FA Cup weekend is here again and, with Stevenage and Crawley looking to secure upsets against Premier League opposition, we put together a selection of some of the competition's biggest shocks.
Walsall 2-0 Arsenal (third round, 1932-33)
The great Herbert Chapman had led Arsenal to their first ever title in the 1930-31 season, and indeed would give the club their second championship in 1932-33 before his untimely death six months later. However, in January 1933, he would suffer a humiliation that would be remembered for years to come when the Gunners met Division Three (North) also-rans Walsall in the FA Cup.
Arsenal had won only one of their previous five league games at the time of the tie, but Chapman gave four rookies their chance to shine for the trip to Fellows Park, assuming the selected XI - which still included the likes of Cliff Bastin and Alex James - would be too strong for a Walsall team that had cost a total of just £75 (Arsenal's squad was said to be worth £30,000, and the cost of their boots alone ran to £57). Still, Walsall boss Bill Slade remained bullish, telling the Daily Express ahead of the game: "Football here is a sort of civil war. My boys are triers and, after all, it is only 11 men against 11, and the best triers will win."
The 'triers' did indeed win, Gilbert Alsop heading home from a corner on the hour before Bill Sheppard rounded off the scoring ten minutes later with a penalty kick following a blatant foul from debutant Tommy Black. The final whistle brought pandemonium as thousands of home fans invaded the field and as the Express reported: "A group of policemen attempted to get to the Walsall players, but the policemen were Walsall men, and when they had rescued the athletes from the friendly but dangerous pressure of the crowd they, too, slapped Alsop on the back; laughed into the eyes of Sheppard; hugged Leslie and Bennett, and the rest of those happy warriors."
Bastin complained in his autobiography that Walsall "could not have complained had five of their men, at least, been sent off in the first quarter of an hour", but Chapman was unforgiving of the reserve players who had failed their big audition. Black, one of the four reserves picked, was sold to Plymouth less than a week later, while the match also proved to be the only Arsenal appearance for Charlie Walsh and Billy Warnes.
Millwall 2-0 Manchester City (sixth round, 1936-37)
After big wins over Aldershot and Gateshead in the first two rounds of the competition, Division Three (South) side Millwall embarked on a stunning run. Division Two team Fulham were dispatched 2-0 in the third round, before top-flight Chelsea were thrashed 3-0 and Derby, also of the First Division, were beaten 2-1.
That set up a sixth-round meeting with Manchester City, who were third in the First Division and would go on to be crowned champions of England less than two months later. Understandably, the press remained sceptical as to Millwall's chances but, with striker David Mangnall in top form, the possibility of an upset remained real.
On the day, Mangall scored goals in each half to give Millwall a 2-0 victory, earning him the nickname 'David the Giant Killer', and he told the Daily Express after the match: "I reckon our victory should have been by five goals instead of two. We may be Third Division, but I'm sure we have the best cup chance of anybody. They're bound to be afraid of us now, aren't they?"
Millwall had become the first Third Division side in history to reach the competition's semi-finals, but they went no further, losing 2-1 to eventual winners Sunderland at Leeds Road.
Yeovil 2-1 Sunderland (fourth round, 1948-49)
Big-spending Sunderland, who became known as the 'Bank of England club' after signing the likes of Len Shackleton and Ivor Broadis, were finding money does not always buy success, and they were to suffer an almighty humiliation at Yeovil.
Yeovil had lost 11 of their 19 games in the Southern League when they met their top-flight opponents, but they did have one notable advantage: their Huish ground was eight feet higher at one end than the other, and they refused to allow Sunderland to train on it.
On 28 minutes, they took the lead when player-manager Alec Stock fired in from the edge of the area, but Sunderland were level on 62 minutes after Jackie Robinson scored a tap-in. The game went to extra-time and, as heavy fog set in, Yeovil grabbed the winner, Eric Bryant scoring on 105 minutes after a mistake from Shackleton. "The 110 by 70-yard sloping pitch had nothing to do with Yeovil's win," the Daily Express reported. "They did it with sheer teamwork and spirit, and they can do it again and again."
That confidence appeared misplaced. The victory had set up a meeting with cup holders Manchester United at Maine Road and, while Stock expressed delight at the draw, the minnows were dealt an 8-0 defeat.
York City 3-1 Tottenham Hotspur (fifth round, 1954-55)
Division Three (North) side York enjoyed one of the more memorable FA Cup runs when reaching the semi-finals after victories over Scarborough, Dorchester, Blackpool, Bishop Auckland, Tottenham and Notts County, their run ended only when they were defeated by eventual winners Newcastle United after a semi-final replay.
