The FA Cup final is big for success starved Manchester City and Stoke City, but as these past goals and celebrations show, it has definitely lost some of its lustre...
Desperate for any sort of silverware, Manchester City and Stoke City fans fans might tell you something different, but nobody gives much of a monkey’s about the FA Cup Final anymore. Compare Steven Gerrard’s half-baked celebration of his late equaliser against West Ham in 2006 to the hysterics that follow this Champions League strike against Olympiakos and you get a sense of how much the season showpiece has been devalued. With Saturday’s game set to be a postscript to Manchester United’s Premier League coronation, that devaluation continues apace.
In tribute to a once great day that used to bring the nation to a standstill, here are ten of the finest FA Cup Final goals scored in my lifetime, from the early seventies to the mid 90s, when it still meant something to lift the famous old trophy.
1. Charlie George v Liverpool, 1971
As good as this goal is, it’s George’s reaction to it that stuck in the national consciousness. “I fell down because I didn’t have another drop of energy left in me,” he says, in conversation with Jon Wilde in this ST piece. “I wasn’t thinking that I ought to do something that people will remember. I was just fucking knackered.” Boffins at FA Cup sponsors E.ON rated his prostrate Messiah act as the most energy-efficient goal celebration in the competition’s history, estimating that he expended a mere 1.4 kcal/min in the process. Don’t be surprised to see moody celebrator David Balotelli lower that mark should he score on Saturday.
2. Allan Clarke v Arsenal, 1972
Sniffer didn’t clock up many kcals in this celebration either but that’s because he was one of the most laid-back of 70s cats. Set up by the unsung Mick Jones, this classy header gave Revie’s men a fully deserved win in the Centenary final, their one success in four FA Cup visits to Wembley, a poor return for a great side still forced to defend its reputation decades later.
3. Alan Sunderland v Manchester United, 1979
The build-up aside, the goal that won the Five-Minute Final is no work of art. That it is one of the most fondly remembered of all Wembley winners is down to the BBC. While the other side switched to Terry Neill celebrating on the Arse bench, the Beeb captured Sunderland’s magnificent expletive-filled celebration for posterity, one my brother had me recreating in the garden for months.
4. Steve Mackenzie v Tottenham, 1981
Zidane’s best-in-class Hampden howitzer knocks this effort into a cocked hat, of course, but there haven’t been too many finer volleys than this one, made all the more momentous by Mackenzie’s Fatima Whitbread mullet. Watch out for Tommy Hutchinson’s magical cushioned assist too.
5. Ricardo Villa v Manchester City, 1981
“Call that a dribble?”, as compatriots Maradona and Messi might be tempted to say on viewing this legendary replay winner. Back in the day, when foreigners were thin on the ground and dribbling a dying art on these shores, Villa’s mazy run and cool finish was rightly hailed as an exotic masterpiece. Time hasn’t done it any favours though and, looking back, Motty’s a touch premature when he ejaculates, “And still Ricky Villa”. He’d only run ten yards and gone past Ray Ranson, FFS!
6. Norman Whiteside v Everton, 1985
In contrast to Villa’s effort, this blinding cup-clincher really does stand the test of time. From Mark Hughes’ luscious outside-of-the-foot pass, to Whiteside’s stepover (and here was me thinking Robinho had invented it) and sumptuous curling finish past the best keeper in the business at the time, it’s a mesmerising thing of beauty you can watch again and again. Something you won't do if Robert Huth scores from a Rory Delap special for Stoke City.
7. Keith Houchen v Tottenham, 1987
Peter Osgood’s diving header in the 1970 replay against Leeds was the better goal, but it’s this effort that’s gone down in Cup Final folklore. The archetypal journeyman striker, Houchen scored five of his seven goals for Coventry in this unlikely Cup run, saving the best till last as the up-and-at-em Midlands underdogs put one over the effete cup specialists.
8. Stuart Pearce v Tottenham, 1991
Still hobbling from that tackle, Gazza was stationed on the end of the wall as Pearce almost outdid the Geordie’s semi-final rocket against Arsenal. Just to prove it was no fluke, the England full-back zipped another one past Erik Thorsvedt in a league game later that year (watch the end of the clip to see an amusingly contrite Nigel Clough pick up an uncharacteristic red card).
9. Michael Thomas v Sunderland, 1992
A tedious mismatch, made memorable only by this peach and Jimmy Hill’s half-time take on a possible foul by Paul Bracewell on Steve McManaman inside the area. “You have to look at the angle of intent”, insisted The Chin, bemusing the nation with his laws of penalty-box physics. Mark Wright’s X-rated cup-raising roar was worth the wait, though. Somehow, we can't imagine Carlos Tevez unleashing a similar primal yell if Manchetser City are triumphant.
10. Eric Cantona v Liverpool, 1996
Terrible Spice Boy threads, terrible game, great goal. The Frenchman did the watching millions a huge favour, somehow contorting himself into position to get the crispest of volleys away as extra-time and 30 more minutes of overhyped tedium loomed. Rob Jones is probably still wondering why he never stuck a hand out to try and stop it.
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