There have been 139 FA Cup finals so far. Chelsea have contested 14 of them, winning eight. The last time they lifted the trophy was three years ago; the previous occasion at which they finished runners-up was August just gone. This will be their fourth appearance in the final in the last five years. There’s no real need to relive their oft-told story yet again, though if the short-term memory isn’t what it was, or you’re simply always jonesing for Pensioner-related nostalgia, this retro MBM of their first-ever win in 1970, a gloriously entertaining stramash with their old pals Leeds United, will hopefully slake your thirst.
Leicester City, by comparison, hold a truly unenviable record: the most unsuccessful FA Cup finalists of them all. They’re reached the Wembley showpiece on four occasions – 1949, 1961, 1963 and 1969 – and have lost every single one. The only other clubs to have reached multiple finals without recording a victory in the tournament’s 150-year history are Queen’s Park, Birmingham City, Crystal Palace and Watford, and all of those have only lost two. The Foxes really need to shake this monkey off their back.
To be fair to Leicester, they’ve been underdogs in three of their four finals. In 1949, they were battling relegation to the old Third Division when they faced Stan Cullis’s Wolverhampton Wanderers, and were without their injured star playmaker Don Revie. Nevertheless, they put up a good fight in a 3-1 defeat that could have ended differently had their striker Ken Chisholm’s effort from a tight angle not been flagged marginally offside at 2-1.
In 1961, they ran out of luck after 18 minutes when right-back Len Chalmers injured his right leg in a tackle with Les Allen of the newly crowned English champions Tottenham Hotspur. Leicester had been good value up until then, with Spurs uncharacteristically nervous, but with Chalmers reduced to hobbling uselessly on the left wing, defeat was almost inevitable. Spurs secured the double with an uncharacteristically workmanlike 2-0 win.
The big missed opportunity came in 1963. Leicester had come close to the title, their Ice Kings melting away along with the end of the Big Freeze, but were still favourites for the cup against a Manchester United side that had seriously flirted with relegation. However they failed to turn up, allowing a swaggering Denis Law to run the show, and United won their first trophy since the Munich tragedy.
And then there was 1969, an affair not wholly dissimilar to their defeat 20 years earlier. Manchester City, champions the year before, were expected to win; Leicester were again battling relegation, this time from the First. Manchester City did the business as expected, Neil Young scoring the only goal past a young Peter Shilton, but Leicester pushed them hard. “We made the chances but couldn’t get the ball in the net,” sighed their manager Frank O’Farrell afterwards. “Andy Lochhead might have scored four goals any other time. But we will not have any time for disappointment. We now have to fight to stay in the First Division.” They couldn’t manage it. Another bittersweet stroll down Wembley Way.
So here we are, FA Cup final number 140. Can Chelsea win their seventh FA Cup since the turn of the millennium? Or will Leicester finally break their duck at the fifth time of asking? Thomas Tuchel and Brendan Rodgers are both bringing entertaining sides to the party, so here’s to the first seven-goal FA Cup final thriller since Blackpool and Bolton put on the Matthews Final. We’re more than due another, right? OK, then: Chelsea, Leicester, you know what to do. Be about your business! Entertain the nation! It’s on!
Kick-off: 5.15pm BST.