Songs, suits and celebrities… remembering when the FA Cup final was king

Songs, suits and celebrities… remembering when the FA Cup final was king, from following the team buses to Gazza’s meltdown and real people making real noise

  • Arsenal and Chelsea will do battle in the FA Cup final on Saturday at Wembley 
  • In a historic situation, no fans will be present due to the ongoing pandemic 
  • There was once a time when the FA Cup final was the only match shown on TV 

Hey, remember when the FA Cup final was the only game on live TV?

Remember crowding round the box. Fighting for a piece of sofa. Losing it when you left the room?

Remember Cup Final Grandstand in the team hotels at breakfast and following the team buses. Cup Final suits, Cup Final songs on Top of the Pops? 

Remember when the celebrity fans were Little and Large and Tarby? And there was ‘It’s a Cup Final Knockout’ and ‘Cup Final Mastermind’. It was like Soccer AM but only once a year.

No fans will be present as Arsenal and Chelsea battle for the FA Cup at Wembley this weekend

FA Cup suits used to be all the rage, as Liverpool showed during the 1996 clash with United

FA Cup suits used to be all the rage, as Liverpool showed during the 1996 clash with United

Don’t forget about when the Crazy Gang beat the Culture Club and the telly people made Dave Beasant pretend he lived in a different house on a different street, on the other side of Kingsway, so they could film him walking down ‘his’ drive and through ‘his’ front door with the Twin Towers in the distance.

Wembley’s Twin Towers, remember them? They appear on all the old footage from the classic finals with Sir Stanley Matthews, Wor Jackie and Bert Trautmann. 


There will be no fans inside Wembley and just 400 people in all, compared to the usual 90,000 sell-out.

  • Singer Emeli Sande has recorded the Cup final anthem Abide With Me from Wembley’s roof, so she will not be on the pitch before the game.
  • The winning captain will lift the trophy on the pitch, with the Royal Box out of bounds today due to Covid-19 protocols.
  • Prince William, as FA president, will appear via video link from Sandringham rather than present the trophy in person.
  • The #HeadsUp final will start with a minute’s silence to raise awareness of mental health.
  • Other post-lockdown rules will apply for the first time in an FA Cup final, such as drinks breaks in each half and five substitutes allowed and nine men on each bench.

Remember Monty’s save and Charlie George flat on his back and the state of the pitch 50 years ago when Chelsea and Leeds went to war? Then went to a replay and went to war again, only properly this time, as if they actually meant it.

Remember Alan Sunderland, the hair, Kevin Moran’s red card and Gary Mabbutt’s own goal and Gazza’s meltdown? 

Remember Keith Houchen’s header or Trevor Brooking’s header or Tommy Hutchinson’s two headers? 

Remember players having post-match interviews in swapped shirts while swigging milk from a bottle? 

Remember kicking off at three o’clock. In May. Abide with Me at 20 to three? There were marching bands and the long walk from behind one goal.

Remember the Cardiff years? Yeah, not the same. Hey, remember when 300,000 turned up to watch Bolton and West Ham? Me neither but imagine all the people. Real people making noise. ‘A world-record crowd,’ declared Pathe News. 

Thousands locked out and thousands poured in until they spilled on to the pitch and the game was unable to kick off on time. 

Remember the policeman on the white horse called Billie who ushered them behind the touchline and Bolton won the Cup?

Yes, Bolton. The same Bolton relegated to League Two this year. The White Horse Final they called it. 

There’s a White Horse Bridge at the new Wembley in honour of that game. But the bridge will be deserted because nearly 100 years on we are in the midst of a global pandemic, it’s August and they are starting the new season in Scotland.

So, get back on the sofa and turn on the TV at teatime, if anyone can face one more game. One more after 92 Premier League games (fake crowd noise optional) since the middle of June. One more game.

And, remember, it’s the biggest day in the football calendar.

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