By Brian Sears
10 March 2011
Six of this season’s FA Cup quarter-finalists have never made it as far as the semi-finals in the Premier League era (since 1992), which might suggest they’ll care significantly this weekend and field their strongest teams. We can but hope.
Those six are Birmingham and Bolton, who meet on Saturday lunchtime; Stoke and West Ham, who meet on Sunday at 2pm; and Manchester City and Reading, who meet in the last game of the last-eight ties on Sunday afternoon.
City haven’t been as far as the semis since 1981, when Ronald Reagan was the new President of the USA, Bucks Fizz were hipsters and Escape to Victory was at the cutting edge of sporting cinema (as much as any football movie featuring half the population of Ipswich Town could ever be at the cutting edge).
Stoke haven’t been in a semi since 1972, a year that saw the TV debuts of The Waltons, M*A*S*H, Emmerdale Farm and, errm, John Craven’s Newsround.
Birmingham fans have to go back as far as 1975 (Jaws, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) for a semi, while any Bolton follower who can clearly remember their last last-four FA Cup match (1958) will be into their 60s at least and still remember a time before motorways. Bless.
The other two clubs in this year’s quarters are the Goliaths Manchester United and Arsenal, who have won 21 FA Cups between them, been in 35 finals between them, and have each reached 26 semi-finals. Arsenal have won the Cup three times in the past decade but not since 2005, while United have won it just once in the same time frame, finishing as runners-up twice.
Our summary table below (scroll to bottom) shows each club’s recent record by year, number of semi-final and final appearances, and wins, and shows what happened the last time they met this weekend’s opponents in the Cup.
Statistical history – taking into account semi-finals, finals, wins and most recent records – suggests wins for City against Reading, for West Ham at Stoke, for United against Arsenal (just), and for Bolton at Birmingham, though that could be close too.
Reading represent the only unwashed gate-crashers into the party of the Premier League elite this year, and they have to look back as far as 1927 (King George V, PM Stan Baldwin, but not the right for all women to vote, quite) to the last time they made the semi-finals. Oh dear.
Not only that, but on only seven occasions have Premier League clubs been dismissed at this stage by clubs from lower divisions – and never beyond this stage. Here are those magnificent seven that might inspire Reading at City:
23 Mar 1994 Luton 3 West Ham 2 (6R replay)
7 Mar 1998 Leeds 0 Wolves 1 (6R)
17 Mar 1998 Sheff Utd 1 Coventry 1 (6R replay. United won 3-1 on pens)
10 Mar 2001 Leicester 1 Wycombe 2 (6R)
9 Mar 2003 Sheff Utd 1 Leeds 0 (6R)
8 Mar 2008 Barnsley 1 Chelsea 0 (6R)
9 Mar 2008 Middlesbrough 0 Cardiff 2 (6R)
It’s some mountain that Reading will have to climb if they’re going to overcome City on Sunday. But Reading have already knocked out six Premier League “giants” over the seasons in the Cup – a record tally they share with Sheffield United, Tranmere and Wolves – and four of them have been in the last 15 months. Here’s Reading’s inspirational list:
4 Jan 1997 Reading 3 Southampton 1 (3R)
17 Jan 2006 Reading 3 West Brom 2 (3R replay, aet)
13 Jan 2010 Liverpool 1 Reading 2 (3R replay)
23 Jan 2010 Reading 1 Burnley 0 (4R)
8 Jan 2011 Reading 1 West Brom 0 (3R)
1 Mar 2011 Everton 0 Reading 1 (5R)