Fulham up for Cup

Friday 12 April 2002

Fulham travel to Birmingham on Sunday for The F.A. Cup Semi Final with what could be seen as a curse hanging over their head. The Cottagers have reached the last four of the competition five times since 1907, when a six-nil defeat by Newcastle at Anfield - still a semi-final record margin of victory - ended their involvement for that year.

Of their other four semi-final ties, their 1936 campaign ended at Molineux when Sheffield United were two-one winners and their two semi-final appearances that followed, against Manchester United in 1958 and Burnley in 1962, were played at Villa Park where this weekend they face their west London rivals Chelsea.

In 1958 second division Fulham made it through to the last four beating Yeovil, Charlton, West Ham and Bristol Rovers and set up an emotional match with Manchester United two months after the disaster in Munich.

After coming from a goal down, Fulham got their noses in front when first Arthur Stevens then Jimmy Hill found the net but Bobby Charlton Equalised to send the tie to a replay - with United won 5-3 at Highbury - and continue the Cottagers semi-final jinx.

Their 1962 semi was also staged at Villa Park and lady luck continued to smile on the opposition, this time it was league championship contenders Burnley. A one-one draw in Birmingham forced a replay at Leicester's Filbert Street and again Fulham were to come unstuck as the Lancashire giants triumphed 2-1.

Fulham eventually exorcised their F.A. Cup demons when in 1975, with Bobby Moore and Alan Mullery commanding in defence, the Cottagers won their first semi-final, this time against Birmingham and not in Birmingham. After making their way past Hull, Nottingham Forest, Everton and Carlisle playing an epic eleven matches, they arrived at Hillsborough for their last-four encounter with Birmingham City. Another one-one draw and another match. The replay at Maine Road finally provided Fulham Football Club with their first F.A. Cup Final appearance and the record for the most Cup games played en route. A 119th minute John Mitchell effort was the only goal of the game and set up a trip to Wembley to face London rivals West Ham, but a 2-0 defeat under the Twin Towers remains their best finish to date.

Twenty-seven years on and a cosmopolitan Fulham face a very strong Chelsea side at Villa Park where they have had so much F.A. Cup disappointment in times gone by, but this Fulham is one that is looking in to the future - after a quick rise to the top flight - and not dwelling on the past and young full-back, Steve Finnan is keen to stress how important the F.A. Cup is to the club and it's development; "Getting through to the semi-finals, the first time for Fulham in 27 years, is a great achievement and just goes to prove wrong all the critics who questioned whether a team with a lot of French players would be fully committed to the competition.

"I still don't know why people persist with the argument that foreign players can't appreciate the history or the magic of the F.A. Cup but I think we've shown pretty conclusively this season that non-British players are just as up for it as anyone else.

"Even in pre-season, the boss spoke to us of the importance of the F.A. Cup to the players and told the squad it was a competition that he took very seriously.

"He made it clear right from the start that he expected us to have a long run and all the players, whatever their nationality, took the message on board." And the Republic of Ireland International is looking forward to taking on west London rivals Chelsea this weekend. He added: "It's a game that holds absolutely no fears for us. We're confident we can reach the final.

"On their day, Chelsea are one of the best sides in the country but they're certainly not infallible and I know we can beat them. Maybe we'll need the run of the green on the day to win but I definitely don't see us as massive underdogs."

Source: The FA