SINCE the FA Cup was founded in 1871 – 147 years ago, there have been many results over the years that have shocked the country. It isn’t just the big teams – your Liverpools, your Manchester Uniteds, your Arsenals, that can have success in the competition. In fact, the FA Cup is infamous in football for its tendency for unpredictable upsets. One can never, ever, predict the result of an FA Cup match. There have been many David and Goliath knockouts throughout the 147 years of the competiton.
But where are the most famous former ‘Davids’ now – how are the teams that have pulled off some of the most remarkable and stunning upsets in English football history thriving in the modern era?
Wigan Athletic, 2012/13
Wigan Athletic, or the Latics, have become almost synonymous with FA Cup success in recent years – reaching the semi finals in 2014, after beating Manchester City in the quarter finals, and in 2018 managed to get past Guardiola’s Citizens again.
However, the most infamous Wigan FA Cup game is undoubtably the 2013 FA Cup Final, against (who else?) Manchester City. Despite struggling that year in the Premier League, eventually being relegated, the Latics embarked on an impressive cup run. They beat Everton in the quarters, and Millwall in the semi finals, and reached the first FA Cup final in their history.
11th May 2013. The day Wigan Athletic fans will never forget. The game itself, on a weekend spring evening at Wembley, was very tight, with the two team’s possession and shots almost equal.
Towards the end of the game, Pablo Zabaleta received a second yellow card and was forced to leave the pitch, leaving Wigan with a man advantage over Manchester City in the dying embers of the final. In the 91st minute, Wigan got a corner, which was hit past Joe Hart by Ben Watson – a man now set in Wigan Athletic glory. They had pulled off one of the biggest FA Cup upsets in a quarter of a century. Winning the FA Cup meant Wigan would compete in the next season’s Europa League, despite being in the Championship, and they would receive a hefty £1.8m in reward fees.
How are the Latics faring now? You could say quite well. Despite enduring two relegations to the third tier, they won the 17/18 League One title, over local rivals Blackburn Rovers, and managed to beat Manchester City, yet again, in the FA Cup. Now, they are thriving back in the Championship under manager Paul Cook. Things are looking bright for Latics fans.
Bradford City, 2014/15
A more recent example here – is it debatably more impressive, considering Bradford City were, and still are, a club firmly entrenched in League One? Perhaps.
Bradford are no strangers to cup runs, managing to reach the League Cup final in 2013 (beating Wigan Athletic, Arsenal and Aston Villa on their way), despite falling just short losing to Swansea City in the final.
In 2015, it was Groundhog Day in Bradford, as they looked set to go on yet another fairytale cup run – this time in the FA Cup. In the fourth round, they were given a draw that for many lower league clubs, would mean the end of any runs – they faced Chelsea, at Stamford Bridge. However, they weren’t going down without a fight.
On the 24th January, the day of the game arrived, and it originally didn’t go to plan for Bradford City, with the Blues leading 2-1 at half time thanks to goals from Cahill and Ramires. However, they managed to pull one back through striker Jon Stead just before the break.
The game remained 2-1 until the 75th minute, when Bradford began to shock the entire country. Portuguese winger Felipe Morais managed to equalise for Bradford. 7 minutes later, Scottish midfielder Andy Halliday became a hero in Yorkshire, making it 3-2 for Bradford. Mark Yeates made it 4-2, and Mourinho’s men were out.
That wasn’t the end of the upsets for Bradford, as they beat Sunderland 2-0 at their home ground, Valley Parade, in the Fifth Round. Although their run came to an end against Reading, their giant killing of Chelsea will go down in history as one of the biggest results ever in the FA Cup.
As for how they are doing now? Ever since this run, Bradford have continuously challenged for promotion to the Championship. In 2017, they reached the League One playoff final at Wembley, but lost 1-0 to Millwall, at the hands of a late winner for the London club.
In Part 2, we shall look at the runs of Lincoln City and Sutton United.