Skip to main content

30 things you never knew about the FA Cup

FA Cup
(Image credit: Future)

It's 150 years since the very first FA Cup. 

Over the years, we've seen everything in the competition, including plenty of the Cup's trademark shocks and surprises. But did you know who the only player to wear glasses in the competition was? Did you know about when the trophy was stolen? Or how Neil Ruddock softened the blow of losing a final?

RANKED! The 25 greatest Premier League shirts ever

Here are 30 things about the old trophy to remember for pub trivia. 

1. Super Ted goes mad

Former Margate goalkeeper Chic Brodie may have wished he’d chosen another profession. Once, he recalled picking up his flat cap for a game and finding a grenade in it (we’ve all been there). Another time, a Jack Russell almost broke his leg on the pitch. 

And in November 1971, he was the unlucky bloke who conceded nine goals to Bournemouth’s Ted MacDougall – an individual scoring record for the FA Cup proper. “I was disappointed as I thought I should have got 11,” the future Manchester United marksman later sighed. No pleasing some.

2. "Fancy a rematch?"

A couple of days after MacDougall’s demolition act, the longest ever tie in FA Cup history finally ended. Alvechurch and Oxford City duked it out for six games over 17 days to decide who’d reach the first round proper – a marathon clash balanced around jobs, and with the various replays played on (different) neutral grounds. The Church finally prevailed at Villa Park. 

“By the end we were on first name terms,” joked Graham Allner, who played every minute. “We’d turn up and it’d be, ‘Hey there Bill’, ‘How are you Pete?’”

3. Finders Keepers

If football had superheroes, Charles William Alcock would surely come with his own mask and cape. He was the first captain to lift the FA Cup while playing for Wanderers in 1872, which was a bit awkward really – Alcock had founded the competition full stop. 

That November, however, injury cost him another piece of history: the Sunderland native would have skippered England against Scotland in the world’s first FIFA-recognised international match – a game he’d ultimately arranged in his role as FA secretary. Busy boy.

4. Sod's Law

Denis Law

(Image credit: Getty)

Denis Law once bagged six goals in an FA Cup tie for Manchester City, at Luton in 1961. It would have been a cracking day for the Scot, had torrential rain not led to the game being abandoned after 69 minutes – and when it was replayed, Luton won 3-1. 

Law got City’s miserable consolation, but his six-goal haul never reached the record books.

5. Fight club

ITV contributed a sizeable wedge to Manchester City players’ pool before the 1969 final, in return for some exclusive interviews. 

That didn’t stop the BBC’s Stuart Hall from accosting Mike Summerbee and Francis Lee in a pub before their victory over Leicester, and broadcasting a live interview. It went down even worse than you might have expected: at Wembley, ITV technicians took their revenge in a fist fight between the TV crews. 

“It was marvellous,” according to Hall. “ITV were kicking the crap out of the BBC and we were beating the s**t out of them.”

6. 'Kin disgrace

Lord Arthur Kinnaird’s nine outings in FA Cup finals remains unmatched – but Ashley Cole’s all-time haul of seven wins trumps the Old Etonian’s five. Kinnaird holds another record, though – this one a tad more unwanted, as the scorer of the first own goal in a final. 

It came in 1877 while keeping goal for Wanderers against Oxford University; he caught the ball but inadvertently stepped back over his goal-line. His team ended up winning 2-1 anyway, but thus followed some rather unruly hokey-cokey: the FA expunged Oxford’s goal, before it was restored to the record books. 

Years later Kinnaird became FA president – a role he held for 33 years – and took home the tournament’s second trophy.

7. Great Scots

Queen's Park

(Image credit: Getty)

Many still long for the days of FA Cup semis at Villa Park and Hillsborough, but did you know that one – and only one – was held outside England? 

In 1885, Scottish outfit Queen’s Park beat Nottingham Forest 3-0 in an Edinburgh replay, before falling to nemeses Blackburn in the final for a second year running. They’re the only Scottish club ever to make the final; by 1877, the SFA had banned all of its teams from entering.

