The Disembowelling Of The FA Cup Semi-Finals

It is now almost thirty years since Paul Power crashed in a remarkable shot from twenty-five yards out to send Manchester City to the FA Cup final at the expense of Ipswich Town. The 1980/81 season was rapidly unravelling for the team from Suffolk. Within weeks, they would be overhauled by Aston Villa to become the champions of England and would be left with just the UEFA Cup as a consolation when it had for a while looked likely that they would finish the season with a remarkable treble. Manchester City’s win on that warm spring day at Villa Park was a major surprise, but it was just one of a host of FA Cup semi-finals played at Villa Park during the 1980s. Villa Park was considered at the time to be one of the safest grounds in English football, but the FA had a strange idea of what was “safe” in those days. Highbury was regularly used for these matches, but as crowd violence grew during the early 1980s, the FA stopped using it when the Arsenal board of directors refused to put perimeter fences around their pitch. Six years after Highbury’s last semi-final match, the perimeter fences were the major contributing factor in the deaths of 96 football supporters at Hillsborough during an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. The fences came down forever afterwards....

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