People seem to get a bit confused over the FA Cup, don’t they? Not with the actual competition itself – that’s pretty straightforward. But when it comes to how much effort clubs should put in, people get a little daft. To clubs in Europe or with a realistic chance of winning their league, that has to take priority over domestic cup competitions, surely? Even ‘magical’ ones like the FA Cup. Similarly with fighting relegation. An FA Cup quarter final is scant consolation when you’re staring at next season in the league below.
But, even though we understand all that, we still complain. We want strong teams put out. Yet we also want giant killings. So when we get to the semis, where does that leave us? Who do we want in the final four? Plucky underdogs? Or four of the best teams in the country? Well, say what you like about squad strength and selection in this year’s competition, we’ve got the latter. It’s Chelsea Vs. Spurs and Man City Vs. Arsenal.
The tighter the games, the more drama we should get. FA Cup finals don’t always turn out to be classics, but their predecessors often do. And to prove our point, we’ve picked out our seven favorite moments from FA Cup semi finals down the years…
Gazza Gazumps The Gunners (1991)
It’s easy to think of Paul Gascoigne as the man he’s become today. And that’s upsetting, not only to those who know the man, but also for anyone with a love of the game he used to light up so frequently. We prefer to think of him at his peak. Though barely fit and in one of the biggest games of his career to date – an FA Cup semi against bitter North London rivals Arsenal – he totally ran the show.
You’ve no doubt seen his audaciously fantastic free kick that made England legend David Seaman look like a scarecrow (albeit one with lovely soft hair). But for the entire hour he managed on the pitch, Gascoigne effortlessly pulled the strings. He topped off his performance with an assist for teammate and crisp enthusiast Gary Lineker and secured Spurs a place in that year’s final.
He went on to show his darker side in that final, clattering in hard to concede an early free kick in a challenge that should have seen him sent off. Instead, he injured himself, had to go off early and watch Stuart Pearce thump in an opener not unlike his in the round before. Luckily for Gazza, his teammates came through for him and they all went home with winners’ medals in the end.
Yaya Turns The Air Blue (2011)
Alright, this might not have been a particularly memorable game. But when Yaye Toure slot past Edwin Van der Sar in the United goal, it signalled a bit of a sea change. It put Manchester City on course to win their first trophy in thirty five years. Not only that, but it also saw a kind of baton passing. With the red half of Manchester beginning a rough patch the likes of which they’d not faced for some time and City enjoying becoming the new powerhouse of English football, life wasn’t a lot of fun for United. You could argue that it still isn’t, but at least the gap has narrowed a little now.
Giggs Shows His Class – And Chest Hair – Against Arsenal (1999)
Fans of modern day football, when asked to think of the best goals they’ve seen scored in the British game will always go to the old classics. Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon, a Yeboah, that bicycle kick of Rooney’s, maybe even Beckham’s halfway line effort. Another one that’ll get the nod from many… This goal right here.
Manchester United legend-in-the-making Ryan Giggs decided to take the ball around everyone on the pitch at least twice and blast the thing past David Seaman (again… Poor ol’ Dave).
But it’s the celebration we all remember, isn’t it? That one man contemporary dance interpretation of the King Kong story. FUN FACT: The very next day ‘Veet For Men’ was invented.
Spireites Taste Glory… If Only Briefly (1997)
This year’s semis see four big ‘uns duking it out. But back in 1997, third tier side Chesterfield made the latter stages after an impressive run. Even more impressive? Their display against Middlesbrough in the semi final. They raced into a 2-1 lead quick sharp. But were pegged back and soon trailed 3-2. Step up Jamie Hewitt with a last-minute equaliser to send the North Derbyshire side wild. They earned a replay and a chance at glory…
They got spanked in that replay, though. 3-0.
Mark Hughes Sparks United Revival (1994)
When an on-fire Manchester United trounced Chelsea in the 1994 FA Cup final, you’d be forgiven for thinking that they’d have dispatched their opponents in the previous round, their slightly less intimidating neighbours Oldham Athletic, with similar ease. And, well, they did. It was 4-1. But that was the replay.
The first tie saw Oldham just seconds from a shot at the trophy. And but for Welsh dragon Mark Hughes, they’d have got there. Sparky stabbed home a last-gasp leveller and helped eventually bring the cup back to Old Trafford.
Bright Shines The Way In Fierce Steel City Derby (1993)
Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday have always been fierce local rivals. But, in recent years, they’ve not really had too many chances to demonstrate their hatred of one another. That could all change next year should Wednesday fail to nab that one coveted Premier League play-off spot, though. Both will be scrapping in Championship.
When they met in the 1993 FA Cup semi-final, they were Premiership rivals. And calling a winner was tricky, there wasn’t a huge difference in quality. It was a tight affair but it was finally decided in extra time when Wednesday striker Mark Bright popped up with the all-important goal to take them through. Blue Steel rejoiced.
Alan Pardew’s Late Shocker Sinks Liverpool (1990)
Charismatic, smarmy, charming, arrogant, mercurial, terrible. Alan Pardew is many things to many people. There are plenty of club’s fans that won’t speak too favourably of the man as a manager (Newcastle, Reading, Southampton, Charlton, etc.), but even after his poor spell in charge at Crystal Palace, he’ll always have a place in Eagles’ fans hearts. Why? Well, his 110th minute extra time goal helped them past Liverpool back in 1990 and a shot at Wembley glory.
Will we be treated with another unforgettable moment this weekend? Here’s hoping, eh?