Video of the Day: FA Cup – Arsenal vs Wolves, August 1973

by | Apr 24, 2016

Not every innovation that the Football Association has ever brought to the FA Cup has been a raging success. Semi-finals being played at Wembley and a 5.15 kick-off for the final, for example, have proved less than popular in recent times. By the end of the 1960s it was clear that attendances that had spiked in the years following the end of the second world war had been a spike rather than a long-term trend, and the increased opportunities offered by television gave all concerned an opportunity to make a little more money, so it was that for the 1969/70 season, the FA introduced third/fourth placed play-offs for the losing semi-finalists of each year’s tournament to replace the England vs Young England matches that had traditionally taken place.

The third/fourth place play-off matches were not conspicuous by their success. Manchester United beat Watford by two goals to nil at Highbury in the first of these matches, in 1970, and just 5,000 people turned out at Selhurst Park the following year to see Stoke City beat Everton. With neutral venues not working, the following year the match was moved to the home of one of the losing semi-finalists and the FA were rewarded by the biggest ever attendance for one of these matches, when Birmingham City beat Stoke City on penalties in St Andrews in the first ever FA Cup match to be decided by this route. In 1974, however, after just six and a half thousand people turned out at Filbert Street to see Burnley beat Leicester City by a goal to nil, these matches were scrapped.

This morning’s match sees Wolverhampton Wanderers play Arsenal at Highbury. Wolves had been narrowly been beaten by Leeds United in the previous round, while Arsenal had lost to Second Division Sunderland. Rather than being played at the end of the season, as we might have expected, this match was played as a curtain-raiser to the start of the new season, as was the corresponding match for the previous season – all of the others were played at the end of the same season during which the actual tournament was being played – with a crowd of just over 21,000 people watching the match. Commentary comes from Brian Moore.