One of the biggest days in sport is upon us, FA Cup third-round weekend. Here Leon Wobschall takes us on a journey through Yorkshire’s sub-standard history in the competition.
IN recent times, Yorkshire’s FA Cup record can best be described as inauspicious – although some would say it borders on the embarrassing.
Never mind not having a finalist since 1997 when Middlesbrough, under Bryan Robson, lost out to Chelsea in a season which saw them reach two domestic cup finals and be relegated.
Or a winner since that famous May day in 1972 when Leeds United triumphed over Arsenal at Wembley.
More worryingly, the Broad Acres have provided a solitary quarter-finalist since 2008-09, some five seasons ago, with Barnsley reaching the last eight last season, when they were comprehensively dismantled 5-0 by Manchester City.
If FA Cup success serves as a barometer of the health of each footballing region in England, then it is fair to suggest that the White Rose is ailing.
In the 42 years since a Yorkshire outfit last lifted the Cup’, representatives of the neighbouring Red Rose, if you include Liverpool and Everton – the Mersey city is within the historical boundaries of Lancashire – have boasted an FA Cup winner on 19 occasions.
Since Leeds’s centenary final victory in 1972, Manchester United have hoisted aloft the most famous trophy in British football on eight occasions with Liverpool (six) not far behind.
Everton have lifted the cup three times with Manchester City and current holders Wigan Athletic sampling glory once, to the envy of many in Yorkshire.
In that same period, a side from London – football’s other thriving powerbase – has also won the cup 18 times. Southampton (1976) and Portsmouth (2008) have flown the flag for the south coast, with Ipswich Town triumphing for East Anglia in 1978, five seasons after Sunderland’s victory for the North East, against favourites Leeds.
The last Midlands winner arrived over a quarter of a century ago in 1987 through Coventry City, leaving Yorkshire with the dubious honour of being the most underachieving cup region in modern times.
The statistics of the past four decades make sobering reading ahead of traditionally one of the biggest occasions in the footballing calendar – FA Cup third-round day.
Back in 2011-12, the furthest any White Rose representative reached was round four, with Hull, Boro and the two Steel City clubs achieving that ‘feat’.
Just three – Doncaster Rovers, Leeds and Sheffield United – reached the fourth round in 2009-10 and the highest achievers in 2010-11 were Sheffield Wednesday, who made it to round five.
Unquestionably the most enduring Yorkshire cup chapter this century was penned by Barnsley, who enjoyed a memorable run to the semi-finals in 2008-09, manufacturing victories over Premier League Chelsea and Liverpool which will be remembered fondly in years to come by many in the South Yorkshire town.
A last-four place has also been achieved in the Noughties by the Blades (2002-03) and Boro – twice – in 2005-06 and 2001-02.
As for the Nineties? They are mainly remembered for the all-Sheffield semi-final of 1993 when Wednesdayites and Unitedities flocked down the M1 in their thousands.
In terms of Cup glory, relatively speaking, you have to go back to the Eighties for the last consistent evidence of Yorkshire success, which lifted some gloom in a decade mostly remembered for the industrial decline of coal and steel in the county’s heartlands.
Between 1983 and 1987, Yorkshire could boast three semi-finalists and two quarter-finalists with the Owls, under the management of first Jack Charlton and then Howard Wilkinson, taking pride of place, reaching the last four at Highbury (1983) and Villa Park (1986).
Back in the Seventies, a Yorkshire side also reached at least the quarter-final stage in four successive seasons from 1974-75 to 1977-78.
Boro, initially under Charlton and then John Neal, made it to the quarter-finals three times, with Leeds getting to the semi-finals in 1977, albeit in a losing cause to Manchester United at Hillsborough, ironically the venue for the Whites’ last-four appearance a decade later when they once again lost out to eventual winners, Coventry.
Back in 1975-76, it was Leeds’s near-neighbours Bradford City, then in the old Fourth Division, who did Yorkshire proud before bowing out to the side who went onto win the cup in Southampton, managed by Lawrie McMenemy.
It was the Bantams’ most exalted occasion in a decade to forget as they reached the quarter-finals for the first time since 1920.
Leeds may have provided most of the cup stories between their first final appearance in 1965 to famously losing to Sunderland in 1973, but it was a time when other White Rose clubs shared in the Cup limelight, although the finest hour was provided by United, thanks to Allan Clarke’s Wembley winner in 1972, complete with iconic commentary from the recently-departed David Coleman.
This is not to overlook the fact that the 1971-72 campaign also saw Huddersfield Town reach the quarter-finals for the only time in the past four decades with Ian Greaves’s side bowing out to Birmingham City in front of 52,000 at St Andrews – the Blues would lose to Leeds in the semi-finals.
Leeds, under Don Revie, also reached the final in 1969-70 and semi-finals in successive campaigns in 1967-68 – they beat Sheffield United in an all-Yorkshire last-eight clash at Elland Road in March 1968 – and 1966-67. In the previous season, Wednesday famously let slip a 2-0 final lead against Everton, forged by goals from Jim McCalliog and David Ford, to lose 3-2 to Everton, inspired by Mike Trebilcock.
That 1965-66 season also saw Cup cheer in Hull, with the East Yorkshiremen reaching the quarter-finals.
They did likewise in 1970-71 when they bowed out to Stoke City, managed by Tony Waddington, in front of 41,452 fans at Boothferry Park in March 1971.
But since those ‘heady days’ there has been very little FA Cup cheer for Yorkshire’s fans.
Pre-War years only time of White Rose joy
A TOTAL of four FA Cup semi-finalists so far this century, all in losing causes, is hardly cause for supporters of Yorkshire football to get out the bunting.
It is all a far cry from the county’s cup heyday at the start of the 20th century when Sheffield United (1901-02 and 1914-15), Sheffield Wednesday (1906-07), Bradford City (1910-11) and Barnsley (1911-12) all lifted the cup, with the Broad Acres also boasting two other finalists between 1900 and 1915, a period during which the cup was suspended due to the Great War.
The Blades’ victory over Chelsea at Old Trafford in April 1915, in the so-called Khaki Cup final, was the last game before the Football League and FA Cup competitions were halted.
Between the wars, Huddersfield Town lifted the cup in 1921-22 and reached four other finals, latterly in 1938, with the Blades and Owls triumphing in 1924-25 and 1934-35 respectively.
Without question, Yorkshire’s cup record was a proud one back then.
It is all in marked contrast to the meagre pickings this century.
The swinging Sixties were notable for three White Rose clubs – Barnsley, the Owls and Blades – all reaching the last eight in 1960-61, the last time that happened.
Yorkshire also tasted success in the League Cup that year, with Rotherham United reaching the final, only to be narrowly beaten 3-2 on aggregate by Aston Villa.
Perhaps the most famous Cup moment of the Fifties in the county was provided by York City, who lost out in the semi-finals to Newcastle United in a Roker Park replay in 1954-55 after beating Tottenham Hotspur and Blackpool en route.
Another comparative minnow in Bradford Park Avenue produced the story of the Forties, reaching the last eight in the first season after the Second World War, famously knocking mighty Arsenal out of the Cup at Highbury in early 1948.
How we could do with a few more stories like that.