The History of the FA Cup

Last updated: Jun 4th, 2024

With Manchester United and Crystal Palace gearing up to face one another on Saturday in the 2016 FA Cup final, we thought we’d take a brief look back at the history of the competition in its entire 145 year history.

The FA Cup is England’s biggest cup competition and one of the highest respected in football as a whole – so the chances are at some point you’ll hear the phrase “the magic of the cup”.

Starting out in 1871 in the offices of The Sportsman newspaper, C. W. Alcock proposed to The Football Association committee that a cup should be created connecting all the association clubs together. The inaugural FA Cup tournament (extremely similar to how it is today) kicked off in November 1871 and after thirteen games in all, Wanderers were crowned the winners in the final on 16 March 1872.

Fast forward 145 years and the FA Cup has provided some memorable moments:

  • In 1876, Thomas Hughes was the first player to score more than once in the final in a replay match where Wanderers defeated Old Etonians 3-0
  • Eddie Kelly from Arsenal became the first substitute to score when he came on the pitch in the 70th minute of the 1971 final and scored in the 96th minute
  • Stuart McCall from Everton scored two goals after coming in from the bench in the 1989 final in the 90th and 102nd minutes
  • In 2001, Dagenham & Redbridge F.C. goalkeeper Tony Roberts became the first goalkeeper in the history of the tournament to score a goal, which happened in a Fourth Round Qualifying game against Basingstoke Town
  • On 30 May 2009, Louis Saha scored the fastest ever goal in an FA Cup Final (after 25 seconds) for Everton, who lost 2-1 to eventual winners Chelsea
  • William Townley scored the first hat trick in the history of the FA Cup final in the 1890 match between Blackburn Rovers and Sheffield Wednesday
  • In 1985, Kevin Moran of Manchester United became the first player to be sent off in an FA Cup Final. He had fouled Peter Reid with a sliding tackle which missed the ball
  • The record for most FA Cup wins by a player is held by Ashley Cole, who’s won it seven times (with Arsenal in 2002, 2003 and 2005 and Chelsea in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2012)

Of course Saturday’s match won’t be the first time Manchester United and Crystal Palace have met in an FA Cup Final. The pair last met in competition in the 1990 final where United won 1-0 after drawing the first final 3-3. Hopefully this Saturday’s game will prove to be just as memorable!

If you’re a school looking for a competitive tournament for your football team, we’re proud to be the official UK Partner of the Rey Cup, held in Reykjavik during the first week of the school summer holidays. We also can take your team to the Gothia Cup, held in Gothenburg during the school summer holidays.


*Image sourced from The FA Cup