by Susan Jardine
This weekend is one of the most exciting, yet nerve-wracking on the football calendar as it is Round 3 of the FA Cup, a round that invariably throws up shock results. I wonder how many of you remember the few matches I am going to take you back to during the eighties, nineties and the noughties and games that featured Coventry, Manchester United, Arsenal, West Brom, Birmingham and Everton.
Let us start in the 1983/84 FA Cup season. The holders Manchester United headed for Dean Court to take on Bournemouth and a team managed by Harry Redknapp. The Red Devils were under the leadership of Ron Atkinson, and in those days top flight with Bournemouth in the old division 3. Imagine the jaws dropping as Milton Graham put the Cherries ahead on the hour. As Manchester United went in search of an equaliser to try and at least force a replay at Old Trafford so Bournemouth’s Ian Thompson then put the tie beyond reach and thus denied the Red Devils the chance of a second bite of the cherries in a replay. As the the final whistle blew Bournemouth celebrated as the cup holders exited the competition on a January afternoon.
Being cup holders does not preclude anyone from elimination, and neither does being the reigning league champions as Arsenal found out to their cost. As the Gunners headed to North Wales to face Wrexham at the Racecourse in the 1991/92 competition they were resplendant in the status of league champions, Wrexham had finished rock bottom of the entire football league in the same season. But as we all know reputations can at times be rendered inconsequential in any form of knockout competition. This was to be no exception. Yet it all looked as if Arsenal had the match under control when Alan Smith gave them the lead, a lead they were to hold until the final ten minutes of the match. Enter Mickey Thomas as he smashed home a free kick past David Seaman in the Arsenal goal. Still though it meant that Arsenal would be likely favourites at Highbury in the event of a replay. But it was not destined to reach that point as Steve Watkin grabbed the winner for Wrexham in the closing minutes of the match that sent the champions crashing to ignominious defeat.
Staying in the 1990s and in 1994 it was Liverpool’s turn to fall victim to lower league opposition. For all of the Merseysiders’s success in the FA Cup they have also experienced shock exits themselves. The memories of Oldham last season are still relatively fresh in the the memory, but how many of you remember the 1994 match against Bristol City. It took three games to resolve the tie. The first was abandoned due to floodlight failure. A subsequent attempt ended in a 1-1 draw at Ashton Gate with goals from Ian Rush and Wayne Allison, which meant a replay at Anfield. Graeme Souness was the manager of Liverpool at the time and Russell Osman was the manager of City. One piece of brilliance decided the outcome and it came from former Newcastle player Brian Tinnion whose strike gave City victory to the delight of the travelling Bristol fans.
From one half of Merseyside to the other and if you mention the name Kevin Ratcliffe to Everton fans then many will possibly smile at the memory of their legendary Welsh captain who led the Toffees to victory in the 1984 FA Cup final against Watford. But I wonder if their smiles may well have a hint of bittersweet memories because of a match against the Shrewsbury in 2003, as Ratcliffe was the manager of the team who at the time were 80 places below Everton. Shrewsbury though were to make a mockery of their league placing with the help of Nigel Jemson. A man who had played at the highest level for Nottingham Forest. As the old adage goes experience is vital and it was Jemson who opened the scoring. Niclas Alexandersson levelled but Jemson was to have the last word as he fired past Richard Wright in the Everton goal to put Shrewsbury into the fourth round draw and leave Everton on the wrong side of a 2-1 scoreline.
Returning to the eighties and Coventry had won the FA Cup for the only time in their history two years previously in 1986/87, but when they went to Gander Green Lane to face Sutton United in the 1989 competition they were to experience an exit that many would not have predicted as possible. Sutton United were in the Southern League, Coventry still in the top flight. But the former holders were stunned just before half time when Tony Raines opened the scoring. David Phillips restored parity for the Sky Blues after the resumption. But there was to be a sting in the tale as Matthew Hanlan bundled the ball over the line on the hour to seal a 2-1 victory for Sutton and hand Coventry a shocking defeat.
So far I have featured teams from London, Manchester, Merseyside and the Midlands. So to the West Midlands and a match that was anything but in the baggie for West Bromwich Albion. Five times winners of the trophy they were drawn against Woking in 1991. West Brom were in the old division 2, with Woking in the Isthmian League. At half time West Brom held a 1-0 lead thanks to Colin West’s header but the second half saw Tim Buzaglo smash a hat trick past West Brom keeper Mel Rees with Terry Worsfold weighing in too. Come ninety minutes and West Brom were out of the cup after a 2-4 defeat at the Hawthornes. But as we all know they are not the only West Midlands team to experience an embarrassing home defeat at the hands of non league opposition.
I am referring to the 1986 third round tie which involved Birmingham City, who were drawn at home to Altrincham at St Andrews. The Blues were a top flight team at the time while Altrincham were in the Gola League . Robert Hopkins had opened the scoring for the Blues before Ellis equalised, but it was Hopkins who then put through his own goal to leave Altrincham leading 2-1. Try as Birmingham did for an equaliser they were not to succeed and as the referee blew the final whistle it was the Greater Manchester side who were celebrating at winning a place in the fourth round draw.
And of course there are many more surprise results in the FA cup. This years third round draw has given us some intriguing looking ties. I am not a betting woman so to ask me to predict where any surprise could come is to ask a question I would find difficult to answer. All I will say is enjoy the third round and wish the best of luck to all teams still involved, together of course with their fans.