8. Christmas stuffing

On that note, Forest also hold a record that will never be broken – they’re the only club to have played an FA Cup tie in all four home countries, having pitted their wits against Northern Irish side Linfield Athletic in 1888/89. Linfield are the only outfit to have played an FA Cup match on Christmas Day, meanwhile, stuffing Cliftonville 7-0 in 1888.

9. "Keep it tigh– oh"

Two speed records here. The fastest recorded goal in FA Cup history came in 2001, via Ashton United’s Gareth Morris against Skelmersdale United – timed at four seconds. The quickest hat-trick came just six years earlier in 1995, when Andy Locke spent a mere two minutes, 20 seconds dismantling Droylsden for Nantwich Town. Phwoar.

10. Dunk the Donut

When Liverpool battered Brighton 6-1 in their 2012 fifth round meeting, the Seagulls contributed to their own downfall with a hat-trick of own goals. 

Midfielder Liam Bridcutt accounted for two of them, though Lewis Dunk’s was the most calamitous – the defender controlled the ball with his chest, then knee, before haring after it like a wobbly toddler as it bounced over the line.

11. Who's next, please?

In the three FA Cup semis of 1989/90 (including a replay between Oldham and Manchester United), a total of 16 goals were scored by 16 different players. Because it’s nice to share. 

United went on to lift that FA Cup – the first trophy of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign – and became the last team to win the final comprised solely of players from the UK.

12. "Best of three?"

Poor John Hawley Edwards lost an FA Cup tie in the most unique/demeaning (delete as applicable) fashion… on the toss of a coin. 

In 1873, his Shropshire Wanderers team twice drew 0-0 with Sheffield FC. After a second goalless 90 minutes at Shrewsbury Racecourse, both (presumably bored) sides retired to the Raven Hotel, where after dinner, Sheffield’s skipper Harry Walker Chambers called correctly for the win.

It’s the only time in 150 years that an FA Cup tie has had to be settled in this manner.

13. Stan in the middle

Sir Stanley Rous refereed the 1934 FA Cup Final, took charge of Belgium vs Netherlands the following day, then hung up his whistle to act as FA secretary. Rous went on to become the world’s leading football administrator while serving as FIFA president from 1961 through until 1974. Clearly, it was no popularity contest.

14. Hollywood ending

In 1887, the Old Carthusians reached the quarters before losing 2-1 to future Invincibles Preston. In their team, though, was a player who enjoyed fame and fortune on a different stage: C Aubrey Smith headed for Hollywood between the two world wars, becoming a film star with a litany of credits. 

He was also a noted cricketer who captained England to victory in his only Test, and set up the Hollywood Cricket Club in Los Angeles for ex-pat actors. No one likes a show-off.

15. Razor's sharp

Neil Ruddock

(Image credit: PA)

The 1996 final is best remembered for Liverpool’s dodgy white suits and Eric Cantona’s dramatic goal – but the big winner of the day? Neil Ruddock. 

After the game, his team-mate John Barnes had swapped shirts with Manchester United’s match-winner, but ‘Razor’ later relieved him of the memento and sold it at auction for a cool £15,000 in 2013. 

“I went to have a shower and he thought to himself, ‘I’ll have that’,” Barnes later sighed.

16. "Do one, Mr Magpie"

Hereford United pulled off the most famous FA Cup giant-killing of all in 1972, when Ronnie Radford’s rocket helped to send Newcastle packing in round three. 

The winning goalscorer is usually forgotten, though; the previous night, Ricky George – pal of a 26-year-old commentator that day, John Motson – had bumped into Toon icon Jackie Milburn, who told the Bulls hero-in-wait, “If you were my player, you’d be in bed by now.” 

George replied, “If I come off the bench and score the winner, no one will mind.” Brought on after 83 minutes, George watched Radford smash home the leveller within two minutes – then hit his extra-time bobbler for the ages.

17. The Hand of John

You can blame the FA Cup for years of English misery. The penalty kick wasn’t introduced until controversy during an 1891 tie forced the FA to alter the rules.

