FA Cup Third Round Moments That Changed The Course Of History

We look back at a few of the moments that helped make the FA Cup's third round so special
08:35, 08 Jan 2022

The FA Cup may not be the main attraction that it once was but there’s no disputing that down the years the oldest knockout competition in the world has provided many pivotal moments that have ultimately changed the course of football history along the way.

We may now be used to second string sides squaring up come the first weekend in January, often against the backdrop of half-empty stadiums, but FA Cup Third Round weekend has been responsible for some major turning points for those involved over the decades which have meant much more than simply progression to the next round, and for that reason it will always be special. Here are just a few...

Up for the Newly Formed Cup, 1872

The Football Association had been formed in 1863 but for the first eight years of its existence member clubs only competed in friendly matches against each other with little more than bragging rights on offer come the end of the season; but that was all to change in 1871 when the association's secretary, Charles Alcock - while in the offices of The Sportsman newspaper - came up with the idea of a knock-out tournament open to all member clubs, with a trophy to be awarded to the winners and the FA Cup was born.

Only 15 clubs entered the fledgling competition in the November of 1871 meaning the Third Round of the FA Cup actually took place towards the end of January and was essentially the Quarter Final stage.

Due to there being five teams remaining, thanks to the somewhat farcical nature of the organization, Queen's Park received a bye into the semi-finals without even playing a match in the whole tournament, while Wanderers and Crystal Palace were incredibly both allowed through after their tie ended in a draw.

In subsequent years replays would be introduced to prevent the chaos of that year’s Third Round, while further down the line it would be the stage where league clubs would enter the tournament as popularity grew.

Wanderers ultimately won the first ever FA Cup after beating Royal Engineers in the final at Kennington Oval but more importantly the foundations had been laid for a tournament which would still be creating huge talking points and memorable moments well into the next millennium.

Worcester Sorcery Heralds Shanks’ Arrival, 1959

Second Division Liverpool suffered one of the most embarrassing defeats in their history when they lost to non-league Worcester City at St George’s Lane at the Third Round stage in January 1959; but it was to be what followed which arguably shaped the history of the Anfield club forever more.

Teenager Tommy Skuse gave the home side a surprise lead after nine minutes and Dick White's own goal made it 2-0 with nine minutes left to play. With the formidable Billy Liddell, who scored 228 goals for the Reds in their ranks, Liverpool threw everything at the part-timers and eventually pulled a goal back, but it was too little too late.

The tabloids had a field day and later that year manager Phil Taylor eventually left the club with Liverpool languishing in the second-tier of English football. His replacement was a certain Bill Shankly, who was Huddersfield Town manager at the time, and the fiery Scot wasted no time in turning around the fortunes of the club as he took them to three league titles, two FA Cups and the UEFA Cup before retiring in 1974.

Opportunity Knocks for Motty at Hereford, 1972

The FA Cup Third Round Replay between lowly Hereford United and First Division Newcastle on February 5, 1972 has gone down in folklore for providing one of the biggest and most famous upsets in the tournament's long history; but it was also a day which would herald the arrival of one of the greatest football commentators of all time.

Having earned a remarkable 2-2 draw at St James’ Park to earn a second bite of the cherry a few days later the fairy tale seemed to be over for Hereford when The Magpies took the lead thanks to a Malcolm McDonald header; but the Southern League side had other ideas.

Ronnie Radford scored with an incredible drive to bring the home side level and is still probably one of the most famous goals in the history of the tournament; before substitute Ricky George managed to wriggle free of his marker and fire a shot beyond Willie McFaul to win the tie.

But commentating that day was a certain John Motson in his first ever TV broadcast due to the fact that the weather across the country had been so bad that the match had to be played on Fourth Round day and many of his colleagues were otherwise engaged.

Dispatched to Edgar Street as a novice radio reporter “Motty” couldn’t have foreseen how things would turn out and after the nation heard his now famous, “Oh what a goal! Radford the scorer!” commentary he would go on to become a household name; commentating on FA Cup finals, World Cups and European Championships for the next four decades.

Howard Gets His Way, 1984

Howard Kendall oversaw the most successful period in Everton's history thanks to two league titles, an FA Cup triumph and European Cup Winners' Cup success in the mid-1980s, though none of this might have happened if it hadn’t been for a vital FA Cup Third Round win over Stoke City in January 1984.

The Toffees were struggling at the time, 16th in the league with the boss under pressure and during a League Cup tie against Chesterfield several weeks before leaflets had even been handed out among the 8,067 who bothered to turn up at Goodison Park calling for the head of their struggling manager along with chairman Phillip Carter.

As Kendall prepared to address his players before the game with Stoke, many Everton fans were gathered on the street outside waiting to get into the ground while singing, shouting and generally making a racket and Kendall later revealed he simply opened the dressing room window to let his players listen to the chants, saying: “There's your team talk - don't let those fans down.”

Everton went on to win the FA Cup that year before securing a league and European Cup Winners' Cup double in the following campaign, and another title in 1987. How different things could have been if it hadn’t been for that win against Stoke in the FA Cup Third Round.

Fortune Favours Fergie’s Fledglings, 1990

It’s January 1990 and Manchester United are struggling in the league without a win since mid-November and without a trophy in three years under Sir Alex Ferguson, no wonder the pressure was mounting on the Red Devils boss going into the FA Cup Third Round tie against Nottingham Forest at the City Ground.

Battling at the wrong end of the table and out of the League Cup, the FA Cup was seen as Ferguson’s only hope of silverware; but if the tabloids at the time were to be believed it was more than trophies he was fighting for as it was widely reported that defeat to Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest would have spelled the end of Ferguson at Old Trafford.

We’ll never know if that was the case as a header from youth team graduate and new-found super-sub Mark Robins saw United through as they embarked on a thrilling cup run that would eventually see them lift the famous old trophy in May thanks to a goal in the final from Lee Martin, another product of United’s academy system.

The win was widely accepted as one which saved Ferguson’s job and showed how different things could have been as under the Scot. United went on to claim 37 more trophies over the next quarter of a century or so and dominated the domestic football scene.

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