been to and that includes the two in which I carried off that Cup.”
46 years on, that Cup will be up for grabs again on 18 May. Will the likes of Troy Deeney and Heurelho Gomes write their names in to FA Cup and Watford folklore?