The most impressive of those victories was the fifth-round defeat of top-flight Tottenham at a snow-covered Bootham Crescent in February. Spurs had been energised by the arrival of Danny Blanchflower that December, losing just one of their 11 games since, but manager Arthur Rowe had warned a trip to a frosty York was "not my idea of a walkover". He was not wrong: despite Spurs taking the lead on 11 minutes, York battled back to record a 3-1 victory.
Asked about the York masterplan, captain Ernie Phillips laughed: "We didn't have one. That's the big joke. We want to meet Manchester City or Newcastle in the sixth round because we believe we can beat them." Centre-half Alan Stewart was similarly amused: "I didn't even break into a sweat. I'm amazed we beat them so easily."
Blanchflower said Spurs could have "no grumbles" about the result, while captain Alf Ramsey added: "Some of our players don't like an icy pitch, but York certainly showed us good football can be played in such circumstances."
Worcester City 2-1 Liverpool (third round, 1958-59)
Southern League side Worcester recorded the most famous victory in their history when they beat Second Division side Liverpool at St George's Lane. Freezing temperatures had forced the postponement of the tie and, with the game eventually taking place on a Thursday night, eight of the Worcester team had to work their day jobs before taking part in the game.
Though the pitch was deemed playable, The Guardian noted that it was "devoid of grass" and the ball was "liable to bounce in any direction" and, indeed, that both the Worcester goals came in "this perverse fashion". A misplaced pass, deflected off Liverpool right-back John Molyneux's heel, sent the ball into the path of teenaged striker Tommy Skuse for the ninth-minute opener; in the 81st minute, Liverpool defender Dick White lobbed the ball back to goalkeeper Tommy Younger only to see it evade his outstretched hand and land in the net. Liverpool scored a late penalty through Geoff Twentyman, though it was controversially awarded and even more controversially converted: goalkeeper Johnny Kirkwood had been out of his goal to remove a missile thrown at the referee when Twentyman scored.
Worcester held on, sparking a bizarre mix of delirium and anger at the final whistle: hundreds of fans charged onto the field, triumphantly hauling Worcester captain Roy Paul and goalkeeper Kirkwood onto their shoulders while others jostled and berated referee Les Tirebrick. Liverpool manager Phil Taylor, who accepted Worcester had been "far better", remained in charge for a further ten months before resigning, to be replaced by Bill Shankly.
Hereford United 2-1 Newcastle United (third round replay, 1971-72)
First Division side Newcastle United had long held a reputation for disappointing displays against non-league sides but, ahead of their meeting with Southern League side Hereford, the minnows' player-manager Colin Addison had said: "Let's face it, it ought to be 6-0 for Newcastle."
The first meeting, at St James' Park, was twice postponed but, when it finally did take place on January 24, Hereford took the lead on 17 seconds before coming away with a 2-2 draw courtesy of Addison's 25-yard equaliser. Toon boss Joe Harvey remained defiant: "Don't forget that in the years I led Newcastle to two of their three FA Cup triumphs in the '50s, we had to make progress after being held at home to non-league Wigan and Bristol Rovers, but we did it."
By the time the teams met at Edgar Street on February 5, there had been six postponements, and it was on a predictably muddy pitch that the game took place. What transpired was a hard-fought, action-packed encounter, with Newcastle's Malcolm Macdonald breaking the deadlock on 82 minutes.
Hereford then finally made the decision to substitute right-back Roger Griffiths, who had played for almost 70 minutes with a broken fibula, and brought on winger Ricky George. Three minutes later, Ronnie Radford won a tackle, played a one-two with Brian Owen, and fired home from 30 yards to spark a pitch invasion.
That goal brought extra-time and, on 103 minutes, substitute George fired Hereford into the lead, sparking another pitch invasion. Hereford manfully defended their lead until the final whistle to secure perhaps the most famous FA Cup upset of all-time.
Sunderland 1-0 Leeds United (final, 1972-73)
Though Sunderland were only one division below Leeds, the 1973 final is still remembered as one of the competition's greatest shocks. Not since West Brom beat Birmingham in 1931 had a team from outside the top-flight lifted the trophy and, though Don Revie's Leeds side had gone out to Fourth Division Colchester a couple of years earlier, they had won the trophy in 1972 and were one of the most feared sides of the era.
Sunderland went ahead after 31 minutes at Wembley, Ian Porterfield controlling the ball before firing home from 12 yards, but then had to withstand an onslaught. Luckily for Sunderland, goalkeeper Jim Montgomery was in inspired form, and producing a series of a saves - not least the legendary double stop from Trevor Cherry's header and Peter Lorimer's close-range strike. "There is no way that man could have saved it. No way," an incredulous Lorimer said after the game, while Revie added: "It was the greatest save I have ever seen and it decided the match." Montgomery joked that he would have to get his left hand embalmed after his death.
