Chelsea face Liverpool in the 150th instalment of the FA Cup final on Saturday – and legendary commentator John Motson has relived some of the greatest moments in the tournament’s history.
Motson is known as ‘the voice of football’ for his incredible service to the game as a commentator, covering matches on the BBC for over 50 years until retiring. But it was the FA Cup that he was most known for, with Motson commentating on 34 finals in total, including five replays.
Motson has been a huge part of the oldest cup competition in the world and, along the way, there has been many memorable moments. The footballing icon sat down with Mirror Football at Wembley – as part of a celebration of 150 years of the FA Cup – to relive some of his greatest final memories, including a Steven Gerrard masterclass back in 2006.
Gerrard “rescues” Liverpool against West Ham
Liverpool never make finals easy, and after trailing AC Milan 3-0 in the Champions League final in 2005, they put themselves in an awkward position against West Ham in the FA Cup final a year later. Errors from Pepe Reina and Jamie Carragher put West Ham 2-0 up inside the first half, giving Liverpool a mountain to climb.
Djibril Cisse and Gerrard had levelled the scores, before Paul Konchesky put West Ham back in front with minutes remaining. But Gerrard wasn’t done yet and the Liverpool legend “rescued” his side, as told by Motson.
“That game was the best of the six Cardiff finals, and one of the best FA Cup finals in recent history,” Motson said. “I remember it was 3-2 to West Ham, the stadium announcer was just declaring four minutes of added time, and suddenly Steven Gerrard volleyed in from what, 30 yards?
“I think he was suffering from cramp at the time, but somehow he got his foot round the ball and found the corner of the net. Liverpool were rescued by him, not just on that occasion either. The game went to extra-time, and then penalties, and it was then that West Ham finally let go. It was a memorable final, certainly one that’ll never be forgotten.”
The 1981 classic between Man City and Tottenham
The 1981 final between Manchester City and Tottenham sticks out as Motson’s greatest FA Cup final, and it was a unique occasion in many ways. “Well it was the first time that there was a replay on Thursday night,” Motson said.
“I remember that very clearly, it was Wembley history really. I think it was also the 100th final, and it had all sorts of marks of distinction long before Tottenham and Manchester City got at each other on the Saturday.
“Tommy Hutchinson scored at both ends in a 1-1 draw, then the wait for the replay, would they play Ricky Villa? He was taken off in the first match, sure enough they brought him back!
“He scored Tottenham’s first goal, then of course we came to the stage where the game was level at 2-2 and Villa took over the whole occasion. He dribbled past the whole City defence, and slotted what I think is still, the most iconic FA Cup final goal. Spurs 3, Manchester City 2.
“It was a great night, and Thursday nights became a Wembley tradition from then on as replays began to perforate. I did five all together! Apart from my 29 FA Cup finals, there were five replays and Glenn Hoddle once said to me ‘It’s still the FA Cup final John, count the replays as well’. So then I started telling people I did it 34 times, which is a bit crazy but I enjoyed every minute of it.”
Who Motson backs to win the 150th final
It’s expected to be an FA Cup classic at Wembley, with Chelsea looking to win their ninth crown, while Liverpool are hoping to match the Blues total of eight. Liverpool are still chasing a quadruple, but away from that, the FA Cup is the only trophy missing from Jurgen Klopp’s collection.
Chelsea lost 1-0 to Leicester in the FA Cup final last season, and have already lost at Wembley against Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final earlier this year. Motson has predicted another close encounter, as he said: “I think it’s going to be very close, I think Chelsea, for all their recent upheavals shall we say, I think they will rise to the occasion.
“I think Liverpool will produce the sort of football that we have got used to from a Jurgen Klopp side. I think Chelsea will have to be at their very, very best to carry off the cup on the day.
“I think it’s more likely that Liverpool’s style will prove triumphant, but on the other hand I wouldn’t be surprised if the game went to extra-time, and dare I say it, penalties! I was thinking about the Carabao Cup final, the same two teams, and Chelsea deserved to win that day.
“Thomas Tuchel deserves a break, and I think he’s got the players to rise to the occasion. We know there are players that haven’t had a great season like Romelu Lukaku, we know players that have had a great season like Mohamed Salah, and Sadio Mane! But on the day, and that’s what the FA Cup final is, it’s what happens on the day that decides who wins the cup.”