Football fans watched on in open-mouthed amazement as Liverpool battled back to reach the 2019 Champions League final with a stunning 4-0 win over Barcelona at Anfield in May. Supporters of both teams who packed the stands, and the millions watching around the world, couldn’t quite believe their eyes and thought the result would take some topping.
As it turned out, we needed to wait just 24 hours for something that eclipsed it. Tottenham were out of the running, sitting 2-0 down in Amsterdam in the other semi-final, with Ajax leading 3-0 on aggregate. The last few minutes were a mere formality before Total Football returned.
Wrong. Cue a Lucas Moura hat-trick on 55, 59 and 96 minutes and we were set for an all-English final, against all the odds.
As children and young players watched the drama unfold, they’d be forgiven for thinking the modern game was creating history, responsible for the greatest upsets and miraculous wins the sport had ever seen. They’d be mistaken.
Triumphs against all the odds is nothing new in football, particularly in England and the FA Cup. With the final around the corner, heavy favourites Manchester City according to top UK bookmakers listed here will face Watford. Just before that game we couldn’t help but think back to the memorable West Ham cup win, when football was a tougher place to earn a living and there wasn’t the millions of pounds spent on facilities and foreign players.
The 1980 FA Cup final was played at Wembley Stadium in front of an official crowd of 100,000 spectators and is one that remains relevant today when studying the stats. It was the last time West Ham won the famous old trophy and it was also the last time, to this date, that a club from outside the top-flight of English football triumphed.
Those loyal to The Hammers cause will hope it’s not the last time their team get their lips on the silverware, but modern football tells us there’s every chance it could be the final occasion we see a lower league club go all the way to the top step.
West Ham had been relegated from the old First Division – now known as the Premier League – two seasons previously, making their cup final win all the more spectacular. They not only defied logic to beat London neighbours Arsenal in the final by a goal to nil, but they had also made a habit of upsetting the favourites during that campaign.
The Hammers’ trail to glory included surprise wins over top-tier sides Aston Villa, West Brom and Everton, the latter courtesy of an extra-time win. Despite the bravery shown, John Lyall’s side were massive underdogs to add the scalps of Terry Neill’s crew.
When did football’s best-loved knockout competition ever live up to expectations?
So, how did West Ham pull off the David vs Goliath story just a short tube journey from their former Upton Park home? A team effort the likes we rarely see from the claret and blues anymore is the answer.
Alan Devonshire was one of the greats and he was seen sprinting up and down the flank during the 90 minutes, putting dangerous balls into the box before tracking back and doing his defensive duties when West Ham were under pressure, as they so often were that day.
The winning goal, from the boot of England star Trevor Brooking, was the thing of legend and something still talked about to this day by those who crammed into the national stadium, as well as football lovers lucky enough to catch the live commentary.
West Ham went on the front foot from the first whistle and seemed to catch their opponents off-guard. They made the most of a slow start from Arsenal, with Stuart Pearson aiming a dangerous shot at The Gunners goal.
The crowd gasped as the ball rolled along the goalmouth, waiting for a man to step up and write his name into the history books. That man, of course, was Trevor Brooking. Reacting quicker than the defenders around him, he knocked a sublime header past Pat Jennings on 13 minutes for the goal that won West Ham the cup.
Despite battering down the door for most of the remaining match, Arsenal couldn’t find a way past a determined Hammers defence and as Billy Bonds climbed the steps at full-time to complete the fairytale, the sound of I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles swept across London.