The FA Cup Giant Killers
Nothing gets the FA Cup adrenalin rushing like a good old fashioned emotion-charged giant killing.
To see the high, rich and mighty brought down to earth with a crash, bang, wallop by those with just enough pennies to ensure hot water in the dressing rooms (not always) is what the competition thrives upon.
There have been many a sorry tale of woe for those considered to be indestructible. Those Goliaths who arrive seemingly just to go through the motions against the Davids but then unexpectedly topple to the muddy turf red faced, beaten and bowed.
And the heroes have come in all shapes and sizes. From the depths of the West Country to the out-posts of Essex. From the South Coast to the North East. And from leafy Surrey and London suburbs to the borders of Wales and beyond, the giant killers have cometh.
It's what makes the competition so great and loved around the world. And it's why every big fish enters the FA Cup third round waters with trepidation and tormented by past nightmares.
Not many have managed to avoid the acute embarrassment and shock of being victims. Just ask a Newcastle side rated one of the strongest in the country and with Malcolm 'SuperMac' Macdonald in his lethal prime. Non-league Hereford were the mincemeat upon which the high flying Magpies were expected to feast on with glee.
The minnows secured an amazing replay after holding out 2-2 at St James' Park. They then rolled out a nice warm welcome mat for their illustrious visitors back in 1972 ~ and then pulled it right from under their feet thanks to now Cup legend Ricky George's priceless extra-time winner.
The occasion ~ painted so superbly by the commentary of a young John Motson on the day ~ is also fondly remembered for a certain thunderbolt of a strike from Ronnie ~Rocket~ Radford which levelled the game before George crowned a fantastic feat.
Wrexham had finished rock bottom of the Football League and Arsenal had won the title the season before. So how the Welshmen managed to produce a minor miracle and turn around such a chasm just months later in 1992 was beyond most sane onlookers.
But yet the sight of Mickey Thomas stunning free-kick flying into the Gunners net in the second half and then Steve Watkin pouncing for the winner had every man, woman and sheep the otherside of the Severn Bridge jumping for joy. Even those in Cardiff were slightly pleased!
When you conjure up the perfect picture of a potential giant-killing a foggy day on a dodgy, sloping pitch in the West Country just about fits the bill. It certainly did the day Sunderland arrived at Huish Park four years after World War II.
Even the legendary Len Shackleton could not prevent the Black Cats being caught in the bright Somerset cup fourth round headlights ~ and flattened by an Alex Stock winner which certainly lifted some of the post-war depression in Yeovil.
They say big men don't cry. But try telling that to Sky Blues tough guy Brian Kilcline as he trundled off Sutton's tiny pitch in front of delirious home fans 11 years ago. The defender and his side were humiliated by the Surrey part-timers with goals from Tony Rains and Matt Hanlan sending them home with tails firmly between legs.
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It was the last time a non-league club knocked out a top flight outfit. Sadly Sutton's fairytale ended when they got hammered 8-0 by Norwich in the next round
The day the legendary Don Revie and his Yorkshire army drove up the A12 only to have the wheels, chasis and more unceremoniously dismantled from their bandwagon will live forever in FA Cup folklore.
A real First Division powerhouse and beaten Finalists the two years before. Filled with diamonds from front to back with the likes of Norman Hunter, Jonny Giles and others putting fear of god in most opponents.
Well, they hadn't reckoned for what lie ahead when they reached the old Essex Roman fortress which was Fourth Division Colchester. A team with no real footballing history of achievements to crow about, and far from promising the seismic waves that were to follow at Layer Road. But a double strike from Ray Crawford helped them storm three goals ahead in the fifth-round battle. And even when the visitors woke from the shock it was too late to avoid slipping out 3-2.
Leeds endured another Cup nightmare the following year when then were humbled by Sunderland in the Final. Ian Porterfield's goal sent the then Second Division Mackems into raptures with keeper Jim Montgomery saving Peter Lorimer's penalty.
The odds on tiny Barnsley dumping both Liverpool, at Anfield, and then Chelsea out of the Cup in successive rounds were astronomical. But that's exactly what the Tykes did two years ago. Brian Howard was the hero scoring the winner in front of the Kop. While Chelsea's £115m starting line-up melted to a Kayode Odejayi header.
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Wimbledon's 1988 Cup Final triumph over Liverpool rates the now defunked South West London club's finest hour. Visions of Lawrie Sanchez's winner and Dave Beasant's penalty save from John Aldridge will always remain. But the Dons produced an even bigger surprise when, as a Southern League side 13 years earlier they defeated top division Burnley at Turfmoor and then drew 0-0 at Leeds with hero keeper Dickie Guy saving a Peter Lorimer penalty. Sadly they lost the replay/
Manchester United are certainly not untarnished by Cup giant-killing stains. Back in 1984 little Bournemouth ~ led by that wise old Cup managerial bird Harry Redknapp ~ shot the Red Devils down in flames. The Third Division Cherries belied their placing to win 2-0 thanks to goals from Milton Graham and Ian Thompson.
Non-League Stevenage almost joined the giant killing ranks in 1998 when they took top flight Newcastle to a replay. But as all football fans will tell you. There's a fine line between those who did and those who nearly created a little piece of history.
Despite the odds on a big fish being toppled by a minnow in these times of the rich getting richer and stronger - and the gap between themselves and the smaller fry growing all the time - the door is still wide open in this season's FA Cup for any would-be heroes to emerge from the lower depths and make their own little piece of history.