FA-Cup

Hey kids, remember replays? Well yeah of course you do, but what about when replays followed replays?

Haha, gotcha there. Before Arsene Wenger managed to convince the FA they were running players into the ground with too many matches, replays went on until a winner was found.

None of this penalty shootout malarkey. Oh no, second replays were fairly popular. Of course, we’re talking cup competitions and particularly the FA Cup.

It wouldn’t be unusual to find the fourth or fifth round being contested when some teams hadn’t settled their ties from the round before.

This would play havoc with the league program. For some teams competing in Europe, the season was often squeezed at the end in a desperate attempt to get all the games in before the summer holidays.

So here’s something else you probably don’t remember. Semi-finals played at grounds other than Wembley. Oh yes, such sorcery was permitted back in the days of no live football, three TV channels and back passes.

FA CUP REPLAY MARATHON

It was the longest FA Cup semi-final tie in history, lasting for an incredible four matches. The season was 1979-1980 and Arsenal were the defending Cup holders. They had beaten Manchester United in an exciting final the year before.

That season, there was the prospect of the first-ever all-Merseyside final as both Liverpool and Everton had made it this far and were drawn apart too. Reigning league champions and league leaders Liverpool were up against Arsenal, who were also chasing a place in the European Cup Winners’ Cup final having come up against Juventus at the semi-final stage. In the other FA Cup semi-final, Everton would meet West Ham, then a Second Division side.

Liverpool had reached this round by beating Grimsby, Nottingham Forest, Bury and Tottenham without conceding a goal. Arsenal had negotiated their way past Cardiff, Brighton, Bolton and Watford. They’d needed replays against Cardiff and Bolton to progress.

These two had already met in the Charity Shield when Liverpool put on a brilliant performance to win 3-1. The two then played out a goalless draw at Highbury in November. That was the precursor for what was to follow.

MATCH ONE

For Arsenal, the FA Cup semi-final in April 1980 was their 57th match of the season with Liverpool embarking on their 52nd. The first meeting was at Hillsborough in front of over 50,000 fans. It was a tight and tense affair where neither side played particularly well or dealt with the pressure of the occasion. It ended goalless.

Saturday 12 April 1980, Hillsborough, Sheffield.  Attendance: 50,174

FA Cup semi-final

LIVERPOOL   (0)   0

ARSENAL   (0)   0

LIVERPOOL: Clemence; Neal, Thompson, Hansen, Irwin; Case (Fairclough), Lee, Souness, R.Kennedy; Johnson, Dalglish

ARSENAL: Jennings; Rice, O’Leary, Young, Nelson (Walford); Price, Talbot, Brady, Rix; Stapleton, Sunderland.

At Villa Park the other semi was also drawn, both goals coming from ex-Manchester United players. Everton’s Brian Kidd scored a disputed penalty in the first half. Kidd was then sent-off in the second half for fighting with Ray Stewart. With 20 minutes to go, a typical West Ham move between Devonshire and Brooking found Stuart Pearson unmarked in the box for the equaliser. This too would go to a replay.

MATCH TWO

Back in those days, replays came along three days later and so the whole circus moved to Villa Park on the following Wednesday. David Fairclough put Liverpool in front shortly after half-time. But just over 10 minutes later, Alan Sunderland cancelled out his goal. After another period of extra-time, the two couldn’t be separated and they would now go to a third replay, again at Villa Park.

Wednesday 16 April 1980, Villa Park, Birmingham. Attendance: 40,679

FA Cup semi-final, Replay

ARSENAL   (0)   1   (Sunderland 62)

LIVERPOOL   (0)   1   (Fairclough 51)

LIVERPOOL: Clemence; Neal, Thompson, Hansen, Irwin; Lee, Souness, R.Kennedy; Johnson, Fairclough, Dalglish

ARSENAL: Jennings; Rice, O’Leary, Young, Walford; Price, Talbot, Brady, Rix; Stapleton, Sunderland.

Elland Road was the venue for the replay of the other tie and after 90 minutes there were still no goals. Alan Devonshire then put West Ham in front, before Bob Latchford equalised with just four minutes remaining.

Two minutes to go and with many checking their diaries for a second replay, Frank Lampard headed home a dramatic winner. He then embarked on a famous celebration running off to do a jig around the corner flag faster than you could say Roger Milla.

INTERMISSION

So one finalist was decided, with the other still to be determined.

As if this marathon cup tie wasn’t enough, Liverpool and Arsenal broke off from their FA Cup exploits to play a league match at Anfield. Kenny Dalglish opened the scoring early in the first half but Brian Talbot equalised to force yet another draw.

The following Wednesday saw Arsenal pull off a famous victory over Juventus in Turin in the European Cup-Winners’ Cup semi-final when substitute Paul Vaessen scored a late winner. In the league, Liverpool extended their lead at the top of the table with a win over Stoke City. Both clubs then suffered draws in league games at the weekend, before they were back to lock horns at Villa Park on the Monday.

