FA Cup Upsets

FA Cup Upsets And Underdogs: Exploring The Lesser-known History

Upsets are part of football but it is interesting to find out ones peculiar to the FA Cup.

As we know, the FA Cup is the oldest national football competition in the world.

The Football Association Challenge Cup is commonly known as the FA Cup.

It has a rich history of over 150 years becoming the world’s most famous competition

It was first kicked off in 1871 and has since been going on to this day.

The tradition from the past has been going on for decades and connects us to the modern day. Every football team across the country can take part in the competition.

From level 10 upwards in the football pyramid consisting of 14 randomly drawn rounds.

This is why cliches such as ‘romance’ and’ magic’ of the FA Cup are every bit possible in this extraordinary competition, especially with the smaller clubs and lesser-known ones. 

Around 732 teams compete against each other in the FA Cup, starting in August through to May. From the 6th Round, there are just 11 matches to the final.

How Underdogs Shaped The FA Cup

The underdogs are usually teams from the lower divisions who make it through each round where they are deemed by the press, the media, and all fans across the nation that their chances are minimal. 

Bigger teams have the advantage of advancing to the next round but that’s not always the case. These underdogs are capable of causing an upset and producing a giant killing on the way.

Causing an upset for the smaller sides can be very beneficial for the club with finances especially, in the latter stages of the Cup. 

As each round is very wealthy, your team will get a reasonable lump sum all the way to the final. 

This is why smaller sides prefer to draw against a Premier League Club. It can lead to a windfall and a good cup run can be very profitable. Hence, it can sustain the club for years to come.

It’s mainly in the third round of the FA Cup where the big teams play against the lesser teams. 

Over the years, we have seen many upsets and giant killings along the way from underdogs.

It instills a little bit more confidence in your team that a ‘David vs Goliath’ can be done, by beating a premier league side.

For any lower division side that gets drawn against a premier league side, it’s very odd that every neutral will be cheering on the underdog.

It would be where the journey starts, especially if you get the right result. That’s where the romance of the cup begins.

Recommended: The League-winning Upsets In Football History

What Does Upset Mean?

Every team outside the Premier League and possibly the Championship consider it as an upset when they knock out the bigger side in the FA Cup. 

It instills confidence in their side and in players. The younger ones, especially those still learning the game, would benefit. Moreover, it benefits the club financially. 

Bigger teams being knocked out of the competition is good for a neutral. So for the tournament, it’s a good thing and exciting to watch.

The Biggest FA Cup Upsets

See below 9 major upsets in the FA Cup since its invention.

1. Kidderminster Harriers 2 vs 1 Reading, 2022

Non-League, Kidderminster Harriers beat Reading of the Championship 2-1 in the third round of the FA Cup in 2022. Kidderminster came from being a goal behind at halftime to win the match.

The lowest-ranked side left in the FA cup then produced an upset since they last did back in 1994 beating Birmingham City in the same round.

2. Crawley Town 3 vs Leeds United, 2021

Minnows of League Two, Crawley Town beat Leeds United of the Premier League 3-0 in the FA Cup third round in 2021. This is one round’s most emphatic upsets. 

They toppled the Premier League side in what was Crawley’s biggest win on home soil. You have to enjoy days like these.

3. Bradford City 4 vs 2 Chelsea, 2015

Bradford City of League One, beat Chelsea 4-2 in the fourth round of the FA Cup in 2015, after being 2-1 down at halftime. 

They produced a thrilling comeback to defeat Premier League leaders Chelsea at the time, in their own backyard of Stamford Bridge. 

To come back from behind is an unbelievable achievement.

4. Liverpool 0 vs 1 Wimbledon, 1988

I remember this like it was yesterday. Liverpool had just won the League and were odds-on favorites to beat the underdogs. Wimbledon had just finished seventh in the same league. 

The underdogs were dubbed the ‘crazy gang’. They had the likes of Vinney Jones, Alan Cork, and Dennis Wise to name a few.

