The Saturday Movie Club: Cup Glory (1972)
It’s FA Cup Final day so, in lieu of there being anything to get very excited about this year it’s time to go back four and a half decades to one of the FA Cup’s one hundredth anniversaries. Cup Glory is a curious mixture which mixes the style of one of FIFA’s official World Cup films with the sort of “Road To Wembley” reviews that we get prior to the start of the FA Cup Final every year. It opens with a recreation of a match from the amateur era (it’s quite possible that this was a recreation of the first FA Cup final between Wanderers and Royal Engineers, played as part of the anniversary celebrations) followed by a recording of some children having a kickabout on some wasteland in (what we presume to be, from the replica shirts that a couple of the boys are wearing) Portsmouth. An inspiring quotation about the nature of the competition, however, then jars somewhat against the aforementioned kickabout breaking down and descending into a fight between two of the boys that had been playing the game.
It was presumably intended that Cup Glory would be a documentary style story of FA Cup throughout the whole of the 1971/72 FA Cup, and it begins promisingly with a trip to a Third Qualifying round game between Burscough and Ellesmere Port. However, this is the only action from the early rounds of the competition. The documentary jumps straight to the Third Round replay between Hereford United and Newcastle United without mentioning anything else about the early rounds of the competition. The film then follows Hereford on their journey to West Ham United in the next round of the competition, before turning its attention to another surprise result from that year’s comeptition from the match between Orient and Chelsea.
En route to Wembley, we get a sense of what the football landscape truly looked like in 1972. When a match between Middlesbrough and Manchester United is featured, there’s a voice-over from George Best about the competition even though the voiceover confirms that he has never played in an FA Cup final at Wembley. There is a certain melancholy to hearing Best wax lyrical about the competition with the benefit of hindsight. This would turn out to be the year during which he would walk out on Manchester United for the first time, the point at which it started to truly become apparent for the first time that his life wasn’t quite the fairytale that it had been presented as being. George Best would never play in the FA Cup final. The films sticks with Arsenal after their win against Orient before then following them on to their semi-final match against Stoke City, before turning its attention briefly to the other finalists, Leeds United, and their semi-final match against Birmingham City.
On FA Cup day itself (and this takes up half of the film), we get to see London waking up. Wembley Stadium is quiet and empty, while Trafalgar Square starts to fill with Leeds supporters. As the stadium fills, we’re taken on a brief history lesson, grainy old black and white footage of the FA Cup finals of the Edwardian, post First World War era, and the 1939 FA Cup final between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Portsmouth. And then it’s on to the 1972 FA Cup Final. The pomp and circumstance. The problem here is that the match itself wasn’t a very good one, but this is glossed over as “Marching On Together” plays while the Leeds players celebrate their win. There is a degree of irony here, since the 1972 FA Cup was an interesting tournament. It featured a Third Place play-off, a short-lived experiment in the FA Cup which it’s somewhat surprising hasn’t been revitalised by the FA. This was also the year during which Alvechurch and Oxford City played a record five replays to settle their Fourth Qualifying round match, whilst in the First Round Bournemouth’s Ted McDougall scored a record nine goals as the Cherries put eleven goals past non-league Margate without reply. The problem, of course, is that the cameras weren’t there. The cameras were very seldom there, in those days.
Stylistically, Cup Glory leans heavily on Goal!, the official film produced for the 1966 World Cup finals. The voiceover, from Richard Attenborough, is plummy and clipped. Occasional bursts of peculiar and wholly inappropriate music occasionally burst out through the television speakers. There is also a return of another trope of these films, the dubbed sounds of players stomping around on the grass. Every once in a while the shots chosen – the fight referred to above, or a brief shot of what looks like a tramp at Trafalgar Square on Cup Final day – are unusual or jarring, whilst the fact that it’s shot on film gives the whole film a grainy quality which makes it feel a little as though it might have been filmed four hundred and sixty years ago rather than forty-six years ago. But this film serves as a valuable time capsule, back to a world that feels simultaneously completely familiar and totally alien, in that airlock between the swinging sixties and the oil crisis that often feels half-forgotten. It’s a valuable watch, but also a reminder of the extent to which the world of the past doesn’t exist any more.