When West Bromwich Albion were paired with Aston Villa in last week’s FA Cup Sixth Round draw, it not only brought together two fierce local rivals, one of the oldest rivalries in English football lasting 130 years, but also two clubs with a rich FA Cup history totalling twelve wins and twenty appearances in the final between them.
Assuming the Premier League fixture on Tuesday is not postponed, the match next Saturday evening will be the 165th between the sides in all competitions and the 16th in the FA Cup.
This quarter-final fixture is made all the more intriguing by the fact that it will be a repeat of the Premier League fixture scheduled to be played just a few days beforehand. With both clubs closer to the wrong end of the table than they would like, I’m not sure either would forsake the points for a semi-final place, but neither will either be willing to sacrifice the chance of a visit to Wembley. Add in the fact that Villa have changed their manager since the draw was made, and it makes for a truly fascinating tie.
FA Cup History
“History” is a particularly appropriate adjective to use when you look at the two clubs’ successes in the FA Cup, the latest of which was some 47 years ago.
While the first Wembley appearance for Albion in my lifetime was in 1993, there will plenty of Baggies fans in the crowd at Villa Park next month who were alive when Jeff Astle’s extra time goal secured the trophy against Everton in 1968, and a few who were even there to witness it. Villa’s last triumph, some eleven years earlier against Manchester United, is a somewhat dimmer memory with any living attendees likely to be drawing their pensions by now. Furthermore, despite the fact that Villa held the record for the most FA Cup wins until 1994 (when Manchester United won their eighth), their most recent victory in 1957 is their only triumph in the last 95 years!
A little known piece of trivia about Villa’s cup win in 1920 is that it did not result in them meeting Albion in the Charity Shield (1920 being Albion’s only League Championship). For that year, the first year of organised football after World War I, the Charity Shield was contested between the winners of the First Division and the Second Division, the latter being Tottenham Hotspur.
While neither club has been challenging for honours too frequently in recent years, it was a different story in the early years of organised football. Any football scholar will tell you that both clubs were founder members of the Football League, but it was in the FA Cup that the local rivalry was born.
The clubs’ first meeting in any competition was in the Third Round of the FA Cup on 3rd January 1885 at Villa’s Wellington Park ground. After a 0-0 draw, the clubs squared up again at Albion’s Four Acres with the hosts running out 3-0 winners.
Two years later, the clubs met in the FA Cup Final at the Kennington Oval in April 1887. On this occasion, with was the Villains who were victorious by two goals to nil to claim their first FA Cup win. Albion didn’t have to wait long before they claimed their first win, as they reached their third successive final a year later and defeated the first “Invincibles”, Preston North End. It was also not long before they gained revenge over their nearest neighbours as the two met in the final again in 1892, with the Baggies winning 3-0. Before the century was out, there was still time for one more Albion-Villa FA Cup final, with the team from Witton winning the trophy for the second time in 1895 with a 1-0 win.
That may have been the last meeting in the final, but the two clubs have been drawn together on a further eight occasions since, three of those coming in successive seasons from 1924 to 1926. The only previous meeting at the Quarter Final stage was in 1924 at the Hawthorns, when Villa won 2-0 on their way to the second ever Wembley final where they lost 2-0 to Newcastle United. Albion’s only win over Villa in the FA Cup in the twentieth century came in 1925 in a Third Round Replay at Villa Park, and Villa got the better of the Baggies once again in 1926 with a 2-1 Fourth Round win at the Hawthorns.
Albion were Villa’s semi-final opponents on their way to their last triumph in 1957. After a 2-2 draw at Molineux, Villa won by a single goal in the replay at St Andrews.
The most recent two meetings in the competition came when the clubs were a division apart. A Fifth Round tie at the Hawthorns saw Villa win 2-0, while in the Fourth Round in 1998 at Villa Park, the hosts ran out winners by the more emphatic scoreline of 4-0.
It should not be forgotten that since the redevelopment of Wembley Stadium, victory in the FA Cup quarter-final means a day out at Wembley. Whatever the views of the traditionalists, not only has this denied the likes of Manchester United and Aston Villa, the oft-used venues for semi-finals, a significant amount of income over the past eight years, it does give more fans the opportunity of seeing their team at Wembley, something that Baggies fans “enjoyed” back in 2008 losing the semi-final to Portsmouth.
That was Albion’s second visit to the new Wembley, having appeared in the Division One Play-Off Final the year before (also a 1-0 defeat). Aston Villa have made a single appearance England’s new national stadium losing the League Cup Final 2-1 to Manchester United in 2010.
Which way will it go?
There are still ten days to go before the two teams will line up at Villa Park for this fixture, and a lot can happen in that time. Albion host Southampton on Saturday whereas Villa face a tricky trip to St James’s Park. Having been beaten at home to Stoke City last weekend, new Villa manager Tim Sherwood may still be looking for his first points when the clubs meet for the warm up on Tuesday evening.
It really is too close to call – Albion have enjoyed the better form of late, but Villa have home advantage. Any boost that Villa might get from a new manager hasn’t materialised as yet – will another week on the training ground make a difference?
Even the bookies are finding it hard to split the sides; William Hill have Villa at slight favourites at 13/8 with Albion on 7/4, whereas Betfred are quoting Villa at the same price but Albion slight favourites at 8/5. It will be interesting to see if and how those odds may change after this weekend, and more importantly, after the league fixture next Tuesday.
Whichever side wins in the Premier League encounter, it will either be a confidence boost or motivation for revenge, whereas a draw will just heighten the tension. The Pride of the Midlands is at stake!