A disallowed goal and a penalty save from Dave Bessant against John Aldridge couldn’t stop Lawrie Sanchez from getting the only goal to stun the league champions in what was one of the biggest upsets in FA Cup history.

5. Wigan 2 vs 1 Manchester City, 2013

Facing relegation from the Premier League, Wigan produced an emphatic win against the league champions. 

The likes of Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, and Yaya Toure could not stop Ben Watson from scoring the stoppage time with a carbon copy of the goal in 1988.

6. Manchester United 0 vs 1 Everton, 1995

This was a major upset as defending champions from the year before beating Chelsea 4-0 and lost 1-0 to Everton with a headed Paul Rideout goal. 

Man Utd dominated the game in attack but Everton gave a performance of persistence and determination. 

It was the fifth time they had won the cup, making their last appearance in the FA cup final in 2009 losing to Chelsea 2-1.

Read More: Evolution of Chelsea Under Abramovic

7. Burnley 0 vs 1 Lincoln City, 2017

Lincoln City became the first side outside the top four divisions to reach the quarter-finals of the FA Cup in more than 103 years. 

A last-minute goal sent fans jubilant for the traveling supporters, it was the first time in their 139-year history they had achieved this.

Newcastle United 0 Cambridge United 1, third round 2022

League One side Cambridge put Premier League Newcastle out of the FA Cup third round causing a huge upset. 

They defied the odds to stun them at the famous ground of St James Park as Newcastle were also threatened by relegation that season.  

8. Wrexham 2 vs 1 Arsenal, 1992

This particular FA Cup match is one of the most thrilling upsets.

Having won the league that season, Arsenal was certain of victory and progression to the fourth round. 

However, Wrexham who was bottom of the old fourth division (many younger readers won’t have heard of this) had other ideas. 

Alan Smith had put them ahead and it looked like Arsenal would stroll to victory.

But late into the second half, two goals from the home side were enough to seal the win which included a stunning goal from Mickey Thomas.

Consider Reading: Arsenal Invincibles Stats

9. Sutton United 2 vs 1 Coventry City, 1989

Eighteen months earlier saw Coventry win the FA Cup against Tottenham 3-2, which gives any team confidence of playing in the top flight. 

Non-League Sutton United came out and stunned the Division 1 side (days before the Premier League!) when a team of bricklayers and insurance clerks outshone them.

You would love to be a fly on the wall in the changing rooms full-time after a big team has been knocked out in any round of the FA Cup. 

The Modern-day FA Cup

The FA Cup now in the modern day is just the same and just as exciting as before but do you wonder if managers take any interest in today’s game? Do they take this cup seriously? They will field a weakened side. 

They say it’s so they can attend to matters they felt were more important. Really?

The FA Cup as we know is the greatest competition in the world.

Back in the day, the coverage would begin early in the morning following both teams on their journey to the iconic Wembley stadium, interviews with the managers and players on the team coach with a bit of banter on the way.  

Playing at Wembley was the pinnacle for players. Its hallowed ground is seen as a battleground for this cup final.

Sadly though these days, the top teams see the League as going to work and the cup competitions such as the FA Cup, as going on LGFCU holiday – one you have booked at the last minute.

You never hear the phrase in the knockout stages of the Champions League ‘magic of the cup’. It has got that same presentiment, the same passion as the FA Cup.

Why the FA Cup Today is Less Adventurous Today

The fact now that the semi-finals take place at Wembley takes away the excitement of the competition. 

It was all about getting to Wembley for the final which was the showcase, the winning prize, but now it’s not so much.

The decision to play at Wembley for the semi-finals was made by the FA in 2003 but did not happen until the 2007/08 season. 

Gone were the days of both semi-finals being played at neutral grounds, traditionally most in common were Villa Park, Old Trafford, and Hillsborough when the excitement kicked in.

Tradition nowadays seems to have gone out the window, which is a shame. But deep down inside there is still a romance for the FA Cup.

Fans running onto the pitch with joy, now that’s football! The FA Cup is made of dreams.

Further Reading:

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