Ahead of this weekend’s FA Cup Final between Aston Villa and Arsenal, George Hopkins runs down the best 5 finals in history involving teams from the West Midlands.
Since its first outing in 1872, the FA Cup has changed shape and hands many times over the years. With the latest incarnation of the competition reaching its climax, as Aston Villa lost 4-0 to Arsenal, it seems appropriate given the involvement of the Birmingham-based side to look back on some of the most memorable finals that have included a participant from the West Midlands.
The five matches have been chosen and ranked on two basic criteria: entertainment value and historical significance.
5. Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-0 Blackburn Rovers (196)
Wolverhampton Wanderers won the FA Cup for the fourth and last time in 1960. It was a hot day and perhaps because of this it was not by all accounts a great spectacle; both teams employed the offside trap to great effect and were reported to be generally “lethargic”, leading to many members of the press to label it the “rubbish final”. Its inclusion on this list is due to its significance in the history of Wolves rather than the overall impact of the game itself. It signalled the end of an era at the club, one that saw two First Division championships in the three years leading up to the final.
4. Aston Villa 2-1 Manchester United (1957)
Just three years earlier, another team from the West Midlands, Aston Villa, beat the league champions Manchester United. This was an impressive feat considering the strength of United’s team at the time, which included one Bobby Charlton, but its place in history is also a very sad one because this was the last final that the “Busby Babes” played in together before the Munich air disaster the following season. From Villa’s perspective, this was their first FA Cup in 37 years and will remain their most recent unless they beat Arsenal on Saturday.
3. Birmingham City 1-3 Manchester City (1956)
Possibly the most well-known FA Cup final involving a club from the West Midlands is the 1956 final where Manchester City’s goalkeeper, Bert Trautmann, broke his neck but in a truly remarkable act of bravery continued to play out the rest of the game. Unfortunately for the Blues, this incident did not affect the final scoreline, as Trautmann incredibly managed to deny Birmingham twice while suffering from the severe injury.
2. Aston Villa 1-0 Sunderland (1913)
The next fixture on this list requires going further back in time to truly the golden age of football at Villa Park. During the latter part of the 19th century English football was dominated by Aston Villa and Sunderland, and this rivalry was reawakened in 1913 in a fixture that was made even more significant at the time due to the fact that Villa had finished only four points behind first placed Sunderland in the league that same season.
Despite the underwhelming scoreline, it was an eventful match which included a missed penalty, a month’s suspension for both Charlie Thomson and Villa’s Harry Hampton, and the suspension of the referee after he allowed over 17 minutes of stoppage time to be played.
1. Coventry City 3-2 Tottenham Hotspur (1987)
While the preceding games were all excellent examples of FA Cup finals that were fascinating to look back upon, Coventry City’s triumph in 1987 has to top this list. Coming into the game, Tottenham were seen as the favourites because of their superior squad and their record of having never lost in a domestic cup final. Coventry, on the other hand, had never featured in a final before and had finished seven places below their opponents from North London that season.
After 90 minutes of football that included both excellent play and calamitous mistakes, the two could not be separated. The fifth and final goal came after just six minutes into extra time, the unfortunate Gary Mabbutt scoring an own goal after Lloyd McGrath ventured forward on the right-hand side.
This match has lived long in the memory not only because of the surprising nature of the result and entertaining nature of the game; a mix-up led to only half of Tottenham’s shirts having the sponsorship deals on them, a fact that both the BBC’s John Motson and ITV’s Brian Moore completely failed to notice.
Can Aston Villa pull of a similar upset against the undoubted favourites Arsenal? Only time will tell.