Saturday is the FA Cup Final, historically the biggest (and today perhaps still one of the biggest) days of the English footballing calendar. While it’s diminished in stature over the past couple of decades, it still characterizes what makes English football unique— the long walk to the stadium, the visit from a member of the Royal Family, singing Abide With Me with 80-100k people. In terms of pure tradition and pageantry, few other sporting events measure up.
This weekend Arsenal will look to secure their second consecutive Cup win as they take on Aston Villa. But before that, let’s look back at one of Arsenal’s famous FA Cup Final performances— April 29, 1950, vs Liverpool.
The stands at Old Wembley were packed to the gills, with 100,000 people turning up to cheer their clubs to victory or otherwise soak in the grand occasion. Arsenal and Liverpool—who would finish in 6th and 8th in Division 1, respectively—were chomping at the bit for glory on the biggest stage in England. Arsenal were chasing their third Cup, while Liverpool were dreaming of their first. There was some controversy in the Liverpool side as future legendary manager Bob Paisley was left off the team sheet despite scoring the winning goal in the semifinal against Everton. Meanwhile, Arsenal were bouncing with confidence, with every Gooner in attendance looking to their cadre of one-club men to make something happen, including center forward Reg Lewis and outside left (and cricketer!) Denis Compton.
Indeed, Lewis ended up being the difference-maker, scoring a brace to give Arsenal the advantage. Both goals (18th and 63rd) came from eerily similar plays, with Lewis being played in through the middle and finishing from close range. Even in the 1950s, Arsenal had a penchant for trying to walk it in. The Reds tried to get back in the game, and had some excellent chances throughout the game, but it wasn’t enough. Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-0, and the incredible day ended with King George VI presenting the Cup to Joe Mercer.
This season’s Arsenal team kicks off against Aston Villa this Saturday, with US coverage beginning at 12pm EST on Fox.