Each year the FA Cup Final marks the conclusion of the oldest domestic cup competition in the world. Open to all teams in England, regardless as to whether they play in the top or bottom levels of the game, the knockout competition, officially known as the Football Association Challenge Cup, is famous for allowing small village teams to play against the very top clubs from the Premier League. In the early days the game was dominated by "gentleman amateur" teams but the rise of professionalism in the game means that no FA Cup Final has been won by an amateur team since 1882 when the Old Etonians scored a 1-0 victory over Blackburn Rovers.
1. Humble origins
When the first FA cup final took place in March 1872, football had yet to really catch on in a big way. The match, between Wanderers and Royal Engineers, was played on the cricket pitch of The Oval. There were no nets on the goal posts and only 2,000 people turned up and paid the one shilling admission in order to watch the action. The competition had kicked off the previous November with a total of 15 teams in contention.
Wanderers had played four rounds but won only one of their matches. They drew against Scottish club Queen's Park in the semi-finals but were awarded their place in the final by default as the members of Queen's Park could not afford to return to London for a replay. Wanderers won the game 1-0, the single goal coming after 15 minutes. In November 2012, a reformed Wanderers team met up with a Royal Engineers team to re-enact the original game at the original venue. However, history did not repeat itself with the Royal Engineers winning the game by an impressive 7-1.
2. Prominent players
The player with the record for the most FA Cup winners' medals is Ashley Cole. While playing for Arsenal, Cole found himself on the winning side in 2002, 2003 and 2004. He was then taken on by Chelsea and saw further victories in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2012. The previous record of five medals had been held jointly by Charles Wollaston (Wanderers), Jimmy Forrest (Blackburn Rovers) and Arthur Kinnaird (Wanderers & Old Etonians).
The youngest player to take park in the FA Cup final was Curtis Weston who was just 17-years-old when he took to the field for Millwall in 2004. Sadly Weston didn't manage to go home with a winner’s medal; his team lost 3-0 to Manchester United. Weston beat a record that had been in place for 125 years, dating back to when James Prinsep played for Clapham Rovers in the 1879 final.
The youngest player to score a goal in the cup final was Norman Whiteside who was just 18 when he put one in the back of the net for Manchester United whilst playing against Brighton & Hove Albion. The oldest ever player to reach the final was Billy Hampson of Newcastle United who was 41 years and 257 days young in 1924 when his side beat Aston Villa 2.0.
3. Stadium Stories
The FA Cup final is most closely associated with Wembley Stadium, but over the years it has taken place at a number of venues including Stamford Bridge, Old Trafford, Kennington Oval, a racecourse in Derby and Crystal Palace. Between 2001 and 2006 while the new Wembley Stadium was under construction, the finals were moved out of England for the first time and took place in the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
The modern Wembley stadium has a maximum capacity of 90,000. Careful design means that none of the seats in the all-seater stadium have obstructed views. During the 1923 cup final, when the original stadium had an official capacity of 125,000, up to 300,000 turned up to see Bolton Wanderers take on West Ham. The terraces overflowed and the game had to be delayed for 45 minutes so that mounted police could clear tens of thousands of fans from the pitch. Bolton won the game 2-0.
4. Winning sides
Wanderers Football Club, founded in 1859, was one of the most dominant teams during the early years of organised football. The club holds the distinction of winning five FA Cups without losing a single final. In 2009 the club reformed and now competes in the Surrey South Eastern Combination, chiefly in order to raise money for UNICEF UK. Since 2011, out of the more modern teams in the competition, Bury are the leaders of the pack with two final wins and no losses. At the other end of the scale, Leicester City hold the unfortunate record of having reached the final the most times - four in all - without ever having won.
5. Shooting it out
Only two FA Cup finals have ever gone to penalties, and oddly enough, they took place in consecutive years. The first time was between Arsenal and Manchester United in 2005. The game ended in a goalless draw for the first time since 1912. Arsenal won 5-4 on penalties.
The following year the game between Liverpool and West Ham ended in a 3-3 draw before Liverpool won the game 3-1 on penalties. The first player to miss a penalty during the course of a final was Charlie Wallace, playing for Aston Villa against Sunderland at Crystal Palace in 1913. The first player to miss a Cup final penalty at Wembley Stadium was John Aldridge, playing for Liverpool against Wimbledon in 1988.