Watford will try to prevent an all-powerful Manchester City side from from completing the domestic treble on Saturday, as they bid to add the FA Cup to their trophy haul. City are predictably huge favourites to win and it will be a huge shock if they don’t add another trophy to their collection. However, it wouldn’t be the first time that an underdog has upset the odds and, as such, we’ve had a look at three of the biggest giant-killings in FA Cup final history.
1987/88 – Wimbledon
Throughout the 1980s, and subsequently 1990s, Wimbledon cultivated a reputation as a close-knit but macho group who were known for terrorising one another with their pranks and banter, ultimately becoming known as The Crazy Gang. The origin of that nickname takes us back to the 1987/88 FA Cup.
Wimbledon, by then in their second season in the top flight, had overcome West Brom, Mansfield, Newcastle, Watford and Luton to reach the first, and only, FA Cup final in the club’s history.
They were scheduled to play Liverpool who, at the time, were the biggest and most glamorous club in the country and were challenging for a league and cup double. The Dons were huge underdogs for the match and, to many observers, were simply there to make up the numbers. However, Bobby Gould’s side had other ideas.
With the sides scheduled to walk out, Wimbledon deliberately stayed in their changing room for as long as they could, leaving Liverpool waiting in the tunnel. Vinnie Jones would later say: “We were like wild animals when we came out. They looked in our eyes and must have thought ‘What the **** is this?’.”
The mind games worked, Wimbledon took the lead shortly before half time courtesy of a Lawrie Sanchez header before Dave Beasant, in the Wimbledon goal, became the first goalkeeper to save a penalty in an FA Cup final, denying John Aldridge.
It was enough to secure Wimbledon a huge upset, after which John Motson delivered his famous line; “The Crazy Gang have beaten the Culture Club” and a nickname was born.
2007/08 – Portsmouth
Here’s a fact, since the 1983/84 season, a member of the big six (Man City, Liverpool, Man Utd, Chelsea, Tottenham & Arsenal) have featured in all but one of the 36 FA Cup finals that have taken place. The only exception to this trend took place in the 2007/08 season.
Neutrals could be forgiven for feeling underwhelmed as Portsmouth and Cardiff lined up for the showpiece final at Wembley Stadium and, unfortunately, the game didn’t surpass the already low expectations. A goal from Nwankwo Kanu in the 37th minute was enough to secure the cup for Portsmouth after a drab affair, though that won’t have mattered in the slightest to the jubilant Pompey fans who were celebrating winning the trophy for the first time since the 30s.
Though the eventual winners were certainly a huge upset in the wider context of the tournament, they were heady times for Portsmouth who were no minnows. With Harry Redknapp in charge of a squad of highly-paid and high-profile players, they also claimed eighth place in the Premier League that season. However, despite reaching the final again two years later, Portsmouth’s slide had started and far darker times were to come.
2012/13 – Wigan
Another Cinderella story occurred in the 2012/13 season when Roberto Martinez’ Wigan side reached the FA Cup final for the first time in their history. A common denominator in these underdog stories is a favourable run to the final and Wigan were fortunate to have only overcome Bournemouth, Macclesfield, Huddersfield, Everton and Millwall to reach the decider.
However, there would be no more lucky draws with Manchester City, now firmly established at the summit of English football, awaiting in the final. Despite possessing an array of world class talent such as David Silva, Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez, City just couldn’t break the stubborn Latics down and, as the clock ticked past 90 minutes, it looked as though extra time was inevitable.
However, in the 91st minute, Wigan were awarded a corner and up stepped Shaun Maloney who delivered a pin-perfect cross onto the head of Ben Watson, who nodded the ball into the far corner past the floundering Joe Hart.
The match was won and Wigan secured the biggest FA Cup final shock since Wimbledon all those years before. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the only significant event of their season, as they were also relegated from the Premier League, thus putting them in the unusual position of embarking on a Europa League campaign from the Championship.