5 Biggest Outsiders to Win the FA Cup

The FA Cup is the oldest national football competition in the world, having first been contested in the 1871/72 season, and it's fair to say there have been some surprise winners along the way.

The FA Cup is still the focus for many clubs looking to reach the tournament proper.

It was Wanderers who won the FA Cup for the first time in 1872, beating the Royal Engineers 1-0 in the final at Kennington Oval, while Leicester City won the most recent edition in 2021 when defeating Chelsea by the same score.

Before we get into our top five biggest outsiders to win the competition, there are three honourable mentions that just missed the cut – these being Ipswich’s 1-0 win over Arsenal in 1978, West Ham’s 1-0 triumph over the Gunners in 1980 and Everton’s 1-0 victory against Manchester United in 1995.

Sunderland 1 Leeds 0 – 1973

Sunderland’s second and most recent FA Cup win came in the 1973 final when they produced a huge shock to upset Leeds United 1-0 in the final, with Ian Porterfield grabbing the only goal in the 32nd minute.

Leeds were the team to beat in the 1960s and early 1970s – this period classed as the club’s glory days – and they were firmly expected to retain the FA Cup having beaten Arsenal 1-0 just 12 months earlier.

Blessed with the likes of Eddie Gray, Peter Lorimer and Billy Bremner, the Whites couldn’t find a way past a determined Sunderland side, who became the first team from the second tier to win the competition since West Brom in 1931.

Southampton 1 Man Utd 0 – 1976

Just three years on from Sunderland’s victory, there was another shock result when Southampton won the FA Cup for the first time by beating Manchester United 1-0 in the final.

The Saints, playing in the second tier at the time, were the huge underdogs heading into the contest and the Red Devils, who were challenging both QPR and Liverpool at the top of the First Division, had been expected to claim the spoils.

But Steve Coppell, Lou Macari, Martin Buchan and Co were unable to break down a resolute Southampton, who grabbed the victory courtesy of a brilliant 83rd-minute strike from Bobby Stokes.

Coventry City 3 Tottenham Hotspur 2 – 1987

Coventry City’s first appearance in an FA Cup final was a memorable one back in 1987, as they twice came from behind to defeat Tottenham Hotspur 3-2 at Wembley.

Spurs enjoyed a successful period in the 1980s, having won the FA Cup in ’81 and ’82, claimed the UEFA Cup in ’84 and also finished third in the league in 1986/87.

Boasting the likes of Glenn Hoddle, Clive Allen and Chris Waddle, Tottenham, who had won all of their previous seven finals before the 1987 spectacle, were the huge favourites heading into the contest.

However, goals from David Bennett and Keith Houchen helped the Sky Blues level the scores before Gary Mabbutt’s own goal in extra-time handed Coventry the victory.

This remains the club’s one and only FA Cup final appearance. Not a bad record I suppose. One final. One victory.

Wimbledon 1 Liverpool 0 – 1988

Like Coventry, Wimbledon have only ever appeared in one FA Cup final and they also managed to come out on top, this time in 1988 when they produced a huge shock to defeat Liverpool 1-0.

At the time, the Reds were the dominant force in both English and European football, having successfully defended their First Division title that season while they had clinched their fourth European Cup four years earlier.

Liverpool had the likes of Alan Hansen, John Barnes and Peter Beardsley in the starting XI in the final and, had the latter not seen a goal wrongly chalked off, the result could have been much different.

Wimbledon, nicknamed the Crazy Gang for their no-nonsense style of play, took the lead through Lawrie Sanchez in the 37th minute and they battled hard for the rest of the match.

There was huge drama to come as the Reds were handed a dubious penalty, only for John Aldridge to see his spot-kick saved by Dave Beasant, who became the first goalkeeper to save a Cup final penalty, and The Dons managed to see out the win from there.

Wigan 1 Man City 0 – 2012/13

The most recent FA Cup shock came in 2013 when Manchester City’s star-studded squad were beaten 1-0 by Wigan Athletic, in what was truly a David vs Goliath encounter.

City’s starting XI that day had the likes of Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and David Silva involved, but they couldn’t find their way past an opposition defence that had shipped 69 goals in the league at that point.

Wigan goalkeeper Joel Robles was exemplary in between the sticks, saving the 12 shots that came his way, and this rear-guard action allowed the Latics the opportunity to snatch the win late on.

Ben Watson, brought on as an 81st-minute substitution, popped up with a headed goal in the first minute of stoppage time to cap off a truly memorable day for the Lancashire outfit.

Just three days after winning the FA Cup, Wigan were relegated from the Premier League, after they lost 4-1 to Arsenal, becoming the first side to win the competition and get relegated in the same season.

A single-handicapper, James always offers an interesting insight to the world of golf, with extensive knowledge of both the US and European Tours. James also has a wealth of information about the domestic and international football scene.
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