There are very few competitions that share the same tradition and reputation as the FA Cup, with a coveted history stretching back well over a century. The cup has become synonymous with major upsets as smaller teams across England fight doggedly against some of the best sides in the world in each round. Whilst the early rounds see the majority of cup shocks, some teams continue to spring surprises and sometimes go all the way. Whether it is denying title favourites in the final or a fairytale cup run, there have been some fantastic stories told in FA Cup triumphs. So just who are the biggest shock winners of the FA Cup final in its history?
Biggest surprise FA Cup final winners
Coventry City (1987)
Currently mired in the third tier of English football, Coventry City have certainly enjoyed better days. However, in the 1980s, The Sky Blues were a regular part of the First Division and it was here where they picked up their best ever achievement – an FA Cup triumph in 1987.
Hardly a title contender, Coventry swept aside more favoured competition in the early rounds defeating Manchester United 1-0 at Old Trafford in the fourth round as well a 3-2 triumph over Leeds in the semi-final. In the final, they met a Tottenham side featuring the likes of Glenn Hoddle and Ossie Ardiles.
Goals from Clive Allen and Gary Mabbutt had Spurs 2-1 up at half time. A Keith Houchen goal brought City level and the game went to extra time where a Gary Mabbutt own goal gave Coventry the vital winning goal. A great achievement for a Coventry side that would only finish 10th in the league that season and an achievement yet to be eclipsed.
Wimbledon had only enjoyed their second season in the English top flight during the 1987-88 season but that season would be a memorable one for the South London side. The Dons had a strong path to the final with encouraging wins over the likes of Newcastle and West Brom before defeating Luton 2-1 in the semi-finals to set up a final with an all-conquering Liverpool side.
Liverpool’s side was dominant in the late 80’s with John Barnes, Peter Beardsley and Alan Hansen all featuring in a strong side. Yet it was Wimbledon who would prove to be triumphant as a goal from Lawrie Sanchez proved to give The Dons a 1-0 victory and earn the club the greatest result in their history, making them one of the biggest ever surprise FA Cup final winners.
For most of the 1990’s, Everton flirted with relegation and struggled to maintain much consistency on the domestic front. However, the 1995 FA Cup gave them their brightest moment in recent memory – an FA Cup triumph.
A relegation candidate for much of the season, The Toffees put together a good run beating Norwich 5-0 before edging out Newcastle 1-0 in the semi-finals. However, they would face Manchester United who were surging with the emergence of the likes of Steve Bruce, Paul Scholes and Roy Keane.
Everton were fearless in the game though led by veteran keeper Neville Southall who would go on to keep a clean sheet in the match as Paul Rideout’s goal proved to be the difference between the two sides. The victory was a major coup for Everton and remains their last domestic triumph to date.
Very few clubs had managed to stop “The Big 4” winning the FA Cup for over a decade before Portsmouth emerged triumphant in 2008. Pompey themselves benefited from many big sides falling early and their quarter final win over Manchester United left them in the driving seat heading into the final four.
A 1-0 win against West Brom put them in the final against Championship side Cardiff City in one of the unlikeliest finals in recent memory. It was the top flight side who won with Nwankwo Kanu scoring the only goal of the game giving Pompey a famous win and their first major honour since 1939. Unfortunately for Portsmouth, things would soon unravel for the club.
For much of the 2012/13 season, Wigan’s year had been miserable as they were struck in a miserable relegation dogfight in the Premier League. However, the FA Cup gave The Latics a soothing tonic to enjoy as they progressed deep into the FA Cup. Wins over Everton and Millwall in the later rounds gave them an unlikely spot in the FA Cup Final although they faced a Manchester City side dominating in all competitions.
Despite the vast difference the teams faced, it would be Wigan that triumphed thanks to a last minute strike from Ben Watson shocking the football world. It would be bittersweet for Wigan who would be relegated at the end of the season meaning they are the only team to win the FA Cup and get relegated during the same season. Absolutely one of the most shocking FA Cup final winners in modern times.
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