Whenever you hear the words “The magic of the FA Cup”, it’s normally being used by a football commentator or pundit who is hoping a Premier League side comes unstuck against a lower league minnow. Fortunately this is one cliché that really is true – there’s simply no other competition in football like the FA Cup. The most famous cup competition in the world has the power to change the fortunes of a football club and create a legacy – something Spain’s Copa Del Rey, Italy’s Coppa Italia and no other foreign cup competition can do. So to celebrate Sutton Utd’s stunning fourth round victory over Leeds Utd, the football fanatics here at Aford Awards have put together a list of the greatest FA Cup upsets of all time. Enjoy!
Sutton Utd 1-0 Leeds (2017)
Where else could we possibly begin? Non-league Sutton United pulled off one of the greatest FA Cup upsets of all time when they dumped Garry Monk’s high-flying Leeds United – a team 83 places above them - out of the FA Cup with a second-half penalty. Although the match was decided by a solitary goal, this was not the kind of siege the scoreline suggests. Sutton thoroughly deserved the win and, if it wasn’t for the heroics of Leeds’ goalkeeper Marco Silvestri and a dubious offside decision, would have won by a bigger margin. Sutton’s reward for overcoming Leeds is a mouth-watering and money-spinning tie against the mighty Arsenal in the fifth round. We can’t wait for that one!
Wrexham 2-1 Arsenal (1992)
Arsenal were First Division champions at the time while Wrexham were battling to avoid relegation to the Fourth Division. It shouldn’t have even been a contest, but Wrexham had other ideas. Arsenal took the lead just before half-time with a typical poacher’s goal from Alan Smith and were just 10 minutes away from securing a hard-fought victory when Mickey Thomas unleashed an unstoppable 25-yard free kick that flew past David Seaman and into the top corner to equalise. Eight minutes later Wrexham’s Steve Watkin prodded home a close-range finish to send the home fans into a frenzy. In a game that had everything, there was still time for Arsenal to a have a goal ruled out for offside, and Wrexham clung on for a famous cup upset.
Bournemouth 2-0 Manchester United (1984)
Do a Google search for “FA Cup upsets” and you’ll probably come across Bournemouth’s stunning victory over FA Cup holders Manchester United, managed by Ron Atkinson. United boasted a star-studded lineup of international talent – including England captain Bryan Robson - but they were unable to prevent a humiliating exit at the hands of a young Harry Redknapp’s Third Division Bournemouth. Redknapp’s team were thoroughly deserved winners and scored twice in quick succession after half-time through Milton Graham and Ian Thompson to send the minnows into the fourth round.
Chelsea 2-4 Bradford (2015)
In coming back from 2-0 down against Jose Mourinho’s all-conquering Chelsea and securing an amazing win, Third Division Bradford City caused one of the greatest FA Cup upsets in history. Despite making numerous changes to his team, Mourinho said before the game that it would be a “disgrace” if they lost to Bradford, who were 49 places below the Premier League leaders. This would have been a shock if Bradford had won at Valley Parade – but factor in Chelsea leading 2-0 at Stamford Bridge and it’s quite incredible. It’s even more incredible when you think that Jose Mourinho had never lost an FA Cup game at home prior to this game!
Sutton Utd 2-1 Coventry City (1989)
Sutton United’ victory over Coventry in the third round of the FA Cup is without doubt one of the most famous “giant-killings” in the competition’s history. The fact that it would be another 24 years before a non-league side would defeat a team from the highest tier of English football is a testament to Sutton’s staggering achievement. Even more remarkable was the fact that Coventry had actually won the FA Cup just 19 months earlier!
Yeovil 2-1 Sunderland (1949)
Sunderland weren’t just any old First Division side; they were known as the “Bank of England Club” of that era due to the huge sums of money they invested in the team, such as the £20,500 they paid to sign Len Shackleton from bitter rivals Newcastle. Yeovil, meanwhile, were competing in the Southern League. Player-manager Alec Stock (who went on to manage Fulham in the 1975 FA Cup Final) and centre forward Eric Bryant grabbed the goals to cause an FA Cup shock of seismic proportions.
Mansfield Town 3-0 West Ham United (1968)
West Ham United boasted three players in their side with World Cup winners' medals - Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst - as well as couple of rather promising young players called Billy Bonds and Trevor Brooking, and were sixth in the First Division. But Mansfield Town were completely unfazed by the superstar names on the team sheet and the lowly Third Division side took the lead after just 22 minutes when striker Dudley Roberts tapped home from close range. The First Division side never recovered from the early setback and goals from Ray Keeley Nick Sharkey put the icing on the cake to cause a huge upset.
Norwich City 0-1 Luton Town (2013)
They say the gap between the Premier League and the lower division clubs has never been greater – well try telling that to the Hatters! When Scott Rendell’s 80th minute strike sent Luton Town through at the expense of the Canaries, they proved that money doesn’t necessarily guarantee success as they became the first ever non-league club to beat a Premier League side. They were also the first club from outside the Football League to beat a top-flight side since Sutton United stunned Coventry City in 1989. Some achievement.
Walsall 2-0 Arsenal (1933)
Although Arsenal weren’t the reigning Champions, they were widely regarded as the biggest club in England at the time, having won the FA Cup in 1930, the League in 1931 and been runners-up in 1932, and were clear favourites to get their hands on the famous old football trophy. They went on to be crowned champions four months after the defeat to Walsall, and also for the following two seasons – only the second time a hat-trick of titles had been achieved. However, that didn’t stop Walsall from tearing up the form book and humiliating the Gunners in what is still unquestionably one of the biggest FA Cup shocks of all time.
Hereford 2-1 Newcastle (1972)
Non-league Hereford caused one of the FA Cup's greatest ever upsets when they dumped the mighty Newcastle out of the competiton, but people forget that they had already performed a minor miracle by drawning 2-2 at Newcastle to earn a replay. The game is best remembered for Ronnie Radford's sublime strike late in the second half, which forced extra time, but it was the Hereford team that really shined. The game had everything, the pitch was shocking and Newcastle's superstars were far from happy, but that's "the magic of the FA Cup"!