THIRD MATCH

Fixtures were coming thick and fast, as they often did in those days. Nearly 43,000 packed into Villa Park where just before the game began, a fan ran onto the pitch, pulled his trousers down and bared his bum. This was all forgotten pretty soon as Alan Sunderland scored the fastest goal in a semi-final. It was timed at 13 seconds and was the first time Arsenal had been in front in the tie. Liverpool had welcomed back Player of the Year Terry McDermott after injury. They were stung into a response after the early strike and battered the Arsenal goal throughout.

The Gunners remained in front deep into injury time. In a goalmouth scramble, David Johnson took a blow to the face and subsequently left the pitch on a stretcher. As Liverpool had already made their only permitted substitution, they were down to 10 men. As the referee was checking his watch, a couple of headers put Kenny Dalglish in and he grabbed a dramatic equaliser. It was breathtaking stuff and there was yet another period of extra-time.

Neither side could find a breakthrough so they would meet again on Thursday. Can you imagine that today? A game on Saturday, Monday and then Thursday.

Monday 28 April 1980, Villa Park, Birmingham. Attendance: 42,975

FA Cup semi-final, 2nd Replay

LIVERPOOL   (0)   1   (Dalglish 90)

ARSENAL   (1)   1   (Sunderland 1)

LIVERPOOL: Clemence; Neal, Thompson, Hansen, A.Kennedy (Fairclough); Lee, McDermott, Souness, R.Kennedy; Johnson, Dalglish

ARSENAL: Jennings; Rice, O’Leary, Young, Devine; Price, Talbot, Brady, Rix; Stapleton, Sunderland.

FOURTH MATCH

Highfield Road, Coventry was chosen for the venue of the third replay. Coventry City had just played Aston Villa there on the Tuesday and remarkably two days later, Liverpool and Arsenal turned up to try and settle things.

The whole country was gripped with the drama of this never-ending story, and already, there were discussions over various ways settle the tie. Of course, nobody other than those who were in the grounds had seen any of the action. The coverage in the press was enough to enthrall members of the public.

Brian Talbot put Arsenal in front after 11 minutes, and this time they managed to hang on. Both the teams and the country were physically drained with the drama of it all. It had been a marathon never to be seen again. These days a penalty shootout on the day would settle the tie and other rounds just go to the one replay. What foreign managers would’ve made of this tussle is uncertain but you cannot imagine them putting up with it for very long.

Four matches played over 19 days to find a winner. All wrapped up just nine days before the final too.

Thursday 1 May 1980, Highfield Road, Coventry. Attendance: 35,335

FA Cup semi-final, 3rd replay

ARSENAL   (1)   1   (Talbot 11)

LIVERPOOL   (0)   0

LIVERPOOL: Clemence; Neal, Thompson, Hansen, Cohen; Lee, McDermott, Souness, R.Kennedy; Johnson (Fairclough), Dalglish

ARSENAL: Jennings; Rice, O’Leary, Young, Devine; Price, Talbot, Brady, Rix; Stapleton, Sunderland.

Endurance

What is also remarkable and unbelievable to think of today, both sides remained largely unchanged throughout the four matches. You would never see that today. Of course, back then, we didn’t really think about burn-out. We never considered how the tiredness of the players possibly compromised the quality of the football. The game wasn’t played at such a breakneck speed as it is today. But with the pitches looking more like Flanders in 1918 than Manchester 2018, it must’ve taken its toll.

Two days later, Liverpool travelled back to Anfield and beat Aston Villa 4-1 to retain their league title. Arsenal, on the other hand, remained in Coventry as they had a league match at Highfield Road on the Saturday and won 1-0. It was Coventry’s final match of the season, yet Arsenal still had three more to play as well as two Cup finals. The following Monday, they drew at home to Nottingham Forest and then had just five days to prepare for the FA Cup Final against West Ham.

So from Saturday to Saturday at the end of April, both clubs had played four matches in eight days.

CUP FINALS

A Trevor Brooking goal defeated Arsenal in the FA Cup Final to give Second Division West Ham United their third win in the competition. Arsenal were a bit of an FA Cup team back then with this match representing their third successive final appearance. They fell to rank outsiders Ipswich in 1978, beat Manchester United in 1979 and lost to Second Division West Ham in 1980.

Then four days later, they lost in a penalty shootout to Valencia in the European Cup-Winners’ Cup final when Carlos Pereira saved Graham Rix’s final penalty.

By the time the season had finished, Arsenal had played 27 cup ties to go with their 42 league matches and a Charity Shield game. An incredible 70 games and not a trophy in sight.

In comparison, Liverpool had played 60 matches and Nottingham Forest 65 but both had trophies to remind them of their exploits; Liverpool, the league title, Nottingham Forest, the European Cup.