Who are the finest players to play in the FA Cup final?
The FA Cup. The big one. The climax of the domestic season and the longest-running football competition in the world. Arsenal will be looking to build on their most promising season in years, while Hull – 16th-placed finishers in the Premier League – will be eyeing up the title of giant-killer.
While Mssrs Wenger and Bruce get on with picking their starting XIs, you can get on with the equally serious business of choosing your perfect FA Cup XI at www.ultimateviewingexperience.com. Head to the site and choose from a hand-picked selection of talent, argue, sorry, debate your choices with friends, and enter our stonking competition for the chance to win a 50in Panasonic VIERA TV. To get you started, we’ve picked our own fantasy line-up. Head to the site to see the full range of choices and to prove us wrong…
Goalkeeper: Dave Beasant
This be-permed stopper made FA Cup history by becoming the first keeper to save a penalty. The 1988 final featured the Crazy Gang at the height of their antics, and the regimented Liverpool FC, led by Alan Hansen. Beasant’s save, from John Aldridge’s spotkick, helped deliver a famous one-nil win.
Right-back: Gary Neville
Since his 2011 retirement, G-Nev has demonstrated a keenly insightful footballing brain, but his Manchester United playing career was nothing to sniff at. Eight Premier League medals, three FA Cup wins and two Champions’ League victories – including the famous 1999 treble – easily qualifies Gary “goalgasm” Neville for a spot.
Centre-back: Bobby Moore
Leaving Bobby out would invite the wrath of Pelé, who said Moore was the best defender he’d ever played. We’re not ones to annoy Brazil’s No.10, but there are plenty of other reasons to include Moore. His 108 England caps were a record at the time, and his FA Cup, Cup Winners’ Cup and – lest we forget – World Cup medals mark him out spectacularly.
Centre-back: Tony Adams
6ft 4in of slide tackles, headers and goal-line clearances, Tony Adams – aka Mr. Arsenal – holds four Premier League titles and three FA Cup medals. His achievements span three decades of top-flight football, and while there’s tough competition at centre-back (denying Steve Bruce a place doesn’t feel great), there are few more deserving of a place on the last line.
Left-back: Ashley Cole
Yes, it’s an obvious choice, but then Cole currently holds no fewer than seven FA Cup winner’s medals. If that’s coincidence, it’s the kind of coincidence we want on our team. A major part of Arsenal’s unbelievable, undefeated 2003-2004 season, Cole’s uncompromising defending and lethal attacking runs give him a deserved spot.
Right winger: Stanley Matthews
How good was Matthews? Well, he picked up a knighthood well before the end of his career, was the first ever recipient of the European Footballer of the Year award, was capped by England from his teens through to the age of 42 and unforgettably won the FA Cup with Blackpool in 1953. Capable of delivering inch-perfect crosses, adept passes and, occasionally, the odd goal, Matthews is a great pick for the right-hand side.
Centre midfield: Glenn Hoddle
Off-brand healing choices aside, Hoddle’s brilliant footballing brain saw him win two FA Cup medals in consecutive seasons in the early 80s. Between 1979 and 1982 he averaged 21 goals per season, making him a deeply suitable choice for the FFT fantasy XI.
Centre midfield: Roberto di Matteo
In the 1997 FA Cup final, Middlesborough and Chelsea fans had barely found their seats by the time Di Matteo unleashed a curling, dipping 25-yard screamer that rocketed in off Ben Roberts’ crossbar just 42 seconds in. Di Matteo picked up his second FA Cup winners’ medal later that afternoon, and his later managerial successes at Chelsea underscore his football IQ.
Left winger: Ryan Giggs
Any round-up of great FA Cup goals will include Giggs’ spectacular solo effort against Arsenal in the 1999 semi-final replay. Picking the ball up well within his own half and seeing off no fewer than four Arsenal players before a spectacular finish past David Seaman, that 10 seconds defined much of what was great about Giggs: strength on the ball, the ability to see off defenders and a left foot so cultured it made Melvyn Bragg look like Britney Spears.
Centre-forward: Eric Cantona
Pick your own XI
Pick your own FA Cup Fantasy XI at www.ultimateviewingexperience.com, and enter our simple competition to be in with a chance of winning an amazing 50in Panasonic VIERA TV.
Mercurial much? Capable of moments of utter lunacy as much as moments of unbelievable footballing class, Cantona’s strike record forgives many of his transgressions: 25 goals in Manchester United’s 1993-1994 season, plus two FA Cup trophies and four Premier League titles make him an incredible target for our gifted midfield.
Centre-forward: Didier Drogba
Winner of the Premier League’s golden boot award in 2007 after scoring a spectacular 33 goals across all competitions, Drogba is the perfect physical counterfoil to Cantona’s ingenuity. He’s played in – and scored in – and won – four FA Cup finals, and as FA Cup striker heritage goes, it doesn’t get much better than that.