The FA Cup is widely recognized as the greatest domestic cup competition in soccer, and for good reason. It is the oldest national competition globally, making it one of the most loved in the sport.
One of the reasons for that is that it brings up matches between the top teams in England and others much further down the soccer pyramid. In early February, one of those occasions is waiting to happen, and the world will be able to watch the action unfold live on TV. It’s not very often that you see a club that is five levels below the top tier of English football on television, but in the fourth round this year, Kidderminster Harriers will take on the Premier League team West Ham United. Why has this game been selected to be broadcast, you ask? It’s down to the possibility of there being a huge surprise.
After getting through four qualifying rounds, Kidderminster has already defied all the odds to get so far in the competition; they fought through five games before defeating former Premier League club, Reading, in round three to set up the tie against the Hammers. By comparison, West Ham have had one tie, knocking out fellow top-flight side Leeds United, and are now expected to breeze past their lower league opposition. That’s with good reason; the Hammers have a team full of established internationals, as opposed to many of the Harriers’ squad only being part-time footballers, and having other jobs to contend with. Kidderminster are not just outsiders with Coral for the 2022 FA Cup, they are ranked as having less chance than Leicester did when they won the Premier League in 2015. However, that’s the ‘magic of the cup’ in England, that the big guns can face off against the minnows and sometimes, just sometimes, get beaten. Let’s take a look at some of those previous occasions when the FA Cup has captured the imagination by writing some of the biggest underdog stories in soccer.
Wrexham v Arsenal 1991/92
When the draw was made for the third round, no one expected anything other than a win for The Gunners. After all, they were the reigning champions of England, while their opponents not only played three tiers lower, they were languishing at the bottom of the division. England international Alan Smith put Arsenal in front, but with ten minutes to go, the home side equalized, setting up a grandstand finish, and it certainly delivered that. It’s a result that even now, 30 years later, still resonates with all soccer fans, highlighted by North Wales Live calling it one of the greatest ever shocks recently.
Sutton United v Coventry City 1988/89
As Coventry City stepped into Sutton United’s Gander Green Lane in early January 1989, only the home fans dreamed of a shock. The rest of the footballing world saw nothing but a win coming for the team who had etched their name on the FA Cup trophy just 18 months earlier. However, things changed as Sutton took the lead three minutes before halftime. Despite Coventry drawing level just after the break, the sporting gods were on the side of the home team because within a matter of minutes, they were to score what would be the winning goal.
Burnley v Lincoln City 2016/17
When the draw was made for the fifth round of the FA Cup in 2017, Burnley were everyone’s favorites to make their way past Lincoln City and progress into the quarter-finals. However, the non-league side were undaunted by the task of taking on a Premier League club on their own patch. They fought for every ball, blocked every shot, and going into the 89th minute with the score still locked at 0-0; Lincoln won a corner in front of their traveling army of supporters. The unthinkable came true, as Lincoln became the first non-league team to reach the competition’s quarter-finals in over 100 years.
“Web specialist. Lifelong zombie maven. Coffee ninja. Hipster-friendly analyst.”