The Magic of the FA Cup in the 1970s
For those of us now in middle age, the 1970s were a particularly magical time in the FA Cup.
Of course, previous generations would no doubt say the same. The finals of yesteryear were famous occasions at the old Wembley Stadium. Games such as the so-called “White Horse” FA Cup final in 1923 between Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United, and the 4-3 win by Blackpool over Bolton Wanderers in 1953 (the so-called “Matthews final”, despite the fact than his team-mate Stanley Mortenson scored a hat-trick) have rightly gone down in the annals of soccer history.
But for those of us around the 50 mark or slightly above today, those games are more the stuff of legend than anything else. However, we do remember the FA Cup in the 1970s, and what a time it was for the oldest competition in the world in the beautiful game.
The decade got under way with an epic final encounter between the great Leeds United side under Don Revie and an emerging Chelsea side punching above their weight under the late Dave Sexton, who had done such a great job at Stamford Bridge.
This would be the first time the FA Cup final had ever gone to a replay. The first game at Wembley was a 2-2 draw, then Chelsea won the only final ever to be held at Old Trafford 2-1 in the replay on the Wednesday two-and-a-half weeks after the final. The names on either side of this epic and fierce encounter ring through the decades. Chelsea had the last great Peter Osgood upfront, “Chopper” Harris at the back and Johnny Hollins in midfield. For the great Leeds United side of the early ‘70s, meanwhile, the line-up was an all-star one with names like Paul Madeley, Terry Cooper, Norman Hunter, Allan Clarke, Peter Lorimer and Eddie Gray in the line-up. Leeds had been justifiable pre-game favourites, but it was Chelsea who prevailed and Leeds fans have never quite forgiven them for it.
Photo by stillunusual
The following year was another epic encounter between two of the biggest names in English football. This time it was Arsenal and Liverpool. The game went to extra time and it was Liverpool who went ahead courtesy of a Steve Heighway goal, before Arsenal levelled through a goal by Eddie Kelly and went on to win 2-1 with a memorable goal by Charlie George.
This was Arsenal’s fourth victory in the FA Cup. They’ve since won a further seven FA Cups, including last year’s, are they are 3/1 with betfair at the time of writing to win this year’s competition. Their 11 wins put Arsenal joint top on the all-time winners list with Manchester United.
The following year, 1972, was the centenary year of the old competition as the first FA Cup had been won by Wanderers exactly 100 years earlier. This time, Leeds faced Arsenal. These were the top clubs in England at the time, along with Liverpool who won the league that year.
This time, it was Leeds’ turn to lift the trophy for the first time in their history courtesy of an Allan Clarke diving header after a brave cross from Mick Jones.
Next year, Leeds were back again and it was surely a formality as they faced opposition from the league below in the shape of Bob Stokoe’s Sunderland. And it was indeed the mighty Leeds side of the time who dominated proceedings. But Jim Montgomery in goal for Sunderland played like a man possessed whilst the late Ian Porterfield scored from a corner to cement Sunderland’s most unlikely victory. This was real Boy’s Own type stuff.
The following year, Liverpool were back again, this time turning out very comfortable 3-0 winners over Newcastle United.
Photo by Ben Sutherland
Then in 1975, another second division club made it all the way to Wembley. This time it was Fulham who would face West Ham United from the top flight. West Ham, though, beat their fellow Londoners 2-0. And incidentally, Fulham’s side featured one Bobby Moore, who was a West Ham legend and, of course, the only English captain ever to have lifted the biggest prize in football, the World Cup, nine years earlier at Wembley.
The following year saw yet another second division side in the final. This time, it was the turn of Lawrie McMenemy’s Southampton to take on the mighty Manchester United managed by Tommy Docherty. And remarkably, it was again the side from the lower division who triumphed 1-0 courtesy of an excellent strike by Bobby Stokes.
However, Manchester United fans going home disappointed that May afternoon in 1976 couldn’t have realised that 12 months later their wildest dreams would come true. In the 1977 final, United beat fierce north west rivals (and by now the most successful side in the country) Liverpool by two goals to one in a close fought game. This was sweet revenge for United fans, although it was also to be the last major trophy the club would win for quite some time.
The next year, 1978, was also a year for the underdogs. This time, it was the turn of Bobby Robson’s Ipswich to beat pre-match favourites Arsenal 1-0.
The following year, 1979, saw the FA Cup final that surely had the most electrifying finish of all time. This time, it was Arsenal facing Manchester United. The game had been fairly stale as Arsenal built up a two-goal lead until the 86th minute when United scored, adding an equaliser a couple of minutes later. Just as extra time seemed inevitable, Alan Sunderland scored for the Gunners in the last minute and the trophy was in its way to Highbury again.
And for the first final of the next decade, we had yet another win (remarkably) by a side from division two. This time, it was West Ham from the lower division who managed to beat Arsenal 1-0 courtesy of an excellent strike by Trevor Brooking (now “Sir” Trevor). No-one who saw the game could ever forget the West Ham legions singing their famous “I’m forever blowing bubbles” song as their captain lifted the trophy.
The 1970s were a very special time in English football. They were magical in some ways yet extremely depressing in others. In the latter sense, this was a time when football hooliganism truly reared its ugly head for the first time in the modern era. And at international level, it was a depressing time to be an England fan. The team that had entered the decade so full of hope (and ability) with the real potential to win the World Cup in Mexico had exited that particular tournament at the quarter-final stages – losing 3-2 to a West German side against whom they had been leading 2-0.
England didn’t even qualify for the 1974 World Cup finals in Germany as they were knocked out by Poland in qualifying. And four years later, England failed to finish above Italy in attempting to qualify for the 1978 finals in Argentina. So we youngsters, who couldn’t really remember 1966, had to then wait until the Spanish World Cup of 1982 for our first crack at the trophy in the finals.
But throughout this time, the FA Cup helped keep us all going – and particularly the finals themselves. These were all magical games and the cup had something extra special that it seems to have slightly lost since, although perhaps this is a matter of looking back at the past with rose-tinted spectacles.
Anyway, we all remember the finals with such nostalgic fondness. And we remember the great giant killings like when Colchester United knocked the seemingly invincible Leeds United out of the FA Cup in 1971. And, of course, we all remember Hereford United’s great FA Cup run the following year when they knocked out Newcastle United then took West Ham to a replay.
These were great times. Long hair, parka coats and distinctly baggy trousers!