The FA Cup has always been a competition that has yielded surprises and shocks. In this year’s quarterfinals, half of the teams are from outside the top-flight, giving rise to the possibility that we could see a non-Premier League club in the final for the first time since 2008. In this article, we look at an XI made up of players who helped make those underdog dreams come true.
In goal, we have Jim Montgomery, whose double-save kept out holders Leeds United and helped Division Two outfit Sunderland win the trophy for a second time in 1973. The centre-backs are Tony Singleton, whose winning goal helped Preston North End nearly become the first second-tier team to win the trophy in 1964, and Terry Fenwick, who equalized to force Tottenham into a replay in the 1982 final.
The other centre-back on this list is none other than Bobby Moore, who led West Ham to a maiden FA Cup win in 1964 and played his last appearance at Wembley for Fulham in 1975 in a losing effort. On the right-wing, we have Billy Harrison, whose fine solo effort sealed Wolves’ victory over Newcastle United in the final of 1908.
In midfield, we have Harry Tufnell, who put Barnsley ahead in the 1912 final and helped them win the trophy for the first time in their history. Trevor Brooking’s stooping header past Arsenal ‘keeper Pat Jennings won the trophy for John Lyall’s West Ham in 1980, who finished seventh in Division Two that season. And, Tim Cahill has a place as well. The Australian international scored the only goal of the game in the semi-finals against Sunderland in 2004 that helped Millwall reach the final for the first time in their history.
On the left-wing, we have Jimmy Ruffell, who found the net in a 5-2 demolition of Derby County in the semis at Stamford Bridge in 1923 but unfortunately, the winger had less luck at Wembley, where a plethora of over-exuberant fans ended up injuring his shoulder before the kick-off. Up front, we have Sandy Brown, who was the hero for Tottenham Hotspur in 1901, scoring in every round of the competition and three times in the final to become the first and only non-league side to lift the trophy.
This underdog XI is filled with players who led their teams to outperform themselves in spectacular fashion. Many of these players continue to be remembered as cult heroes, with their performances etched in FA Cup lore. The FA Cup continues to be a competition where the unexpected can happen, and these players are a testament to that spirit.