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A Brief History of Liverpool in the FA Cup

shankly fa cup celebrate

With February's victory in the League Cup, Liverpool's tally in England's younger cup competition rose to eight—three more than the second place side. It also pushed them one past their FA Cup total. On Saturday, the club gets the chance to equal its silverware haul in England's first cup competition, move past Manchester United's tally of trophies won in the two domestic cups, and end what has been a rather up and down season on a distinctly high note.

In the FA Cup, Liverpool stand fourth all-time with seven titles, one behind Tottenham's eight and with a chance to draw level with them as the third most successful FA Cup side. Ahead in first and second place are Manchester United and Arsenal, with eleven and ten trophies respectively. With victory in the League Cup earlier in the year, Liverpool's total haul in England's two top flight, multiple-round knockout competitions rose to fifteen, level with United who have four League Cup victories to go along with their FA Cup success.

As good as victory in the League Cup felt at the time, however, and as much history as Liverpool has in that competition, it's impossible to argue that when it comes to domestic cup football the FA Cup stands in a class of its own—both in England and abroad. Not only is the FA Cup England's first cup competition, it's the oldest association football competition in the world, dating back to 1871-72 and pre-dating the founding of England's First Division by more than fifteen years.

Compared to the League Cup, which began in 1960 and has been won by a side from outside the top flight on five occasions in its relatively short history, the FA Cup has been captured by a lower league side eight times in its 141 years. The most noteworthy of these unexpected victories was by Tottenham, who took the title in 1901 while playing in the regional Southern League. The other seven winners from below the top flight have all come from within the Football League, with the most recent being West Ham in 1980. As for Liverpool's history in the cup, success came late, waiting until the 1960s when Bill Shankly led them back into the top flight and coinciding with the club's rise in English and European football.

Though Liverpool would have to wait more than fifty years to win their first FA Cup, however, their first trip to the final came in 1914 when they faced off against Burnley at Crystal Palace after failing in the semi-finals on four previous occasions. A goal early in the second half by an ex-Evertonian would signal their first defeat and a long wait before their second trip, as they didn't reach the final again until 1950. By then the match had been moved to Wembley, but the result for Liverpool was the same as the first time around and they fell 2-0 to Arsenal while Bob Paisley—dropped from team after his winning goal against Everton in the semi-final—watched from the bench. Their third appearance, coming in 1965 against Leeds United, marked their first victory.

The seventies would see as many trips to Wembley as the club had previously managed in its history, with a pair of losses bracketing their second FA Cup victory in 1974, while the eighties flipped the pattern with victories in 1986 and 1989 around a loss in 1988. Liverpool won again in 1992, lost in 1996, and then won the first and last FA Cup finals held at Cardiff's Millennium stadium—in 2001 and 2006—while Wembley was being renovated. This Saturday will mark the club's fourteenth chance to capture the FA Cup and their eleventh trip to the final in forty-one years.

There may be doubts over quite where this Liverpool side stands looking forward, but for at least one weekend all that matters is England's oldest cup competition and the chance to add another piece of silverware to the trophy cabinet against a favoured Chelsea side. Before we get to that, however, we’ll be putting up a series of posts covering the past seven cup final victories over the next day, kicking off in a few hours with the 1965's victory over Leeds United and leading up to the preview for Saturday's match around this time tomorrow. Hopefully you’ll join us in reliving a bit of history.

Note: An earlier version mis-identified Tottenham as the only side from outside the top flight to have won the FA Cup instead of the only non-league side to do so. HT to Luis Suarez' Dentist for the correction.

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