Luis Suarez presumably has a poster of Notts County’s John ‘Jack’ Hendry up on his wall – the latter handled a goal-bound shot in the last eight, for which only an indirect free-kick could be awarded. Stoke fluffed it; County progressed.

18. Eddie the Eel

The 1966 final became extra-famous thanks to ‘the first football hooligan’. 

Over-exuberant Eddie Cavanagh – formerly on Everton’s books for their Central League Reserve team – ran onto the pitch when his beloved Toffees pulled the score back to 2-2 against Sheffield Wednesday; or as he tells it, “I’d seen [goalscorer Mike] Trebilcock and went for him first. I grabbed him, pulled him on the ground. He s**t himself because he didn’t know me.” 

Then, as he was about to offer keeper Gordon West some advice, “This bizzy [policeman] got me by the coat... I just took it off. I didn’t see the other fellow come around me. He got me down. I put my hands back, and I think half a dozen of them had me pinned like I was one of the train robbers.”

19. Read all about it

The 1892 final – the last to be played at Kennington Oval, as attendances boomed – is credited with a couple of firsts. 

The matchday programme began life here in its primitive form, featuring basic information such as instructions for fans who wanted to buy team photos. It was also the first final to use goal nets. Invented by Liverpool engineer John Brodie, they would have been brought in a year earlier... but were delivered too late.

20. Plucky Spurs

Tottenham Hotspur

(Image credit: Getty)

Since the Football League’s inception in 1888, who are the only non-league side to have lifted the FA Cup? Well, that win arrived in 1901 courtesy of Southern League side Tottenham Hotspur, who beat Sheffield United in a replay at Burnden Park. 

No player has ever topped Sandy Brown’s single-season haul of 15 goals in that campaign.

21. Prolific Poppies

In 2021/22, Tottenham will be embroiled in the FA Cup’s greatest grudge match, against… Kettering. 

The Lilywhites plundered five goals at non-league Marine last season, then four more at Wycombe and Everton, to leapfrog the National League North side as the competition’s all-time top scorers. Briefly, anyway – the Poppies replied with 11 goals in this campaign’s qualifiers, to lead 904-900 heading into round three. 

Your move, Spurs.

22. Moranic decision

Manchester United

(Image credit: Getty)

Players in the 1946 showpiece were originally given bronze medals due to a post-war shortage of gold, although the victorious Derby squad did at least get their correct ones months later (priorities, and all that). In 1985, however, Manchester United’s Kevin Moran got nowt on the day itself, as he became the first player to be dismissed in an FA Cup final. 

United’s 10 men forced extra time and eventually beat Everton 1-0 thanks to Norman Whiteside’s stunner, but after the final whistle a militant FA official prevented Moran from climbing the 39 steps to collect his prize – the Irishman finally received it the following Wednesday, when a meeting of the Challenge Cup Committee determined that his sending-off was a sufficient punishment. Moment’s gone, lads.

23. It's a grey area

The 1923 final will forever be called the ‘White Horse Final’ courtesy of Billy, the nag who helped to stifle a startling estimated crowd of 300,000 at a brand new (er, old) Wembley. 

Around 1,000 supporters were said to have suffered injury attempting to enter, the match was halted 11 minutes in after a crowd surge, and half-time lasted only five minutes as players couldn’t reach the dressing rooms. But we hate to break it to you: Billy wasn’t really white. He was grey, but the images shot that afternoon weren’t in colour… hence his inaccurate moniker.

24. They woz robbed

Blackburn Olympic

(Image credit: PA)

When Blackburn Olympic lifted the 1883 FA Cup, one ungrateful fan is said to have described the trophy as looking “more like a tea-kettle”. 

“But it’s very welcome to Lancashire,” said Rovers skipper Squire Warburton (his real name, we assure you). “It’ll have a good home and it’ll never go back to London.” He was right, too – that particular trophy was stolen after being won by Aston Villa in 1895.

