Wembley will host its 80th FA Cup Final when Arsenal meet Hull City at the iconic venue on Saturday.
The original Wembley, opened in 1923, had 72 Finals (plus five replays) and the new Stadium is about to have its eighth.
The ‘Matthews Final’ of 1953, with the newly crowned Queen in the Royal Box, was a classic. Blackpool were losing 3-1 to Bolton Wanderers with a little more than 20 minutes to go when Stanley Matthews, ‘The Maestro’, stepped forward to dominate the green stage.
He had lost in two Finals with Blackpool and, at 38, many believed this would be his last chance to pick up a winners’ medal. His team-mate and friend, Stan Mortensen, scored twice to make it 3-3 and in the last seconds the incomparable Matthews laid on Bill Perry’s winner.
But there have been some other breathless Finals at Wembley…
The very first one, in 1923, nearly didn’t take place after a crowd much larger than the official capacity swarmed all over the pitch. The match did eventually start, 43 minutes late, with an estimated 200,000 spectators inside the Stadium.
Billie, the famous ‘White Horse’, helped to clear the pitch and Bolton Wanderers’ David Jack scored after just two minutes as they beat West Ham United 2-0.
Cardiff City took The Cup out of England for the first (and only) time in 1927 after Hughie Ferguson’s shot was fumbled over the line by Arsenal ‘keeper Dan Lewis. Abide with Me, Henry Lyte’s haunting hymn, was also sung at The Final for the first time.
The all-Lancashire Final of 1948 between Manchester United and Blackpool was one of the best exhibitions of football seen at Wembley. United, 2-1 down, fought back to win 4-2 with two goals in the last ten minutes.
There was a thrilling finish in 1979 too and United were involved again. This time they lost out 3-2 to Arsenal after three goals were scored in a frantic last five minutes.
Over the years we have seen stunning goals: Jackie Milburn in ’51, Charlie George in ’71, Ricky Villa and Steve Mackenzie in the ’81 replay, Norman Whiteside in ’85, Keith Houchen in ’87.
However the 1973 FA Cup Final will always be remembered for a goalkeeper’s saves. Jim Montgomery’s double-save from Lorimer and Cherry for underdogs Sunderland preserved their one-goal advantage over a Leeds United team boasting ten internationals.
The FA Cup Final was back where it belonged when the new Wembley was opened in 2007. Chelsea beat Manchester United with Didier Drogba’s extra-time goal and there were 89,826 fans inside Wembley to see it. And the tradition and pageantry of The Final continues to entrance millions all over the globe.