The FA Cup's Greatest Giant-killings
We at ESPNsoccernet will be taking you through the season with a series of FA Cup features detailing the highlights of the competition's long and proud history. We begin with a selection of the games that have entered FA Cup lore as those days when a giant was slayed by a lower league David.
• FA Cup's Greatest Goalkeepers
• Rewind: Radford slays Newcastle
• Forum: Giant-killings expected?
• FA Cup memories
• FA Cup LIVE on ESPN The world's oldest knockout footballing competition has a rich history of the applecart being upset, and the rich being humbled by the poor. We have selected our greatest ever FA Cup shock, with five others given an honourable mention.
Colchester v Leeds United: fifth round 1970-71
Every era has a footballing dynasty and the prime outfit of the late '60s-early '70s was Don Revie's Leeds. They may have missed out on many an honour at the last, but that usually came as a result of the fatigue of fighting on so many fronts. The previous year had seen them lose in a final replay to Chelsea, but they were favourites to put right that wrong and claim their first ever FA Cup. After this visit to Third Division Colchester United, though, they would be made to wait until the following year.
The U's were in the old Fourth Division, and were managed by Dick Graham, a one-time team-mate of Revie's at Leicester City. Despite Graham's undoubted wiles as a lower-division boss, very few granted hope to the Essex boys. Indeed, moves were afoot to move the game to Elland Road so that Colchester could garner a share of larger gate receipts as the end of the cup run beckoned but eventually 16,000 crammed into Layer Road. It was to prove a decent choice, and there was also the fact that no First Division club had yet won at Colchester's ground.
In veteran centre-forward Ray Crawford, Colchester had a player of pedigree. A former England international, Crawford had won a League Championship with Ipswich in 1961-62 and boasted in pre-match that Leeds centre-half Jack Charlton had always been a favourite opponent of his; he had scored eight goals against Leeds prior to this match. Graham had targeted Leeds goalkeeper Gary Sprake, he of the sometime 'careless hands'. Not only that, the wily manager stymied Leeds' expansive wing-play by creating the image of a smaller pitch by surrounding it with chairs and benches.
The plan, "route one" all the way, paid off just fine. The aristocratic talents of Leeds United were unable to play their own game, and also lacked midfield bite through the absence of captain Billy Bremner as Colchester set among them and harried their every move.
When the home team took the lead, it was richly deserved. The 18th minute saw Gary Sprake err for Crawford to nod in. Seven minutes later, Crawford had another, a snap effort nudged in as he lay on the ground after pandemonium greeted another lofted ball. And Colchester were three goals to the good when a collision between Paul Reaney and the hapless Sprake allowed Dave Simmons to steal in.
Leeds' pride was hurt deep and they fought back in typical style, Norman Hunter nodding in on the hour and John Giles making it a nail-biting finish with driven goal 17 minutes from time. But Colchester hung on grimly, never allowing Leeds to play their own game and securing a win that remains their most famous day. They still needed a late point-blank save from Graham Smith from Mick Jones to secure their place in history but their team that afternoon remain the most legendary at Colchester United.
Revie was left to bemoan an embarrassing afternoon as the FA Cup had again slipped from his grasp. Sprake would be the fall-guy; he was subsequently dropped for the next match. Crawford meanwhile, despite an otherwise distinguished career, will always be remembered for that February day.
Hereford United v Newcastle United: third round 1971-72
Walton and Hersham v Brighton & Hove Albion: first round 1973-74
Bournemouth v Manchester United: third round 1983-84
Sutton United v Coventry City: third round 1988-89
Wrexham v Arsenal: third round 1991-92