The FA Cup is the UK’s equivalent to the Super Bowl. A famous annual event and highlight of the country’s favourite sport and pastime, the game is the pinnacle of a long season when families come together to enjoy the spectacle. The FA Cup final isn’t the only cup final in England, but it’s still the one that garners the most attention. While the fanfare is no longer at the level as it was (from the 1920s to the 1980s), it’s still a draw.
The Football Association Challenge Cup is the world’s oldest football competition. It made its debut in 1871, eight years after representatives of civil service departments, sporting clubs, and London public schools met to lay down the rules and regulations of Association Football, as well as establish the FA itself.
The main event
The FA Cup would be the main event, a knockout competition where clubs from any level were invited to participate. The inaugural tournament saw 16 teams take part, including Queen’s Park of Glasgow, who hasn’t conceded a single goal in its first five years as a club. While Queen’s Park was fancied to lift the cup, they failed to win, even after receiving a bye to the semi-finals where they would face Wanderers. The match ended goalless, after which Queen’s Park didn’t feel they had any reason to continue and headed back to Scotland. The idea of a replay being replayed in Glasgow wasn’t even suggested.
The first final
So Wanderers played in the very first final when they defeated a team of public schoolboys known as Royal Engineers, thanks to a goal from Morton Betts. As a side note, three years later, Queen’s Park conceded their first goal in a friendly match against Vale of Leven. In those days, amateurs ruled the roost. In the competition’s first 12 years, the cup was dominated from Southern schoolboys. In 1883, however, Blackburn Olympic changed everything. With support from a local entrepreneur who had paid for the team to go on holiday in Blackpool as a way of preparing them for the final.
Olympic defeated the cup’s holders Old Etonians 2-1 after scoring the winning goal in extra time. They were the first working-team from an industrial town to be named FA Cup winners. While professionalism didn’t become legalised until two years later, it was for all intents and purposes already in effect. Old Etonians’ victory in 1882 was then the last that an amateur club won the big prize. That isn’t likely to change for the foreseeable, or any, future.In 1888, fans witnessed the biggest shock in FA Cup final history. Preston North End was the team to beat after winning 42 matches in a row during the 1887-88 season. Upon facing West Bromwich Albion in the cup final, however, a late goal from George Woodhall gave the underdogs a 2-1 win. Preston made up for it the following season, winning the league and cup double after beating Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-0 in the final.