With England’s big clubs seemingly desperate to forget all about their tradition in a bid to make a quick dollar, sometimes it’s just nice to look back at the things that really matter in football.
Alright, so the FA Cup may not come with a £500m broadcast deal or a £700m cheque for the winners, but that’s not to say we should forget about the oldest and grandest competition in football.
We’ve been treated to some fantastic FA Cup finals down the years – ones that have provided exhilarating moments and incredible turnarounds – and there’s still no greater feeling than seeing your team stride out at a Wembley.
Here’s 90min‘s ranking of the top ten FA Cup finals of all time…
Arsenal’s 2014 clash with Hull may not be an FA Cup final that immediately springs to mind – which is weird considering it was fairly recent – but it was an absolute blockbuster.
The underdogs took an early lead in the showpiece event with goals from centre-back pairing James Chester and Curtis Davies seeing Hull race into a 2-0 lead with just eight minutes gone.
Santi Cazorla immediately hit back to halve the deficit, though Arsenal had to wait until 20 minutes from time to draw level thanks to Laurent Koscielny’s goal, and with just ten minutes of extra time remaining Aaron Ramsey arrived late into the box before slamming the ball past Allan McGregor to hand Arsene Wenger’s side the trophy.
You may well read about a few finals you’d never even heard of in this article, but this one is a game we all remember.
The 2006 FA Cup final saw big favourites Liverpool take on underdogs West Ham at the Millenium Stadium.
Against all the odds, Alan Pardew’s side took a 2-0 lead thank to an own goal from Jamie Carragher and a Dean Ashton strike just a few minutes later.
The Reds fought back and goals from Djibril Cisse and Steven Gerrard looked to have them back on track, though Paul Konchesky’s cross somehow managed to loop over Pepe Reina and into the back of the net.
With just minutes remaining, captain fantastic Gerrard stepped up to rifle and unstoppable 30-yard drive into the bottom corner, leaving the West Ham side crestfallen as the Reds went on to win the penalty shootout that followed extra time.
Arsenal and Manchester United are two of the most decorated clubs in England so it’s probably no surprise to hear they’ve met each other in the FA Cup on the odd occasion down the years.
Their 1979 meeting was one of the best of the lot, with Brian Talbot and Frank Stapleton firing the Gunners into a 2-0 first-half lead.
The contest looked to be dying out before United pulled a rabbit out of the hat late on, with goals from Gordon McQueen and Sammy McIlroy in the final five minutes looking like being enough to force an unlikely period of extra time.
However, there was another late twist to come as Terry Neill’s side launched an attack straight from the kick-off, with Alan Sunderland’s back-post strike enough to secure victory with just one minute left on the clock.
In terms of all out entertainment this final may not be particularly high on most people’s list, but it’s impossible to ignore it.
The so-called ‘Crazy Gang’ were given absolutely no chance as Wimbledon took on the mighty Liverpool in the 1988 FA Cup final.
The Reds had recently been crowned English champions once again, while Bobby Gould’s side had enjoyed a good campaign themselves despite being well off Liverpool’s level.
Lawrie Sanchez’s first-half header gave Wimbledon the lead before John Aldridge’s second-half penalty was kept out by Dave Beasant to hand Gould’s men the most unlikely of victories.
Tottenham were huge favourites heading into their 1987 FA Cup final with Coventry, and things seemed to be going to plan when Clive Allen’s powerful header edged Spurs ahead early on, though the Sky Blues hit back just a few minutes later through Dave Bennett.
Gary Mabbutt yet again handed Tottenham the lead on the stroke of half-time, but yet again Coventry refused to lie down as Keith Houchen equalised.
With the scores locked at 2-2 the game entered extra-time and Lloyd McGrath’s seemingly timid cross was turned into his own net by Mabbutt to hand Coventry a sensational victory.
Very much in the same vein as Wimbledon’s triumph over Liverpool, this one may not have been full of goals but that’s not to say it’s any less brilliant.
As second division Sunderland headed into the 1973 FA Cup final they were looking to become the first second-tier side to lift the trophy since West Brom all the way back in 1931.
In front of them stood the mighty Leeds, though Ian Porterfield’s first-half strike handed the north east side an unlikely lead.
Of course the winning goal was memorable, though the double save pulled off by Jimmy Montgomery will never be forgotten as he ensured Sunderland would be crowned FA Cup winners for only the second time in their history.
Speaking of memorable FA Cup moments.
While Spurs’ 3-2 win over Manchester City in 1981 was an enthralling watch, the game will forever be remembered for Ricky Villa’s moment of magic.
The Argentinian weaved his way through the City backline before slotting past Joe Corrigan to hand Tottenham the trophy.
The memorable goal actually came in the FA Cup final replay after the two sides had played out a 1-1 draw just five days earlier, but we just couldn’t leave it off our list.
Crystal Palace’s run to the 1990 FA Cup final is one of the most memorable domestic cup runs in English football.
Not many people gave Steve Coppell’s side a chance up against Manchester United – despite the fact the Eagles had knocked out Liverpool in an equally dramatic semi-final – though they started brightly and took the lead through Gary O’Reilly.
Bryan Robson levelled the scoring, before goals from Mark Hughes and Ian Wright saw the game head into extra-time with the scores level at 2-2.
Wright looked to have grabbed the winner with a typical poacher’s finish at the back post in extra time, but Palace’s party was to be spoiled as Hughes popped up yet again to make the score 3-3 and send the final to a replay.
United triumphed in the replay with a 1-0 win thanks to Lee Martin’s goal, but Palace at least have the consolation prize of being involved in one of the best ever finals – not that it’ll ease the pain at all.
Everton’s clash with city rivals Liverpool in 1989 is memorable for so many reasons.
First of all, the two sides met at Wembley Stadium just five weeks after the Hillsborough disaster in which 96 Liverpool fans tragically died, with both sets of supporters taking part in a rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ prior to kick off.
The Merseyside clubs went on to produce a brilliant final, with Aldridge handing Liverpool an early lead before Stuart McCall’s dramatic last minute equaliser took the game into extra time.
Ian Rush restored Liverpool’s advantage before McCall yet again drew Everton level, though there was to be no reprieve for the Toffees late on as Rush bagged his second of the game to bag Liverpool’s fourth FA Cup.
A memorable and brilliant final for so many reasons.
As previously mentioned, there may be some finals on this list that you’re not totally aware of given they may have happened before you were even born, but you have to know about this one regardless of your age.
Known as the ‘Matthews final’ (named as such because of the stellar performance from winger Stanley Matthews), Bolton faced Blackpool in front of roughly 100,000 people at Wembley.
Goals from Nat Lofthouse, Willie Moir and Eric Bell for Wanderers were cancelled out by Stan Mortensen’s hat-trick for Blackpool, and the game looked to be heading for extra-time with the scores level at 3-3.
However, Bill Perry’s 92nd minute goal saw Blackpool triumph – an FA Cup trophy which remains their only one to this day.
Matthews was truly unplayable on the day – hence the nickname the ‘Matthews final’ – and some even argue the game to be the greatest match ever.