25. The Two Stanleys

The most famous FA Cup final in 150 years may just be 1953’s affair between Blackpool and Bolton Wanderers. It was known as the ‘Matthews Final’, though as the Wizard of Dribble himself stated many times afterwards, “People forget that Stan Mortensen scored a hat-trick – the only FA Cup final hat-trick at Wembley.” 

Bolton were leading 3-2 until the 89th minute, when Blackpool won a free-kick. The two Stans stood over the set-piece. “Hey Stan,” said Mortensen, “there’s a gap in the wall – I think I can score through it.” 

“I bet you a tanner (sixpence in old money) you can’t,” chirped his namesake. Mortensen duly blasted the ball home to complete his treble, as Bolton became the first team to blow a two-goal advantage in the final. 

When Mortensen died, one onlooker affectionately quipped, “I expect they’ll be calling this the ‘Matthews Funeral’.”

26. The Wizard of Os

Peter Osgood

(Image credit: PA)

Only nine players have managed to score in every round of the FA Cup in the same season – but it’s been more than five decades since the last of them achieved the feat. It took a final replay against Leeds for Chelsea hero Peter Osgood to complete his set in 1969/70; one which looks unlikely to be repeated amid increasingly congested fixture schedules.

27. We can't work it out

Among the Wembley crowd watching Eddie Cavanagh’s mad dash in 1966 (see No.18) were Paul McCartney and John Lennon. 

The Beatles’ football ties were sadly weak – McCartney showed up at other finals, including the Merseysiders’ 1-0 loss to West Brom in 1968, though later confessed, “Years ago, I decided I would support Liverpool as well as Everton, despite Everton being the family team. Two of my grandkids are Liverpool fans. When people ask me how I can support both teams, I tell them I love both and have special dispensation from the Pope.” 

Still, that’s more than George Harrison would offer on the subject. “There are three teams in Liverpool – I prefer the other one,” he once declared.

28. Should have gone to…

Only one player has ever appeared in an FA Cup final wearing glasses… and he was a goalkeeper. 

Jimmy Mitchell sported specs for Preston in 1922, but ironically never saw Billy Smith’s spot-kick that was blasted by him and gave Huddersfield the trophy. Mitchell also earned one cap for England, and yep: he’s the only Three Lions player to have donned eyewear, too.

29. You are the ref (again)

Euro 2020

(Image credit: PA Images)

When Anthony Taylor refereed the 2020 final, he became the first official since Arthur Kingscott in 1901 to take the fixture for a second time. 

The FA introduced their ‘one final’ rule the following season, which was upheld until Taylor’s COVID-enforced appointment – the governing body didn’t want to diminish a newcomer’s big day while no supporters were allowed inside. 

Major Francis Marindin holds the record for the most showpieces reffed, though: he did his first in 1880, then marshalled eight on the trot from 1883 to 1890. As if anyone was going to argue with that title.

30. Billy's brag

Teddy Sheringham may have done his best to play until he was eligible for a state pension… but the former talisman had nothing on Billy Meredith. 

The forward tasted FA Cup glory with Manchester City in 1904, before being banned two years later for bribing an opponent to lose a game. It didn’t stop him forming a nascent players’ union and lifting a second FA Cup, however, after hopping across town to sign for United. Meredith rejoined City in 1921, and it was in 1924’s semis when he made history – as the oldest man to play in the competition aged 49 years and eight months. 

Needless to say, he’s a legend at both clubs.

Order three copies of FourFourTwo for £3 today

Restock your kit bag with the best deals for footballers on Amazon right now

ALSO READ

LIVERPOOL Why do so many people underrate Mohamed Salah?

LIST Football Manager 2022: All the FM22 wonderkids you'll need to sign

TALENT FIFA 22: The 150 best wonderkids in the game

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Brian Beard is a football journalist, broadcaster and historian. He has since become the longest-serving reporter for Sky Sports. He was also a ghost-writer for the late, great George Best. Before moving into the world of journalism, Brian once had a trial at New York Cosmos in which he scored four goals - but they opted to sign Pele instead. His passion as a football historian is simple: “Tomorrow, today will be yesterday”.