The 50’s curse
There were numerous examples from the 50’s of people suffering from injuries. Manchester City’s Jimmy Meadows suffered from a broken leg in a loss to Newcastle. City made the final in the next year only for their goalkeeper Bert Trautmann to break his neck. Although they did come away from that one with a win against Birmingham.
It wasn’t until the 70’s and 80’s that the FA Cup became the event that we know it as today. There were two reasons for this. One, before 1983, with notable exceptions such as the World Cup, it was the one show broadcast on live British television. Both ITV and the Beeb dedicated hours of airtime to the day, which resulted in lots of “entertainment”, with very little of it actually entertaining. The programming was full of live interviews, celebrity five-a-sides for charity and so on. All-in-all, it was pretty terrible. That didn’t stop the family gathering around the TV set for the occasion, however, whether they enjoyed football or not.
The second reason was a run of stunning upsets. In 1973, Leeds United were beaten by Second Division side Sunderland. A repeat shock occurred three years later when Manchester United were beaten by Second Division club Sunderland. In 1980, it was Arsenal’s turn as they were beaten by Second Division side West Ham. The 1980’s saw more surprising results including the unlikely Coventry City winning their first trophy in 1987 in a truly great final against Spurs. The following year saw the mightily entertaining Liverpool beaten by Wimbledon, a side that wasn’t even in the league just a decade earlier. Also, in 1985, Manchester United’s Kevin Moran was awarded the first-ever red card in a final, although that didn’t stop Utd beating Everton to light the cup.
Unfortunately, however, the competition has seen a decline in popularity over the years, due to a number of reasons. For one, at some point, the league became more important than the cup. A greater number of television matches has also contributed to the decline of the competition, especially Champions League matches. There’re also the bigger clubs continuing domination over their smaller rivals. Another reason is the FA repeatedly changing the schedule.
The magic is still alive
While the FA Cup Final will never again to be the highlight of the English football calendar, it still manages to capture the old magic every now and then. The West Ham vs Liverpool final in 2006 was as good as any we’d ever seen, thanks to one Steven Gerrard. Three years later saw the greatest ever start when Everton’s Louis Saha scored after just 25 seconds. It didn’t matter in the end, though, as Chelsea ended up winning 2-1. Portsmouth in 2008 and then later Wigan Athletic in 2013 provided some hope to the little guys after being unlikely winners of their respective finals. Before the 2015 season, Manchester Utd hadn’t lifted the FA Cup trophy since 2004, or even been to a final since 2007, which goes to show the level of competition that remains in the cup.