Bournemouth 2-0 Manchester United (third round, 1983-84)
Manchester United, the FA Cup holders, were only three points behind Liverpool at the top of the First Division when they travelled to Dean Court to begin the defence of their trophy. Harry Redknapp's Bournemouth, hovering just above the relegation zone in the Third Division, were given so little chance that one supporter had offered to pay for the whole team to go on holiday to Spain should they win.
However, United had already been knocked out of the League Cup by Third Division opposition in the shape of Oxford United that season, and they never got going on the South Coast. On the hour mark, Milton Graham hooked the ball into the net from a corner and, two minutes later, Ian Thompson doubled their lead after taking advantage of a mistake from Bryan Robson. United battled back, and had a goal disallowed, but were unable to avert their fate.
"They lost because they have too many prima donnas," Bournemouth captain Roger Brown told the Daily Mirror afterwards. "They are not in the same league as Liverpool." George Best labelled it the worst United performance he'd ever seen, while manager Ron Atkinson said: "I was ashamed. I felt like jumping off the cliffs at Bournemouth."
Birmingham City 1-2 Altrincham (third round, 1985-86)
"We came here expecting a result," John King, manager of Conference side Altrincham, said after knocking top-flight Birmingham out of the FA Cup in their own stadium. While that confidence was not without its grounds - Altrincham were flying high in the Gola League while Birmingham were sinking fast after 17 games without a win - the fact was that King's club had not been beyond the third round of the cup in its history.
Yet even when Birmingham went ahead at St Andrew's through Robert Hopkins they were undaunted, equalising just two minutes later through Ronnie Ellis before Hopkins overhit a backpass to David Seaman and sealed the hosts' fate.
"What has happened here tonight has been coming for the last two years," Blues boss Ron Saunders said after the game. "I hope this result shakes things up and I can get some money from the board." King was less than impressed with his opposite number's excuses - "I haven't any sympathy for Saunders. In fact, I'd swap places with him. Hasn't he got a contract worth £150,000?" - but Saunders felt the board's refusal to cooperate had gone too far and he resigned his position just two days later.
Sutton United 2-1 Coventry City (third round, 1988-89)
Not since January 1989 has a non-league team knocked a top-flight side out of the competition. Sutton, 13th in the Conference, were hosting 1978 FA Cup winners Coventry, who lay fifth in the First Division.
Little was expected of the amateurs of Gander Green Lane, but they took the lead three minutes before the break through captain Tony Rains and, though David Phillips netted a Coventry equaliser after half-time, master bricklayer Matt Hanlan volleyed home a winner on 58 minutes.
Rains, an insurance audit executive, said he was surprised by the standard of their illustrious opponents: "To be frank, I expected more from Coventry." Sutton manager Barrie Williams, who had quoted Rudyard Kipling in the matchday programme, added some old-fashioned eloquence to the occasion. "Fortunately our chaps are proper chaps and they do have some intelligence," he said. "Therefore they are able to countenance a multiplicity of set-plays suited to the occasion."
In the fourth round, Sutton were handed a dream trip to Norwich, who were then second in the First Division. Williams was delighted - "The fantasy continues," he said - but Sutton were dealt an 8-0 defeat at Carrow Road.
Wrexham 2-1 Arsenal (third round, 1991-92)
"Two minutes that were conceivably the most glorious in the history of Wrexham AFC turned Arsenal's season into an undiluted disaster," Hugh McIlvanney wrote in The Guardian in response to an encounter that had seen 37-year-old Mickey Thomas provide the defining moment of both the match and a memorable career.
Wrexham had finished bottom of the Fourth Division in the 1990-91 season but escaped relegation due to the expansion of the top-flight, and were 16th in the table at the time of their meeting with Arsenal. The Gunners, meanwhile, had been crowned champions of England in the 1990-91 campaign, but had not had the best of times in 1991-92: already out of the League Cup and European Cup, they were seventh in the table and with the FA Cup their only means of salvation.
Manager George Graham had taken a full-strength side to the Racecourse Ground, and they were ahead shortly before half-time when Alan Smith scored from Paul Merson's cut-back. However, in the 83rd minute, Wrexham were level, and in some style. After Wrexham were awarded a dubious free-kick 25 yards out, Thomas - who had helped Wrexham reach the quarter-finals of both the FA Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup in the mid-'70s - drove it beyond the helpless David Seaman. A couple of minutes later, striker Steve Watkin delivered the killer blow, leading Thomas to remark of the Arsenal manager: "George has got a bit of a crisis on."