FA Cup Replays have been scrapped for next season to reduce congestion, but they've been the source of some classics
FA Cup Replays have long split opinion among football fans.
The traditionalists think the “magic of the cup” is furthered by a lower league minnow forcing a replay away at a higher-ranked side, which helps fund their club for a considerable number of years afterwards.
Others think they should be done away with, and have a single fixture format where the winner takes it all, without clogging up the fixture feed more.
And it’s the latter bunch that have got their way from next season, as the FA have announced the oldest cup competition in the world will no longer have replays should the first 90 minutes end in a draw.
It’s likely that this change will only last for a single season, as it’s one that has came about as a result of Covid-19, as well as prize money for the winner being halved from £3.6m to £1.8m. The poor souls.
Whichever camp you’re in though, there’s something we can all agree on – without replays, we’d have been robbed of some of the best memories the FA Cup has ever had to offer.
Here’s our top five:
1. 1972 – Hereford vs Newcastle United, 3rd Round
We’ll start with one that has haunted me for as long as I’ve known what the FA Cup is.
I wasn’t alive for another 19 years, but you can’t watch a Newcastle United fixture in the FA Cup without the broadcast team mentioning Hereford United, and in particular, Ronnie Radford.
In case you’re not familiar, Division 1 (now the Premier League) Newcastle were held to a 2-2 draw at St James’ Park, and went to Edgar Street to face non-league Hereford for the second time.
Fifth-tier Hereford were made up of part-time footballers with “real” jobs, and held on for 82 minutes before Toon legend Malcolm Macdonald scored, seemingly to break the hearts of the capacity crowd.
But three minutes later, Radford, a joiner unleashed one of the best goals in FA Cup history, smashing a 30-yarder past Willie McFaul in the Newcastle net.
The commentary has since gone down in history as one of the best lines ever, courtesy of John Motson, who was on trial with the BBC as a fresh-faced 26-year-old.
Radford’s goal forced extra time in the replay, where Hereford went on to score a 103rd minute winner through Ricky George (their only substitute as squads were just 12 players in those days) and pull off what is widely regarded as the biggest shock in FA Cup history.
2. 1991 – Everton vs Liverpool, 5th Round
Derbies in cup competition just hit different, don’t they?
Well this one did. After a 0-0 draw at Anfield, the Merseyside clubs headed to Goodison Park three days later for a replay, and it was a barnstormer.
The last of the levellers came from Sky Sports pundit Tony Cottee, who ensured we saw a THIRD replay, as those were the days of unlimited replays. Reds manager Kenny Dalglish resigned two days after the draw, and a week after the thriller, Everton edged the third replay 1-0 to book their place in the next round.
3. 2004 – Tottenham vs Man City, 4th Round
Two teams with a history of being unpredictable (before Man City‘s owners took over at least) played out a typical match in 2004.
After a 1-1 draw at the City of Manchester Stadium, the sides headed to the capital to see who would make it to the fifth round.
Spurs were 3-0 up at half-time, and perennial hot-head Joey Barton made things worse by getting sent off on the way back to the dressing room at the break.
But from 3-0 down, City found something else. Ledley King, Robbie Keane and Christian Ziege’s goals were cancelled out by strikes from Sylvain Distin, Paul Bosvelt and Shaun Wright-Phillips, and Jon Macken popped up from the bench to win it in the 90th minute.
It was one of Kevin Keegan’s best wins as City manager, and one of Macken’s finest moments in a blue shirt, much better than the time he was left on the bench as David James went up front a couple of years later.
4. 2001 – Tranmere vs Southampton, 5th Round
Another giant-killing we just couldn’t leave out.
Tranmere had a penchant for upsets over the years, knocking out seven top flight teams as the plucky side from the Wirrall made a reputation for themselves.
This one wasn’t going to plan though, as Southampton raced into a 3-0 lead at half-time, thanks to goals from Jo Tessem, Hassan Kachloul and Dean Richards.
But an almighty rocket from Liverpudlian manager John Aldridge clearly worked, as Tranmere staged an incredible comeback in the second period. Paul Rideout banged in a hat-trick, and Stuart Barlow scored the winner to send Southampton crashing out.
Both Rideout and Barlow were former Everton players and were rewarded for a quarter-final clash with Liverpool, where their cup adventure eventually ended.
5. 1999 – Arsenal vs Man United, Semi-Final
That run. That celebration. That hairy chest.
You know the game. The last FA Cup semi-final played at Villa Park was one that belonged to Ryan Giggs.
After the first match had ended 0-0 after extra time (why they had extra time but no penalty shootout seems bizarre), a place in the final was on offer for the winner in the Midlands.
David Beckham got treble-hunting Manchester United off to the start they required after 17 minutes, but Dennis Bergkamp levelled in the second half for the Gunners, as there proved to be little between the sides.
The Dutchman’s goal was followed by a period of intense Arsenal pressure, and Nicolas Anelka had a goal disallowed for offside as he thought he’d won it.
United were hanging on, and it was made worse as Roy Keane was sent off for his part in the argument that followed Anelka’s chalked off effort.
It went from bad to worse as Phil Neville chopped down Ray Parlour inside the box for a penalty to Arsenal, but Peter Schmeichel bailed out the future England Women’s manager by saving from Bergkamp.
It went to extra time, and it became the Giggs show when he pounced on a bad pass in midfield from Patrick Vieira.
With fresh legs having come on as a sub just after the hour mark, Giggs set off and took on all comers, beating four Arsenal defenders before slamming it past David Seaman and sending United to the FA Cup Final, where they went on to beat Newcastle on their way to the treble.