The Giant Killers


The twenty greatest F A Cup slayings of all time.

No 1: 1964 Oxford United 3-1 Blackburn Rovers

No 2: 1971 Colchester United 3-2 Leeds United

No 3: 1992 Wrexham 2-1 Arsenal

No 4: 1989 Sutton United 2-1 Coventry City

No 5: 1975 Burnley 0-1 Wimbledon

No 6: 1980 Harlow Town 1-0 Leicester City

No 7: 2013 Norwich City 0-1 Luton Town

No 8: 1984 Bournemouth 2-0 Manchester United

No 9: 1999 Swansea City 1-0 West Ham United

No 10: 2017 Burnley 0-1 Lincoln City

No 11: 1948 Burnley 0-2 Swindon Town

No 12: 1907 Newcastle United 0-1 Crystal Palace

No 13: 2003 Shrewsbury Town 2-1 Everton

No 14: 1933 Walsall 2-0 Arsenal

No 15: 1959 Norwich City 3-0 Manchester United

No 16: 2015 Chelsea 2-4 Bradford City

No 17: 1972 Hereford United 2-1 Newcastle United {After Extra Time}

No 18: 2002 Derby County 1-3 Bristol Rovers

No 19: 1900 Aston Villa 1-2 Millwall Athletic

No 20: 2011 Stevenage Borough 3-1 Newcastle United

Ties ranked 21-100

                                                             How were the ties ranked?

Unlike almost every other list of giant killers you have probably ever read, where public perception alone is used, this ranking has been done using a mathmatical formula. The problem with public opinion based lists is that they have often been dictated by how available the players are thirty years on to talk about it, or more commonly, how readily available the footage of the match is. No greater example of this can be found than in Hereford's defeat of struggling Newcastle in 1972. Yes the goal is spectacular, the commentary is famed as having propelled John Motson to the lead ranks of the BBC commentary team and of course the iconography of muddy pitch, dirty faces, long hair and fans spilling onto the pitch all sum up giant killing in one clip. However it is often shown over and over again largely because it was the first major giant killing to be screened on our tv in colour. Before Hereford fans form a lynching party and come and hunt me down, it has only just narrowly missed out on this site's top ten, along with Walsall's defeat of Arsenal in 1933, another tie that often makes the public opinion lists. You can see where both rank on the best of the rest link above, which lists the top 100 ties.

On BBC's Match of the Day programme, when asking the public if Bradford's victory over Chelsea was the greatest cupset ever, they showed twelve of what they considered the greatest giant killings of all time. Every game had one thing in common. The BBC TV cameras were there. Not one game which was not covered by the BBC was considered. And so shapes our opinion. If you're told something was a huge giant killing enough times {7th placed top flight Wimbledon beating Champions, Liverpool 1-0 in 1988. Surprise? yes but giant killing? Really? 7th vs 1st in the Premier League?} You start to accept that it's true. ITV are a little more impartial, perhaps because they don't have as much cup footage to be able to make lists exclusively thiers. The problem when compiling such lists is that every time a particular tie is overlooked, it's chances of being placed in the next TV countdown, or magazine article diminishes.

So if the number one here was such a big Giant Killing, why have you probably never heard of it? 

Oxford's sinking of a high flying Blackburn side in 1964 {18th in Division 4 vs 2nd inDivision 1] has been largely forgotten. Why? Well to simply say the Beeb have no footage is unfair as they have ready access to Pathe, who were at the game. More likely is the weight hindsight plays on these things. In the twenty years that followed, Blackburn fell to the depths and Oxford rose to the heights, thus when people looked back from the 80s they used their opinion of the clubs twenty years later and not at the time. Today of course these two clubs are back were they were in the 60s but the time in between has already done the damage to public perception. It was excluded from all those 1980s great giantkilling lists because Oxford were by then considered the bigger club, albeit temporarily. The crux is that when this lists are compiled, they are not researched. A person or group of people sit around a table and reminisce. I'm not saying that's wrong but what I'm saying is they are labelling their lists wrong. What they are compiling is the lists of the most ICONIC or most MEMORABLE cup ties. the BIGGEST in terms of gulf between the teams is different and does not guarantee lasting public memory. Every time poor Oxford got excluded, their chances of being remembered by the next list of great giant killings faded. 

So the ranking here removes opinion, speculation and hindsight entirely and attempts to rank the ties without pejudice. Points are awarded for number of league places between the clubs at kick off time, how many Internationals [and of what country] or title winning players were on duty in the giant? or indeed the killer? Was the giant a club with a strong recent record in league and/or cup? Did the giant killer have home advantage? did they win with goal/s to spare? did they take it to extra time? replay/s. And finally you come up with a cold hard number. All prejudice and opinion removed, and, by and large the majority of the ties that stir the memories still make the top ten, less the two prior mentioned notable exceptions, while other ties deserve more recognition for their merits than they currently get.

At the end of the day though this is just another list. I've just tried to be a little more clinical and a little less sentimental which is why I think this list is the best barometer of giant killing merit you will find on the web. However the reader should remember that this list measures what is considered to be the biggest gulf in class in each tie in order. That doesn't make the tie iconic. Great goals, the manner in which a tie was won, how much it captured the public imagination, how popular Football itself is in the public perception all have a bearing and all are immeasurable.  

In closing bear this in mind. You open this list and see the tie you think is the biggest shock of all time is ranked 20th and you think, No way is that as low as that. But let me ask you to think of it another way. Since 1871 over 20,000 F A cup ties have been played and in every tie there was a favorite and and underdog. In a collection of 20,000 anythings, ranking in the top 20 puts it in the top 0.1%. The top 100 shocks listed here comprise the top 0.5% of the biggest cup shocks of all time. That makes every single one of them very very impressive.


 Steve Porter 2015