We saw a notable string of finals in the early 20th century. Southampton was beaten 4-0 by Bury, and 12 months later, Tottenham Hotspur became the very first non-league club to lift the cup, after winning a replay against Sheffield United. In fact, it remains the one time that that feat has been achieved. In 1902, Southampton again came close after knocking out the holders in the opening round. They eventually lost to Sheffield United in the final after United made up for the previous year’s loss to Spurs.
The run comes to an end
That string of notable finals ended in 1903 when Bury thrashed another opponent: this time a 6-0 drubbing of Derby County. That remains the most lopsided result in FA Cup final history.
In 1923, Wembley Stadium became the final’s new home. It was then when we saw the White Horse Final between West Ham Utd and Bolton Wanderers. A crowd of close to 200,000 (an official yet conservative 126,047) waited for 45 minutes from the official start time before the match eventually kicked off. Although they didn’t exactly wait patiently, making their way onto the field with one policeman on a white horse forced to drive them back. As an aside, Bolton won the match 2-0.
Arsenal’s ups and downs
In 1927, the final was played outside of England for what remains the only time, when Arsenal lost 1-0 to Cardiff City. It wasn’t until three years later that Arsenal won their first final after a 2-0 win against Huddersfield Town.
The first televised FA Cup Final was held in 1838 in a contest between Huddersfield Town and Preston North End. It wasn’t a great final for television, unfortunately, with a 0-0 scoreline heading into the final seconds of extra time. Commentator Thomas Woodroofe vowed to eat his hat if a goal was scored. After Preston’s George Mutch scored a penalty, Woodrooffe ate a hat-shaped cake on TV days later. It probably wasn’t the most painful forfeit in the world.
The Matthews Final
The most remembered FA Cup final in history was the 1953 Matthews Final. Stanley Matthews, the country’s best winger in the 30’s and 40’s, was running short of time to win himself a medal. He’d lost a 1948 final with Blackpool against a Manchester Utd side that saw Matt Busby win his first trophy with the reds. He’d also lost a 1951 final against Jackie Milburn and Newcastle United. It appeared as though he would miss out yet again when Bolton were winning 3-1 after 55 minutes of play. Stan Mortensen came to the rescue for Blackpool, scoring two goals to add to his earlier strike. Matthews set up the winner in injury time, and finally, he had his medal. The only hat-trick in the history of the FA Cup final was a fact that got lost in it all. That was also the case with Bill Perry, who Matthews had set up, being the first black player to score an FA Cup final goal.