The Cup of Dreams - The Editor's Choice
To coincide with ESPN's coverage of the 2010-11 FA Cup in the UK, it falls on me, ESPNsoccernet's Senior Editor, to select our greatest ever FA Cup team, manager and player.
And you, the ESPNsoccernet reader, have had the opportunity to select your own team of greats to produce your own selection. That poll's result is announced here, and though we diverge at certain points which may cause some heavy discussion, we largely agree. I shall leave up to you whether you think that's a good thing.
As a traditionalist, I have opted for the 4-4-2 formation, but looked for the best players in each department rather than a strict position-by-position formation. It's my opinion, of course, with a notable bias towards the footballing era I have been part of.
Goalkeeper: David Seaman
Longevity edges Seaman ahead of Peter Schmeichel for the goalkeeper's role. The Yorkshireman recovered from being flummoxed by Gazza in the semi-final of 1991 to win four winners' medals, spanning a full decade, saving his best for last with a superb save from Sheffield United's Paul Peschisolido in the semi-final of 2003.
Six winners' medals says it all, for a left-back who, whatever you think of him, oozes class on a football pitch. Disappointment in the final of 2001 was followed by two years of glory in Cardiff, with more following in 2005. He won three FA Cups in four years after moving to Chelsea.
'Pally' was the towering but skilful centre-back of three very different FA Cup-winning Manchester United teams. The rangy colt of 1990 was a polished veteran by 1996, and Pallister formed a memorable partnership with Steve Bruce in 1990 and 1994 before easing David May through in 1996.
A born leader of men, Adams was the first among equals of a fabled Gunners defence. After powering Arsenal to Wembley with the winner in the semi-final of 1993, Adams led the North Londoners to victories in that year and later on, in a much-changed philosophy under Arsene Wenger, as a far more elegant type of player, in 1998 and 2002.
The icon of English football captained West Ham to Wembley glory in 1964, his ball-playing coolness in defence marking him out for greater honours. Moore became the youngest FA Cup-winning captain at the age of 23 Years and 20 days, when the Hammers beat Preston North End 3-2 at Wembley. In 1975, as a veteran, he captained Second Division Fulham to the final, where they were defeated by West Ham, of all teams.
The Premier League's longest-burning star also has an illustrious FA Cup history to boast of with four winners' medals, and three losers' medals. What has to swing his inclusion is one moment - that slaloming run and thunderous shot to defeated Arsenal to win a semi-final replay (remember them?) and set United on the way to Treble glory in 1999.
For a man who has sometimes been disparaging about the FA Cup, Keane possesses remarkable pedigree in the competition. From the young tyro of a losing Nottingham Forest team of 1991, to a fine midfield display in a lost cause in 2005, Keane played in seven finals, winning three with Manchester United, and giving a man-of-the-match display in 1996 to thwart Liverpool.
Twenty-odd years ago Manchester United had to seek their pleasures in this competition and it was their 'Captain Marvel' who led them to Wembley glory three times, scoring in the finals of 1983 and 1990. One of his final acts as a United player was to score a vital goal in a semi-final replay against Oldham Athletic to complete a remarkable relationship with the old trophy.
He has been in the goals in this competition in this very season (now with Man City) to continue a love affair that began with a Double-sealing Wembley victory in 1998, emulated in 2002, before himself captaining Arsenal to wins in the final of 2003 and 2005. The last of those saw him end his Arsenal career by slotting home the decisive penalty in a shoot-out. He may yet enjoy further success at Wembley.
Liverpool were once a club with a relatively poor history in the FA Cup until this whippet-like striker began to make an impact and fired them to three Wembley wins. Twice he scored a double to defeat Everton - in 1986 and 1989 - and then there was the strike that sealed the Reds' defeat of Sunderland in the 1992 final. He is also the competition's all-time leading scorer since the turn of the 20th Century.
Eric Cantona might be expected to be in this position but I've gone for his former partner, a real warrior in the old traditions of the tournament. From scoring the winner in a 1985 semi-final with Liverpool, to winning the trophy as a veteran with Chelsea in 1997, Hughes had a real FA Cup knack. Wembley was a playground for him and he scored in the finals of 1990 (x2) and 1994, having also scored a Double-saving equaliser there against Oldham in the last minute of extra-time in the latter year's semi-final.
Manager: Arsene Wenger
It may be a surprise to see Sir Alex Ferguson omitted here, but he can take comfort in his players featuring heavily in our selection. Wenger may be struggling for silverware these days but his team's four FA Cups in seven years, from 1998 to 2005, with an additional losing final, and two losing semi-finals, is unprecedented in the competition's history. And, his last FA Cup win - 2005 - is more recent than Ferguson's 2004 crown.
Dream Player: Ian Rush
The wealth of Arsenal and Manchester United selections here may have diluted the cause of their multitude of contenders but there can be no doubting the credentials of a goal machine who made this competition a speciality. Five goals in three finals - a record - says much, but so does Rush's place as the highest goalscorer in the FA Cup since with 49 goals.
GK: Peter Schmeichel
DEF: Ashley Cole
DEF: Gary Pallister
DEF: Tony Adams
DEF: Bobby Moore
MID: Ryan Giggs
MID: Roy Keane
MID: Steven Gerrard
MID: Patrick Vieira
ST: Ian Rush
ST: Eric Cantona
MANAGER: Sir Alex Ferguson
DREAM PLAYER: Eric Cantona