Friday, January 7, 2011
The magic of the Cup
This season's FA Cup captured the the imagination of football fans as soon as the qualifying rounds began in August 2010, but the competition's profile will really soar when the third round rolls around this weekend.
• Vote for your FA Cup all-time best XI
• FA Cup's Greatest Goalkeepers
• FA Cup's Greatest Giant-killings
• Forum: Giant-killings expected?
• Rewind: Radford slays Newcastle
• FA Cup LIVE on ESPN
Here, some of ESPN's experts share their memories - both famous and personal - of the world's oldest domestic cup competition.
Dave Beasant - Wimbledon's 1988 FA Cup-winning captain
Leading a team out at the old Wembley - the walk out of the tunnel, the walk up the steps; suddenly you come out into the sunshine, you hear the fans and it really does send a tingle down your spine. Then you had the long walk from behind the goal across the dog track and the sand onto the pitch, looking for your friends and family. Then obviously to play the game and to win - we weren't given much of a chance by anyone on the day but our self-belief and the performance warranted victory.
Making the penalty save from John Aldridge and finding out it was the first one ever and going into the history books - I didn't think it could get much bigger than playing and lifting the trophy but everything that went with it made the day even more fantastic. It was a very un-Wimbledon-like evening afterwards - we went out for a beer the night before the game but after the final we had a marquee on the pitch at Plough Lane (Wimbledon's home ground at the time) and spent the time with our families. We had to behave or I'd have got told off by my mum and dad!
John Barnes - Two-time FA Cup winner with Liverpool
Having lost four finals, I appreciate the two I won even more - especially the first with Liverpool. Winning the FA Cup against Everton in the year of the Hillsborough disaster was very special. After Hillsborough, it was great to go on and win the Cup but was all the more poignant because it was against Everton - it was a real Merseyside final and Evertonians had also lost loved ones in the tragedy.
It was fitting that it was a Liverpool v Everton final and with 100,000 Liverpudlians at Wembley it was a truly special occasion. We went one up twice and they kept pegging us back and eventually [Ian] Rushy scored the winner and we went on to win 3-2.
Ray Stubbs - ESPN UK presenter
I could go on for hours and hours, I'm going to have to make a list. My first away game watching Tranmere away to Coventry at Highfield Road; actually scoring in the FA Cup in the millionth qualifying round, playing for Oswestry Town - we got beaten but to score was terrific; Tramnere's great run when they went to the last eight a few times at the turn of the century. Also, being part of going to finals as a broadcaster, and first and second round matches too. When you see the way an entire community gets onside, that really made a big impact on me down the years.
I could go on an on but finally, Rochdale v FC United of Manchester - ESPN's first live game in the competition - the FC United fans nearly nicked the cup to take it on an impromptu lap of honour purely out of exuberance. Yes, we are now celebrating the first round and it's great that the Premier League teams are in but 759 clubs entered - the grassroots of football should never be forgotten, it's a Cup that unites everybody.
Shaka Hislop - Goalkeeper for 2006 runners-up West Ham
In the FA Cup final of 2006, I was playing for West Ham as we lost to Liverpool in what is considered by many as one of the best ever finals. It was a great game, my last in English football and it was a bittersweet day. I really thought we had the game won but then Steven Gerrard scored a great goal at the death and we ended up losing on penalties. We held our heads high afterwards as we weren't one of the fancied teams and it was our first season back in the Premier League; we had a lot of luck with the draw to get to the final though we did play some good football.
It was a game that was a long-time coming for West ham fans, who had been starved of success for far too long. I think they enjoyed the whole run and because the final was played at the Millennium Stadium it was a proper trip for the fans, not just across town to Wembley. It was unfortunate that we could not clear the final hurdle for them but I think West Ham fans will look back on the game, as I do, with fond memories.
Steve McManaman - 1992 FA Cup winner with Liverpool (and boyhood Everton fan)
If you are any football fan it is magical going down to Wembley. I went down to watch Everton in '84 with my father when Everton won. I was a young boy getting on the coach with my dad and all his friends - they were all signing songs and having a drink and we returned back on the coach to Liverpool victorious. It was really special. To queue up and get your final ticket, which was like gold dust, and go down, it was just brilliant, brilliant times. I was slightly spoilt back then - because Liverpool and Everton both wanted to sign me I went [to the final] with Everton [in 1986] when they lost to Liverpool and then with Liverpool when they lost to Wimbledon [in 1988] because I'd joined Liverpool.
Then, a couple of years later, I was actually playing in a final [when Liverpool beat Sunderland in 1992]. I had dislocated my knee in the semi-final so I didn't think I'd get back in time to play, but I returned. I injured my back when Mickey Thomas scored and I was struggling later, I couldn't move, but as a 19-year-old lad I'm sure you can imagine [the celebrations] - a glass of champagne and I was drunk! No, my family came to see me, we stayed in the Covent Garden Hotel in London - everyone had the FA Cup on their heads and we had our photographs taken. As a young lad I was on the periphery though. A lot of the lads went into town, but I had a quiet one.
Jon Champion - ESPN UK commentator
Round four, January 1985. My hometown team York, then in the Old Third Division, were playing an Arsenal side managed by Don Howe. It was a snowy day and there was an icy pitch - conditions that would be considered dodgy nowadays - but thankfully the game got the go ahead. It was a tight 0-0 and the game moved into stoppage time.
York had a player called Keith Houchen - he later gained notoriety as the man who scored for Coventry in the 1987 FA Cup final - who got pulled down in the area by England international Steve Williams. A penalty was given and Houchen picked himself up and stroked it in the corner and York had won. I was at Bootham Crescent watching the game and it was a full house - about 14,000. The reason I love the FA Cup is because it can create occasions like that.
Kevin Keegan - 1974 FA Cup winner with Liverpool
As a player the best memory was 1974, beating Newcastle 3-0 at Wembley with Liverpool. We played fantastic, I scored a couple of goals and it was memorable. The worst memory was going back three years later and losing to Manchester United. You go to Wembley and get all that way - winning is fantastic but I promise you that but losing an FA Cup final is one of the worst feelings in the world. You walk off the pitch, get a loser's medal and think 'I wish I could play that again' but you can't .
When I was at Scunthorpe, we had a really good cup run too, we knocked out Sheffield Wednesday - who were a First Division side while we were a Fourth Division side. We beat Tranmere over three legs and that's when I got spotted by Liverpool so the cup was very kind to me. Bill Shankly came to watch me when we played a second replay on a neutral ground at Goodison Park and he signed me soon after. I will always think of the FA Cup as the number one cup competition in the world - it's a dream for fans to get a day out at Wembley and talk about it for years to come.
ESPN's pundits were speaking at the kick-off of their live third round coverage and the launch of the ESPNsoccernet "Cup of Dreams" Fan Poll, where fans can log on to select their ultimate FA Cup dream team and enter a competition to win tickets to the FA Cup Final.