Ah, the magic of the FA Cup.
There’s no better feeling than laughing your ar*e off when a minnow strikes down a Premier League giant. Unless you’re a supporter of said giant – then you’re just liable to receive abuse from the lads in your WhatsApp group. Glamour ties are great, too: we’re getting a replay of the 2018 final on Monday night when holders Chelsea face Manchester United and it’s only the fifth round.
The FA Cup has always been about those David v Goliath stories, though. The fairytale encounters where a struggling lower league club is galvanised by a draw against a top flight heavyweight.
This weekend, that club is Newport County who, as reward for ridding us of Middlesbrough take on Premier League champions Manchester City. It’ll be a hell of a pay day for Michael Flynn’s men who come into the tie 15th in League 2 and on the back of a 1-0 loss to MK Dons.
Overcome by the spirit and romance of it all – we decided to look at three great FA Cup upsets.
Liverpool 0-1 Wimbledon, 1988 FA Cup final
Granted, MK Dons and AFC Wimbledon are not the same club that won the 1988 rendition of the competition, but given the latter take on 2004 finalists Millwall this weekend, we thought we’d take a look at the undisputed heroics of their Crazy Gang namesakes.
Before the Premier League era, Liverpool knew how to win league titles and went into this FA Cup final seeking to become the first team to win the league and cup double twice. Wimbledon, meanwhile, had been playing non-league football just 11 years before but during their rapid ascent up the Football League had forged a reputation (to say the least) as being a no nonsense outfit of absolute headbangers.
Needless to say, the Reds were overwhelming favourites, but you don’t earn a nickname like ‘The Crazy Gang’ for nothing and the Wimbledon lads had a few tricks up their sleeves to try and gain a psychological edge in the final — and even manager Bobby Gould got in on the act.
Not only did he send his players off to the pub the night before the game because they were acting the b*lloks in the team hotel, Gould also tampered with the Wembley clocks on the day by setting them back two minutes, which meant Kenny Daglish’s players were kept waiting in the tunnel. When the Anfield side finally emerged, that cowboy Vinnie Jones let out a cry of “Yidaho!” to get his teammates riled up and to try intimidate their more illustrious opponents.
Whether these antics worked or not has been debated ever since, but what remains indisputable is the outcome which can be boiled down to two pivotal moments: a solitary goal and a missed penalty.
Lawrie Sanchez put the underdogs ahead after 37 minutes with a deft header from a Denis Wise free-kick. Then, on the hour mark, Clive Goodyear was deemed to have fouled John Aldridge in the box. Replays suggested that the Wimbledon defender won the ball, but the referee thought otherwise — in the end, it didn’t matter as Dons ‘keeper Dave Beasant was able to deny Aldridge from the spot to become the first goalkeeper to ever save a penalty in a FA Cup final.
At the final whistle, with Wimbledon’s victory assured, commentator John Motson uttered the immortal phrase: “The Crazy Gang have beaten the Culture Club!”
Chelsea 2-4 Bradford City, 2015 FA Cup fourth round
On the back of a rather humiliating thrashing by Man City in the Premier League, we thought we’d give Sarri’s boys a boost by recounting the tale of an all-time great Chelsea FA Cup moment before they take on the other half of Manchester on Monday night.
José Mourinho’s men were leading the Premier League title race heading into this tie, were 2-0 up at one stage at Stamford Bridge and led 2-1 at half-time thanks to goals from Gary Cahill and Santos do Nascimento (more popularly known as Ramires). Legendary frontman Jon Stead had pulled one back just before the interval, but nobody looked at this as being anything other than a consolation goal.
However, the Bantams proceeded to pull off one of the shocks of the tournament that year as they scored three second-half goals through household names Filipe Morais, Andy Halliday and Mark Yeates to blitz the Blues and dump them out of the cup.
Mourinho hadn’t helped himself beforehand by claiming it would be a “disgrace” if Chelsea lost to Bradford, but at least he followed through with that sentiment post-match. Meanwhile, Bradford would go on to knock out Sunderland before losing to Reading after a replay in the sixth round – one step away from a glorious semi-final berth.
As for Stead, following his goal-scoring heroics he would have the honour of being joint-top marksman in the competition that year alongside two other stellar names: Paul Gallagher of Preston North End and Saido Berahino of West Brom. A trident more formidable than Aquaman’s.
Wigan 1-0 Man City, 2018 FA Cup fifth round
While Wigan’s 2013 FA Cup win is the most notable of the improbable successes the Latics have enjoyed over Man City in the competition, we figured the 2018 version of events was more pertinent to this weekend’s action. For any Newport County lads reading this: City like to choke against a minnow in the FA Cup.
Pep Guardiola’s side arrived at the DW Stadium 16 points clear at the top of the Premier League and seeking to maintain their hopes of claiming an unprecedented quadruple. Chasing glory on four fronts, you’d be forgiven for thinking Pep may have fielded a weakened side against their League One hosts, but the line-up on the day included the likes of Sergio Aguero, David Silva and, of course, John Stones.
Wigan, meanwhile, had the unfortunate distinction of becoming the first club to ever win the FA Cup but get relegated in the same season following their success at Wembley — and the slide only continued, resulting in them sitting in the third tier when these two teams were reunited last season. Yet, the game which played out in 2018 was a mirror-image of the final five years earlier.
Where Pablo Zabaleta had been sent off for City at Wembley, it was Fabian Delph who saw red at the DW for going in with max power on Wigan’s Max Power — a decision which was shrouded in controversy. With the game in first-half stoppage time, Anthony Taylor had initially pulled out a yellow card before seemingly changing his mind and flashing the “straight” red.
Wigan manager Paul Cook was irate at the challenge and Guardiola was irate at his irateness. Before we knew it, everybody was irate in the tunnel at half-time while Delph presumably cried in the shower over the fact he would be suspended for the following week’s League Cup final.
After that, things would only get worse for a City side who huffed and puffed but couldn’t blow the Wigan defence down. In the 79th minute, Kyle Walker took a mental walk-about to allow the incandescent Will Grigg (because he’s always on fire) score his seventh goal of the competition and dump City out. The Northern Ireland international finished that campaign as top scorer in the FA Cup.